A dramatic shift, and one that can’t help but make you do a spit-take… word on the street is that Tiki-Ti is training a new bartender.
I only have a few details, sent my way by a little bird who got to see the new bartender in action last Wednesday. He said the new bartender is named Mark, he isn’t a Buhen but rather the son of a longtime Tiki-Ti patron (he is a Buhen after all, see below for an update), and the Ray’s Mistake he made was good.
Tiki-Ti has been a family-run outfit: original owner Ray Buhen was the sole bartender for many years, until his son Mike started helping out; Mike’s son Mike came on the scene with the passing of Ray a few years ago. There are several reasons Tiki-Ti has been family-run:
- Ray came from a world where your recipes were your currency, your strongest asset, and you sure as heck didn’t teach them to others who could then take them to the competition. Even today, the descendants of some of the original Don the Beachcomber’s bartenders have been so trained by their fathers on this point that they were still wary of showing any recipe notes to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry when he was writing his book on tiki cocktail history, Sippin’ Safari. It’s likely that Ray Buhen felt that only his own family could be trusted with his recipes, and the sentiment has lived on.
- The drink list at Tiki-Ti is extensive — mind-bogglingly so. And complicated. Even if they were comfortable letting another person in on the family secrets, getting them up to speed would be a daunting task, to be sure, and your average bartender frankly isn’t up to the task.
- Smoking in bars is illegal in California — not to protect patrons, but to protect employees. Since Tiki-Ti is owner-operated, and thus has no employees, smoking is allowed. Mike & Mike are both smokers.
These three reasons are neat & all, but do they really counteract the plusses of having another bartender in the mix? What happens when Mike or Mike get sick? What happens if Mike or Mike would like, for once in their lives, to get to do something on a Friday or Saturday night? What happens if Mike or Mike decide that even though they really love Tiki-Ti, they want to follow their own dreams? They would certainly be entitled. And when push comes to shove, Mike & Mike just can’t run the bar alone forever and ever. There has to be a plan for either succession, or for closing Tiki-Ti. You can probably guess which of those two scenarios I’d rather see. So, while the news that they have a new bartender is a little shocking, it’s not entirely surprising, and it’s actually totally welcome.
What does it mean? Heck, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Mike & Mike. It’s not likely that they’re going to give up smoking, so I suspect that they’ve made this new bartender part-owner. They’ve probably been training him for quite a while behind the scenes, and they’ll probably start him out just focusing on part of the drink menu initially. Those are just guesses on my part, though.
So, swing by Tiki-Ti and give a warm welcome to Mark!
UPDATE: I just chatted with Tiki-Ti regular Miles Thompson and got more info: Mark is a Buhen, he’s Mike’s son and Mike’s brother. That makes oh-so-much-more-sense, and is wonderful news.