The History of Tiki Time



Aw I mean you could be a little bit more cynical and say that don didn't just create this decor out of love it was also to cash in on on something that was very much in the cultural the other thing was that America's well as Europe was in the grips of the great depression everybody's bummed out and they have a little mini vacation in this beautifully appointed fo- Polynesian atmosphere with these amazing exotic cocktails so that's the story signed on the beachcombers atmosphere but what about those cocktails they didn't call it Tiki back then he called them rum rhapsodies there's a little bit pretentiously put an ancient rum in the French style just to make it more classy but here's my question rum is a Caribbean spirit right why not serve Polynesian rhapsodies instead the problem was there's no such thing as a polynesian cocktail I mean he had polynesian decor but what do you serve in the glass in the new Hebrides they did have a polynesian drank native ponies and drink called Kava what they would do they would sit in a circle around a big wooden ball and chew the psychoactive roots of the Kava plant gave you sort of a nice melody sociable high where they chew it spit it into a ball and they'd mix it with coconut milk and then they pass around you and you drank from it this was not the sort of thing that would go over very well in Hollywood and thirty four so no psychoactive saliva base drinks for done but he had another idea he'd also traveled to the Caribbean in those round the world adventures that he'd spent all his college funds John and that's where he had discovered the planners punch in Jamaica and the the dockery and Cuba the Queen's Park swizzle in Trinidad these are all based on rum so don new and he knew rum drinks but rum also had a practical advantage it was the closest spirit available to import Cuba's close by and willing to supply thirsty Americans it accuses right after prohibition and so rob was only spirit that had been readily available in the US while that distillers your non in operation and the term running Shannon must've runs the bar at the Caribbean themed Gladis in Brooklyn and she recently wrote a cocktail book called Tiki earn tropical cocktails and Shannon says that Rome was actually the cheapest to for bar operator costs was really important especially as you're talking about being in the Great Depression so ram fit the bill was expensive in costume much contracts at the whisky which is really expensive because there wasn't the really wasn't any left in this let me take a few years make more whiskey and agent the dawn has rum and he knows some of the basic Caribbean rum drinks but he doesn't just serve those Caribbean drinks he reinvent it's them and it was an entirely new way to serve and mix cocktail he basically took the three hundred year old planters punch poem I'm one of sour to sweet three of strong four of week sour being citrus sweeping sugar strong being rum and week being water ice and he squared or cubed he was like okay I could use lime juice as my sour but what if I mix lime and grapefruit in the same drink and how about instead of just Grizz my sweet what if I mix honey and maple syrup together or infused my sugar Syrup with some spices or pomegranate syrup so he dimensional is D- those two elements and also so what was really radical and brown breaking was that he did the same thing with the strong instead of just one rum he would say okay planners punch generally has dark Jamaican Punch one minute what if I added to that in the same glass a white Puerto Rican or Cuban room which has a more floral dryer kind of file the two rum's enhancing inform each other the Puerto Rican rum cuts the heavy molasses sweetness and density of the Jamaican and the Jamaican adds flavor and depth to the light dry Puerto Rican so anyway this was revolutionary nobody'd ever had drinks like this for nobody's ever made drinks like before that basic idea take a plant as punch and Cuban that's the recipe for what became Don's most famous drink the drink put him on the map the Zombie Don Lake to tell a tale of how he invented the Zombie a businessman came in and was so hung over and he had a sales meeting on made him a couple of these and he walked in like Zombie and nailed it but there's no way as perfect as this cocktail is that donges whipped up behind the bar in two seconds there was a lot of you know coaxing in finessing with these rooms and the dawn's makes in the Porno and the bidders but yet that's the legend that don created for it but yeah it was strong it was popular and there was a limit of two in the bar you can have more than two but even with the limit that didn't up the crowds from storming as place they were lines out the door it was a real see and be seen everyone that went into don the beachcomber was a WHO's who of Hollywood Howard Hughes in Grant Joan Crawford Clark Gable Don's little bar was a huge success so almost immediately there were copycats people started putting up their own version of a Polynesian Paradise all over la remember Americans were already obsessed with the South Seas but the whole vibe struck a particular chord in California first of all Californians of course really embrace surfing in this period which is a Hawaiian Sport and you know there's also a kind of a belief in a sort of shared attitude and aesthetic sensibility right so Californians very much the themselves as you know more modern and more relaxed than the rest of the United States are certainly more so than the kind of Stodgy East Coast Sara Miller Davenport is a historian at the University of Sheffield and she just