Posted on September 30th, 2011 1 comment
While the rest of the country is getting that September chill, it’s 90° here in sunny south Florida!
Since it’s Early Autumn, I thought it would be kool to kick out the
Early Autumn Cocktail Recipe.
Early Autumn is also a very keen jazz standard, immortalized by the swinging saxes of Woody Herman’s Heard (see the video below). This is a great song to play while you mix this interesting cocktail:
Recipe for 8 servings
• 1 1/2 cups vodka
• 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5-6 lemons)
• 1/2 cup Galliano
• 1/4 cup honey liqueur (such as Barenjager)
• flowering fresh thyme sprig, for garnish.
Combine in a large shaker or pitcher with ice, shake or stir briskly. Pour over the rocks into small tumblers, pony glasses or cordial glasses and garnish with a sprig of thyme.
For a more involved, even more Autumny concoction, try this modern mixology take on the Early Autumn Cocktail (recipe from About.com):
• 1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire infused with dried pear and apples (click for recipe)
• 1/2 oz. Lucid absinthe
• 1 oz. local apple cider
• 1/2 oz. pear brandy (Adam recommends: Massenez Williams Poire Brandy)
• 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
• 2 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate bitters
• Ginger beer
• cinnamon stick for garnish
• lemon peel for garnish
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake it up. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon peel and cinnamon stick. Wow, huh?
Here’s the song, Woody Herman featuring Stan Getz on sax.
Posted on July 8th, 2010 3 comments
96 Weeks on the Billboard charts, Getz/Gilberto reached the number 2 spot in 1964 – beat out only by The Beatles. Dig it.
This is the album that sealed the deal for Bossa Nova as a permanent form of Jazz. Featuring two of the original creators (and most well-known cats) of the Bossa Nova movement, Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, this album is without doubt one of the most incredible representations of mid-century jazz at its finest.
Every song on this platter is fantastic, but the stand-outs are the ones which have stood the test of time: Corcovado, Desafinado, O Grande Amor, and of course The Girl From Ipanema, by Jobim’s account influenced by a hot young Brazilian chick named Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto who used to stroll by the beach-side bar where he hung out.
If you want proof this album is boss, it won the 1965 Grammy Awards for Best Album of the Year, Best Jazz Instrumental Album – Individual or Group and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. “The Girl from Ipanema”, released as a shortened version for 45 RPM won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965. Dig this: It was the first time a jazz platter took Album of the Year.
Astrud Gilberto, João’s wife at the time had come along as an interpreter. She’d never sung professionally before this recording. The story goes Joåo liked her voice and asked her to fill in for him on a rehearsal. The rest is history.
The music on this album is equally enjoyable at your Tiki bar or mod-50’s corner bar, sitting by the pool with a Caipirinha or relaxing in the den on a rainy day. It’s available for download and on CD…but of course to really dig it retro-style, you’ve got to spin the vinyl.
My take: I first heard this album’s version of The Girl from Ipanema when I was around twelve years old. Getz’s sax playing blew me away. His style is so smooth, so delicate…so much different from the strength of Coleman Hawkins or the insane vitality of John Coltrane, I couldn’t help but get hip to it. When I started playing sax a year or so later, one of the first songs I learned was TGFI, by playing along with the record. Later it would become one of my ‘signature songs’ that I played at almost every gig, and in two of my murder mysteries with Stardust Productions. Of course I play it in my own style, but I did borrow a couple of Stan’s riffs 😉
-Tiki Chris, AKA Zoot the Saxman swinging from Tiki Lounge Talk’s bandstand.
Tiki Lounge Talk – The Tiki Culture & Swingin’ Retro Blog for Hep Kats and Krazy Kittens
One last funny thing…my last name is Pinto, and my great grandfather’s last name was Gilberti…small world, huh?
Posted on April 15th, 2009 1 comment
Ah, the ‘50s, a time of diverse cultures, Rock ‘n Roll and Jazz living side by side, greasers and swingers intermingled in the same cities. While the rock ‘n rollers were drinking Pabst and dancing to Bill Haley and the Comets, the cool crowd…the jetsetters…the swingers…were sipping Manhattans, dressed in evening gowns and sharp tailored suits, dancing cheek to cheek to Ole Blue Eyes and Nat King Cole, or just conversing with Stan Getz or Martin Denny in the background. Here’s how to throw a cocktail party, hi-ball style…
The cocktail party. Suave, continental, the utmost.
