World of tiki cocktails goes on record

NEW YORK• One of the richer paradoxes of the cocktail world is that, for all their Hawaiian shirts and beach- bum bonhomie, tiki aficionados are among the most doctrinaire pedants you will find in any bar.

Just ask Martin Cate, owner of the beloved San Francisco tiki bar Smuggler's Cove and a bit of a stickler himself on the proper tiki aesthetic.

"It is quantifiable," he said. "When I hear people say, 'Oh, tiki is whatever. It doesn't matter what it is. It's just a good time'... Now, no. That's not true. To me, that's as crazy as walking into the Guggenheim and declaring it to be Art Nouveau. There are definitions in this world."

He and his wife Rebecca recently set out to record those definitions in Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, And The Cult Of Tiki, published in June by Ten Speed Press.

The book is as much a lifestyle manifesto as it is a guide to a particular bar and its drinks. At 352 pages, it contains not only recipes for dozens of cocktails, but also a history of the tiki movement in the United States; an accounting of its revival and quirky major players; a dissection of the decor of Smuggler's Cove and the people who created it; a novel categorisation of rum types; and an exacting definition of what the term "exotic cocktail" means.

In the Cates' opinion, the term has to do with the way drinks were created in the 1930s by Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt - aka Donn Beach, founder of the Hollywood bar and restaurant Don the Beachcomber and the acknowledged godfather of the tiki lifestyle.

Martin Cate (above), at his bar Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco, has written a book (left) about tiki cocktails with his wife.
Martin Cate, at his bar Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco, has written a book (above) about tiki cocktails with his wife. PHOTOS: NEW YORK TIMES

Cate said: "Tiki cocktails are part of a larger story of Polynesian Pop. It's part of this four-decade fantasia, this obsession with Polynesian arts and culture, which included music, painting, art and architecture."


    The sweetness of the pear liqueur and port in this tiki drink (named for the Chadburn telegraph) makes it ideal for after dinner. But if you want something more preprandial, Cate recommends decreasing the amount of port and pear liqueur to 7.5ml each.


    60ml blended aged rum, preferably El Dorado 8-Year or Appleton Estate Reserve

    15ml tawny port

    15ml pear liqueur, preferably Mathilde Poire

    6 drops mole bitters, preferably Bittermens Xocolatl Mole


    1. In a mixing glass three-quarters filled with cracked or cubed ice, combine all the ingredients.

    2. Stir until chilled, about 30 seconds, and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

    Serves one

The volume has proved a quick success. The lei-wearing demographic has predictably picked up the book, but so have some unexpected parties, including people who have been led to the bar by the book, rather than the other way around.

"I didn't expect that," Cate said. "I thought people would already know the bar."


• Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, And The Cult Of Tiki (US$17.85 or S$24) is available at Amazon.com.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'World of tiki cocktails goes on record'. Subscribe