In the 1930’s when Donn Beach and later on, Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, were inventing tiki cocktails they relied heavily on rum. After Prohibition, rum was cheap. There was a glut of the product in the marketplace and, for the two entrepreneurs, it was perfectly priced for their new businesses. Over time, Trader Vic and his team of cocktail creators began experimenting with other spirits products – creating new recipes or reworking several classics adding their own spin. In his Bartender’s Guide, originally released in 1947 (revised 1972), Trader Vic documented a wide selection of classic and new cocktails made in his bars that used a wide variety of spirits. Other bartenders picked up on the idea, creating flavorful surprises for their menus, and the trend of non-rum based tiki cocktails was born.
Presented in this article are five tiki cocktails that feature gin, Cognac, bourbon, tequila, and Scotch providing an introduction to this interesting sub-genre of tiki drinks.
“Popo” Galsini introduced this gin based cocktail to the world in the fall of 1967. Originally called the X-15 after the United States Air Force rocket-powered aircraft, the cocktail was renamed the Saturn after a test pilot was killed in a crash.
Don the Beachcomber came up with this Cointreau and Cognac concoction as an after dinner drink. Jim Hayward, inspired by the Mai-Kai restaurants’ addition of whipped cream and cinnamon garnish, created this slight variation of the original cocktail.
4 dashes of Cognac recommended D’USSÉ XO (gold medal, 2016 NYISC)
whipped cream and grated cinnamon for garnish
Build drink in a mug and whipped cream and a light dusting of cinnamon before serving.
Port Light (from Beachbum Berry’s Remixed)
This Bourbon focused cocktail is the creation of Sandro Conti for the Kahiki Tiki restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. In the 1960s the Kahiki was one of the largest and most elaborate tiki establishments in the U.S. and provided their patrons with a huge selection of food and drinks.
1.5 ounces/ 45 mL bourbon recommended Jim Beam Black (gold medal, 2017 NYISC)
1 ounce/ 30 mL lemon juice
½ ounce/ 15 mL passion fruit syrup
¼ ounce/ 7.5 mL grenadine
Half cup of crushed ice
Combine all ingredients blend for 5 seconds, pour unstrained into Port light mug or rocks glass.
In 1964 Trader Vic expanded his restaurant enterprises into the world of Mexican food with his Señor Pico’s chain. He created this tequila-based drink that is still served by the existing Trader Vic’s locations. This variant of a classic Mai Tai recipe has become a favorite of those who want an alternative to rum. While Senor Pico’s is gone, Pinky Gonzales lives on.
Put the ice in a shaker. Squeeze the orange half into the shaker and set aside rind. Squeeze the lemon half into the shaker and put the rind in the shaker. Add other ingredients into the shaker. Shake and pour into a double Old Fashioned glass without straining. Garnish with orange rind and mint.
Paul Senft is a Spirits Writer and Reviewer based in Metro Atlanta. His work has appeared in Got Rum? Magazine, Chilled, Distiller, as well as other publications covering a range of subjects related to Spirits, Travel, and the fun world of Tiki. He founded www.RumJourney.com and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/paul.e.senft.