The Tapu Tiki was designed for the creation of cocktails.
Josh had a clear vision for his home tiki bar. A long, eight seat high-top bar would establish his space as more bar than lounge. An array of shakers, jiggers, glassware, mugs, and other essential beverage tools would await a moment’s call to action. An impressive lineup of rums, liquors, and exotic spirits would pour at an arm’s reach. The name would allude to his trips to Tahiti and inspire all which is sacrosanct. Given his expertise as an ace bartender at Ventiki, Josh wanted Tapu Tiki to be the place where mixologists mingled and muddled.
When Josh bought a copy of Beachbum Berry’s Remixed several years back, he was excited by the detailed stories behind each cocktail. Josh is a bit of a history buff, so learning the backstory roused his curiosity. Soon, he was testing every drink in the book. Since Josh lives close to the birthplace of tiki culture, he also visited bartenders from the handful of still-existing locations where classic drinks were first served.
“What I like about tiki cocktails is that they are not simple.”
Take the classic Zombie for example. Over time, Josh has mixed all eight historical versions of the popular drink spanning from Don the Beachcomber’s 1934 original Zombie to BeachBum Berry’s 2007 simplified version. Josh’s favorite? He loves the balance found in the 1964 version, which introduced Don’s “Zombie Mix” (a combination of Pernod, Curacao, Falernum, and Grenadine). Don the Beachcomber had streamlined this version to shorten the prep time during Aku-Aku’s heyday at the Stardust in Vegas. The well-balanced version was a gesture of kindness for an overwhelmed bar staff.
“You know it’s a Mai Tai, but each variation is different.”
Josh also loves testing how types of rums change the character of a drink. He’s made Mai Tais like a scientist, holding all ingredient variables constant in his experimentation with the exception of one – the rum. Rum from the Virgin Islands has sweeter, mellow tones. Jamaican rums with pot-still aromas are the closest to what Trader Vic intended. Martinique rhums kick up the funk. Each rum changes the character, but all make a damn good drink.
Show up to Ventiki’s Beachbum Wednesdays when Josh is tending bar, and you’ll likely find him mixing up a different classic from Berry’s canon. Josh does the inventory ordering at Ventiki, so knows how to source the best rums, liquors, and other essential ingredients equally well for his home bar. Does that mean he ends up spending all his time behind his home bar like he does for work? Certainly not. Since the Tapu Tiki is meant to inspire cocktail creation, Josh invites other mixologists to take shifts and share their talents as well. The bar is ready to help others create. It’s not uncommon at the Tapu Tiki to find a friend behind the bar while Josh is out mingling.
Speaking of friends, several pitched in to help Josh build the Tapu Tiki. Hundreds of feet of trim were hand-crafted by Rob Roy. The vintage tiki stained glass door came from Auggie. A lamp came from Ron. Carvings came from Tiki Tony. The list goes on. When all was done, more than twenty people had pitched in for the price of free booze and some great Italian food (Josh’s wife works at a local restaurant). Some even earned a permanent seat at the bar. If you look closely, you’ll find a small plaque with a name on the bar seats. Would I want my name on a permanent seat at my favorite bar? Hell, yeah.
As I read the names, I couldn’t help but start humming a familiar theme song:
You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name.