Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beachbum Berry Rides Into Gotham


Jeff Berry, aka Beachbum Berry, expert on all things tiki, rode into Tiki-dry Manhattan last week to try to turn the tide in favor of rum, pineapple juice, and tiny umbrellas. At the invitation of PDT's Jim Meehan, Berry offered a two-hour presentation on how Gotham bartenders and bar owners might introduce so-called tropical drinks into their menus with a minimum of muss and fuss. Gathered at tiny PDT to listen at his feet with barkeeps from Clover Club, Death & Co and Pegu Club (including Audrey Saunders herself, who seems to have brought her entire staff along). It was a crowded gathering.

Berry is most probably right when he assumes that Tiki Drinks are hard to find in NYC because they are laborious to prepare, plus some require the machinations of a blender, a noisy appliance which is a major mood-breaker. (Lingering ignorance as to the worth and quality of some of these cocktails is perhaps another reason why it's hard to get a Singapore Sling.) To mend this situation, he came armed with three handouts. One was titled "Exotic Drinks That Don't Take Forever to Make," which contained exactly what you think, including three cocktails with only five ingredients, and classics like the Mai Tai and Navy Grog.

A second was called "Adapt and Overcome." It offered three approached to simplifying: Stripping down (suggesting a five-ingredient Zombie which could sub for the usual complex potion); "Tikify a non-Tiki drink"; and making a familiar Tiki drink into something personal (i.e., using a base recipe as a starting point.) Here's the five-point Zombie for those who are curious:

ZOMBIE

3/4 oz. lime juice
1 oz. white grapefruit juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon-infused simple syrup
1/2 oz. 151-proof Bacardi rum
1 oz. dark Jamaican rum

The most amount of time was spent on a handout titled "Exotic Drinks With a New York Pedigree," which focused on Tiki drinks which were actually invented in New York. (Yes, they do exist!) These included the Spindrift, the Hawaiian Room (named after a popular Tiki joint in the Lexington Hotel at Lex and 48th) and the Hawaii Kai Treasure (after the restaurant of the same name at Broadway and 50th).

I should put down all the recipes of these drinks here, but I'm lazy and my fingers ache. So I'm going to feature only what proved to be my favorite and that of the Pegu Club bartenders who surrounded me: the Dead Bastard. It was invented by obscure mixology genius Joe Scialom, who worked at Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo and the Marco Polo Club at the Waldorf-Astoria. It was at the latter that he invented the Dead Bastard, a variation on previous drink of his called the Suffering Bastard and the Dying Bastard. Here it is in all its tasty glory. Berry called it Tiki's answer to the Long Island Ice Tea:

DEAD BASTARD

1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. brandy
1/2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. rum
1/2 oz. Rose's lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
4 ounces of chilled ginger beer

OK, geeks, before you all jump down my throat, I know what your thinking: "Rose's Lime Juice?? WTF!" I thought the same, and asked Berry the question that no one in the room seemed not to want to (out of politeness?): Wouldn't fresh lime juice be better than Rose's?

No, said Berry. He explained that Scialom was very specific about his ingredients and he stuck with Rose's on purpose. Berry had tried the drink both ways and said it tasted better with Rose's than with fresh lime juice. I tested this. And, though it was a close call, I'm inclined to agree with Berry. The fresh lime juice lent a slight acrid edge and tiny bitter aftertaste. The Rose's gave the drink the easy-does-it tropical smoothness I think it's going for. So, I guess there's a reason to stock Rose's in the end.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

What a great event. Big fans of the Navy Grog especially as December progresses (though it was oddly warm today). How exciting that some Tiki drinks were invented in NYC...better if they don't require a blender for sure. Those guys always get the stink eye...