Summer Cocktail Series: Modern Tiki Party Cocktail Recipes

It’s Tiki time! Tiki drinks have a pretty bad reputation, probably because there’s no other category of modern drinks that has been more abused and more misunderstood. Chances are, if you’ve encountered a Tiki drinks, it’s been a brightly colored, syrupy mess. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Tiki drinks can be silly and fruity and kitschy and escapist, but still good. All that takes are a few things: fresh ingredients, balanced complex spices, and fun. – Andrew

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Tiki had its start in the 1930s. A couple of entrepreneurs – Ernest “Don the Beachcomber” Gantt and Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron – started restaurants meant to evoke the exotic South Pacific. They combined a fantasy version of Pacific Islands culture with cocktails, mostly Caribbean-inspired, that became the foundation of Tiki culture. They offered escapism to a country emerging from decades of sacrifice, after the Great Depression and the Second World War. These are drinks with ridiculous names: the Zombie and the Scorpion and the Navy Grog. They are often, but not exclusively, full of rum. They should be sweet and fruity without being cloying. They should have layers of complex spicy flavors. They should be full of freshness – fresh fruits and fresh juices and homemade syrups, not artificially colored, factory made ingredients. They’re supposed to be fun and completely self-aware.

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Oh My Tai

2 oz Bacardi 8 Year Aged Rum
1 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz St-Germain
1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup
1/2 oz Falernum
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine everything with lots of ice and shake well. Strain into a tumbler filled with fresh ice.

Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe Card Illustration by Dinara Mirtalipova for Oh So Beautiful Paper

All illustrations by Dinara Mirtalipova for Oh So Beautiful Paper

The Mai Tai is the queen of Tiki drinks, a intensely flavorful rum sour with tons of spicy flavor. Both Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic claimed to have invented the Mai Tai and there are about a million different versions of the recipe out there – and you know what? It doesn’t really matter. As long as you throw together some rum, some lime, and some orgeat – that ancient Middle Eastern almond almond syrup that should have no business in a Polynesian-themed drink but is amazing there anyway – you can mess around with other ingredients and still end up with an awesome drink. We added St-Germain to ours for some fruity, floral notes and falernum, a syrup made from rum, lime, and spices like cloves, vanilla, allspice, maybe ginger and almonds. It’s sweet and tart and full of flavor and delicious.

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The Hurricane

2 oz Bacardi Select Black Rum
3/4 oz Cognac
3/4 oz St-Germain
1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
Angostura Bitters

Combine the spirits and juices with ice and shake well. Strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Mound more ice on top, then add the grenadine and 5-6 dashes of bitters.

The Hurricane Cocktail Recipe Card Illustration by Dinara Mirtalipova for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This is our spin on the classic Hurricane, a Tiki drink invented in New Orleans in the 1940s that takes its name from the hurricane lamp-shaped glass they were first served in. We use a big bold dark rum as a foundation for all those other flavors but mellow it out a bit with the Cognac. St-Germain’s fruitiness, reminiscent of lychee fruit, takes the place of the original’s passion fruit syrup. I love saving the grenadine and bitters for last, because drizzling them on top will produce fun streaks of bright red that eventually turn the drink a pale red – like watching a tropical sunset. The Hurricane is a big bold Tiki drink full of tons of flavor and a hint of bite. Wonderful.

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Shipwreck Punch

1 oz Bacardi Gold Rum
1 oz Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum
1/2 oz Hibiscus-Infused Gin
1/2 oz St-Germain
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Coconut Milk

Combine everything with lots of ice and shake well. Strain into a tall glass filled with fresh crushed ice and garnish with tropical fruit.

Rum Punch Cocktail Recipe Card Illustration by Dinara Mirtalipova for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Ok, there’s clearly a lot going on in this drink – two kinds of rum and some hibiscus gin just to start, demonstrating Tiki’s layers of flavor but also showing that Tiki doesn’t just have to mean rum. Two kinds of citrus juice balanced by St-Germain’s fruity, flowery sweetness, and the rich, creamy coconut, and that passion fruit syrup – sweet and tart, with hints of mango and lots of tropical flavor. (To make our passion fruit syrup, we dissolved equal parts sugar and passion fruit juice over low heat.) This drink started out as something of a spin on the Piña Colada, mixing rum with coconut and pineapple, but quickly spiraled into something very different. It’s sweet and creamy without being cloying, thanks to a deep spiciness. Plus, it’s pink! Which is a bit ridiculous but still fun and friendly.

And that’s what Tiki should be. There’s no formula, no rule set for Tiki recipes. But if you can put together some fresh ingredients with lots of flavor, in rich layers, that’s still fun and friendly, that evokes some tropical beach and helps you escape for a few moments – then you’ve nailed it.

All illustrations by Dinara Mirtalipova for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Calligraphy Cocktail Menu Cards: Meant to Be Calligraphy

Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Bacardi and St-Germain. All content, photos, recipes, and words are our own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that help make Oh So Beautiful Paper possible!

