Like any other workplace, Omni has a few subcultures — knitters, rock climbers, dog fanciers — but none of them involve quite as much rum, kitsch, and straight-up chillin’ as Tiki.
Mark Boszko, Aaron Cherof, and Evan McNulty — roughly half of Omni Team Tiki — talk about their zest for fruity drinks and for the whole surrounding show. We talk about the décor from a lost world that never existed anyway. We talk about the fancy and sometimes secret ingredients. And the vibe. And the volcanos.
You can find Mark’s Tiki bar on the web at Kilauea.co, and on Twitter and Instagram @KilaueaCove. You can find Evan on Twitter @theevanshow. You can find Aaron on Twitter @cherof, and you can find his music at cherof.com, cherof.bandcamp.com, Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play.
Some other people, places, and things mentioned:
- Latchkey Kid
- About Tiki
- The Tropics in Beverly Hills, CA (a “bamboo bar”)
- Don the Beachcomber
- Trader Vic's
- Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
- Dole Whip
- Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
- Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar
- Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto
- Smuggler's Cove
- Hale Pele
- Tiki Kon
- Volcano Bowl
- Jeff “Beachbum” Berry
- Devil's Reef
- North Shore Lagoon at McMenamins Arderson School
- Tacoma Cabana
- Navy Strength
- Rob Roy
- The Saturn
- Shark Bite
- Black Magic
- Kōloa Kauaʻi Coffee
- Kona coffee
- Three Dots and a Dash
- Morse code
- World War II
- Martinique rums
- Demerara rum
- Pimento liqueur
- Dr. Funk
- Mai Tai
- Il Fornaio
- Raspberry Pi
- Scorpion Bowl
- Kahiko Punch
- Cesar’s Rum Punch
- Hawaiian Punch
- Hammering Man
- Diller Room and Justin Wojslaw
- How to Make Flaming Drinks
Brent Simmons: You're listening to The Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind The Omni Group's award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. Music!
Brent: I'm your host, Brent Simmons. This is a special episode with a whole mess of guests. While Omni has a bunch of subcultures, knitters, and so on, but today we're talking with the people who love everything tiki. The tikians? The tikites? Tikinauts? Do you guys have a word?
Mark Boszko: I love Tikinauts.
Brent: Tikinauts? Tikinauts is good? All right. In the studio with me today is Mark Boszko, Evan McNulty, and Aaron Cherof. He's the sheriff of... anyway whatever.
Brent: Say hello, Mark.
Mark: Hello, Mark.
Brent: Say hello, Evan.
Evan McNulty: Hello, Evan.
Brent: Say hello, Aaron.
Aaron Cherof: Hello, Aaron.
Brent: I should note that the crew of Tikinauts is actually larger than just these folks. Chris, Dave, and Steve aren't in the studio today, but they're also Tikinauts. Anyway, how did this start, and do you have a secret handshake?
Mark: I don't think we do have a secret handshake.
Aaron: We don't.
Mark: Should we work on that?
Brent: If you did, you'd call it The Volcano. I wonder what that would be like actually.
Brent: Hands come together and explode and-
Mark: Yeah, that sounds violent.
Brent: -lava everywhere. Yeah. I don't even know how you'd work this out.
Aaron: You could do like a 45 degree angle and everyone meets in the center.
Brent: Oh. And then rise up and, yeah.
Aaron: And then someone has a lighter and-
Brent: There we go. All right. So how did it start? Now Mark, you're a tiki fan from way back. Did you infect these people?
Mark: Sort of way back? I feel like I contributed to the infection. I don't know if everybody stems from me, but... I don't think that's true.
Brent: Deflecting blame, I see.
Brent: All right.
Mark: I mean I was already into it. I think Aaron got into it pretty early, and Dave ... I don't know, Aaron I think has the better story here.
Aaron: Well, I ... Yeah we ... I think we kind of all got it ... you were into it first, and then Dave and kind of got into it independently of each other. But the ... having a central Omni collection area to talk about it on the clock was a way to further that enthusiasm, and then we just started going to bars together.
Mark: Oh yeah. Yeah, mostly Rumba, in downtown Seattle here.
Evan: That's right. My way of getting involved with this is as simple as hearing them talk about bars, thinking hey-
Evan: —I like bars. I think I do. I've been to some. And going with them, finding it to be a really relaxing experience and getting into it from there.
Brent: As a former latch-key kid, it's nice to have friends, right?
Mark: Oh yeah, me, too.
Evan: Yeah. Yeah it's nice to have friends. And Mark, too.
Brent: Yeah, right? Do you guys like, meet weekly? Does somebody take minutes? Not that kind of organization really?
Mark: No. No. Every once in a while on Wednesdays we'll go down to Rumba, and they have their tiki night that night.
Brent: Okay. So what the heck is tiki? Who can ... Aaron, what's tiki?
Aaron: Oh man. I'm not the one to answer the question.
