Tiki Crawl VI

China Clipper

China Clipper

  • 1oz lemon juice
  • 1oz five spice syrup
  • 2oz aged amber rum (Cruzan Estate Dark, Appleton Estates V/X, Brugal Anejo, Lemon Hart 80 pf, or Pyrat XO)
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish.

Source: Forbidden Island

Five Spice Syrup

Combine 1 rounded teaspoon of five spice powder with 2c of sugar and 1c of water. Heat on low until the sugar is dissolved. Squeeze through a cheesecloth into a bottle. Keep in your refrigerator for about a month… as if it will last that long.

Tiki culture has always been close to my heart. Whether it was Greg Brady falling prey to a tiki curse on reruns of The Brady Bunch or the unsettling saccharine song of the animatronic birds in Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room, the spark of tiki magic has always ignited a bonfire in my loins heart.

Rick’s recent love affair with tiki drinks, showcased here, has fed that fire, and recently, the spirits of tiki granted my heart’s wish and relocated me to San Francisco, the mecca of tiki culture, and just in time for the sixth annual “Tiki Weekend” bar crawl.

The Tiki Weekend is a manifestation of the ancient power flowing through another venerable webspace, This year, the bar tour spanned three days (Thursday through Saturday) with a Sunday brunch. While I do not yet possess the necessary fortitude to attempt such an undertaking, I threw myself into the anchor leg of the crawl, and spent twelve hours on Saturday drinking my way across the East Bay.

Two gents sipping from a flaming tiki bowl with long strawsThe original meeting point was Trader Vic’s in Emeryville. This is the flagship of the Trader Vic’s chain of restaurants. Of course, the traditional drink here is the Mai Tai, but I’ve had a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai before, and I was looking to try something new. Defying reason and logic, I had two drinks here, a tasty TV Grog, and another drink who’s name has escaped me. Of course both were fabulously mixed, but I was also pleased to see that the presentation was everything you’d expect. The ratio of ice to drink was perfect, and each drink was garnished with a generous sprig of mint and fresh fruit impaled on a tiki swizzle stick. Unbelievably, even the maraschino cherries tasted good. The second drink was served in a classic coconut mug, which I also enjoyed. The sense of touch is often unsatisfied in the course of imbibing cocktails, but groping a tiki mug greatly enhances the sensory experience.

Now, after a pair of tiki-strength cocktails in a short span, (to say nothing of those who had been drinking more or less nonstop since Thursday afternoon) no one was in any shape to drive. Enter the Tiki Bus! Fifty or more tiki aficionados traveled in high style throughout the day, with the occasional sing-along breaking out in the back. I think there was a ukulele.

Ere long we arrived at stop number two on our tour, Forbidden Island. To quote one of the tiki people: “This is where you’re going to want to do most of your drinking.” Indeed, Forbidden Island is the newest and best tiki bar on the scene in the Bay Area. Though inconveniently located off the beaten path, this bar is a tiki-lover’s dream. A custom-carved tiki presides over the bar from its perch above a green-lit pool of water. The interior looks like they hollowed out a pirate ship and snuck a tiki bar inside (and indeed, a fanciful tale outlining the mythical origins of the bar on the back of the menu would lead you to believe as much). Rattan furniture and partitions are paired with pufferfish lamps, and the jukebox in the corner is populated almost solely by surf music. A heretofore unheard of number of rums are visible behind the bar, along with some spiffy mugs, including Muktiki’s luscious fugu bowl. The bathroom is a retro fantasia of all things tiki.

A tasty looking tiki mug filled with drinkWhile I’m guessing you’d be hard pressed to find anything undelicious here, the bar’s eponymous signature drink, “The Forbidden Island” is a tropical treat worth making the trip for. Additionally, it is served in a miniature replica of the bar’s patron tiki—a mug that can be yours for an additional five dollars. The Scorpion Bowl, a tiki staple, achieves a new level of excellence here where rum-soaked croutons are sacrificed to the bowl’s volcano to provide a pleasing aroma while you sip. The aforementioned fugu bowl is utilized for the “Fugu for Two,” which more than one brave soul attempted to solo. In all cases, the libations were quintessentially tiki, smoothly blending unknown fruit juices with a joyous quality of rum. This was essentially the highlight of the day.

Additional bars were visited and patronized, but none matched the quality of the first stops, and at some point, the nine or ten straight hours of drinking began to take its toll on your intrepid reporter. Nonetheless, at least a few dozen of the hardiest partiers remained at our final destination of the evening: Oakland’s Kona Club, located just down the street from Trader Vic’s final resting place. With bamboo interiors by the renowned Bamboo Ben (who was among the revelers), and a life-size brass hula dancer with gyrating hips, the décor here was sufficiently pleasing, but, the music had a decidedly Top 40 slant that left a bitter aftertaste. A fabulous tiki raffle rounded out the evening.

Thus concluded the sixth annual Tiki Weekend, with promises to return next year, bigger and better than ever. Until then, the rum enjoyed on this evening shall suffice to keep the tiki torch in my mind blazing brightly. Mahalo!