Today’s cocktail parties are but a remnant of the original, sophisticated gatherings that grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s and reached mature perfection in the ‘50s. The music is different, the dress code is much less formal, and even the drinks are…just not the same.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? With a little imagination and a few bucks, anyone can reach back to 50 years ago and pull the elegance and glamour of a real cocktail party into the present.
“The best way to wreck a party is to turn on the lights”. Atmosphere is everything, and before you buy your first bottle of Cointreau or open your first pack of swizzle sticks, you’ve got to get the mood right. Dig this: Mood = Lighting. Simple as that.
To create the proper atmosphere, you need the proper setting, and the most important part of that setting is the lighting. Experiment a few evenings before the party with different light combinations. Keep the lights low. A good rule is people, after their eyes adjust, should be able to read their watches, but have to get close to see the color of the eyes of the person in front of them. This makes for a much more intimate, social mood. Avoid direct overhead lights, unless you have a dimmer. A small light at the bar to see the bottles is good, as long as it doesn’t stream out and glare into the room. Colored bulbs can do wonders; blues and greens are very nice, and create a mysterious, vintage feel. Reds tend to make everything look like a bordello, so unless that’s the look you going for, shy away from red. Candles can create a nice effect, but remember two things: First, too many candles can create too much light, actually spoiling the mood, and second, in the Atomic Age, candles were considered quaint (or antiquated)…A true Atom Age party would use the keenest and most up-to-date electronics, even for lighting (which also means if you have special effect lighting, such as ultraviolet or image projection lights, using them sparingly can help create a retro atmosphere). A very cool effect is to have colored bulbs low to the floor, behind furniture shining up, to give it a sort of “glow” in the background. And of course, a lava lamp can’t hurt…http://www.spencersonline.com/decor_lighting_lava-lamps/. Oh, and by the way, the perfect time to start a cocktail party is 8:30pm. Not 8, not 9. Expect many of your guests to arrive at exactly 10:10.
The Dress Code
An essential part of the perfect cocktail party is what your guests look like. Let’s face it, jeans and sweatshirts just won’t cut it. You can be as formal or informal as you like, but whatever you decide, insist your guests dress the part. It will probably be difficult and annoying to your guests to have the wear evening clothes, ties, etc. But they should at the very least dress as well as they would for a wedding. Dresses for the ladies, sport coats for the men. If you’d like, get them excited about dressing the part by having a ‘best dressed’ contest with the winner getting a bottle of champagne.
Let’s be Frank…this is a ‘50s cocktail party. Stick to the right kind of music. Since you have a couple of decades and several styles to choose from, it would be incredibly cool and mix a few together…Sinatra, Nat Cole and Billy Holiday, Lester Young, Stan Getz and Miles Davis, Martin Denny, Esquivel and Charlie Parker. The “Ultra Lounge Series” of CDs covers a lot of the tiki-inspired music of the era, real bachelor pad stuff. The Peter Gunn soundtrack has a lot of great cuts too. Don’t play anything corny like Percy Faith or Lawrence Welk, and stay away from Rock ‘n Roll, even the old stuff. The music is for background only, or slow dancing, and if anyone complains, call them an uptight square and hand them another drink. http://www.ultralounge.com/
Turn off the Tube
Remember, TV was not the center of attention in the Atom Age. The TV would never be on at a cocktail party. If you absolutely must have the tube on, consider playing DVDs of old movies or TV shows, such as The Malteze Falcon, The Peter Gunn series, Bell, Book & Candle, etc.
You can’t force your guests to drink Side Cars and Singapore Slings, but you can try! Look up three or four old school drink recipes, and get familiar with making them. When your guests ask for the usual vodka and cranberry, offer them Vodka Collins instead. Or a Tahitian Sunset. Or maybe a Stinger. But don’t be too pushy…if they really want that Crown and Diet, let them have it. After all, they’re your guests, and you want them to have fun.
