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.
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).
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.