Brent: I know. That's why I'm asking.
Aaron: What about our resident historian, intrepid producer Mark Boszko?
Mark: Oh no! Actually, I wish Dave was here 'cause he has a better handle on the specifics, but I tried to brush up over lunch. Basically, there were kind of like, what they called Bamboo Bars, mostly in LA —
Brent: I love that, that's just a great name, Bamboo Bars.
Mark: Yeah. In the late 20's, early 30's. And I guess that was like coming out of the depression. People wanted an escape to kind of go to some place that had, some décor. It wasn't anything too extreme.
Brent: A little bamboo, just a little exotic.
Mark: Yeah. And then in '33, Don the Beachcomber's opened, and then in '34 it was Trader Vic's. And those were both kind of the progenitors of every other kind of tiki bar that exists now, and they just took that themed experience to the very next level with all of the stuff that they brought back from Polynesian islands, and all this décor that's on there, and then really introducing that concept of Polynesian drinks. Which again, all of this is just a mainland American invention and not anything real from these islands.
Brent: So it's like American Chinese food is not real Chinese food.
Aaron: And then pizza.
Mark: And in fact a lot of these restaurants, the food that they served was essentially American Chinese but, dressed up with some pineapple or something, so it's very much that kind of, we're going to take some things that seems exotic and cram them all together into one experience that's just more about escapism than it is about any sort of realism about the cultures of these islands.
Brent: It's interesting though because... so tiki is fake exoticism but it becomes a real actual thing, though not representing any given nation or area or whatever. It's just ... But it becomes a real thing itself.
Mark: Yeah it's a big conglomeration of many different cultures, but then filtered through this angle of escapism and it becomes its own thing, yeah.
Aaron: Well now that we're a century after it, too, now there's a kind of retro kitsch angle on it that didn't exist initially, right?
Mark: Yeah 'cause it kind of died out like late ’60s, early ’70s. A lot of them. And there were just a few that survived from that era, but there was a bunch of people who kind of looked back at it from the retro angle in like the late 90's and started the revival of it, that continues now.
Aaron: Yeah in the late 90's there was that really big kind of like retro futuristic space age lounge type of revival, and I think it's kind of, seems like a natural off-shoot of that.
Brent: I've always wondered about that kind of retro stuff, or the love of retro stuff, 'cause sometimes it's kind of kitschy and we love it ironically and so on. And sometimes, oh no, we just love it. Well sure it's kitschy, but we love it for real.
Mark: I'm more on that side of it.
Brent: Right yeah. Because you honestly just, you really really like it. And if it's old, even if it's kitschy or dorky in some way, it's still cool. So I take it you guys are all in the same boat. You don't, you're not tiki fans in quotes, right?
Aaron: Irony's just an excuse. For a lot of things.
Brent: Yeah I used to, when I was in college that was always a big thing, oh no I'm wearing a truck driver’s cap ironically. I'm like, well, you're wearing a truck driver's cap.
Mark: You're still, yeah ...
Brent: You know.
Aaron: Yeah, for a while I listened to lounge music ironically, and now I just listen to lounge music.
Brent: Right. Because it's good and you like it.
Aaron: Yeah. After listening to it for a while I got used to it and liked it.
Brent: So it reminds me of Disney a little bit. I mean that, Disney is artificial also, in kind of a... exotic without being realistic. So tiki is kind of like a move-able Disney with drinks?
Mark: Yeah I would say it's kind of an adult version of that themed experience. And of course like Disneyland, and then eventually Disney World has the Enchanted Tiki Room with the animatronic birds and carvings and drumming and ...
Brent: But ... but no drinks?
Mark: I don't think they have drinks in the park, though they have Dole Whip, which is like this pineapple non-dairy frozen treat that they make floats out of and stuff.
Brent: Non-dairy — now you're talking.
Mark: It's really good, yeah.
Brent: That sounds good.
Mark: Exactly, right? I can have it!
Aaron: Isn't there that Polynesian hotel at Disney?
Mark: Yeah in Disney World there's a Polynesian resort.
Aaron: Okay, but there's ... is there a bar in that one or is it ...
Mark: There is now. It just like, a few years ago they opened ... so there's a Trader Sam's in Disneyland, which is not inside the park itself — that's actually a tiki bar that's run by Disney, and it's at like the Disneyland hotel. But then in Disney World they have Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, which is actually part of the Polynesian resort now.
Aaron: Oh I didn't realize it was that recently.
Mark: Yeah I think it was just six years ago that they opened that one?
Aaron: Oh well that would explain why I wasn't familiar with it when I went as a kid. Also I think being under 21, part of it.
Evan: I've never been to the Grog Grotto, but I've been to the Trader Sam's at ... near Disneyland in LA. And I can see the similarity between Disney and tiki as well. When I entered that place, or even when I first went to Rumba here locally, I felt like I was entering some place a little bit different. Rumba doesn't have the same level, it's not really a, tiki bar, but—
Brent: It's a rum bar with a tiki night?