– Adam, Tiki Reporter

Many thanks to Kaiser Penguin’s brave reporter, Adam. If only penguins did not crave the frigid temperatures of central Pennsylvania, I would indeed join Adam weekly to plunder and drink at the Forbidden Island. So entranced was I by his description of the hollowed out pirate ship of a bar, I dared to email Martin, the owner of Forbidden Island, for a few of his original drink recipes. He responded with flair offering up the recipe for the drink pictured above, the China Clipper.

I was told rather gently that their signature drink, “The Forbidden Island,” is top secret and that there was little chance of me ever finding out what it contains. It’s so secret in fact, that in true Trader Vic form, not even his own bartenders know the recipe. They, indeed, pour from numbered bottles.

Thanks again to Adam, and find out more about Tiki Weekend so you can join us next year!

17 Responses to “Tiki Crawl VI”

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17 Comments to “ Tiki Crawl VI”
  1. HumuhumuNo Gravatar says:

    Fabulous write-up! Happy to hear you had a good time drinking and carousing with us, Adam. Your second drink at Trader Vic’s — if it came in a coconut mug, it was probably a Kamaaina.

    Anyone visiting the Bay Area who wants to partake in excellent tiki drinks needs to visit Forbidden Island, the drink quality is simply stellar. Another outpost worth a visit for those with a discerning drink palate is Martini Monkey, which was visited on the Thursday night of the Tiki Weekend. The bartender there, Jay, is dedicated and friendly, and extremely talented. I’ll be doing a write-up on Martini Monkey soon in my blog.

  2. MrBaliHaiNo Gravatar says:

    Very nice account, and fabulous cocktail photography as always! What is the name of the drink in the header of the post with the Star Anise floating in it?

    One of these days, I’m going to make it to a tiki crawl with the TC crowd, but so far this year, events have conspired to prevent my attendance.

  3. RickNo Gravatar says:

    The picture at the top is the China Clipper. Should I make that more clear than the little bit of text floating in a paragraph somewhere near the bottom?

  4. MrBaliHaiNo Gravatar says:

    Probably a good idea. I assumed it was something different, because the recipe you posted didn’t call for Star Anise, and I thought the garnish was some sort of exotic mushroom. D’oh!

  5. RickNo Gravatar says:

    I loathe making citrus spiral garnishes, so I thought I’d do something a little different. :) Mushrooms!

  6. MartikiNo Gravatar says:

    Aloha all, and thanks for the kind words! Great picture of the clipper- nice touch with the mug and garnish!

    Readers of Kaiser Penguin should say hi when they’re in town.

    Best regards,

    ps- The secret recipe will go with me to the grave! Bwahahaha!

  7. MartikiNo Gravatar says:

    Rick- it’s actually 1 oz fresh LEMON juice in the Clipper.

  8. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Well then… I’ll have to try it with lemon juice. It’s quite tasty with lime.

  9. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    Many thanks for the kind comments! I hope to have many more tiki-related assignments in the future.

  10. […] The anglicization of kaiserpinguin notwithstanding, is an entertaining place to bathe your mind in precious gins, this week moreso than most, as Rick is featuring a splendid bit of journalism wherein yours truly recaps his recent “Tiki Weekend” escapades. […]

  11. CraigerNo Gravatar says:

    Sounds like a blast! I browsed the copious envy-inducing photos over at Tiki Central, and I wish I could have been there too.

    But all is not lost- the copy of Beachbum Berry’s Intoxica! that I ordered several weeks ago arrived this very day. Time to get mixing!

    And another bee-yootiful pic, Rick.

  12. erik_flannestadNo Gravatar says:

    Great writeup; but, now I am doubly bummed we were out of town that weekend!

    Perhaps next year!

    I will get to Forbidden Island some time really soon, it sounds great.

  13. erik_flannestadNo Gravatar says:

    Martin, at least I’m assuming Martiki is Martin Cate, nice mention in today’s Chronicle Wine section!

    When’s a good time to visit Forbidden Island when the line isn’t out the door?

  14. EricNo Gravatar says:

    oooh – guest reporting! Remind me to get in on that :-)

  15. […] Speaking of Forbidden Island, they’ve had two fantastic write-ups lately. The first is actually a write-up of our Tiki Crawl that happened last month, on the Kaiser Penguin blog. It’s a great article, and Forbidden Island appropriately gets heavy mention, including the recipe of their very-tasty China Clipper (one of the great drinks to come out of Martin’s lab). The other is an article in the San Francisco Chronicle looking at summer drinks around the Bay Area; again, Forbidden Island gets the meat of the article, and several more recipes are included there. Congrats to Forbidden Island! […]

  16. […] to Five Spice syrup thanks to Martin Cate, who uses it in the Forbidden Island specialty drink, the China Clipper. I twisted it a bit with a darker sugar. We all gotta make it our own, […]

  17. […] lately. The first is actually a write-up of our Tiki Crawl that happened last month, on the Kaiser Penguin blog. It’s a great article, and Forbidden Island appropriately gets heavy mention, including the […]

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

Why on Earth did you name your blog “Kaiser Penguin?”

It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.