It’s a good idea to try to find out ahead of time what people will be drinking. I’ve found the best bar set up consists of a lot of vodka, one Crown, one Jack, one Captain, one tequila and a bunch of fruit juices, plus coke, diet coke, seven up and a bottle of seltzer. If people ask if they can bring something, I tell them they don’t have to but (whatever you’re lacking) would be great. And I never buy beer…someone will always bring it, and if not, someone will go get it. Just make sure you have a couple 5 lb bags of ice. Oh, and a few lemons, limes, and cherries should be enough to get you through the night, unless you’re incredibly detailed about your garnishes. Then go the whole route with cocktail onions, olives, oranges, pineapple, etc.
Someone once gave me a great book with cocktail recipes: The Great Tiki Drink Book. Found one here: http://www.amazon.com/Great-Tiki-Drink-Book/dp/1580084052
The fare served at a cocktail party can vary from simple snax to extravagant hors d’oeuvres. Just remember, once the party starts, the last thing you’re going to want to do is cook. Plan a menu ahead, taking into account the number of guests, the time of year, and the occasion itself. Stay away from anything soupy or glorpy…no chili, stew, or beef-a-roni, kids. If it needs a fork or spoon, forget it.
No matter what the occasion, you’ll want simple finger foods that can be made in advance. Cocktail wieners are a sure-fire hit. Cheeses cut into one inch cubes, arranged with crackers and pepperoni is always popular. Frozen mini quiches are quick and easy to make, too. Put several small bowls of chips, dip, and nuts around the different rooms. If you’re having an informal friend and family affair, onion dips, mini hot dogs, or a large (6’ or longer) sub cut into small pieces is acceptable, but if you’re having a sort of “singles” get-together, stay away from anything with onion, garlic, etc. Don’t serve anything that can spill easily, and never…NEVER…serve anything out of a can (Except canned fruits or fruit cocktail).
A chocolate fondue fountain is a nice modern touch that seems old fashioned, too. They’re inexpensive and easy to use. http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=16035785
Don’t underestimate the power of a good old fashioned conversation piece. In the ‘50s, this could have been anything from a piece of avant-garde art, to an antique cigarette box, to a rare book. Today things aren’t too much different…art of any kind, particularly originals, will always catch people’s attention. Antiques today can also include collectibles from the late 20th century, including ‘50s bar memorabilia (I have a few goodies myself that always get a laugh, including VIP matchbooks…Very Important Places…gag advertising matchbook covers denoting various brothels, flophouses, sailor saloons and other funny establishments). And If you don’t have art or collectibles, you still don’t have to go out of your way to find interesting things. Have an old photo album with you in your younger days? Bring it out. Play a musical instrument? Put it on display. Even a few Playboy magazines placed on the coffee table, in the right company, can be a fun way to spice up the Tiki talk. Of course there are some of you who just don’t have anything “conversationally”. When all else fails, hire a stripper to jump out of a cake. Need ideas? http://ebay.com, search “retro”
And Now, The Party
The mood is set, the lights are low, a Les Baxter arrangement is lilting out of the hi-fi, a pitcher of cold Martinis sits on the Tiki Bar, and you look sharp as a tack in your white tux or black evening gown. The first guests have just rung the doorbell. The time has arrived. Sip your Martini, take a deep breath, and get ready to have gas, baby!
I’m gone…catch you cats on the flip side…
Posted on April 13th, 2009 3 comments
In the good old days, when Sinatra was King and jazz was the official music of cool, everyone hip to the swingin
scene had a bar, in one form or another, in their abode. Some kept it simple: a silver tray on a sideboard, stocked with cut-glass bottles of rye, Scotch, gin and vodka, a spritz bottle, and an ice bucket. Others were more elaborate, dedicating large furnishing to their spirits. Some went as far as to incorporate their liquor cabinet into their televisions, hi-fi’s, or globes, or had them built into the wall. But the quintessential (and ultimate) expression of the rat pack lifestyle was the in-home Tiki Bar.
