Playing with fire + imbibing strong drinks: good idea, or great idea? Okay, so it’s risky stuff. Use your head, keep your fire extinguisher handy, and don’t do this after you’ve already been drinking. That said, here are some tips for optimal drama in your volcano bowls and other tiki drinks. Much of this was learned from Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, where there is a lot of fire happening all night, every night. Martin and his wife Rebecca Cate have a book coming out this summer, Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki—you can pre-order it now!
Select Your Fuel
Often people will use 151 rum as their fuel. DON’T! Aside from being a waste of perfectly good rum, it doesn’t make a good flame. It will burn blue, which sounds lovely, but it’s very difficult to see and makes it dangerous, to boot. Use lemon extract instead: at up to 168 proof, it burns every bit as well, with a much more visible, orange, fire-y flame. And it smells nice!
If you’re using a serving vessel that already has a spot for flame, like a volcano bowl, then you’re set. But for more standard drinkware, you’ll need something to hold up your lemon extract. Some folks use half of a spent lime left over from juicing, and that’s great… but putting a crouton that’s been soaked in your lemon extract on top of that lime is even better. It’ll burn a bit better, be a bit tidier, and stand a bit taller. For extra fancy: lop the bottom off of a dragonfruit, and turn it into a little volcano. These things were made to be volcano inserts. There’s even a natural reservoir in its top.
Fire! What could be better? Fire and sparks! You know those little shakers of ground cinnamon & cocoa you sometimes see at espresso stands? You’ll want one of those, with a mixture of ground cinnamon & nutmeg inside. If you sprinkle it on top of your fire, it’ll flare up, and a shower of sparks will rise. USE THIS WITH CAUTION: the fire can easily rise up several feet, so make sure you have the clearance you need, and use only a little bit.
If you look at video or photos of the Top Notch Volcano Bowl presentation ritual at Smuggler’s Cove, you’ll see there’s bursts of fire… I’m not going to tell you how to do that, because I don’t trust you to not burn your house down. I love you, but I don’t trust you. That said, if you look at those photos, you’ll figure out how it’s done pretty easily.
Straws are made of plastic. Plastic melts when it gets hot. Don’t lose sight of that in all the excitement.
Wrapping It Up
You’ll be tempted to enjoy your fire as long as you can… ooooh, pretttyyy… but it can get messy and stinky. Before you’ve got serious char happening, carefully blow out your flame, or move your fiery crouton into a glass of water with some tongs.
That’s all there is to it! Now that you have the power of man’s red flower, go use it. I’d love to see how you apply what you’ve learned: tag me on Instagram (@humusf) when you post your drinks! (And good god, please don’t tag it #tikiasfuck. You’re not Guy Fieri. Unless you are, and in that case, by all means, that is the tag you should use.)