A Voodoo Grog Story

A Voodoo Grog at Pagan Idol in San Francisco
A Voodoo Grog at Pagan Idol in San Francisco

A telling sign of the current state of tiki: last night at Pagan Idol, I was served a Voodoo Grog in an actual vintage Voodoo Grog glass. It was delicious, and I got to enjoy it in front of a huge tiki while perfect exotica tunes played, enjoying the company of tiki friends old and new. Just a few years ago, this would have seemed like an impossible dream. Let me give you a little background to explain why this is incredible.

Voodoo Grog glass in the collection of Da Kine
Voodoo Grog glass in the collection of Da Kine

I knew of the Voodoo Grog glass before I knew what was in the drink. It’s a Trader Vic’s drink that dates from the mid-1950s—more on the drink in a bit. First let’s talk about this glass. It was produced by Imperial Glass, which also supplied Vic’s with their other specialty glassware, like their Port and Starboard light glasses. The Voodoo Grog glass is fairly rare, and particularly beautiful. Its elegant shape, blue-green tint, and gold painted mask details all elevate it into something exquisite. Historically they’ve gone for over a hundred dollars, these days it looks like they can be had for more like $50-80.

I finally encountered the drink when it was published by Beachbum Berry in his book Potions of the Caribbean. For a Trader Vic’s drink, it’s oddly complicated and seems much more like a Don the Beachcomber drink. It’s got egg white, passion fruit syrup, a that-can’t-be-right amount of allspice liqueur, lime and grapefruit juice, aged Martinique and Puerto Rican rums, and a bit of honey. I was so intrigued by this surprising recipe that I had to try it, and it turns out to be one of my very favorite tiki drinks. I make them pretty often at Balhi Ha’i (though I made a few batches this week that turned out weird, I may be losing my mojo).

Humuhumu as a Voodoo Grog, illustration by Dave Stolte
Humuhumu as a Voodoo Grog, illustration by Dave Stolte

I love this drink and its glass so much that illustrator Dave Stolte turned me into one. (Dave is also the author of Home Bar Basics, a great handy how-to for getting going making drinks at home.)

Fassionola Gold bowl drink at Pagan Idol
Fassionola Gold bowl drink at Pagan Idol

And here we arrive at my experience last night at Pagan Idol in San Francisco. I was there because some friends are in town: Marty Treu, author of Signs, Streets, and Storefronts, whom I met at last year’s Hukilau where we became fast friends; and Spike Marble, an old tiki friend and leader of the fantastic Hulabilly band The Hula Girls. (This is where I remind you that Critiki’s new upcoming visit features are great for meeting up with fellow tikiphiles. I’m hearing from you guys that it’s working, and I’ve been able to meet up with folks several times now. Tonight I’ll be meeting up with more folks at Smuggler’s Cove thanks to Critiki.)


Pagan Idol bartender William Prestwood just bought a vintage Voodoo Grog glass for his personal collection, happened to have it handy, and happened to know that I really love Voodoo Grogs, so he offered to make this happen for me. What an incredible treat and honor. His Voodoo Grog turned out perfect, and drinking it in that environment was pure heaven. You won’t be able to drop in and order a Voodoo Grog in a vintage glass, of course: the glass is far too valuable to be in general use.

But even having this happen as a one-off experience is just amazing to me. The crowd last night was full of people wearing aloha shirts; these were normal patrons, I’ve never seen anything like it outside of an actual tiki event. We’ve known that tiki is growing in popularity, but seeing evidence that people both behind the bar and in front of it are really and truly embracing it as a full experience—that makes my heart soar.


8 thoughts on “A Voodoo Grog Story

  1. And with this, you make the experience of those who went to the newly-opened “tiki bar” Pilikia in Dallas an even starker contrast of The True Tiki Expereinece – if that’s even possible.
    UNlike your experience: poorly mixed drinks, nobody in Aloha wear, danceclub music, and certainly no ability to have one’s drink in the exact mug/glass in which it’s to be served.
    Maybe they’ll read Critiki and learn how it’s done!

    (My favorite tiki glass, too. And one of my favorite drinks. I need to be brave and learn to make my own! Thanks for the prodding.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading the reports about Pilikia was so disappointing. Not surprising, I think we all were getting a nightclub vibe before it opened. But Dallas deserves so much better!


  2. These stories of tiki culture growing and expanding make me so hopeful. I’ve been “into” tiki for quite a while now, but have notice a definite up swing in popularity and awareness lately. Luckily this growth in popularity also coincides with me finally buying a house and settling down back in my hometown, which doesn’t have any tiki presence whatsoever.
    Next week, the 17th, I’ve actually managed get a local cafe/bar to let me host a “tiki night”. And while it won’t be completely authentically “tiki” (my drink menu is going to have painkillers and the likes) I’m excited to at least be doing my part to help spread the word, the culture, the flavors and the rums.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OMG thank you for using the image of my Voodoo Grog glass in your story! 🙂 I have used that glass a couple of times to make drinks that were originally served in it. Call it nostalgia or being sentimental but original drinks always seems to taste better out of the original glass. 🙂 Great article btw!

    Liked by 1 person

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