Friday Happy Hour: Moonshine (aka Unaged Whiskey Cocktail)

A couple of weeks ago, we received a question from reader Jane B.: There’s been an flooding of moonshine on the market these days and I’m wondering what kind of cocktail can you make with moonshine? Any ideas would be welcomed.

I love this question! Because there are two ways of answering it: the really easy, short way, where I get right to the point and talk about a fun cocktail. And the much longer way, where I get to talk about all sorts of interesting things, like barrel aging and Prohibition and chemistry and history and stock car racing. So get set. – Andrew

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Ok. To get right to the point for everyone who’s just interested in our recipes and Nole’s beautiful photos: if you see moonshine for sale in a store, you’re seeing a marketing gimmick. Some folks are trying to pass of regular unaged whiskey as moonshine. It’s not moonshine. It’s unaged whiskey. Moonshine is, more or less, privately distilled illegal spirits. It might be distilled from corn or sugar or wood pulp. It might be 80 proof or it might be 180 proof. It might be mostly ethanol, which you can drink, or it might be full of methanol, which could blind you. You might be able to buy it, in an actual mason jar of course, if you know a guy who knows a guy whose cousin knows a guy who makes moonshine. You can’t buy it in a store. But unaged whiskey marketed as moonshine is trendy. It’s forbidden. It’s Americana. It’s cool.

And that’s ok. There are some great unaged whiskeys for sale today. And unaged whiskey, also called white whiskey or white dog whiskey, can stand on its own as a spirit, though a very different beast from an aged bourbon or rye whiskey. Unaged whiskeys carry lots of raw flavors, like sweet corn and fruity notes, the sort of flavors you might expect form a silver Tequila, without the agave’s sour finish. I love the way white whiskey pairs with apertif wines, so here’s my contribution:

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Illustration by Nicole Miazgowicsz for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Ghost in the Graveyard

2 oz Unaged Corn Whiskey
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Dry Curacao
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
2 Dashes Orange Bitters

Combine the whiskey, vermouth, curacao, and liqueur with ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with the bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy.

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Didn’t I say this was the short version? Yeah. The Ghost in the Graveyard will look like a Martini but taste completely different: sweet and fruity from the corn, with its rougher edges mellowed by the vermouth, and finishing with the citrusy and nutty notes of the liqueurs and a bit of the whiskey’s alcoholic heat. Served ice cold, it’s  actually quite apt for summer, both refreshing and full of sweet summer corn notes. It’s deeply satisfying and one of the recipes I’m prouder of.

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Like an unaged silver or blanco Tequila, a white whiskey is full of alcohol heat and sharp, rough edges – so try pairing two ounces of white whiskey with an ounce of triple sec and 3/4 ounce lime juice to make something like a whiskey Margarita. White whiskey also pairs really well with apple cider and with ginger beer. It’s versatile, but don’t think of it like a rich, oaky bourbon or a deep, spicy rye.

Want to know more about white whiskey and the history of moonshine? Keep reading!

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The Beginning of Oh So Beautiful Paper

As some of you may have seen on Instagram, I celebrated my fourth anniversary of self-employment yesterday. When I first started Oh So Beautiful Paper, I couldn’t really share anything about my profession at the time – and nearly six years into blogging I still haven’t written this story down. So today I finally decided to get my act together and share the story of how Oh So Beautiful Paper came to be!

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Cake topper by AHeirloom

Most people assume that I have a design background that led me to start blogging about paper. And while I definitely grew up surrounded by art and design, my professional background is actually in the field of international diplomacy! When I first started blogging in 2008, I was working as a civil servant (aka U.S.-based diplomat) at the U.S. Department of State, in the Bureau of African Affairs. Not exactly a direct correlation to paper and design.

But I should back up a bit. I was raised by two artistic parents: my dad worked as an advertising copywriter for most of his career, but now works as a semi-retired freelance photographer. My mom also worked in advertising (her job involved media buying) before switching to a different career in the late 1980s, but she’s also a talented painter and interior designer. I grew up in a very artistic environment, surrounded by art supplies and attending summer art camps. In high school, I took my first photography class and decided that I wanted to become a magazine photographer. But after a semester in college I quickly decided that I didn’t enjoy art school (Emily’s post from a couple of weeks ago will give you a pretty good idea of why it didn’t work out). So I took a few random elective classes… and switched majors to International Relations. It seems like such a random choice, but I was really, really good at my chosen field. It just felt like the right fit.

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My time at the State Department began with an internship during my last undergraduate semester in the spring of 2003, and my office hired me permanently at the end of my internship. I was all of 22, but working in a position normally reserved for mid-level employees in their 30s: it was an overwhelming introduction to the world of international diplomacy! For the next few years, I worked in the Office of East African Affairs with responsibility for Somalia and Djibouti (both located in the Horn of Africa).

It’s hard to explain what my job actually entailed, but my work involved everything from writing briefing memos for senior officials to preparing internal budget proposals and documents, and from collecting study materials for U.S. ambassadorial nominees to writing U.N. Security Council resolutions. Some of the tasks were mundane, and some of them – like traveling overseas – were really amazing. I was lucky enough to visit several European capitals and almost every country in East Africa – Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland, and Djibouti – and I even lived in Nairobi, Kenya for about a month on a special assignment. In 2009, I transferred to the Office of West African Affairs, working primarily on Liberia and Ghana.

