A highlight of the CocktailWonk blog last year was attending TikiKon 2014 in the Portland/Vancouver vortex. In addition to classes and parties, my personal highlight was the Iron TikiTender competition, which my good friend Jason Alexander, owner of the Tacoma Cabana, won in his first time as a competitor. The contest pits three bartenders against each other in a series of challenges, such as “Most Mai Tais in 10 minutes” and “Best drink with a mystery ingredient,” with judging by rum celebrities like Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove. Sadly, I’ll be missing the 2015 TikiKon as Mrs. Wonk and I are headed to New Orleans a few days in advance of Tales of the Cocktail. Nonetheless, I was glad to hear that some of my local, Seattle-based bartenders are applying to compete at Iron TikiTender 2015.
Seattle has a long history with Tiki culture, going back to 1940 when the first franchised Trader Vic’s location opened here. Although Seattle recently went through a relatively Tiki-free phase these past few years, the opportunities for great Tiki in Seattle have skyrocketed recently. Local bars such as Rumba, Rob Roy, and Pennyroyal are offering Tiki Nights during the week. Hard-core Tiki requires a dedicated space for things like extensive rum collections and specialty mugs, so it’s great to see a new local restaurant, Hotel Albatross in Ballard, take the plunge with Tiki on the menu every night of the week.
To find themselves invited to be one of the three Iron TikiTender contestants, bartenders must craft a unique Tiki recipe of their own devising and submit it to Blair Reynolds, TikiKon founder and organizer. (In his spare time, Blair is also the owner of BG ReynoldsSyrups and Hale Pele, a renowned Portland Tiki bar.) Blair’s laborious job is to wade through all the entry recipes and choose the best. This year, at least three of my Seattle bartender friends submitted entries, and they’ve graciously shared their recipes with me to include here.
Hailing from Rumba, Ryan Lobe’s entry –deemed Pleasure Island–is unusual in that it uses both rum and smoky mezcal, a combination I’ve long been a fan of. In addition, the barrel-aged Wray & Nephew (made in-house at Rumba in a small barrel) is a nod to the legendary Wray & Nephew 17, the original 1944 Mai Tai rum. Ryan says, “The name is inspired by the island in the book Pinocchio, where all the bad boys go to drink and smoke.”
1.5 oz barrel-aged Wray and Nephew Overproof
0.5 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
0.5 oz BG Reynolds Don’s Spices #2
0.25 Rothman and Winters Apricot Liqueur
0.75 oz lime juice
Shake with crushed ice, pour into a Tiki mug, top with more crushed ice. Garnish with mint, bitters, and fire!
While some bars will devote a single night of the week to Tiki, any night that Justin Wojslaw of the Diller Room is behind the stick is a Tiki night. The Diller room doesn’t have any Tiki trappings, so I thoroughly enjoy showing up, ordering whatever Justin happens to be working on at the moment, and watching the other patrons’ jaws drop as he crafts an expertly crafted, flaming mug of Tiki goodness. Justin says the Madam Pele is a spin on the classic Fogcutter.
1.5 oz lemon juice
0.75 oz pineapple
0.5 oz BG Reynolds Falernum
0.5 oz BG Reynolds Grenadine
1 oz Wray and Nephew Overproof
0.5 oz Tanqueray Gin
0.5 oz Cognac
0.5 oz BG Reynolds Orgeat
0.5 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry curaçao
Shake with ice cubes, pour into 14 oz glass or Tiki mug. Float orgeat and dry curacao. Top with crushed ice. Garnish with flaming lime pot and mint sprig.
Because he’s hardcore Tiki, Justin Wojslaw provided a second entry, called The Contender. Surprising (for a Tiki drink,) there’s only one rum in play here. Just says “I only used one rum in the contender because when I tried getting crazy with over proofs and multiple rums it just killed all the other flavors.”
1.5 oz Plantation 3 Star rum (or Rhum J.M. Gold)
0.5 oz Allspice Dram
0.25 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
0.25 oz Campari
0.25 oz BG Reynolds Falernum
0.25 oz BG Reynolds Passion Fruit Syrup
0.75 oz lime juice
0.75 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Bittercube Jamaican #1 bitters
Shake with crushed ice. Pour into 14 oz glass or mug. Garnish with flaming lemon and coconut shrimp. (Yes, a coconut shrimp. In case you need a snack.)
It seems like every time I see Chris Goad at Canon, he’s lighting something on fire, Tiki or otherwise. Chris entered this unusual Tiki Concoction, which in addition to using heavy cream (not a typical Tiki ingredient) also includes a bit of molecular mixology to create “pearls.” Chris says, “The spider-tailed viper lures its prey in with seduction and clever guile before delivering the killing blow. This drink pays homage to the deadly creature.”
1.5 oz Rhum Barbancourt 8-year
0.25 Smith & Cross
0.75 oz heavy cream
0.25 oz mango-infused Allspice Dram
0.75 oz BG Reynolds passion fruit syrup
Shake and pour over crushed ice. Add “Tahitian pearls.”*
Float 0.25 oz of Peychaud’s bitters.
(*Chris says the Tahitian pearls are a sodium alginate concoction of Luxardo bitters and cinnamon.)
I can report firsthand that both Ryan and Justin’s entries are quite tasty and enjoyable. I’ve yet to make it to Canon for a Spider-Tailed Viper, but plan to do so soon – it certainly looks delicious. If these recipes (as well as other Iron TikiTender submissions) intrigue you, be sure to check out the #irontikitender tagged photos on Instagram.