In spite of the fact we seem to be in the throes of a perpetual winter, or perhaps because of it, tiki culture in Boston is booming.
And it has been for some time. Cocktail consultant, DJ, and all-around bar god Brother Cleve knows this, as he’s been in the vortex of the storm since it began on the local front back during his days at the famed B-Side Lounge in Cambridge (now home to Lord Hobo). He and a slew of bartenders employed recipes from tiki author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry after he found and published the original recipes set forth by bootlegger-turned-tiki-overlord “Don the Beachcomber,” who launched the craze after opening his now-legendary original tiki bar in LA in the early 1930s.
“We started doing it at B-Side back in the ’90s, and the resurgence came about when bartenders I worked with (read: Jackson Cannon and Misty Kalkofen) started reading cocktail books like Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log, and started making the classics,” he says. “That’s where it started to grow in Boston, as younger bartenders discovered these drinks were really, really good when made right. They weren’t just rum and pineapple, or rum and Hawaiian punch, as you’d get in some places.”
Now, local haunts like Drink, Wink and Nod, and Citizen, and Empire Lounge regularly keeping tiki culture alive (in proper glassware to boot). For Cleve the next stage in the Hub comes down to dedicated enclaves for celebrating tiki culture from soup to nuts.
“I would hope that someone would actually open a place that’s dedicated like they have in places like New Orleans, San Francisco, and LA,” he says. “Boston has such great bartenders and spots doing classic tiki drinks in the mugs, using original recipes from the ’30s and ’40s, all while still creating their own signature concoctions. But it would be nice to have the same with the types of venues where you get the whole experience, where you walk in someplace and it looks like you’re in the [South Pacific], the way the original Don the Beachcomber’s was. Hopefully, that’s what’s next.”