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Tiki Garnish: More is More

When the temperature begins to rise, and the sun begins to shine, our taste buds instantly think they're in the tropics. Yes, it's time to talk about tiki. I could go on at great lengths about tiki recipes and history, but this post is going to be about the composition of garnish.

In Gantt's World*, the first impression is the most important. Tiki drinks evoke a tropical mystique, a getaway in your own backyard. We look at these over the top garnishes and forget where we are, if even just for a moment. Not everyone can catch a flight to the islands every week, but they can order up a rum laced libation, and let their worries drift away. Below, I've shown some examples of tiki garnish, and how certain elements compliments one another, and how others, some unusual, find a home only in tiki.

*Raymond Beaumont Gantt, creator of Donn's Beachcomber Cafe and father of tiki.

This tiki drink utilizes fresh mint, cherries, and a lemon peel rose. Never be afraid of the liberal use of mint. Not many things look as sad as a lone, ragged sprig of mint by itself.

This drink used a similar garnish, but traded out the mint sprigs for pineapple fronds. These fronds can be kept in water, just like a bouquet of flowers to keep them from drying out. The reason for the use of pineapple fronds in place of mint sprigs was because this particular tiki mug was much more narrow than the last. The additional shrubbery would have made it appear off balance and top heavy.

When taking things a step further from the standard citrus peel rose, practice a little knife work. This Orange peel bicep was created during the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio. For this one, I removed the entire peel from the orange very carefully, then used the tip of a paring knife just like a pencil to draw the design.

The citrus peel snake can be created in the same manner as the last garnish, if not more easily. Don't be afraid to mix it up, and think outside of the box. I used a cherry stem for a forked tongue on this one.

Non-Edible Garnish

Warning: Dry Ice can cause severe cold burns when in contact with skin. Use with caution.

Perhaps everyone's favorite tiki garnish is the addition of dry ice. This can be a lot of fun, but it's sometimes done with disregard for the cocktail. The photo above shows a Zombie cocktail inside of a bowl filled with dry ice, and only use food grade dry ice. This keeps the cocktail inside the glass intact. Never add dry ice inside of the drink itself. This is not only a safety issue, but it can actually ruin the balance of your cocktail. Say it with me "never add dry ice to the actual cocktail!"

-To use dry ice, purchase dry ice at a local grocer or ice cream shop. Do a google search for dry ice in your area.

-Add the dry ice to a temperature safe vessel. (thin glasses are not a safe way to use dry ice)

-Add hot water and let the smoke begin.

Warning: Playing with fire can burn you. Please don't be a fool.

We all love a flaming cocktail, right? Well there are some dos and don't when it come to setting your tiki drink ablaze.

-Do use a high alcohol extract such as Lemon.

-Do use bread as a wick (time to get some use out of those old croutons in the pantry)

-Do ignite your cocktails in an open area away from flammables. (RUM IS FLAMMABLE)

-Don't use high proof rum as your fuel source. (it's a waste of good booze)

-Don't add the contents of your fire to your cocktail. (it will ruin the flavor balance)


Warning: Lighting more things on fire, and creating a bigger flame can go wrong. Be smart.

Once your fire is going, you can add some extra flair with the addition of ground cinnamon.

Start slowly with the cinnamon, only releasing a small amount at first, until the fire begins to consume it. Then it's time to let it lightly fall in larger amounts, raising your hand higher as if coaxing the flames.

In the world of tiki, sometimes the addition of plastic figurines, wacky straws, and paper parasols can enhance the light-hearted feel. Don't be afraid to add whatever you think creates a reaction. This is supposed to be fun. Just bear in mind, some items are not food safe. Check package ingredients before throwing a toxic item into your cocktail.

Always remember, you're not confined by your surroundings. In the above photo, I made a Bali Hai on a plane. (please comply with all FAA guidlines when making cocktails on a plane, and don't get arrested)

The main point I hope you take from this is that tiki is meant to be a fun escape from the mundane. Enjoy your tropical tipples!


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