(To the left is a photo of my lovely wife, Colleen, behind our Tiki Bar on the Lanai. It started out as a mint condition 1970’s brown leatherette corner bar (We’re 90% sure it was used on the set of Edward Scissorhands). At night it’s lit up with electric tiki torches and black light. It really comes alive at night, as all Tiki bars should.)
These days, its rare to find a bar in someone’s home, as the entertaining has been moved from the home to the local bar or nightclub scene. But there are some of us left who still enjoy making cocktails ourselves, and sharing them with friends. How far you want to take the experience is dependent on the taste of the individual, but I think we can all agree on one thing: To do it right, you need a well stocked and nicely set up bar.
This article is for those of you who have a little space in your home specially selected to devote to cocktail hour. I’ll show you how to make your Tiki dreams come true, without shelling out an arm and a leg.
There are essentially three ways to own your own Tiki bar:
1. Buy a pre-made or custom made bar and have it installed.
2. Build your own, either starting with a plain bar, or building it from scratch.
3. Buy a commercial Tiki Bar and run the business.
Since the third option is out for most people, we’ll talk about the first two.
There are a lot of nice Tiki bars on the market these days. You just have to search “tiki bar” and you’ll get literally dozens of hits on where to buy. The prices range from around $150 (that’s the cheapest I found for something decent) to well over $5000 for a large, outdoor job. If you’ve got the lettuce to throw down on one of these babies, by all means do so, and get your Tiki lifestyle swingin as soon as you can. You can start with something inexpensive and add to it as time goes by. Just make sure you’ve got the dimensions right, so it fits in your space, and don’t forget to add in the cost of shipping (Most of these will need to be crated and can add a signifcant slice of dough to your final cost.)
I found some really nice ones at http://store.palmhuts.com , some great masks and other accessories at http://www.tikimaster.com/category/004.bamboo_tiki_masks/, and a range of inexpensive to nice quality bars at http://www.tikibars.com/ and http://www.tikikev.com/. The only problem with these setups is that you will see the $200 one and like it, but you’ll like the $400 one more. Then you’ll see the $600 one, and want that. Soon you’ve got a mortgage payment going towards your bar. Chances are if you’re reading this, that’s not something you want to do. Which brings us to…
Option Two: Build it yourself Tiki Bars
Ok, so you’ve decided that $500 clams is too much to blow on bar, even if you know you’ll use it every day. Well that’s fine; you don’t have to drop a load of nickles to have a really nice Tiki bar, and that’s the magic of Tiki. After all, the islanders who invented them didn’t have two dimes to rub together, did they? So you’re going to build your own. Fantabulous, jackson!
First thing you have to decide is where you’re going to put it. If you have a small apartment or condo, you’re almost certainly going to have it inside. Pick a nice corner of your main entertaining space (for most of you that will be the living room, for some of you the bedroom), and dedicate it to the bar. When I say dedicate it, I mean the corner of your world will be all things Tiki – floor to ceiling. If your total decor is tropical, no sweat. If the rest of your pad is Ikea-Modern, you’re going to have to find a way to make it blend. Believe me, your Tiki bar will soon become the focal point of your room, so make it count.
If you’ve got a house, you may want to put your bar outside, on the deck, on the screened porch, patio, Florida room, lanai, or just out in the back yard. I live in Fort Lauderdale, so my Tiki Bar is on the lanai…in fact, my entire lanai has been turned into my Tiki bar. (It’s part of a screened enclosure that also has the pool, very common in this part of South Florida). Just remember if your bar is going to be outside, it needs to be able to handle the elements. Bamboo is tough, but it can get bleached by the sun over time. So can rattan. And thatching will eventually dry up, so be ready to do some yearly maintenance.
Let’s assume for this project, your Tiki Bar will be inside, or at least on a covered area outside. Let’s also assume that you don’t want it to be too big, and want to spend as little money as possible. With these parameters in mind, here’s how to build your own tiki bar!
