"If you also want to avoid terrible mixed drinks and hangovers, there are two ways to do Tiki to go."
The Christmas season is upon us and, for many, that means party season. It seems that everyone throws a party during the holidays. There seems to be a pity for every kind of occasion. As someone with a bar in his living room, I am more accustomed to throwing the party than being a guest at one. So, being invited to celebrate the season at other people's houses presents a bit of a problem. How do I balance my love of exotic cocktails with the limitations of being away from The Hali Tiki Room?
It's a 'first world' problem, I know. But I think it's important to understand that Tiki can travel.
Tiki drinks can be intimidating. Even with my own bar I often avoid many cocktails because they are simply too complicated. The drink might have too many ingredients, like the Zombie with its three different types of rum, three kinds of juice, two liqueurs, two syrups and Angostura bitters. Or there might be a technique that seems to difficult to conquer, like the Navy Grog ice cone or the ice shells for a Beachcomber's Gold. At first, the idea of bringing Tiki on the road might seem impossible. But it's not...
Are any of us prepared to revert back to those days back in college where you'd show up to a party with a 26er of Captain Morgan and a two litre jug of Coca Cola? You'd scavenge a glass of some sort, fill it with ice (if you were lucky) and mix equal parts rum and Coke. Not only did it taste like thick, syrupy gasoline, it made your head pound the next day.
Now that I've learned to appreciate great rum and good ingredients, I'm not prepared to go back.
If you also want to avoid terrible mixed drinks and hangovers, there are two ways to do Tiki to go. You can either make and bottle your favourite exotic cocktail ahead of time and bring it with you to the house party. I call this batching. Or you can plan your drinks ahead of time and bring the necessary ingredients and tools. This I call bartying.
The best exotic cocktails for batching fall in the 'punch' category. These drinks follow the "one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak" mantra and usually feature fresh fruit juices. You can use an established recipe or make up something of your own. Stay away from drinks that call for soda, unless it is to simply add it as a float.
Whether you're going to batch or barty, you need to plan ahead. For batching you need to choose the drink (or drinks) you want to make and prepare them well ahead of time. That means getting your ingredients, making your juices and syrups and getting your drinks bottled before your party. I like to mix my drinks and refrigerate them hours before the party. This allows the ingredients to combine and get nice and cold.
I like to make my fresh juices the night before mixing my drinks. My juicer machine requires that I peel the fruit and this gives me plenty of time to do so. Making juices ahead of time also allows them to settle before you have to use them. Most fresh fruit juices have a foamy head that I like to separate before using them in a cocktail. Starting the night before also lets you cool down any syrups you plan to use.
Once all of your juices and syrups are ready to go, mix them in a large pitcher. Take your recipe and use your math skills to figure out how much of each ingredient to use. My experience is that you can fit approximately five standard Tiki drinks into a 750ml bottle. Put away your jiggers and use a measuring cup to avoid any waste or spilling. Add your rum last as it will clean out any syrup that might be sticking to the sides of your measuring cup.
Add approximately six ice cubes to the pitcher and stir vigorously. There is no need for crushed or pebbled ice here - just use regular cubes from your freezer and you're going to discard them anyway. To stir, I use a large whisk and use it like I would a swizzle (think about holding a stick between your hands to start a fire). I do this vigorously for about 30 seconds, let the drink sit, and then do it again for 30 seconds.
Your drink is done and its time to bottle. Use a large funnel to pour your cocktail into a large bottle. The funnel will also let you deal with the ice cubes more easily. An empty rum bottle is perfect for this job.
Store your bottled cocktail in the refrigerator until its time to leave for your party. It will typically last for three or four days, but I don't recommend waiting more than 48 hours before drinking. Another reason why its important to plan.
Exotic cocktails I have batched in the past include the Big Bamboo, Planter's Punch, Sumatra Kula and Volcano Bowl.
Bartying means that you prepare your tools and ingredients ahead of time, but mix them at your party. It requires less advance preparation, but just as much planning. Alcohol forward drinks, with fewer ingredients, tend to lend themselves more to partying. Exotic type cocktails with 10 ingredients won't work here.
Compared to batching, bartying requires you to carry more with you to the party, but it also gives you the opportunity to show off your good rum and bartending skills. And it's really not that difficult to mix up a really delicious cocktail. If you're not confident in your host, you might want to stop at a gas station or corner store and pick one up on your way to the party.
Figure out ahead of time exactly what you are going to need. For example, if you are going to make daiquiris, you will need rum, lime juice and simple syrup. You'll also need a jigger, shaker and couple of coupe glasses (no one likes to drink a daiquiri alone). Unpack all of your stuff when you get to the party and find a corner to set up your little mini bar. The only problem now will be that everyone will want you to mix them a drink once you start shaking your first one.
I like to have my syrups and juices in plastic squirt bottles. Typically you won't need much of either for partying drinks, so a small bottle will do. They are also easier to handle when making your drinks. Store your bottles in a sealed bag for travel to avoid waste or a mess.
Other drinks that work well for bartying are the Ti Punch, Kapu Kai, Old Fashioned (I use rum) and Mojito. You can also mess around and come up with your own take on these classics.