Let’s Get Tropical

Beachcombers Tiki cocktail concept was so creative that bars and bartenders are still trying to recreate and enhance his drinks almost 100 years later. We wanted our bar to be as innovative, and to start a new era of tropical drinks. 


Laki Kane doesn’t just take its inspiration from tiki, it is an escape to every tropical destination you’ve ever wanted to visit. We use rare exotic fruits, homemade syrups using natural sugars, cutting-edge mixology and presentation techniques, and we even distil our own unique spice Dry Rum on site – I think Don the Beachcomber would be proud!


The cocktails in my book are an accumulation of everything I’ve learned from my travels and my work. From the first Caribbean rum punches to a selection of original modern drinks (and everything in between!), they are a real testament to tropical cocktail history and evolution.


You might want to read up on the stories behind the cocktails, or you might want to skip all of that and get straight to the Margaritas, it’s up to you! You may even want to take a leaf out of mine and Don the Beachcomber’s book and come up with your own original mix. My book is all about sharing the pleasure that comes with a cocktail, so take from it what appeals to you the most. 


Tropical cocktails are all about using delicious ingredients from tropical destinations. They make use of the fresh fruits and exotic spices, and immediately conjure up an image of a place. So where do they come from, what are they made of, and how can you create your own island escape at home?

An image from one of Georgi's other bars, Mahiki

TROPICAL COCKTAIL HISTORY

From Mayan cocoa to Kava root concoctions on the Pacific islands, tropical drinks certainly existed in the Pre-Columbian era. However, it’s only the last few centuries that the boozy cocktails we know and love today began to emerge.


Packing a punch


All recognisable tropical cocktails originate from the rum punch. The first written record of the word “punch” to describe an alcoholic drink dates back to 1632, but people were most likely making punch drinks long before this. The word comes from the Hindu for “five”, representing the different constituents in a punch drink – sour, sweet, strong, teak and spice. This is a template for almost every tropical cocktail.

In the 16th Century, sugar was more expensive than gold. When Europeans realised that the Caribbean and South America had the perfect climate for growing sugar cane, they began investing in big plantations. Soon it was discovered that alcohol (rum) could be made cheaply from molasses, a by-product of the sugar industry. By the end of the 17th century, rum has become the drink of the Caribbean islands, the British Navy, and pirate, and was being exported in large quantities to Europe. It worked perfectly with sugar, citrus, and spices – and rum punch became the drink of choice in England and the colonies.

Navy Rum


In the 17th Century, rum became the official spirit of the British Navy and a ration of rum was given to every British Sailor. “Navy strength” meant an alcohol content above 57%. To keep discipline and promote health, the rum was watered down and mixed with energising sugar and vitamin-packed citrus to make what became known as “Grog” (names after the admiral who invented it). This was one of the earliest tropical cocktails.


Around the world


The popularity of tropical flavours encouraged the innovation of iconic cocktails in bars and hotels all over the world. The Raffles Hotel in Singapore produced the Singapore Sling, while the Jungle Bird was invented at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. North America was also the source of many famous tropical cocktails.

TROPICAL TODAY

Tropical drinks and bars are making a big return. In 2006, Mahiki opened in London bringing tiki into the 21st century with new tropical drinks, and inspiring great modern American tiki bars like Smuggler’s Cove, Three Dots and a Dash, and Latitude 29. Now bars such as London’s Lake Kane are taking the best elements of traditional tropical cocktails and using them to create innovative new cocktail menus. 


In a world where almost any tropical ingredient is available in the local supermarket, the key is to capture the sense of exoticism evoked by the original tiki cocktails. This is why innovative bartenders are turning lesser-known ingredients. Have you ever tried a drink with sweet jackfruit, sapodilla, rambutan, star fruit, or dragon fruit?

That’s all for today, folks… if you like what snippet we’ve featured here, make sure you go buy the book for more secrets and recipes.