Starting with an existing bar:
The absolute easiest way to do this is to start with an existing bar. Maybe, like I have, you’ve found a decent corner bar at a yard sale cheap. Maybe you’ve found one at a thrift shop or used furniture gallery. Or you have even bought one new from Home Depot, Target, or some other store. Whatever the case, now all you have to do is turn it into a Tiki Bar. Start by gathering pix of other Tiki bars from the web. Again, an image search will give you dozens of results. Pick out a few you like the best and go for the overall “look”. Mostly you’ll be adding bamboo posts, rattan backdrops, and thatching, plus some trinkets and decorations like masks and signs.
Looking at your bar head on, you’re going to want to trim it out in Bamboo. I’ve found Pier One Imports to have a decent selection of bamboo sticks in different sizes. You can also find it at some garden centers and landscaping businesses. On line, most companies want to sell bamboo in bulk, but ebay seems to have the best prices on small quantities of poles (http://stores.ebay.com/Pole-Providers has some great deals).In most cases, you’ll need one for each end of your bar, maybe two for the middle, and if you want to have poles going to the ceiling, you’ll need a couple for that. 2″ to 3″ diameter poles make the best for these “main” poles. Smaller diameter (1″) are great for trimming things out. Know ahead of time that bamboo is TOUGH STUFF. You’ll need an electric saw to cut through it, and will need to sand the ends down with 120 grit sandpaper to get rid of splinters after the cut. Also, you will absolutely need to drill holes through it first before attempting to screw it into anything. Putting a screw directly into bamboo will only split it.
The front and sides of your bar can either be covered with bamboo fence (you can buy it at Home Depot, about $25 for an 8’x16′ section then cut to fit), rattan mat (find it at Pier One or on line), or the easiest way…with a thatch table skirt (found at most party stores like Party City, around $8). The thatching is easy to work with, easy to cut and cheap. You can staple it to the front of your bar and let it hang, and VIOLA! Instant Tiki Bar!
Rattan matting makes a nice cover for you bar’s countertop. Cheap way to buy this is to go to Pier One or a department store like Target and look for the window shades. They usually have several styles of tropical-style window shades in different sizes, usually starting at around $5.00 and almost never more than $50. Measure the size you need for your bar, buy the size closest but just a little more than what you need. Most of these cut easily with scissors to any size or shape. You can glue it to your bar top with contact cement, and trim out the edges with coarse rope…the natural looking stuff…just use small nails to nail the rope into place around the edges of your matting. About a 7/16″ diameter natural brown rope looks best. You can even coil the rope around your bamboo poles for an Island-y effect. A couple of coats of polyurethane will help protect the matting from spills. I have a woven rattan placemat on the center of my bar, too. It’s easier to clean than the bar surface.
That same matting can be used as a wall covering in the corner behind your bar. If you’re planning to have shelves on the wall, get the holes drilled for the hardware first, then put up the rattan mat. Contact cement and finishing nails will keep it upon the wall. Slice small “X” shapes with a razor where the holes are for the shelves before screwing in the hardware.
There are several nice Tiki Bar signs for sale all over the place. Ebay has an abundance of light-up and wood signs for under $30 shipped. Sites like http://www.webetiki.com/ also have a great selection for good prices. A search for “tiki bar sign” brings up a lot of choices.
Once you have your basic bamboo and rattan trim and your Tiki Bar is Open sign up, you’re ready to start adding some little touches. Party City and Spencers Gifts, during different times of the year, have Tiki shot glasses, beer mugs, drinking games, ice buckets, clocks, shakers and more. Party City (and most party stores) has an entire section dedicated to Tiki Party stuff, including printed napkins, swizzle sticks and barware (tiki-masked stemmed martini glasses are my favorite!) All this stuff is made of plastic, looks great, and is very inexpensive. It’s kitchy and fun, which is what having a Tiki bar is all about. Hang some masks on your poles, put a few silk tropical flowers around, and you’ve got yourself a Tiki bar. If you’re looking for something a little less kitchy and a little more retro, you can find lots of kookie kool Tiki stuff on Ebay, some of it from the 50’s, at a decent price.
