I’m pretty psyched about this month. Last month was all about infusions; we’ll be spending July exploring the world of Tiki drinks. Tiki! Despite its evocation of a(n imaginary) Polynesia, there’s nothing quite as American as Tiki, a family of drinks invented and popularized by men like Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic at their southern California bars in the 30s and 40s. So it’s pretty fitting that we start our month of Tiki drinks the day before that most American of holidays, the Fourth of July. – Andrew
Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper
The Ghost Flower
Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker filled two-thirds with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float half of a spent lime shell, soaked in overproof rum, in the glass and carefully light the rum with a match. Enjoy (carefully)!
Tiki isn’t a family of drinks like Sours or vermouth cocktails: there’s no particular ingredient or combination that makes a drink a Tiki drink. Instead, there are two principles that a drink should follow to be considered a Tiki drink. First: layers of flavor. Many Tiki drinks combine multiple kinds of rum, citrus juices, spices, and syrups to build complex and rich flavor profiles. Second, Tiki drinks should have an exotic, kitschy, fun sensibility. Even though most Tiki drinks feature Caribbean flavors, especially rum and citrus, they’re supposed to evoke a fantasy version of Polynesian island culture. The whole idea behind the first Tiki bars was to allow middle class Americans to experience an exotic vacation without leaving home. Like I said: kitschy and fun. The best Tiki embraces the inherent silly ridiculousness. A Tiki drink’s flavors should be serious, but that’s it.
So I built the Ghost Flower with layers of flavor: rum, two kinds of citrus, but especially three kinds of floral sweeteners: elderflower-flavored St-Germain, violet-flavored Creme de Violette, and orgeat, with its almond and orange blossom flavors. I wanted to evoke a tropical orchid. And I also built it to be a little ridiculous and fun: a pale grey-blue color and a flaming lime rind to evoke a ghostly forest spirit. Yeah. I wrote that with a straight face.
About that lime rind. Use an empty, spent lime shell half; you should have a few left over if you’re juicing fresh limes for your citrus. You can float it in the drink (watch out for overflow!) or pour the whole drink over crushed ice, like we did here, to hold up the lime better. Fill the lime shell with a splash of overproof rum – you really need something stronger than 80 proof here, more like 90 or 100 – and light with a match. It helps if the rum is warmed up a bit, because what you really need is for the rum to release some vapors that will light more easily than the rum itself. (I find that blowing very gently on the match as it’s held over the rum will help the vapors catch.) Alcohol doesn’t burn that hotly, but it’s still hot, so make sure you blow out that fire before you take a sip.
This is going to be a great month.
(Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we’ve been posting our experiments before they make their way onto this column!)
Glassware by Liquorary
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper