In the heyday of Tiki in the 1950s and ’60s, having one of the most extensive and iconic tropical drink menus was not enough. At The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, where the list of classic exotic cocktails runs to nearly 50, there were always requests for off-the-menu concoctions that everyone had heard about. To meet this demand, recipes were created but never added to the menu.
Decades later, there aren’t many requests for the Fog Cutter, Singapore Sling and Suffering Bastard. But that didn’t stop the Gumbo Limbo Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai from organizing an event that gave guests a taste of all three of these “secret cocktails.”
On Saturday, Feb. 21, starting at 5 p.m., The Molokiai bar filled up with more than 50 eager participants for a chance to taste a flight of the three mid-century classics that have never appeared on the 58-year-old tropical drink menu. For just $15, we received roughly half-sized samples of all three drinks. In addition to a large turnout of FOM members, several VIPs were in the house after participating in Emeril Lagasse’s “Tiki Showdown” the night before in Miami Beach: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate.
Though the event was billed as “The Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai,” these three drinks were not really “lost,” manager Kern Mattei pointed out. “We’ve always had them, but nobody knew it,” he said. Their popularity fell by the wayside and people stopped requesting them. All three recipes date back to the early days of the restaurant, when famous mixologist Mariano Licudine worked with owners Bob and Jack Thornton to create a unique cocktail program based on Licudine’s experience as a bartender for decades for Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber. “They’re Mariano’s recipes,” Mattei said.
Here’s a look at the flight, and the special menu prepared by Mattei:
Each of the three drinks not only has its own distinctive taste, but also a unique and interesting back story:
Created in 1942 at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo by mixologist Joe Scialom, the Suffering Bastard was later popularized by Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, who turned it into a rum-based drink similar to the Mai Tai featuring a signature garnish of a cucumber strip. It’s the latter version that Licudine used as inspiration for The Mai-Kai’s Suffering Bastard.
* Full review and recipe: The off-menu Suffering Bastard was just a Mai Tai with a kick
The original recipe features gin, brandy, Rose’s lime juice, Angostura bitters and ginger beer, according to research by Tiki cocktail author and historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. You can find it in his 2010 book, Beachbum Berry Remixed. Scialom later created the more ominous Dying Bastard (with the addition of bourbon) and Dead Bastard (with the addition of bourbon and rum).
In his 2013 book, Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them, Berry delves deep into Scialom’s life story, revealing more about the creation of the Suffering Bastard.
It’s a colorful story, involving World War II intrigue and the role Scialom may have played from behind his bar in Egypt in winning the war for the allies. Apparently, an urgent request from the front lines for a “hangover cure” prompted the hastily created drink that later became known as the Suffering Bastard. The concoction was a great success, as was the nearby defeat of the Germans by British troops who used the Shepheard’s Hotel as their headquarters.
After the war, the Suffering Bastard became famous around the world, inspiring many imitations. Trader Vic was perhaps the most notable, making his Suffering Bastard by simply adding more rum to his famous Mai Tai along with the signature cucumber. Licudine took his cue from Vic, basing his version of the Bastard on The Mai-Kai’s signature Mai Tai.
Compare the recipes: Suffering Bastard | Mai Tai
Also known as the Samoan Fog Cutter, this 1940s Trader Vic creation features rum, brandy, gin and sherry in what Beachbum Berry calls “the Long Island Iced Tea of exotic drinks.” Trader Vic once wrote of his creation: “Fog Cutter, hell. After two of these, you won’t even see the stuff.”
Trader Vic recipe books, from the 1960s through Trader Vic’s Tiki Party in 2005 include this recipe: 1 ounce orange juice, 2 ounces lemon juice, 1/2 ounce orgeat syrup, 2 ounces light rum, 1 ounce brandy, 1/2 ounce gin, 1/4 to 1/2 ounce sherry float. Shake everything execept the sherry with crushed ice and pour into a chimney glass. Add more ice and float the sherry. Garnish with a mint sprig. In his 1968 book, Vic advises to “serve with straws (and two aspirin).”
Berry also published a 1950s recipe for what he calls the much improved Samoan Fog Cutter. It cuts the brandy to 1/2 ounce and the rum to 1 1/2 ounces, also substituting blending for shaking. This is likely the version served at the secret cocktails event. I got to try it in advance, thanks to manager Mattei (see photo). Unlike the Suffering Bastard, this cocktail is like nothing you’ll find elsewhere on the regular menu. You can clearly taste the floater of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, along with the gin and brandy. The lemon juice also adds a different tart element. Most of The Mai-Kai’s drinks feature lime juice, which was favored by Don the Beachcomber. Trader Vic was more partial to lemon.
According to Berry, the Fog Cutter was Trader Vic’s third most popular drink behind the Mai Tai and the Scorpion (the latter likely the inspiration for The Mai-Kai’s Mystery Drink). And like those other classic drinks, it inspired bars across the country to add it to their menus.
Reputedly invented at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore in the early 1900s, this pre-Tiki tropical drink was adapted by mixologists across the country, including Don the Beachcomber. Dominated by gin and cherry brandy, the Singapore Sling is arguably the most popular exotic drink not featuring rum.
Again, we turn to Berry and Remixed for more insight into the origins of this oft-maligned classic. While recent recipes touted by Raffles include pineapple juice and grenadine, this was likely not always the case. Some have even disputed Raffles’ claim of origin, pointing to similar drinks making the rounds at around the same time. In The Savoy Cocktail Book, the iconic 1930 bar guide, Harry Craddock listed the Singapore Sling as containing 1 ounce of gin, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce cherry brandy, topped with soda water.
A Don the Beachcomber recipe from 1937 unearthed by Berry shows the same ingredients with just one slight tweak (1 ounce brandy). It calls for 1 1/2 ounces of soda poured into the drink after shaking with cubed ice. The modern recipe popularized by Raffles is much more sweet and complex. It also includes pineapple juice, Cointreau, Benedictine, grenadine and Angostura bitters. And it replaces the lemon juice with lime juice, and cherry brandy with the sweet Cherry Heering liqueur. This is the most bastardized version, often becoming a convoluted mess like reinterpretations of the Mai Tai.
At The Mai-Kai, however, Licudine showed some restraint and kept his recipe simple. The Singapore Sling we tasted in the flight was a streamlined, lighter version of the modern Sling. It features an up-front pineapple flavor with distinct cherry liqueur (or brandy) overtones and a hint of gin. The drink is clean and not cloyingly sweet like some Singapore Slings can be.
More Singapore Sling recipes on The Atomic Grog
* The modern Raffles Hotel recipe
* A streamlined Sling served at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
* A modern reinterpretation by Freddy Diaz of AlambiQ Mixology
* Official website | Facebook page | Flickr group
More on The Atomic Grog
* Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide | Tropical drink family tree | Lost cocktails
* Special event at The Mai-Kai takes a flight back to classic ‘Potions of the Caribbean’
* Historic Mai-Kai celebrated, new cocktail menu unveiled at anniversary party
* Heeeeeeere’s the rich history and lost stories of The Mai-Kai
* Tour of The Mai-Kai’s mysterious bars and kitchen (with photos)
* Interview with General Manager Kern Mattei | All Mai-Kai posts