Minimalist Tiki Preview

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Pulling from Matt Pietrek’s renowned Cocktail Wonk blog and a decade of crafting tiki drinks at home, Minimalist Tiki: A Cocktail Wonk Look at Classic Libations and the Modern Tiki Vanguard leads you on a fun four-part expedition through the skills and knowledge needed to achieve tiki mastery on a minimalist scale.

With a firm nod to the classics and a keen eye toward the future, Minimalist Tiki is a tiki book like no other. Learn the core ingredients, equipment, and technique for creating a wide swath of the classic tiki canon without overwhelming your wallet, plus practical advice on expanding your expertise, advanced garnish techniques, and recipe improvisation.

Since rum and tiki are inseparable, Minimalist Tiki also presents the most comprehensive look at rum found in a tiki tome. And with the revival of the tiki movement in full swing, the book also features two dozen world-class bartenders and bars on the forefront of today’s craft tiki movement – including nearly one hundred original recipes.

Chapter 1 Excerpt

The notion of “minimalist” tiki seems like the ultimate oxymoron: A classic tiki drink conjures elaborate garnishes, orchids, flaming lime shells, swizzle sticks — perched atop outlandish glassware filled to brimming with countless rums and exotic potions. There’s no disputing that on the cocktail spectrum, tiki drinks fall toward the outer extremes of complexity. But they’re worth the effort — just about everyone loves a well-balanced tiki cocktail exploding with tropical spice flavors.

Spend any time perched on a barstool at tiki temples such as Smuggler’s Cove, Latitude 29, or Lost Lake, and you’ll watch skilled bartenders wielding a vast collection of ingredients from all manner of bottles. Behind them likely looms a wall of rums from all corners of the Caribbean and beyond.

Even for the home bartender who’s comfortable crafting an old fashioned, Manhattan, or a daiquiri, facing off with these tiki masterpieces may seem a wee bit daunting. To the uninitiated, it can seem like every tiki recipe calls for dozens of esoteric rums and exotic liqueurs such as falernum and allspice dram that aren’t often found outside of the tiki realm.

The good news: Making great tiki isn’t hard and is absolutely possible at home, even in small spaces; the legion of home tiki aficionados Instagramming their latest libation is a colorful testament to this.

Minimalist Tiki begins by methodically analyzing tiki recipes and establishing core concepts, getting you on the path to tiki nirvana with a sane starting point that is easily achievable at home or in any competent drinking establishment.

Minimalist Tiki is foundational and incremental. Rather than beginning with a large, comprehensive list of every ingredient you might ever use (cherry heering, anyone?), you’ll learn which ingredients, equipment, and techniques form the bedrock of tiki. From there, incrementally add to your foundation as your skill grows. Each addition opens up new avenues of tiki goodness.

Once you’re comfortable with the Minimalist Tiki core principles, later chapters will steer you into more advanced topics, taking your creations to the next level. Master them and you might just open your own tiki palace!

The core of Minimalist Tiki centers on the classics — the beloved set of cocktails such as the Mai Tai, Jet Pilot, and Cobra’s Fang, most of which originated during the golden era of tiki, the end of Prohibition through the early 1960s. But tiki doesn’t rest on its laurels — the final section of the book transitions to modern takes from the vanguard of the new Tiki Revival. These bars and bartenders fully embrace the tiki credo in a big way, regularly creating and sharing new recipes.

There’s no shortage of recipes within in these pages. All are focused on being accessible without the luxury of a molecular mixology kitchen. As a home tiki enthusiast with an extensive home bar, I’m keenly aware of the frustration of finding an interesting new recipe, then realizing it requires a quarter ounce of some incredibly esoteric ingredient. You’ll find few recipes calling for exotic or complex ingredients within these pages. Minimalist and practicality are two sides of the same coin here.

Equally important is what this book doesn’t set out to be.

First and foremost, this book is not a comprehensive introductory guide to home bartending, instructing you on how to hold a shaker or use a Hawthorne strainer. Great books such as Jeffery Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book address these topics incredibly well. It would be a waste of time to attempt improving on them. Instead, this book assumes a basic level of familiarity with shakers, strainers, squeezing a lime, and knowing when to shake versus stir. These pages build on those basics with practical, hard-won wisdom specifically targeted at crafting excellent tiki drinks at home.

Second, this book assumes you’re already somewhere along your tiki journey and have basic sense of its history and ethos. Indelible resources like Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Sippin’ Safari and Martin and Rebecca Cate’s Smuggler’s Cove cover those topics at award-winning length and depth. It would be foolish to not acknowledge both Martin and Jeff’s enormous contributions to reviving tiki in the twenty-first century, and equally foolish to replicate their work here. You should absolutely own their words as well as this book!

Thus, this book makes no claim to be a definitive history of the Golden Age of Tiki or the tiki revival movements. It name-drops the Godfathers of Tiki — Donn Beach (“Don the Beachcomber”) and Victor Bergeron (“Trader Vic“) — with abandon, but you won’t find biographies or obsessive details about who really invented the Mai Tai. Rather, this book comprises:

• Hard-won knowledge from crafting countless recipes at my home bar

• A geeky look at the rums of tiki

• A collection of original recipes from some of the best tiki practitioners today

In short, a practical guide to bootstrapping your knowledge about crafting classic and modern tiki cocktails that both look and taste great!