Mark: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Evan: But when I went into Trader Sam's, for example, I felt like I heard some exotic music, the lighting was down, some nautical stuff going on, carvings, all that kind of stuff. And it just felt like I was somewhere different that I couldn't get to in my everyday life.
Aaron: Yeah the goal with the décor in a lot of tiki bars is to transport you away from your current location or your day to day life. So a lot of these bars that kind of are halfway there, where they just have like a lot of natural daylight, that doesn't really kind of match the décor or the aesthetic, it's the tiki bars that really go all in and have like waterworks and blacked out windows and it takes fifteen minutes for your eyes to adjust. Once your eyes adjust it becomes, you're in a completely different place.
Mark: Yeah, you gotta get that natural light out of there. That's the worst.
Brent: That's funny because when I picture tropical South Pacific islands, I think of a whole lot of natural light.
Evan: When I visited the Trader Vic's in Emeryville late last year — or earlier this year, I don't remember exactly — this is a hold over from the ... that Mark mentioned earlier, it's maybe on of the last few of these, I noticed that they do allow natural light, but it's only when the sun is setting. Otherwise they'll draw the blinds and all that and ... but they're on the water in Emeryville, they're in the San Francisco Bay Area, and yeah, the sun was setting, so the blinds come up and that South Pacific style light comes in and you're good. So I think there are exceptions.
Aaron: Yeah I guess it's not natural light that's the enemy, it is looking outside and seeing a city street of Tacoma being the enemy.
Brent: Right, that totally makes sense.
Mark: A lot of them have blacked out front windows, like if you go to Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco it's ... in fact there's no signage out front except for like a red light. So there's just this big wall of black glass, and a red light. Unless you know what you're looking for it's ... you know like first time I was there, it took me like ten minutes. I was standing right in front of it and was like...
Aaron: Yeah, looks pretty shady.
Mark: ... where am I supposed to go?
Evan: I suppose that's true for, one of the favorites among people here, at least, is Hale Pele in Portland. It's a smiliar kind of thing. There's a donut shop next door, I think, something like that. I think I walked past it the first time 'cause it just looked like a regular storefront.
Mark: It's just like in a little strip mall, it's like, okay, is this a shop?
Aaron: And something ... something Hale Pele just did is they just blacked out the door. So between the last time I went and ... I went last weekend for Tiki Kon with Dave, and it was a completely different experience just having the lack of natural daylight. They also did a bunch of lighting work on the inside and it is really cool.
Brent: So how is the experience of being in a tiki bar different from a normal bar? Other than the décor, right? Blacking out the light, and there's carvings and fancy mugs and presumably volcanoes....
Evan: I like the “I'll have what they're having” thing that happens sometimes. You'll maybe be sitting there, maybe you've ordered something that you know you like, or you're interested in because of what the bartender or server says, but other times a server will bring by, or put up to the bar some drink that looks really interesting or different. Sometimes for me it's, oh it's on fire, or whatever caught my eye, and so I've got to have what they're having. That's fun.
Brent: I love how much of this is just about like, dazzle me, a little bit. Right? I mean tiki is not about, as far as I can tell, it's a more relaxed kind of party than many bars are. Is that safe to say?
Mark: Oh yeah definitely.
Aaron: Yeah the relaxing vibe is really kind of what gets me because I like drinking but I don't really like going out to bars because there's usually a lot of loud music or a ton of people or I'm standing the whole time or ... tiki bars tend to skew more towards the, kind of taking it easy at your own pace, and transporting you away, that kind of appeals to me.
Brent: And what's with the volcanoes anyway? I mean I guess there's volcanoes in the Pacific? In Hawaii anyhow.
Mark: Oh yeah, Pacific Rim, right? There's a, I think there's one at Hale Pele, right?
Aaron: Yeah they have a volcano show, or they have a sound effects of a volcano if someone orders a Volcano Bowl. And they just have a smoke machine now, too, where they have like ... or it's not just one machine, but smoke starts pouring in from around the booths when somebody orders a Volcano Bowl, it's really exciting.
Mark: Oh nice. I haven't been down there for a while. There's one at Trader Sam's, too, where they have... you order their Krakatoa drink I think and it's ... they do that same sort of ... there's like a fake window that looks out over a lagoon and a volcano in the distance, and it erupts when people order that, so, that was kind of the inspiration for the one that I built in my home bar, too.
Brent: So where do all these fancy tiki drink recipes come from?
Mark: Well ...
Brent: Are the originals from the original bamboo bars still in use?
Mark: They didn't really serve that kind of drink. The original ones before Don The Beachcomber. I mean, I would credit him and Victor Bergeron from Trader Vic's, for most of the stuff that we know really well today, those are kind of the classics. And a lot of that stuff was lost for a long time because the way they served the stuff in the restaurants, even the bartender didn't know all of the ingredients that went into it. I mean there would be like some mixes of syrups or liqueurs or whatever that would be labeled, Don's Mix No. 3, and you would ... the bartender-
Brent: So someone else actually made the mixes?
