Sipping a rum-soaked cocktail out of a cheeky ceramic mug bearing an over-the-top garnish of brightly hued flower petals might be the ritual most closely associated with the alluringly kitschy art of tiki. But as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the New Orleans-based expert on this rich slice of drinking culture, points out, tiki mugs didn’t appear regularly in Polynesian-themed restaurants and bars until the late 1950s, and the tiki trend started in 1934. “That means it was over 20 years into the tiki era before they arrived, displacing the often even more aesthetically satisfying bespoke ‘exotic’ glassware and drink vessels used in the pre-mug period,” he says.
To illuminate those historic works of art, Berry, the proprietor of the French Quarter bar Latitude 29 and the author of such books as Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them, teamed up with New York barware purveyor and publisher Cocktail Kingdom to create a tiki line of resurrected contraptions. The three tools are available starting today at the company's website.
Consider the rippled, delicate Pearl Diver, an authentic replica of the glass that slowly vanished in the 1970s but once represented the proper way to savor a Planter’s Punch. “I have a pretty extensive vintage tiki cocktail menu collection, and for over 20 years now I kept spotting the Pearl Diver glass in the menu illustrations," Berry explains. “But in all that time, I never saw one in the wild—not one at any of the swap meets, yard sales or antique malls where I regularly found tiki collectibles. I never saw one on eBay, either.”
Likewise, a sleek, stainless steel swizzle cup, which was a go-to mixing tool in the 1940s for that namesake drink descending from the West Indies, is available once more. “I have seen them at the Mai-Kai restaurant in Florida, which has been using them since 1956, but I couldn’t find them anywhere else but in old menu graphics,” Berry says.
Another re-creation is the slender, elegant, pirate-inspired Skull Bar spoon, meant to churn its way through old-school concoctions like the Shrunken Skull, a rather boozy libation flaunting several rums, grenadine and fresh lime juice that we wish appeared on more modern-day tiki menus.