Saturday, July 17, 2010

Exhibit #36: Proto-Tiki

Tonight's (and next week's) drinks date from the mid-19th century to 1953. Although not necessarily the bedrock upon which Tiki was built, these drinks represent earlier and concurrent flowerings of the same approach (booze 'n' juice, odd ingredients). For the bedrock, we'd look to Planter's Punch ("one part sour, two parts sweet, three parts strong, four parts weak") and the Daiquiri (rum, lime, sugar) for starters, but that's a whole 'nother night.

The Knickerbocker $6
Light rum, lime juice, Grand Marnier, raspberry syrup, crushed ice. A fad drink of the 1850s that managed to stay in circulation for a few decades. Of NY state derivation, naturally. A flavor profile not unlike a Mai Tai, just a century earlier.

Cream Gin Fizz $6
Lime juice, dry gin, milk, sugar, and club soda, up. From the Hawaiian hotel, Cunha's, circa 1900. Essentially a local re-creation of the Ramos Fizz, so popular at the time with the well-traveled set. People asked for the drink, so they had to come up with something... and they wound up with a drink that was able to compete for a bit of time with its ancestor. Number 11 in the Fizz countdown.

Straits Sling $7
Dry gin, kirschwasser, Benedictine, lemon juice, orange and Angostura bitters, club soda, up. The ancestor to the fairly well-known Singapore Sling. Quite possibly of local creation ("the straits" is still how locals refer to Singapore). Early 20th century, but tastes as old as Mother Nature.

Singapore Sling $8
Dry gin, Cherry Heering liqueur, lime juice, Remy Martin VS cognac, Benedictine, Angostura bitters, club soda, on the rocks. The earliest recipes are identical to the Straits Sling, but with cherry liqueur stepping in for the kirsch - a misunderstanding. In the most general terms, they are both cherry brandies - but kirsch is a dry, unaged eau de vie as opposed to a semi-sweet liqueur. Although the Raffles Hotel has long held that they invented the drink, when pressed for evidence by tiki archeologist Jeff Berry, they admitted they had no idea what the original recipe was. Tonight's recipe - the finest to this throat - dates from the 1950s, as printed in a Gourmet magazine correction sent in by a Singapore resident. It lies midway between that initial misreading and Raffles' 1970s elaboration. That recipe is the most common formula today; add grenadine and a big dose of pineapple, and sub Cointreau for the cognac - a fine drink, but a bit sweet and camouflage-oriented. This one is still earthy.

Suffering Bastard $6.50
Dry gin, Remy Martin VS cognac, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and Bermuda ginger beer, on the rocks. Created during WWII by Joe Scialom at Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo, and a sensation thereafter. Trader Vic later stole the name for a goosed-up Mai Tai. Originally called the Suffering Bar Steward, referring either to a perpetually-hungover employee, or the difficulties of wartime bartending, depending which story you like best. From a 1972 interview with the Winnepeg Free Press:

"During the bleak war days, Shepheard's ran short of cognac, gin and most imported liquors. "We had to make do with stuff that wasn't so smooth," he said, "and the British officers began to complain that they were getting bad hangovers. I decided to seek a cure, and I finally dreamed up a drink that I named The Suffering Bar Steward. It consisted of gin we borrowed from the South African post exchange, brandy from Cyprus and bitters made by a chemist across the street from the hotel. To this we added lime juice made in Cairo and a local ginger ale provided by a Greek merchant of dubious character. The result was a drink with an unexpectedly pleasant taste and a delayed action effect."

Dr. Funk $6
Light rum, lime juice, pomegranate syrup, Pernod, Angostura bitters, and club soda, on the rocks. A 1953 Don the Beachcomber creation, but based on an actual Pacific Island drink, though one concocted by a German doctor (yep, and his last name was indeed Funk) while attending to Robert Louis Stevenson during his last days in Borneo. The formula for the original drink is lost beyond a vague description (absinthe with lemon or limeade), but evidently Don sampled one during his travels and came up with this elaboration on it.

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