We want you to have the best Tiki bar on your block. Since our talk from last time you have the rums you need, but now you need the gadgets. Drinks don’t just hop out of the bottle and mix themselves unless your Merlin. The good news it most of the tools we Tikitenders use are the same as our classic cocktail brethren, so you’ll be able to multitask. We’re going to show you 5 tools we’d be simply lost without, or atleast have to deliver big changes to our methods. Throw away those fancy crystal stirring vessels and shiny barspoons. We’re getting Tiki.
When I get to do Tiki Nights at Collins Bar we have big stand presses and finger snapping electric juicers that can crank out boatloads of fresh citrus. We usually run through it all to. However when I’m making Tiki drinks for research at home I don’t need that much juice, maybe a cup or half cup at a time. For this I get the most mileage from a simple all metal hand press. Do not buy one that’s plastic, you’d be better of just mailing me the five bucks. Plastic ones snap after 3 limes, it usually takes 2 years for me to break a metal one. We cut the limes or lemons in half and then make a slit halfway down the cut fruit to break the most juice sacs with the least resistance. For larger citrus like oranges and grapefruit we use a more old fashioned bowl juicer. When a lot of company is expected I break out the attachment to my kenmore stand mixer and go to town. No matter the device the juice all gets passed through a fine mesh strainer into a cheap squeeze bottle I can label with masking tape. Make sure you buy a funnel that your strainer fits in, and do something to weight or prop up the bottle so it doesn’t tip over when your straining. We usually just prop the strainer handle atop a bottle of Grand Marnier. Oh a nice stylish barmat aid in look and mess prevention to. I love my Clement mat. Just get the cheap squirt bottles at walmart. They are a buck a pop and come with a cap to help keep air and fruit flies out.
4. Syrup Supplies
God we make a lot of syrups. When I started Rated R Cocktails on the radio it was all store bought. As you learn and develop a palate though you really come to realize how lacking many bought syrups are. The cost of premades can really add up as well. Making your own syrups is cheap, and lets you have creative control on their strength. A lot of them are even easy to make, though some are labors of love. I’m looking at you falernum. Many of the supplies you’ll need here you already have from juicing. Strainers, bottles, tape, and funnels will all be reused here. You’ll need a small saucepan to cook the syrups in, it’s best to have a lid that fits snug because many have to sit and infuse off the heat. A microplane grater, mortar and pestle, and mini chopper are all also great extras. However if your cheap like we were starting out we used a skillet and cookie pan to smash spices and almonds. We also used a cheese grater for lime peel, and a screwdriver butt as a muddler. I really don’t recommend those last ones.
3. A Good Blender (or Two)
This is a place where Tiki folk really separate themselves from their brethren. When I say blender you probably think of my workhorse the Ninja blender you see above. This sucker gets a workout around here let me tell you. It juices our pineapples, crushes ice to fine snow, and sometimes even makes a frosty beverage. However in a lot of the old classic recipes we focus on it’s not the blender they refer to. If you find yourself at Latitude 29 or Trader Vic’s you will see something your grandad might have used to make Milkshakes on a warm Sunday. These top down stick blenders are a huge time saver for making fastblend drinks. They can be circumvented by just shaking the drink HARD like a madman who hates his arms. I still covet one of these top down’s however and hope Santa will remember that, of course I’d have to be good first.
2. Measuring Tools
Tiki is all about measuring. Very careful, and often very odd, measurements are crucial to these balanced well thought out flavor patterns. We use a variety of tools, but the one you’ll see in my hand most often are my OxO jiggers. I’ve had them for a little over four years and I really just love them. Some of my colleagues oppose them and say their measurements are slightly off on one of the increments marked inside. I have never run into this issue myself. I mixed my way through all of Jeff Berry’s books with them and each drink came out as intended. Whichever jigger you choose make sure you can accurately measure a ¼, ½, 1, and 1 ½ oz pour. A close second are my measuring spoons, it is crucial you buy a set with an 1/8 teaspoon spoon. This will save you the trouble of keeping a lot of little mini droppers and bottles around. Measuring cups in both fluid and regular sizes are valuable for making large communal drinks and syrups.
1. Metal Shakers and a Hawthorne
In Tiki we don’t stir drinks, I can only think of one stirred recipe that’s truly Tiki. We need the dilution and aeration shaking provides. A good hard shake makes a nice frothy head on fresh pineapple juice, and gets your flavors well melded. It works that coconut cream from stuck on paste to included ingredient. I’ll admit until I started working at Collins bar I really didn’t even know how to stir a cocktail. I use Koriko tins from Cocktail Kingdom for a good reason. Glass breaks and I shake drinks hard. Many Tiki recipes are shake and dump cocktails. So instead of straining your shaken drink onto fresh ice as classic bartenders do we dump our freshly shaken punch, cracked ice and all, into our glass. This is a crucial step that allows us to play with strong drinks and big flavors. It also makes sure our cracked ice and drink properly fill our glasses. Of course short hoists happen and when they do the hawthorne comes out to keep that ice at bay. I see no need really for a fine mesh at this step. If you’ve already strained your juice straining it again here has never helped me, only caused spills.
If you have a home bar I’m willing to bet a lot of you have some of these items already. All of these items are really must haves for any home bar Tiki or otherwise. Make sure you have your rums and your books. Don’t forget to check out our various syrup articles. Once you have all your new toys you’ll definitely want a cocktail as well. Join us next time as we delve into the world of glassware. Until then…
“You get Hammered America” – JFL