Article by Jason Rogers
It’s a new year and, if you are like me, you are ready for some change. The cold air and dark days hiding in your apartment can be so draining. Your salvation from the winter blues can be found in a simple glass of paradise. I’m talking Tiki, baby! It’s time to shake things up, grab a drink that takes you to Fiji or Cabo. In this article, we will explore how to get that amazing beach vacation vibe from a drink without all the work or plane tickets.
What is Tiki?
To keep it simple, it’s just a tropical style of making drinks. Think of a Hawaii that you can taste. Most Tiki drinks are actually quite complex, and use a lot of layers to make a drink that’s boozy but doesn’t taste strongly of alcohol. That’s what makes Tiki drinks so magical. They taste like juice and sunshine but they are no push overs. But how does all that whimsy help you, the average at home drinker? Well as the title says, this is Tiki made easy. The goal is to take all that magic (and complexity) and distill it down to something practical.
How it’s done!
There are 3 key elements to easy Tiki:
1 Base Liquor
3 Flavor Enhancers
Most people know Tiki drinks are made with rum and a decent amount of it. What they don’t know is that it’s usually made up of 2-3 different rums. The idea is that one rum may not give the flavor or strength so you have to blend a couple together. Rums come in all taste and styles, so I’ve broken them down into 4 categories; Light, Dark, Sweet and Strong. Your light rums are your Bacardi Silver and Havana Club 3 year. Your dark rums will be Propeller Dark, Bacardi Black or Havana Club 7 year. Your sweet rums are usually your older rums, like Diplomatico or spiced rums like Captain Morgan and Kraken. Finally, strong rums are either high-proof, like Bacardi 151, and other over-proof rums or rums strong in flavor, like Myers rum. The way to blend these flavors is by balancing light with dark and sweet with strong. So, if your drink has lots of sweet fruit juices, try light and dark. If it’s more sour, try sweet and strong.
Part of that tropical bliss that you taste in Tiki comes from the fruit juices used. Most Tiki drinks also use multiple juices. Some of the common flavors are; pinepple, grapefruit, passion fruit, orange, mango, guava, lime, and coconut water. As you can see, there are a lot of juices and the big question is, which one do I use? Well the magic in Tiki comes from balance, so the key with juices is to balance sour with sweet. There is actually a scale of sweetness with these juices from most sour to most sweet:
Lemon, lime, grapefruit, passion fruit, pineapple, orange, coconut water, guava, mango.
The best way to make Tiki juices simple is to mix 2-3 juices together as a special blend that you can use in any drink. I like grapefruit, pineapple, and orange or guava, passion fruit and lime. You can experiment with what taste good, but remember to keep it balanced.
Juice and booze is only one element of these drinks, what really drives it home are the extra flavors added to the drink like spices or certain fruit. The easiest way to add those extra Tiki flavors is with liqueurs, since just a small amount can add a lot of flavor. The best options are Triple Sec, Amaretto, Creme of Coconut or Malibu, Banana liqueur, Melon liqueur, and Cherry liqueur. You can also buy syrups of your favorite tropical fruits to add flavor. To get the signature spice found in Tiki, you can buy Allspice Dram (a liqueur made from Allspice berries) or Falernum (a spiced syrup or liqueur from the Caribbean) on TaoBao. If you want to make some of these spiced syrups, you can just simmer equal parts sugar and water with some cinnamon or other baking spices, like clove and nutmeg.
As for putting the drink in the glass most of these drinks you can shake or just pour over some ice in a nice big glass. The best Tiki drinks come in large portions, of course. If you follow this simple ratio, you can add any number of ingredients together and make Tiki drinks that are the envy of all your friends.
So, this January say goodbye to the winter chill and have yourself a personal Luau in your living room with your very own Tiki creation. See if you can work on that tan while you’re at it. Cheers!
Jason Rogers is a mixologist extraordinaire living in Xi’an.