Mark: Yeah, exactly. So it's like-
Brent: So it's like the secrets of Polynesia, even our employees don't know, or something.
Mark: Yeah. There's a guy by the name of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry who we owe a lot to as far as like actually being a historian and going back and talking to these bartenders, and trying to find all the staff who actually knew these recipes. And decode, trying to figure out, what was Don's Mix No. 3? Or you know, whatever. So we have, we have a lot of those today, thanks to him.
Aaron: Yeah but there are a lot of people still making new recipes.
Mark: Oh sure.
Brent: Endless source of creativity.
Aaron: Oh yeah. There's a lot of range for ... I think from a basic standpoint it mostly stems out of a daiquiri, right? Where it's rum, lime and sugar, being the base. And then a lot of tiki drinks are kind in adaptation of that, swapping out some citrus for another, for different rums. But that, that is kind of a base for a lot of tiki drinks.
Mark: Right. Kind of keeping that same sort of ratio, or kind of the punch ratios.
Aaron: Yeah what is the ... the ratios?
Mark: I'm trying to remember what the rhyme is now. It's like, one of strong, two of sweet, three of... something, and four of weak. What was it?
Aaron: I think it's one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.
Mark: That's it, that's it.
Mark: Yeah. That sounds right.
Brent: It's from drinking Mark's punch that I figured out where the word punch comes from. 'Cause if you drink enough of them, it's indistinguishable from having been punched, but in a really yummy way, if that makes sense.
Brent: So what bars you like to go to here? You mentioned Rumba, which has a tiki night. Any other good [tiki] bars in Seattle?
Aaron: Well there are very few in the immediate Seattle area, my favorite new one is by the name of Devil's Reef in Tacoma, so it is about 45 minutes from downtown Seattle on a good day.
Brent: It's a long trip home.
Aaron: It's a long trip to take if you're going to be drinking. So it's kind of like a good day excursion place, but that's the new bar by Jason Alexander, who was one of the people working at the Tacoma Cabana.
Mark: Yeah, he runs that.
Brent: I know him from Seinfeld.
Aaron: Yeah. Oh. Great work.
Mark: Yeah I think that's probably the best tiki bar in the area, overall.
Aaron: Yeah that's definitely the best for décor, at the very least. And great menu, too.
Evan: You know, it occurs to me that, I don't have a great memory of it 'cause it was very early on in exploring this stuff, but there's the McMenamins [North Shore Lagoon at Anderson] School up north.
Mark: Bothell, I think?
Aaron: That's right.
Evan: And I felt like their vibe wasn't so so bad. I don't remember much about their drinks or anything, but it was a pretty cool place.
Mark: They have nice décor. The only problem is the amount of sunshine that pours in the ... these like — I was going to say sunroof, that's not right for a building. What's the word?
Mark: Skylights, thank you.
Aaron: So it's a bar above a heated pool, so you get a great view of the pool, but you can also get a great view of the area outside the pool, 'cause the pool is surrounded by glass.
Evan: I guess the Tacoma Cabana was a pretty good experience, although that's another one that has immense amounts of natural light, at least in the front section. I guess my favorite local bar used to be, and I like being able to say this, Kilauea Cove.
Brent: Kilauea Cove? We'll talk about that pretty soon, yeah. Kilauea Cove. I even know how to spell that, probably.
Aaron: And there's also Navy Strength, catty-corner from Rob Roy in Belltown.
Brent: I've not been yet to Navy Strength.
Aaron: It's a good spot.
Brent: Is it very tiki-ish? Half tiki?
Aaron: I think the menu is there but the ... it's a much more modern décor than you would typically associate with tiki.
Mark: Yeah it's got kind of that Seattle, here's exposed AC ducts and pipes and stuff in the ceiling kind of vibe to it. And there's a little bit of wood but not a lot. And it's, as you were saying Aaron, it's got that way too many windows problem. So it's, the vibe isn't quite there, but the ... the drinks are quite good.
Brent: You could go there in the winter, when there's literally no sun, you should be fine.
Mark: Oh yeah. As long as you go after sunset it's great.
Evan: You're right.
Brent: Which is 4:00 PM in December, so ... great bar for Christmas.
Aaron: The nice thing about that bar is they have a great fried chicken. What's the ... what's theirs ...
Aaron: Yeah. Oh that's it. They have a really good Karaage spot for fried chicken just down the block from it, so that's a great recommended one, too, if you're going to be going there.
Brent: The transcribers are going to have a fun time with this.
Aaron: It's Kara, K A R A space A G E.
Brent: So, we'll go around the room here. Two questions, favorite drink to make? Favorite drink to drink? You start, Aaron.