I learned a lot during those years. I learned how to prioritize urgent tasks and objectives. I learned how to distill a complex set of issues into a two-page memo. I learned a lot of other things that are harder to put into words. At the State Department, most people rotate to a new position every 2-3 years, so I worked with and for a lot of different people over the course of my seven years there. I learned what it means to be a good boss, a good manager – and sadly what it means to be a bad boss and mismanage an entire office. I saw people around me sacrifice their personal lives for their careers, and I learned that I didn’t want that for myself. I learned what it meant to burn out. I learned that a fulfilling career – and a fulfilling life – can mean a lot of different things to different people.

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Print by Alli Coate

Everything changed when Andrew and I got married in 2008. I discovered wedding and lifestyle blogs (yay!), and I fell in love with the world of wedding invitations during our 9-month engagement. After our wedding, Andrew encouraged me to start blogging as a creative outlet, and Oh So Beautiful Paper was born a few weeks later! My original goal was simply to showcase amazing wedding invitation design and connect couples with the designer that suits their personal style. I never intended for blogging to replace my career at the State Department, but the blog slowly grew and evolved into something more than a hobby.

Coincidentally, Oh So Beautiful Paper was growing at the same time that I was becoming increasingly disenchanted with my office job. I attended the very first Alt Summit in 2010, and one of my most vivid memories from the entire conference was listening to Maxwell from Apartment Therapy during the keynote session. Maxwell talked about his own decision to take Apartment Therapy full time: how it felt like jumping off a cliff, but also that he had to put in full time effort to see full time rewards. In April 2010, after a year under one particularly awful boss (which in turn was after two years under an equally terrible boss in another office), I made the scariest decision of my life: I gave notice at a stable, salaried job to pursue Oh So Beautiful Paper full time. I gave myself six months to make things work – and here I am four years later!

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Quote by Our Wild Abandon via Artifact Uprising

I’m proud of a lot of the things that I accomplished during my years at the State Department, and I have a lot of regrets about things that I didn’t accomplish or that didn’t go the way I wished they had. I’ve been away long enough that I can forget most of the bad experiences and just hold on to the fond experiences and memories, and I’m so happy to have those stories to tell Sophie someday. But nothing compares to the satisfaction of running my own business, even if it can be super scary and ridiculously exhausting most of the time, and I still don’t know that I’ve reached a level that I would define as successful. I’ve made so many wonderful friends through this amazing community, and I’d never trade that for a million years.

Okay, enough sap! I’ll stop there, and thank you for reading this ridiculously long post!

Happy Weekend!

Happy Friday everyone! And what a week! Sophie has been experiencing some separation anxiety at night, making bedtime a wee bit difficult in our house these days. Sigh. This too shall pass, I hope. Yesterday I took a quick up-and-down trip to New York City for a meeting – I love traveling by train and I’m so glad we live close enough to make these kinds of trips feasible! This weekend we’re hoping to take Sophie to the National Zoo to say goodbye to the Invertebrate Exhibit. We’re so sad that it’s closing! But in the meantime…

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The beautiful Union Station // Photo by me via Instagram

…a few links for your weekend:

This week on Oh So Beautiful Paper:

Check back soon for this week’s cocktail! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week! xoxo

Friday Happy Hour: The Last Ship Home

Two years ago (!), Nole and I spent a fantastic week in St. Lucia, a tiny and gorgeous Caribbean country. I, of course, tried the local drinks, and they were as you might expect: full of rum and pineapple and coconut. Tropical. But I also noticed something interesting in between cups of rum punch –advertisements all over the country for Campari, the bitter Italian amaro that’s key to cocktails like the Negroni. This made no sense to me. Why would the people of a Caribbean island – with all that rum and lime and pineapple, rich spices and coconut – drink bitter, bitter Campari? So I asked a bartender and he told me that St. Lucians loved Campari, on the rocks or with soda water, just like in Italy. Go figure. So I wanted to give something an experiment, to balance the touristy fantasy of the ideal Caribbean drink with the reality of what St. Lucians actually drink. And I think I came up with something pretty interesting and pretty good: The Last Ship Home. – Andrew

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Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper

The Last Ship Home

1 1/2 oz Aged Rum
1/4 oz Cachaca
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1 oz Pineapple-Mango Syrup
1 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Orgeat Syrup

Combine all of the ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with tropical fruit. Enjoy!

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There’s a lot going on in this recipe, but it works: smooth and tangy, sweet and sour, sweet and bitter, with tropical spiciness but also amaro herbal notes. I won’t lie: if you don’t have all of these ingredients at home, you can still make a really interesting bitter Daiquiri with rum, lime, sugar, and Campari. But if you do have all these handy, give it a try: it’s enormously complicated but somehow all works together, balancing the richly sweet tropical flavors with a classic bitter Italian aperitif.

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Weird. But good.

Don’t forget to let us know if you try any of our recipes. And if you do make one at home, you can use #osbphappyhour to share photos of these (or your own creations) on Instagram.

Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper