MIXOLOGY TALK PODCAST #179

Just because we can’t go to the bar right now doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with our drinks, and I don’t know if there’s anything more fun in the world of cocktails than tiki! Today, we’re wrapping up our vacation-inspired voyage into tropical cocktails by talking about modern tiki with the very knowledgeable Daniel “Doc” Parks, beverage director of San Francisco’s Pagan Idol and Zombie Village.

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INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • 3:50– Doc’s background
  • 6:25– Doc’s favorite tropical cocktail & his special recipe
  • 8:21– The modern tiki movement
  • 11:55– How cocktail families work in tiki
  • 17:40– Specific tools & tips for tiki
  • 25:57– Doc’s craziest (or best) cocktail & tiki trends

MEET DOC!

After beginning his career as a tasting room manager in San Diego, Daniel “Doc” Parks moved to the Bay Area in 2011 to bartend at the Trader Vic’s flagship restaurant in Emeryville, where he honed his cocktail-making skills. In 2013, he joined the Future Bars group as the Bar Manager of Local Edition. In 2016 he opened the group’s first tiki bar, Pagan Idol, and was responsible for creating the opening beverage program, hiring staff, and leading the design team.

The group opened their second tiki bar, Zombie Village, in early 2019; again, Doc concepted the bar’s overall design and beverage program, as well as assembled the team of tiki artists and sound designers to create custom pieces and the bar’s own signature soundtrack. In his spare time, Doc has served as a judge for various bartending competitions, and his cocktail recipes have been featured in The Complete Cocktail Manual: 285 Tips, Tricks & Recipes by Lou Bustamante and Minimalist Tiki by Matt Pietrek. In 2018, Doc co-founded DDP Hospitality and has consulted on restaurant projects all around the United States.

DOC’S TIKI JOURNEY

Inspired by his grandmother’s affinity for hosting and his grandparents’ friendship with the daughter of Victor Bergeron, Bonnie Seely, Doc always knew he wanted to work in the hospitality industry. After building up his skills working at the original Trader Vic’s, he has become a pillar of the new tropical cocktail movement in San Francisco… He even has a room named after him at Zombie Village, which is pretty darn cool!

SO WHAT IS “MODERN” TIKI?

Like the craft cocktail movement in general, modern tiki really focuses on ingenuity. But there is still reverence for the classics, making it a bartender’s job to find fun ways to riff on the original tropical cocktails.

“I think Modern tiki can take a lot of forms really, so I think switching the spirit base is definitely a good way to expand on some of the formulas we study with classic tiki drinks or classic tropical cocktails. […] And then you have things like amaros and sherries that you see kind of making their way into the ingredient list of some of these newer bars that are out there doing tropical cocktails. Of course, there’s modern techniques as well. […] Those modern techniques are certainly kind of elevating and evolving what we know as tropical and exotic cocktails.” — Doc

A super delicious-sounding example of modern techniques in tropical cocktails is Doc’s combination of the 1978 classic Jungle Bird with the milk punch technique, which is appropriately known at Zombie Village as the “JBMP”. Jump to minute 8:21 to hear Doc talk more about modern tiki and this awesome-sounding cocktail.

TOOLS OF TIKI

OK, so you’re ready to try your hand at making your own tiki cocktails. What are the most important things you’ll need? Here is Doc’s list for ensuring you recreate perfect homages to the original tropical drinks:

  • Ice! If you’ve ever been to a tiki bar, you know that crushed ice is a specific element to making the drink just right. Doc highly recommends the Scotsman crushed ice machine.

    “The absolute most important thing, as always with any type of cocktail, is ice. Having good crushed ice is going to make your cocktails go from OK to good or from good to great. […] When you have a […] perfect Mai tai, for instance, you can enjoy the cocktail through  straw; and usually, if it’s well balanced, you’re going to kill that drink before your ice melts and you’re going to be left with about half a glass of clean, fresh-crushed ice.”– Doc

Pro Tip: if you’re making tropical cocktails at home, hit up your local Sonic Burger for a bag of pebble ice for a more authentic feel!

TIKI & COCKTAIL FAMILIES

How exactly do traditional cocktail families play into tiki cocktails? Or do they? According to Doc, they do… Kind of.

Cocktail families like sours and punches— and specific styles like daiquiris and old fashioneds— are all relevant as a starting point for your tiki cocktail; then you build on them with a tropical profile, taking an existing recipe style and playing with it to create a Tiki version. Some would even argue that tropical is its own cocktail family, but I’ll leave that debate to the experts.

An example Doc gives (and one we’ve actually tried!) is Pagan Idol’s Pineapple Express: an egg white sour with a rum blend, passionfruit syrup, vanilla bitters, lemon, and pineapple. In this case, you’d start with a classic egg white sour profile and switch out the base spirit for rum and then add the other ingredients, like passionfruit and pineapple, for a tropical feel. 

But there’s an even more important role that cocktail families play in tropical drinks: 

There are a lot of steps to making a tiki cocktail, so knowing the family structure really helps!

“When you’re memorizing these recipes, that’s where [cocktail families] really come into play. when you are building 5 or more cocktails at once, and they all have 5-plus touches, grouping them in families is one way to help keep your mind straight on which cocktail  is which and to build effectively and efficiently.” –Doc

WHERE TO LOOK FOR INSPIRATION

As Beachbum Berry mentioned when he talked with Chris about tropical cocktails, inspiration can come from so many places. And modern tiki is about mixing old and new, classic with modern, of course. So where else can you glean inspiration? Here are some of Doc’s suggestions and favorite new trends: 

  • Different parts of the world are a great start when looking for new trends, especially in tiki. (This is, after all, an entire movement based on tropical locales.)
  • Alternate spirits such as agave, sherries, and Amaros
  • Modern techniques implemented in tasteful ways can be so exciting in tropical cocktails. (For example, Fat washes with coconut, pork fat, and rum butter are just a couple interesting new trends we’re seeing… I would never think of something like that, which is why I’m not the master bartender!)

And, speaking of the experts, Doc has a couple public virtual happy hours coming up, so follow him on Instagram for more updates on events.

In the meantime, we really want to see what tropical creation you come up with. Do you have a new technique to elevate a classic tiki cocktail? Share it with us! And, of course, don’t forget to head to our shop to grab everything you need to make the cocktail (tiki or otherwise) of your dreams at home.

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