Aaron: My favorite drink to make has to be ...
Brent: Has to be.
Aaron: The Saturn. That's a dry gin drink with lemon juice and then the three syrups, you got, passion fruit syrup, Falernum, and Orgeat. Is it “Orgeat” or is it “Orgea...”?
Mark: I say it with the T, Orgeat.
Brent: I always call it, “oh great”. But I ...
Aaron: That's what, when I called the QFC Liquor store to see if they carried Orgeat the guy put me on hold and said, we have something called “oh great.” I'm like, oh great, that's it. But that's my favorite drink, it's really-
Brent: Interesting. A gin drink.
Aaron: It is. There are few gin based drinks in tiki but they ... they tend to be pretty good. But my favorite to order has got to be a Shark's Bite at the Mai-Kai.
Brent: Shark's Bite.
Mark: Mmm. The Mai-Kai.
Aaron: Oh the Mai-Kai.
Brent: So what's a, what's a Shark's Bite? That's a rum drink.
Aaron: Yeah that's a rum drink where it's pineapple juice, lime, sugar syrup, and they also serve another shot of dark rum on the side, or an aged rum on the side, so you can kind of combine them or have it as its own separate shot. But that's a nice, nice sweet pineapple-y drink.
Brent: That sounds pretty good. Mark, what's your favorite drink to make?
Mark: I would say the one named after my bar. The house drink is the Kilauea. I've been enjoying making that lately 'cause it's got coffee in it, kind of a throw back to the Black Magic drink at the Mai-Kai, which I also love. But it's got various juices and a couple different types of rum, but there's coffee liqueur, and then a float of Kona coffee on top of the drink.
Brent: But dairy free. All dairy free.
Mark: All dairy free.
Brent: I got it.
Aaron: What coffee liqueur do you use?
Mark: I can't think of the name of it now, it starts with a K. It's not a Kahlúa-
Aaron: Kaptain St. George's?
Mark: Not Kahlúa. It's the ... it's Kōloa or something... K O L O A. Something like that.
Brent: That sounds like generic Kahlúa. Like Fred Myer Kahlúa.
Aaron: Yeah, that just sounds like the store brand Kahlúa.
Mark: It's much better than Kahlúa. It's got a much stronger Kona coffee flavor to it.
Brent: What's your favorite drink to drink, if you're not making it?
Mark: I think it'd be-
Brent: It could be the same thing.
Mark: No. It's the Three Dots and a Dash.
Brent: Three Dots and dash. What are those dots and dashes?
Mark: Well it stands for victory.
Evan: Morse code, right?
Mark: Yeah. Donn Beach created that after World War II. It's three different juices. There's a Martinique, and Demerara rum, and Falernum, which is this delicious syrup with many different spices in it. And then Pimento liqueur, which is-
Brent: Pimiento liqueur?
Mark: Well, allspice, essentially. It's the berry that comes from the pimento tree. Which is not the pimiento that you would put in a martini or something.
Brent: Subtle little difference there.
Aaron: That's the olive, right?
Aaron: With that stick of cheese in it?
Aaron: Those are gross.
Mark: Stick of cheese. It's just, I love how well balanced that drink is. So delicious.
Aaron: It's a great drink. Once I'm two cherries in on the Three Dots, then I'm always kind of pawning off my last cherry on someone.
Brent: If we did show titles, show title would be, “Two Cherries In.”
Aaron: Two Cherries In.
Brent: Evan, what's your favorite drink to make?
Evan: Oh, I think it's actually the Three Dots and a Dash.
Brent: We have a winner.
Evan: I like getting out, when Mark listed them I feel like it didn't feel like that many ingredients. But you know, you've got several kinds of juice, you've got your honey mix that you may have made yourself by-
Brent: With your own bees.
Evan: -the very difficult process of taking honey and water and combing them and heating them and so on. But what I like doing is arraying all the bottles of things, and like the squeezy bottle of honey and all that out, and just feeling like I'm about to do some very complicated alchemy. And then combining them and enjoying the result. Hoping that it approaches the quality of those I've enjoyed from Mark.
Mark: Aww, thanks.
Aaron: You guys are a match made in heaven then, 'cause your favorite drink to make is the Three Dots and a Dash and that's Mark’s favorite drink to drink. You should host him more often.
Evan: His Kilauea is one of my favorites to drink. But, and he distributed the recipe, which was pretty cool.
Brent: That's rare, I heard they were supposed to be secret.
Evan: That's right. But my favorite to drink, I think, when it comes down to it, might be the Doctor Funk.
Brent: I like the name.
Evan: I had a great example of it at Navy Strength, the first time I went. And that consists of a light rum, lime juice, Grenadine, and Pernod?
Evan: Yeah. Which is kind of a, well, what's the name of that plant?
Mark: It's like, well ... it tastes like absinthe, it's like a, that anise flavor.
