I’ve had a couple people tell me I can make a Tiki drink, it’s flattering to hear and certainly something I enjoy doing. If I can it’s certainly not because of any special talent aside from being well read, and possessing of a palate ready to try almost anything. No if anything I gain more knowledge from reading the recipes of the original masters. Seeing what they did, and then comparing them to their own similar recipes and those of others. I decided to take this research paper approach to lemons in Tiki drinks. This study naturally took me to the Trader.
I’m very glad the Bum wrote about Trader Vic in his new book Potions of the Caribbean. He’d told us about Donn but to be honest information on the Trader was less available. It’s funny because back in the day Vic was the one who favored publicity more. Vic did things differently than Donn even though they both got the idea for their drinks in the Caribbean. Even more surprising then that Vic dove on ingredients that aren’t very Caribbean like lemons, gin, brandy, and orgeat. When one examines lemon Tiki recipes in Jeff Berry’s books however you find something fascinating, rarely is lemon the only juice. The Kava Bowl, Rum Keg, Sibooney, and Trader Vic Grog use a blend of pineapple and lemon. Where as the Fogg Cutter, Scorpion Bowl, and Tiki bowl use an orange-lemon combination. Vic seemed to think, based on his recipes, that lemon became lonely so he gave it a friend.
We could use many classic recipes to illustrate this point, the Kava Bowl and Rum Keg being two of my favorites. I’ll not however give away the baby with the bath water so I encourage you to seek out a copy of Beachbum Remixed or the new Total Tiki app for these recipes. I will however share the classic Trader Vic Grog below to show you the strength of varying your juices when using lemons.
Trader Vic Grog
As presented in Beachbum Remixed page 100
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz passion fruit syrup
2 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake well with ice and pour into a tulip glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and if you want to be like the Atlanta Trader Vic’s add a menehune spear with a cherry and pineapple square.
When the garnish is in it is present it shows readily on the nose which is why I don’t recommend spanking it so you can get some of those lovely pineapple, passion fruit, molasses aromas. This is a balanced drink, a lot of Vic cocktails tend to have a big sour kick. The syrup and lemon both add to the sour medley but they are brought together by the pineapple and rum. The flavor begins subtly with a rush of pineapple and passion fruit notes that flow into delicious brown sugar and bright lemon. The finish sticks around with some spice and funk notes from the bitters and rum.
Our Tiki forefathers make this site what it is. I hope you were as thrilled as me to make this discovery. We’ll be back next week with an original lemon creation based on our findings here. Until then…
“You get Hammered America!” - JFL