Bartenders who hope to gain bragging rights in the Tiki cocktail world have until Monday, Jan. 14, to enter a new regional competition and earn a chance to compete in the finals this summer at Tiki Kon in Portland.
Bonus recipe: Jamaican Bad Decisions, the 2018 winning cocktail
The Iron TikiTender competition has expanded this year and will hit the road to select the finalists for its fourth throwdown, won last year by Jeanie Grant of Pagan Idol in San Francisco. The first of these regionals will be held on Feb. 16 during the second annual Inuhele Tiki weekender in Atlanta.
* Facebook event
Bartenders: Click here to register to compete
The three competitors in the Atlanta competition will be selected on Jan. 21. The competition will be held during Inuhele at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center and include three challenges: Speedy Classics to Spec, Garish Garnish, and Mystery Ingredient.
Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend, which debuted last February as a one-day home bar tour, has expanded in 2019 to a three-day weekend of bar-hopping, panels, bands, demos, networking and more. Headquartered at the Marriott, Inuhele (which fittingly means “cocktail journey”) will feature a Friday night bar crawl to the venerable Trader Vic’s plus new venues Tiki Iniki and Tiki Tango.
Panelists include cocktail legend Brother Cleve, artist Derek Yaniger, rum expert Paul Senft and Inuhele organizer Jonathan M. Chaffin of Horror In Clay, the Atlanta-based purveyor of horror, Tiki, and sci-fi themed barware and accessories.
Also be sure not to miss History of the Mystery Drink, presented by Tim “Swanky” Glazner, author of Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant.
The Iron TikiTender competition will serve as opening act to musical headliners Kinky Waikiki and The Mystery Men on Saturday night. Deluxe and VIP tickets are already sold out, so act now and don’t miss out.
Launched at Tiki Kon 2014, Iron Tikitender is produced by Blair Reynolds, creator of BG Reynolds Syrups. The event returned to Tiki Kon last year after a two-year absence. Grant emerged victorious after doing battle with fellow finalists Kelly Merrell (Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar) and Mark Hooper (Arkansas-based bartender and Tiki ninja). Hosted by Reynolds with commentary by Ray Wyland (Tiki With Ray) and Jason T. Smith (Tiki treasure hunter), the contest was a spectacle that drew hundreds of Tiki cocktail fans to the main ballroom of the Red Lion Hotel.
The three rounds included a speed competition to make 20 Mai Tais (won by Grant), an over-the-top garnish challenge (won by Hooper), and the final mystery ingredient challenge. The mystery ingredients were Rum Fire and one of the new BG Reynolds syrups. See Grant’s award-winning drink below.
The victory earned Grant not only bragging rights, but a trip to Jamaica to visit Hampden Estate, home of Rum Fire.
* Photos and coverage from Tiki With Ray
The 17th annual Tiki Kon will be July 5-7 in Portland at a new venue, the DoubleTree by Hilton, Lloyd Center. This year’s theme is “Pageant of the Pacific,” the theme of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exhibition, the San Francisco world’s fair at which America was introduced to the wonders of Polynesia. Vendor registration opens Feb. 1 and guest passes will go on sale March 15.
Here’s the drink that earned Grant her title in the final round of last year’s contest, as posted on the Iron TikiTender website:
JAMAICAN BAD DECISIONS
(By Jeanie Grant of Pagan Idol, San Francisco)
* 1 ounce Rum Fire
* 1 ounce Rhum Clement VSOP
* 1/2 ounce Appleton 12 Jamaican rum
* 3/4 ounce lemon juice
* 1/2 ounce lime juice
* 1/2 ounce BG Reynolds Honey Mix
* 1/4 ounce BG Reynolds Paradise Blend
* 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake with crushed ice and pour into a Mai Tai glass. Garnish with mint and grated nutmeg. (We were out of mint so we went with a festive orchid.)
This is a powerful rum punch featuring three distinctive rums and a nice balance of juices, syrups and bitters. The Jamaican rum is the star, but there’s a lot going on here to appeal to any fan of complex Tiki cocktails.
* Fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices are a must, of course. And don’t forget the Angostura, which is crucial to balancing the sweet and tart flavors. Some of the other ingredients could be substituted, but only if necessary.
* Rum Fire is a funky overproof rum from Jamaica’s Hampden Estate. If you can’t find it in your market, the only other suitable replacements are Wray & Nephew Overproof (from Appleton Estate) and Rum-Bar Overproof (from Worthy Park Estate). Rhum Clement VSOP is easier to find, but if necessary you could use another agricole vieux from Martinique or Guadeloupe. Appleton Estate 12 (aka Rare Blend) is widespread, but in a pinch (or on a budget) you could also use the Reserve and Signature blends (or even Plantation Dark).
* Homemade honey mix (2 parts orange blossom honey to 1 part water, mixed and chilled) could replace the Reynolds mix. Paradise Blend is essentially Don’s Mix, the secret Don the Beachcomber ingredient revealed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry in his seminal 2007 book, Sippin’ Safari (revised and expanded in 2018). To make at home, combine 2 parts white (not pink or red) grapefruit juice with 1 part cinnamon syrup. Use BG Reynolds cinnamon syrup, another craft brand, or your own homemade version. If you’d like to make a batch of Don’s Mix entirely from scratch, here’s a recipe to try.
* Related: Rating the new BG Reynolds syrups