Evan: Yeah anise. That's what I was looking for, yeah. So it has kind of an anise flavor to it, but in a way it's kind of like a limeade, is the way I might think about it. I really enjoy it.
Aaron: Like an anisette limeade?
Aaron: That sounds good.
Mark: It is good.
Aaron: Brent, what's your favorite drink to drink?
Brent: I like a straight whiskey. And a beer.
Aaron: You make it easy on your bartender, huh?
Brent: I do. And I'm a cheap date, 'cause it could be a shot of Jack Daniels and a Rainier beer. But that said, I do enjoy tiki drinks quite a bit. I just haven't paid attention enough to know their names. Except for the Kilauea. So you make drinks at home. Do they approach the level of drinks you get when you go to say, Rumba, or any of these other awesome places?
Aaron: I feel like I've gotten a lot better at bartending over the years, to the point now where I think a bar drink has to be pretty good to really surpass what I'm able to make at home. Because like I'll go out and I'll get a Mai Tai, and I've had Mai Tais now at bars in the Seattle area where I'll be like, I might as well have made this at home.
Brent: I made the mistake once, this is not strictly tiki related, but, I was in the mood for a margarita, but I was at Il Fornaio downtown, an Italian bar, but I ordered a margarita, and it was just the worst drink I've ever had in my life. So, lesson learned. Don't get margarita's at Italian joints.
Aaron: Yeah, if anything, what I tend to do now more is order drinks that call for ingredients that I don't have at home. Unless I'm looking to try and learn a new recipe that I don't want to invest in.
Mark: Yeah. Where you can get the sense of the flavor profile and if it's something you want to pursue refining at home or-
Aaron: Yeah that's true, 'cause like I make a lot of Saturns at home, but then I had a Saturn at Devil's Reef in Tacoma, and it blew mine out of the water, for sure. So I was like, what gin did you put in here? I was grilling them.
Mark: Yeah I feel like, I don't know, I feel like at home I'm mostly following recipes for this kind of stuff. And I can definitely follow that to a T, and I pretty much trust “Beachbum” Berry's recipes to be high quality, as far as that goes. So I can get pretty far, and I'm definitely not as fast as you would be at a commercial establishment, so, but I can take the care to make sure that the proportions are correct and everything. And that goes a long way. I think if you're not really measuring what goes into a tiki drink then it's not going to come out right. 'Cause there's ... so many of these drinks have eight or ten ingredients, this crazy way where it's ... if you don't get the measurements just right, then the flavor profile isn't going to be what you want it to be.
Aaron: Yeah and even when it comes to how much ice you place in a drink, that's very carefully calculated as well, because a lot of drinks that you blend or mix, they call for a specific amount of crushed ice, knowing full well that that's going to dilute when you're mixing the drink, and then you top off with more crushed ice when you're serving it so ... kind of I think having the right glassware and proportions in mind.
Aaron: Very particular.
Brent: This is absurdly nerdy.
Mark: Hello, we're nerds.
Brent: Software company.
Evan: Would you rather we be something more destructive?
Brent: No. No this is great. We've mentioned Kilauea Cove.
Mark: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brent: Mark, tell us about your bar.
Mark: It's in my basement. It's not the best tiki bar anywhere, but... it's in my basement, so, I only have to go-
Brent: It's the best one I've been to at your house.
Mark: I only have to go downstairs to get to it, so I can't complain too much. Yeah, I built out a little bar down there, and you know, have some décor, some hanging fish float lamps and all that kind of stuff. And there's a display shelf with a bunch of tiki mugs on it that I've earned drinking them in various places, and on the top shelf one of them is a volcano that erupts.
Brent: Tell us more about the volcano. How does this work? What does it mean for a volcano to erupt? Does it make a lot of noise?
Mark: It makes a lot of noise, there are lights, there's a light show built into it, inside the volcano itself, and then above it there are some little tiny LED lights hanging above it that integrate into the show, and there's a smoke generator inside the volcano so... it's all controlled by a Raspberry Pi and-
Brent: Raspberry Pi just sounds like a tiki name. Doesn't it? Like it was born to control tiki things. Better if it was mango pie though.
Mark: Been doing that fruit theme, yeah. Passion fruit.
Brent: Key Lime Pi.
Mark: Pi-ssion fruit? ... No.
Aaron: Keep workshopping that.
Brent: So there's a big DIY upon it with the modern tiki movement, it sounds like.
Aaron: Oh yeah.
Mark: Yeah, I mean it extends both through the making of the drinks itself to the décor and everything. Like I know a lot of people who make their own lamps and stuff and kind of sell those in the community, making their own mugs ...
Aaron: Yeah last weekend we checked out the merchandise floor at Tiki Kon, and they had a lot of people selling their wares there, and yeah, it seems like there's a lot of areas that people who are DIY can focus and they can make their own mugs, or they can make their own tiki themed art from found objects or even like with a brush and canvas, that kind of art. There's a lot of like clothes makers and collectors and re-sellers, and they had a dedicated fez booth there. So maybe we should coordinate matching fezzes.
