By Drink Sanford
Leave your worries at the door and enter into an exotic locale right in the middle of Downtown Sanford. Let the bartenders at The Suffering Bastard hand you a rum cocktail in an anthropomorphic mug and fly you to a far off Polynesian island, complete with a tropical and Asian inspired menu from Da Kine Poke.
For tiki culture fans and rum lovers, having an authentic tiki bar on this side of Central Florida is kind of a big deal. The tiki resurgence has hit San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and now, finally, Sanford. So here’s what you need to know before you break out your old Florida kitsch and paper umbrellas.
Donn Beach (he legally changed his name from Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt) opened the nation’s first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, in 1934 in Hollywood. It was the perfect place to display his souvenirs from his travels to Tahiti. Others, like Trader Vic’s in Oakland, shortly followed suit, serving a Depression and Prohibition-recovering population that wanted a drink and an escape. The tiki craze continued through the 1950’s and early 1960’s. However, by the late 1960’s, Vietnam and a growing number of youth rejecting anything their parents enjoyed, helped push tiki culture and cocktails out of fashion. Fortunately, the appreciation for classic and craft cocktail-making made a comeback in the 21st century and the American desire to escape reality has placed tiki once again in the mainstream.
The tiki experience is all about sneaking away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. Thatch, bamboo, dark woods, and rattan create the foundation of a tiki bar. Walls are decorated with seafaring elements and fish float lamps dot the seemingly endless black sky above. The background music is a mix of exotica, bossa nova, and lounge styles (we suggest playing Arthur Lyman’s Taboo to set the mood for your home bar). Loud, yet tastefully patterned flowered-shirts and dresses are encouraged, but this is most certainly not an excuse to wear socks with your flip-flops.
Tiki drinks are primarily rum-based (but not exclusively), include juices and spices, and can often be on the boozy side. They can be served with pieces of fruit and sometimes aesthetically pleasing flowers as an extra garnish. And if that were not enough, some tiki drinks are lit on fire. A select few tiki drinks are served in large bowls with multiple straws to be shared among friends. Some popular drinks for tiki beginners include the Painkiller, Navy Grog, and Mai Tai; and for those who prefer bourbon, the Port Light.
Make it at Home: Mai Tai
Tiki drinks at the home bar are not for the faint of heart. Exotic and fresh ingredients can be hard to come by on a moment’s notice, and to make matters a little more complicated, there are debates on which recipes are the original and most tasty.
We highly recommend sipping on the original 1944 Mai Tai recipe at The Suffering Bastard which uses dark Jamaican rum as well as Martinique rhum – yes, there’s rum and rhum, and yes, they are different; chat about it with your bartender. But for this home bar recipe we’ll just use one r(h)um of your choice.
3⁄4 oz Fresh lime juice
1⁄4 oz Rich demerara simple syrup (2:1 ratio)
1⁄4 oz Orgeat almond syrup
1⁄2 oz Orange curaçao
2 oz Bold, aged rum
12 oz crushed ice
Pour ingredients into shaker and add 2 cups of crushed ice. Shake well for 10 seconds and pour unstrained into a rocks glass. Add lime and mint as garnish.
The Suffering Bastard
Located inside Tuffy’s Bottle Shop & Lounge, The Suffering Bastard is a first-come, first serve establishment with dozens of tiki drinks on the menu. Ask a bartender how the bar got its name and they’ll point to a drink on the list.
The interior was well-crafted by scenic artist and tiki enthusiast Typhoon Tommy, who literally wrote the book on tiki decorating. Every detail was carefully chosen and covered with care. And for those paying attention, you may see some familiar items, like the shelving behind the bar from the former JAWS ride at Universal Studios.
The Suffering Bastard is the ideal place for a date night or a celebration with a small group of friends over a large punch bowl. Look them up at Instagram.com/SufferingBastardTiki.
Drink Sanford is an art project that celebrates the craft, history, and the people on both sides of the bar in Sanford, Florida. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and check out our blog at www.DrinkSanford.com for more stories on home bar experiments, beverage history, and travel.