The Dawn of Tiki?
When you think Tiki, you think tropical drinks from exotic locations like Polynesia, and people such as Donn the Beachcomber. You may also know that the tiki fad didn’t begin until 1934. So, if Don the Beachcomber started the tiki trend, what were his influences? Obviously, the Caribbean and south pacific were big influences, but what exactly were these people drinking in those countries, that made an impression on Donn Beach? Well, it is quite possible that the following common drink from the Philippines did.
This tiki style drink comes from a February 3rd, 1899 article in the Baltimore Sun entitled “New Drinks From Our New Lands“.
“With the annexation of the new territory by the United Sates, the nimble-fingered dispenser of liquid refreshments finds it incumbent upon him to extend his repertoire while the devotee of Bacchus has thrust upon him newly and strangely compounded assuagers of the demon Thirst.”
The article is about drinks in the new countries that the US has its fingers in, in 1899. Some of the countries include Cuba, Porto Rico (sic), Samoa and the Philippines.
Obviously, these are tropical countries with access to lots of fresh fruit and rum. But these drinks just aren’t rum punches, they are more complex. The one from the Philippines, which no name is given for the drink, is almost a peasant drink, except for the use of Brandy, Maraschino, Curacao and rum.
I’ve modified the recipe slightly to make it workable, or, at least, provide quantities. The recipe states that you can use equal parts of all fruits available. I’ve listed what I used below. I doubled up on some fruit because they were smaller and I wanted to maintain roughly equal quantities, but it doesn’t matter, just pick fruits you like.
Cut up the fruit into small pieces, place in a four-quart pot and fill with water. I zested my citrus fruit and then cut off the pith to avoid too much bitterness. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 20 minutes. Cool and then strain the liquid.
1 Handful grapes
1 Handful Strawberries
To each quart (~ litre) of liquid add the following:
2 oz Brandy
1 oz Curacao (Triple Sec)
1 oz Maraschino
½ oz Over-proof Rum
Serve in a tall glass with lots of ice. I used a little less of the fruit juice and more of the spirits. The original formula is fairly light so here is what I did for a single serving:
½ oz Brandy
¼ oz Triple Sec
¼ oz Maraschino
½ oz Wray Nephew Over Proof
4 to 6oz Fruit Juice
This is an amazingly good drink! When I filtered the fibrous fruit mass and cooled the liquid, I took a sip to see what it tasted like. Straight up, the fruit liquid wasn’t amazing. But, add lots of ice and the spirits and you get an outstanding drink!
You might think “fruit punch” but it isn’t, it is far more complex. Of course, it all depends on the fruit you use, but the ones above are a good start. All the flavours come together to form a well balanced and seemingly refined drink, considering this would be a kind of a modified “peasant” drink in the Philippines at the time.
Now, making a single drink can be problematic, but since the recipe does state you can bottle it and serve as needed, this might be a great solution for a mid-summer tiki party or any warm weather occasion. In my case, it might be a mid-December reminder of better things to come.
No-one can say for sure whether Donn Beach came across this drink on his travels. But, the newspaper article does make a note that this is one of the most popular drinks in the Philippines at the time. It could be extrapolated to say that a traveler to this destination, asking for a drink in a bar, might be served one, as the writer* may have done. But, if Don Beach never tasted this drink, too bad for him, because it is a fine drink.
Newspaper Article (Baltimore Sun, 1899)
* On an interesting note, these recipes can be found in William “Cocktail” Boothby’s book “The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them” (1908). Not to discredit anyone, but was the New York Harold the original publisher or was Mr. Boothby. It should be noted that Boothby spent his life on the west coast and wrote a book called Cocktail Boothby’s American Bartender in 1891.
** As per David Wondrich “Boothby swiped the article, not vice-versa; it wasn’t in the earlier editions, and it was in many newspapers in 1899.”