Brent: I have never in my life heard the phrase “dedicated fez booth” before.
Aaron: Yeah. I didn't really fezzes came in different sizes.
Mark: Oh yeah.
Brent: Fezzes are cool.
Mark: My friends Jason and Maya run that, so ...
Aaron: Oh really?
Aaron: It was the most ... I took a lot of pictures of it 'cause I was really impressed by the set up.
Mark: I love their booth, yeah, with the big light up Fez-O-Rama sign at the top, yeah.
Evan: Do either of you own a fez?
Mark: I do.
Evan: Oh, I've never seen you don a fez, Mark. What's the occasion that a fez would be trotted out for?
Mark: I don't know. I might just have to do it at the party this year.
Brent: Yeah that sounds good.
Mark: It's hard to find an occasion where it is not ostentatious to add a fez on top of it.
Brent: So, note to listeners, Mark will be having a party at Kilauea Cove. You're not all invited.
Mark: Aw, sorry.
Aaron: Maybe we can get your friends to do us a run of an Omni tiki fez line.
Mark: I'm sure if we had like 25 pre-orders they'd be happy to do that.
Aaron: We have a ... we only have six here, right?
Mark: I think so.
Brent: We'll make this happen. Tell me about the punches. You make two punches for your party. One is darker in color. How are they different otherwise?
Mark: Well, I've made different ones every year.
Brent: Have you? Okay.
Mark: Yeah. Usually I try to make one that's a little on the drier side, and then make one that's a little sweeter. So one year I did like a Scorpion Punch for the drier one and a Kahiko Punch for the sweeter, passion fruit one.
Aaron: So for the listener, if you haven't had punch, you're probably thinking it tastes like Hawaiian Punch.
Aaron: No. But if you are looking for a rum punch that tastes like Hawaiian Punch, there is Caesar's Rum Punch, which is an ancient 1930s drink, which probably — I don't have the facts for this — but I'm guessing inspired Hawaiian Punch, because I grew up drinking Hawaiian Punch, and then I tried making this Caesar's Rum Punch a couple weeks ago, and I was like, this looks like Hawaiian Punch, and then I tried it and I was like, this is Hawaiian Punch.
Mark: Wow. I have not tried that.
Aaron: Yeah I'm not sure I would recommend it.
Mark: Doesn't seem quite up my alley.
Aaron: Yeah, it's a lot of grenadine. It's an ounce of grenadine. That's more rum than I put in some drinks.
Evan: You know, that reminds me, I thought that grenadine was Rose’s Grenadine in a bottle that you can get at Safeway or whatever, and I thought that lime juice was in bottles that are shaped like limes. And that I could use these things. My first couple of attempts at making a drink at home like this, I think involved both lime juice from a squeezy lime bottle, and grenadine from Rose’s. These are not the things to use it turns out.
Aaron: Oh yeah.
Evan: This is really just an aside, but a lot of this stuff benefits so much from using fresh squeezed lime juice or grenadine made from fruit.
Brent: From real grennas.
Aaron: Yeah I would say if anyone is looking to get into home bartending or making tiki drinks, the one thing that you cannot replace is fresh lime juice. There's no replacement for it.
Mark: Yeah. I mean fresh juice of any sort is really important to the flavor of these drinks in general. Even if you're not making tiki drinks, any cocktails that you're making with fresh juice makes a huge difference.
Brent: Yeah, totally agree. And I'm lazy, so I just poured a little whiskey into a thing. Relied on all y'all to make drinks for me.
Evan: Fresh whiskey?
Brent: From the whiskey tree.
Evan: Okay yeah, excellent.
Brent: When I worked in the restaurant business, I worked at a place that did a lot of breakfasts. And so the orange juice there was labeled as ... oh I hope I get this right ... “fresh squeezed.”
Mark: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brent: So patrons would ask, “oh is the orange juice fresh?” and I'd say, “well, it's fresh squeezed.” But all that meant, technically, was that it was squeezed when it was fresh. It doesn't mean ... “freshly” squeezed would be different. That meant we had oranges there and made orange juice from them.
Aaron: So you bought what like Tropicana?
Brent: Yeah. Or something like that, yeah. The oranges were fresh when they were squeezed.
Aaron: That's like, I bought beard oil from some merchant online once that said all ingredients were locally acquired ...
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Aaron: So that's different from locally sourced, that just means like I bought everything at the Kroger.
Brent: Yeah right.
Mark: I thought you were going to say, freshly squeezed from someone's beard!
Aaron: From someone’s beard.
Brent: It was fresh when it was squeezed, yeah, I don't know. Let's talk about fire. Last time I went to ... what was that place that I went to? Where there was a drink that was on fire?
Evan: Well it might have been ... oh. I always refer to this place as the place that's near the giant thing and goes like this, and does a digging motion.
