A dead hot summer means Tiki, long drinks, ice cream, peaches and skinny drinks.
Portland's mayor is marking Tiki with its own month (August) as a local Trader Vic’s opens. Bars such as Clyde Commons and others are highlighting the event with their own Tiki homages. Also making much of Tiki is New York City’s Brian Miller, who now is marking his take on Tiki every Monday at Julie Reiner’s Lani Kai. The menu focuses on roughly eight to 10 cocktails combining classics and twists, changing often. Classics, we hear, might include the 1934 Zombie, the Cobra's Fang from Don the Beachcomber and perhaps Tahitian Rum Punch and Caribbean Rum Punch. Miller is even thinking about a flight of Zombies (isn’t that the last first plane out of New Orleans the Sunday after Tales of the Cocktail?) employing recipes from different eras.
Also in New York City, Sasha Petraske of Milk and Honey, has opened his latest, Silver Lining: a very vintage, tucked-away rathskellar with white tablecloths, vintage photos and long wooden bar. Jazz accompanies Tuxedo No. 2s and Mint Juleps. In another part of Manhattan, Bathtub Gin, much discussed lately among international sorts, is ready to go, as a bar tucked inside a coffee shop with a classic speakeasy red light above an otherwise unremarkable door, behind which hide a tin ceiling and antique bathtub centerpiece. Pimm's Cups and an otherwise gin-heavy menu will greet early visitors.
Menus are going a little lighter all over as the dog days of summer approach. In Washington, D.C., the Jose Andres-led America Eats Tavern goes a little further back before Prohibition for its inspirations. Bartender Owen Thomson and crew offer not only the old reliable (and my usual New Year’s Day bowl) Philadelphia Fish House Punch (Jamaican rum, green tea, house peach brandy and lemon juice), but also a Benjamin Franklin-derived Milk Punch and a San Francisco-style Pisco Punch. Cobblers (Amontillado, orange and sugar), Switchels (rum, cider vinegar, molasses and ginger), Grog (rum, water and lime) and Port Sangaree (ruby port, lemon, sugar and nutmeg) anchor the classic American menu in colonial times when frequent drinking made lightly-proofed beverages most popular.
In Los Angeles, Marcos Tello and team have introduced their new Summer cocktail menu at 1886 Bar at The Raymond (Does summer start later in LA?). Sixteen new summer cocktails are divided into four sections: Regional, Seasonal, Shaken and Stirred. More Tiki influences making their appearances in the “Regional” section: the Zombie created in 1934 by Don Beach at Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood. There’s the QB Cooler, also created by Beach in 1937. From the Seasonal section comes the Piña Colada and Bourbon Peach Smash, an oldie and a very oldie both worth recreating. Cherry Daiquiris made with fresh cherries, rum, lime and sugar sounds good right about now. There’s more, of course: homages to bartenders Julian Cox of Rivera, Sotta and Picca in Los Angeles, Phil Ward of Mayahuel in New York, Julie Reiner of the Clover Club in Brooklyn and Las Vegas drink nabob Francesco Lafranconi. The latest must-have is a barreled cocktail.
The Bourbon Peach Smash presented by 1886 Bar at The Raymond in Los Angeles.
As we mentioned, peaches are finally starting to make their appearance: In addition to Tello’s Bourbon Peach Smash, in Chicago at Luxbar we’ve got the Peach Smash cocktail made with Templeton Rye, brown sugar simple syrup, Mathilde Peach Liqueur and muddled local peaches, as well as the Farmer’s Market Peach Bellini.
Back east in Philly, the Franklin’s summer menu expands their progressive punch program to two pages, with the Well-Deserved Punch, Regime Change Punch and Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique Punch. Punch is offered in a classic punch bowl for multiple servings or by the glass. There’s also an expanded selection of crushed-ice Swizzles — the Atlantic City Conference (applejack, ruby port, velvet falernum and house grenadine) and Friday Foster (banana-infused Venezuelan rum, Punt e Mes, heavy cream, egg yolk and aromatic bitters). More summery long drinks in the Franklin’s “Easy Going” section include the Ms. Stackhouse (gin, honey, fresh lime, strawberry and salt served tall).
Another cooling trend in Philly: Village Whiskey has added some Spiked Shakes: Irish Car Bomb (devil's food cake blended with Negra Modelo, Bailey's and Jameson) and Strawberry-Rum (Gosling’s rum, strawberry ice cream, sliced strawberries and strawberry sauce). Also in Philly, Sampan Asian-fusion restaurant joins the many Asian restaurants finally paying attention to the beverage menu: the Sampantini (gin, cucumber and aloe vera) and the whiskey-based Honey-Yuzu Chiller among them.
More Asian influences: As Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s Big Bowl spreads its wings and expands to eight units in three states, expect its menu to start some trends, like offering drinks in pitchers as well as by the glass. The Ginger Screwdriver adds fresh orange juice, lemon juice and housemade ginger syrup to the restaurant's fresh ginger ale. Lemon Honey Ade is made with honey from Big Bowl's own hives, organic Rain vodka and a squeeze of lemon. The Pomegranate Mojito (Bacardi rum, fresh mint, pomegranate) adds some zest with an ingredient getting great traction these days: yuzu sour mix. Finally, there's the Mango Chango (Hendrick's gin, mango, fresh lemon and Thai basil).
And finally, what's a week in summer without news of more skinny? In New Orleans, the new skinny cocktails have taken their place at café b: the Splendito (mint, lime juice and Splenda muddled with Bacardi and topped with club soda) and the Anti-oxi-tini (Absolut Berri Acai vodka, POM Pomegranate Juice, blueberry). The skinniest? The Skinny Sparkler, at 55 calories (light cranberry juice, iced tea, Champagne).