Building your own Tiki bar from scratch:
If you’re not lucky enough to have a bar to begin with, or want something more custom, and assuming you have some basic idea about how to build with wood, the best way to go about it is to start with 2″x4″s. Frame out your bar with those, including shelf brackets. If possible, anchor the bar to the floor and/or walls for stability. Then you can cover the frame with any of the above-mentioned mediums. A trick my father taught me is to use a grinder or drill with a 6″ sanding disc to “notch” the 2×4’s at 1″ intervals on all corners, to give a rough-hewn effect, then use a propane torch from about 3″ away to “burn” the wood just enough to darken the grain, giving it an old fashioned look. (Works best with pine, experiment with it before you take the torch to your finished product). Disclaimer: Please don’t burn down your house doing this, and don’t blame me if you do. You can then either nail plywood to the 2×4’s and cover with rattan, bamboo mat, etc. or use the bamboo fencing for a “see through” look. (Shows off your bottles on the inside shelf). For the bar top, I’d suggest either plywood with rattan covering, or if you want to get fancy, you can tile it with rustic-style tiles (a lot more work, of course). You could even use vinyl floor tiles, if you can find some that look good; they’re cheap and easy to work with, and resist spills. 3″ bamboo poles can be used for the rail, and for a foot rail too.
There’s nothing worse than a kool Tiki bar with cheesey, modern looking or plain wood bar stools. If you’ve got a few bucks to spend, get some decent stools. Again, Pier One always has a nice selection of wicker stools that will look nice. I think I paid $11 each for mine a few years ago. If you’re on a budget and can’t find anything cheap except basic wood bar stools, then do what you can to spruce them up…paint them dark brown, and faux paint vines running up the legs, or wrap some of that natural-look rope around them, or maybe if you’re good enough with the paint, paint the legs to look like bamboo poles. That will get you by until you can invest in new ones.
Stocking the Bar
You’ve got the bar. You’ve got the stools. You’ve got the Tiki Masks staring down at you, and the carved wood sign say “Get Freaky In The Tiki”. Now you need the booze.
Like any bar, you should have a stock of the basics. This may differ depending on what you and your friends drink. My bar is always stocked with at least one decent vodka (Grey Goose or Kettle One seems to be what my friends ask for most often), Jack, Captain, Crown, Meyers Dark Rum, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, light rum, one cheap tequila for margaritas, one good tequila for drinking straight (Petrone Silver), one really good Bourbon (Makers Mark or Knob Creek), one average gin (I’ve had the same bottle of Bombay for 16 years), Seagram’s Seven, Canadian Club or VO (for the Rat Packers), and several nice Scotches (for me. Usually Glenlivet, Johnny Black or Chivas Regal). You’ll also want a variety of liquors and mixers, depending on your and your friends’ taste (I have a couple of flavored vodkas, Gran Marnie, Yukon Jack and Triple Sec among others). But most importantly, you’re going to want to get a drink recipe book, and experiment. Try some exotic concoctions that go with the Tiki lifestyle, such as Zombies, Grasshoppers, Banana Banshee, Blue Hawaiian, Floradora, Cosmopolitan, Stinger, Tom Collins, Polynesian Paradise, Daquari, Piña Colada, Singapore Sling, Bora Bora, Manhattans, Between the Sheets, Mai Tai, White Russian, and of course, The Martini. Since many of these require special (and often expensive) ingredients, it’s a good idea to pick 3 or 4 you really like and stock the necessary items to create them. Make sure you have the right barware to serve them in, and the proper garnish…that’s very important…including a sword to hold the garnish, and a paper umbrella to top it off 😉
A little extra…
If you don’t have one, you won’t believe how convenient and rewarding a bar fridge can be. Either built into the bar or just behind it, if space allows, the bar fridge is the cat’s ass in Tiki bar accessories. (Really nice one at http://www.beveragefactory.com) Keeps your vodka and sodas cold. Keeps your gimlet onions fresh. Keeps your cherries cool and safe. Keeps some beer cold and ready, and if you use a lot of fruit, keeps it close to the bar without going to the kitchen. I’ve seen them for as little as $150 for the 4.4 Cubic Foot models, and believe me it’s worth it. Just something to think about.
Hope this had been helpful for you kats and kittens looking to jazz up your lives. Once your Tiki bar is done, dim the lights, turn on the Martin Denny, pour yourself a Old Fashioned and relax.
It’s Cocktail hour.