Brent: Yeah. Nearby “[Hammering] Man” at Seattle Art Museum.
Evan: But I don't remember the name of it. Mark, do you remember the name of this?
Aaron: Diller room?
Mark: Oh, Diller Room.
Brent: Yeah okay.
Evan: They have a bartender that's really good at the tiki stuff.
Evan: Yeah Justin. And normally, when he's there is when you want to be there I think. Otherwise, it's a bar.
Brent: Just seems like fire has a lot to do with tiki. And really it's the part that excites me the most.
Mark: Oh absolutely. It's part of the whole showmanship thing, where it's, they're trying to transport you to a different place, and part of that is also just the presentation of it.
Aaron: Garnish and presentation both are really important in making tiki drinks ... an establishing factor that differentiates that from more normal cocktails, I would say.
Brent: So does the average tiki joint have, say 10 different drinks that flame? Is it every other drink catches fire?
Aaron: Depends on where you go. Hale Pele in Portland has a whole section of their menu that I think gets set on fire.
Brent: I like that. They're just like, rum drinks, gin drinks, fire.
Aaron: When you see a fire drink served to someone next to you, you're like, I gotta have one of those.
Brent: Yeah. Right. No question.
Aaron: Smells great, too. I guess it's a crouton, they soak a crouton?
Mark: Yeah, usually there's like a lime shell to hold it and then there's a crouton soaked in lemon [extract] that gets set on fire. And then maybe throwing cinnamon powder or something else that will, catches flame in the air.
Aaron: And then it smells great.
Evan: And I feel like some of this, it might offend some people's taste, but there are other things that get lit on fire or otherwise lit. I know that there are ice cubes that glow from the inside, that's somewhat popular.
Brent: I'm a big fan. I have two of Mark's.
Evan: Yeah? If they blink it's right out. No good.
Mark: That's right. No blinking.
Evan: But it they just kind of like glow, they're fine. And then there's marshmallows that are lit on fire, you can go all sorts of directions.
Brent: So you have like the intersection of s'mores and tiki?
Evan: I think so. Although that one was actually with a drink that was coffee flavored, largely. And I think it worked really well.
Mark: That's at Rumba, the Fire Walk With Me. Right? Obviously, the coffee connection.
Brent: Do any of you guys make drinks with fire?
Aaron: I haven't at home. I have a patio that has a tree ... what do you call it?
Aaron: Yeah, trees. Branches. My patio has branches above it-
Mark: Tree sticks.
Aaron: -and I've never wanted to set anything on fire. Actually, I think I'm not allowed to have a barbecue grill on my patio in my rent agreement.
Brent: So you're thinking that extends to flaming tiki drinks?
Mark: I've made smoldering cinnamon sticks, but not very ... never gone so far as the fire, the bigger fire. The ceilings are pretty low in my basement and I don't, I don't want 30 people to have to run out of there under duress.
Aaron: Sure. I've definitely set cinnamon sticks on fire, that's a great way to get started. Smells great.
Brent: Yup. That's the gateway. But you could go outside and light them, right?
Mark: Oh sure, yeah. Why not.
Evan: We should practice setting things on fire in his yard.
Brent: I think we should.
Evan: Get some cinnamon. A lighter. Whatever. I'm coming over.
Mark: Okay. Just give me a little warning first.
Brent: Don't give him any warning.
Brent: No. Just show up. With your lighter and your cinnamon.
Mark: My daughter will call the fire department on you.
Brent: That seems like enough tiki talk. We're going to close it out here. Thanks, Mark.
Mark: Thank you.
Brent: Thanks, Evan.
Evan: Thank you.
Brent: Thanks, Aaron.
Aaron: Thank you.
Brent: Mark, where can people find you on the web?
Mark: Well why don't I tell you where you can find Kilauea Cove. If you go to Kilauea.co that will take you-
Brent: Too bad there's no “.cove”.
Mark: I know, right? That'll take you to the website. It's also @KilaueaCove on Twitter and Instagram.
Brent: Okay. Evan, where can people find you on the web?
Evan: I think going to Twitter, @theevanshow is maybe the best place to go. You can go to my website from there if you really want to.
Brent: Cool. Aaron, where can people find you on the web?
Aaron: You can find me on Twitter @cherof, or cherof.com, or look for Aaron Cherof in Apple Music, Spotify-
Brent: Google Play?
Aaron: Google Play. I get some hits from Google Play. I don't know who uses that.
Brent: I don't know, yeah. It's probably just bots.
Aaron: Could be. I ain't complaining.
Brent: I'd also like to thank our intrepid producer Mark Boszko, who is the same Mark Boszko who's a guest. Because there can be only one. Say hello, Mark.
Mark: Hello Mark.
Aaron: You should throw your voice for that.
Mark: Hello Mark!
Aaron: There you go.
Brent: And especially I want to thank you for listening. Thank you. Music.