In an ironic twist of fate, the man who built a career on his image as a carefree bum is now one of the busiest people in the cocktail world. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who will be making appearances Thursday through Saturday at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, is simultaneously promoting his sixth book, a new cocktail app, and an ingenious bar tool … all while planning the opening of his first bar this fall in New Orleans.
Berry will also be a whirlwind of activity this week at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, where he’ll be making his ninth appearance at the annual Polynesian Pop extravaganza. His symposiums on cocktails and culture are always the hottest ticket at the event, and this year’s presentation (“Tiki’s Dark Ages: From Fern Bars To Rebirth”) was sold out months in advance.
The Navy Grog (aka Yeoman’s Grog, Captain’s Grog, et al.) “was one of the most popular drinks until the Mai Tai came along,” Berry said during a symposium at The Hukilau in June 2013. “It’s a lovely combination of three rums, two fruit juices, a little spice, a little syrup.” But just as much as its taste, it’s distinguished by a cone of ice protruding from the glass, neatly encasing a straw. The cocktail emerged in the early 1940s and was a mainstay of Tiki bars well into the 1970s. But as mixology in general, and Tiki cocktails in particular, devolved during the ensuing decades, the ice cone disappeared.
When Berry began gathering recipes for his first book, this technique had been long forgotten. As far as Berry knew, only the historic Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale was still serving a drink with a traditional ice cone (a descendant of the Navy Grog called the Yeoman’s Grog) when he put together Grog Log, released in 1998.
Some 15 years and five books later, Berry teamed up with Cocktail Kingdom to create a metal mold that perfectly re-creates a vintage ice cone. The finished product works not only in the Navy Grog, but any drink that fits in an 8-ounce rocks glass as well as a larger Mai Tai glass.
It goes without saying that The Atomic Grog is a big fan of any traditional “grog,” and the Yeoman’s Grog at The Mai-Kai is one of the best. But where exactly does the the term “grog” come from? And what’s the story behind the Yeoman’s Grog?
In the British Navy, it became tradition in the mid-1600s to grant all seamen a daily half-pint ration of rum. In 1740, seeking to cut down on rampant drunkenness, Admiral Edward Vernon, nicknamed “Old Grog” because of the cloak made of grogram (a silk fabric) that he always wore, ordered the rum mixed with a quart of water. Some years later, when it was proven that citrus fruit prevented scurvy, lime juice was added to the mix. The world’s first proper tropical drink was born, named the “Navy Grog” after Old Grog himself.
Roughly 200 years later, when tropical drinks were all the rage, a greatly enhanced version of the Navy Grog was popularized by Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber) and Victor Bergeron (aka Trader Vic). When The Mai-Kai opened in 1956, mixologist Mariano Licudine created the Yeoman’s Grog, based heavily on Donn Beach’s version, which he knew well from his years working at Don the Beachcomber in Chicago.
But Licudine took the Yeoman’s Grog to the next level by lifting the best element of Trader Vic’s Navy Grog – allspice liqueur, aka pimento dram. This is one of those special, subtle ingredients we’ve noted in past reviews (see the Deep Sea Diver and Rum Julep), but it really takes a starring role here. But, as usual, Lucudine gave it his own special touch (see tribute recipe below).