Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Connoisseurs Club - Jeff Berry

Let me introduce you The Connoisseurs Club for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of attending. The Connoisseurs Club was created by Steven Pattison and Sean Muldoon on 2nd October 2007, the ethos behind it is to create regular seminars that educate and inform the bar tending and brand community. Since its conception it has welcomed 2000 visitors and 20 guest speakers from all over the world.

It is free to attend a seminar, you just have to find your way over to The Merchant in Belfast, which is a beautiful spot and is home to one of the best bars I've ever propped up.

I've been to 4 of the seminars at The Connoisseurs Club and each time the no of people in attendance has grown. The speakers are not paid, but each seminar is sponsored by a different brand. Jeff Berry's seminar on the history of Tiki Cocktails was sponsored by Bacardi.

I was excited about learning the history of Tiki cocktails as so far my research had included drinking my fair share in Trailer H and Mahiki. 

We all met at the Merchant hotel for a large rum and coke and were then ushered on to a double decker bus to a secret venue, the venue turned out to be the music hall at the Queens University, a very majestic setting for such a wonderfully interesting and historic subject. I had never met Jeff Berry before but was instantly dazzled by his amazing Tiki themed jacket, it put the other Hawaiian style shirts to shame.

This is some of what I learnt before the Tiki effect took hold. Tiki drinks were originally exotic of faux tropicals invented by bartenders in Hollywood in the 1930's, the first Tiki period was the 1930's to the 1970's, the Tiki bartenders were the molecular mixologists of their time, Tiki has been enjoying a bit of  a long overdue renaissance for the past few years. 

Imagine Hollywood in the 1930's, the glamour and decadence, bars were built like film sets, in fact art directors created bar design back then.

It was Don the Beachcomber that really put Tiki on the map, he was a legendary mixologist and one of the first pioneers of 'farm to glass'. Don was born in 1907 in New Orleans, his father owned a hotel but at an early age Don travelled the world particularly focusing on Polynesia, Don's grandfather had been a rum runner. Don opened his first Beachcomber bar in Hollywood in 1934. Don created many Tiki cocktails including The Zombie, Don's Daquiri and
 the Mai Tai (although there is much debate as to the true originator). 

Don married Sunny, a model from the mid west, she was the business brain behind Don and turned his bar into a big restaurant, it was the Spago of his day and patronised by Howard Hughes and Charlie Chaplin amongst other big stars.

Of course with any new successful trends, competition became rife and other Polynesian style restaurants started to pop up all over Hollywood, Don's bartenders started to get poached and his cocktail recipes stolen.  Don started to code his recipes, Tiki bartenders all had little black books which were their recipe bibles.

10 years later Victor Bergeron opened a chain of restaurants called Trader Vics, he claims to have invented the Mai Tai although Don claims to have invented this in 1932.

Don moved to Waikiki in Hawaii after World War II and opened another restaurant he also built an elaborate houseboat, the Marama, a prototype for what he hoped would be a floating housing in Hawaii, he eventually shipped it to Moorea where he lived out his retirement.

I am now on a quest to learn more about Tiki and have a new found respect for it. One of the first books I will be reading is Don's very own Hawaii Tropical Drinks and Cuisine.

My evening ended early as I had forgotten how very strong Tiki cocktails are, so I sent myself to bed with the my best Irish Goodbye yet! This was unusual for a Connoisseurs Club, the last one ended in a Country and Western night at The Spaniard.

The next Connoisseurs Club is in June.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Check out the very first sentence under the first photo. Think there is a typo.
Look forward to looking at your site more later.
Thank you, M