wrote a book called a Gateway State Hawaii and the cultural transformation of American Empire Californians just vibe at aloha spirit so within a couple of years they were copycat bars all across the state most of them are just knockoffs and nothing to write home about but Jeff Ameri told us one of those copycat bars was really the equal of done the beachcombers the only restaurant tour who went Tiki or went four Polynesian in the nineteen thirties who could rival Don's palette and his skill was a guy named Victor Berge on He was the French Canadian son of a waiter in Oakland and he was in San Francisco he had his own little place there called Hinky Dink's was famous for a Frankenstein you get frank and a Stein for ten cents and he thinks was basically just a little barbecue shack with a Alaskan I rapper theme you know snow shoes and taxidermy on the walls in nineteen thirty seven he took a vacation to Hollywood and discovered on the beachcombers and like everybody else he he waited on line for ninety minutes to get into the bar he saw the popularity of what was happening at Don the beachcomber and try to recreate that up in his place and he turns and hangings into Trey Vicks and he turned himself from Victor Berge Ron into trader Vic Bergeron chair Vic as he was now known he was super savvy any seems to have had a great pallet everyone else was just copying done but trader vic actually used new spirits and juices and invented his own drinks and the food in his restaurants was revolutionary for mid-century. US I mean he introduced on elements of east Indian Malaysian Jap in these and other cuisines on his menu which was unheard of at the time like Donna beachcombers and all these other taking place just serve basic cantonese Chinese food is cheap the Chinese cook and then that would be that but vic pioneered what he called international cuisine and it he did it very very well to the point where he had white tableclo- fine dining restaurants multicourse meals of his own invention vic was also something of a showman he had a wooden leg from from his childhood illness but he would invite people to stick a fork in it and then he would tell them that he lost it to a shark on the high-seas but don the beachcomber and trader vic or soon franchising around the country you WanNa Polynesian themed night out on the Down in Chicago complete with dancing ladies and tropical drinks and an expensive dinner you got it that could've gotten old but then World War Two happens and things get even worse and more and more people flocked picky bars and then Gi's come back from the actual South Pacific with a renewed interest and all that and in the nineteen fifties everything combines you have a booming postwar many facturing economy you have all these vets coming back writing and making movies about their experiences and Tiki just goes into overdrive and it's perfectly suited for the Eisenhower era suburban culture as well which is kind of stifling and moralistic but you can make a little escape into the Pagan South seas in your local Tiki Bar International level was still a little too expensive for regular people in the nineteen fifties but increasingly a middle class couple could treat themselves to a nice night out and get away from it all that way the musical South Pacific came out in nineteen forty nine does this mean I finally finally get to play a little bit of something that booth you Nikki and my partner Tim like to make fun of me about what might deep and abiding love of musical theatre dear God there's no stopping you is there nope Pacific here we come some and Charlie the you may see a stranger thanks for indulging me going to let you make a habit of it okay see anyway the point is Tiki just kept getting more and more popular things continue to grow a pace in the nineteen sixties when you see really the height of Fo- Polynesian Restaurant Chic nece sort of Tiki chic but these were not low end beach bars or Jimmy Buffet Style replaces most of them like trader Vic's on the beachcomber and Stephen Crane's kon-tiki chain were high end luxury restaurants and they were event dining in people would save up and go out on a Friday night in their best clothes to these places even Disney got in on the tiki craze with its very own enchanted tiki room it opened in eighteen sixty three and drilled it soundtrack into the brains of America and even in the nineteen sixties international travel was still expensive and so Sarah says are white middle class Americans these tiki bars and restaurants allowed them to feel cosmopolitan going to Tiki bars right becomes in order these Polynesian restaurants becomes a way to sort of from any white people right to express your kind of embrace of foreign cultures in this moment and speaking of embrace Tiki bars and this whole American love affair with Bo Polynesian everything by the nineteen sixties it's not just about being open minded did it's about being sexy which is a period where more broadly a loosening of some of these sexual norms and I think there's something very appealing to women or at least in the way that these various cookbooks and magazines portray it for women kind of cross these racial boundaries right to kind of play act as a kind of Polynesian princess white middle class women went to Tiki bars and held back yard luos and dressed in moves and eight that FO- Polynesian Pan Asian cuisine the way it's described as often as a way of the Luau is a chance to kind of loosen up it's a chance to play act as as a Polynesian woman right and of course the stereotype of Polynesian women is there you know much more overtly sexual than white

Coming up next