Back in December the A Drink With team celebrated the year with tiki drinks and luau bites at Chicago’s River North Polynesian lounge, Three Dots and a Dash. Picture punch bowls of rum, cocktails with fire and stories told about some of the great fathers of tiki. Diane Corcoran of Lettuce Entertain You gave a “history of tiki” cocktail class. It was a night to remember (or for some of us, maybe not). Nevertheless, once the rum hangover cured, the team went back, grabbed another drink with Corcoran and this time (sans fiery cocktails) recorded the conversation. Alas, every great drink has a great story and interesting person behind it.
First off, do you have a rum hangover cure?
More rum! You could do rum and orange juice. Actually, you could do a Painkiller [Virgin Island and Jamaican rums, coconut, passion fruit, pineapple and cream]. That’s what it was meant for in the first place.
What are we drinking?
This is called the “Pieces of Eight.” It’s just a really nice, light punch – a white rum, Velvet Falernum, passion fruit and lemon juice. Four ingredients. Very simple. One of my goals is always to create a four-ingredient cocktail, just for the ease of bartenders and simplicity. I personally like really simple cocktails.
Is there such thing as a rum cocktail that is low in sugar?
I would do a really cool rum old fashioned. So [you use] rum, instead of honey syrup you use demerara syrup and a little bit of bitters. That’s really great or just a really simple daiquiri, but for that you can cut the sugar back and make it a little more tart.
What cocktail trends are coming to Chicago?
Tiki is so big. It was kind of that next step in cocktails. Bartenders and mixologists started dabbling with a lot of recipes and using great ingredients. That was kind of how the movement [became reborn]. I’m seeing more and more people doing it even in their cocktail bars. There’s always a tiki-inspired cocktail on the menu. Rum is big. There’s also a lot of people drinking agave spirits, whether it’s tequila or mezcal.
Who are some of the legends in the tiki world?
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is one of the biggest players in the tiki world today. He was the one that went out and did all the research and found all of these recipes that we were able to recreate. He found bartenders that used to work at Don the Beachcomber and old notebooks and then deciphered all of these recipes. He’s written tons of books on the subject. There’s Martin Cate out in San Francisco with Smuggler’s Cove. There are a ton of old tiki bars that are still open today. There are some Trader Vic’s still open and there are tiki bars down in Florida. They’re everywhere.
Has Beachbum ever been here?
Yes, he has. He just opened up his own tiki bar [Latitude 29] down in New Orleans. He also judged a tiki competition that I did in New York.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about rum?
This was a whole new world for me – this style of drink, style of spirit, style of partying. I think it surprised me that rum is so versatile. You can do a lot with it. It blends well with a ton of different spirits and flavors, whether it’s tropical, or spicy or savory. You can really have a lot of fun with it.
You’ve mastered tiki drinks, but you’re a Midwest girl from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What do you drink when you’re home?
I’m going to lose all of my credibility right now. I guarantee you that I will be drinking a lot of Coors Light when I go home.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
Can I just throw a big party? Let’s see… Because I’m such a sports fan, I would want Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning there. Then I was thinking Miranda Lambert just because she’s awesome and she would be a lot of fun to hang out with. Also, Johnny Cash. And I think any one of the former presidents. I just want to pick their brain. It doesn’t matter which one. I’d be like, “Hey, okay. Tell me what really happened.”
What would you mix up for everyone?
I’d probably start off with a big punch bowl or we’d all go crazy and get Treasure Chests and then take it from there.
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