Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tiki - 20th-century Polynesian Pop Culture

Tiki culture is a 20th-century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic, being an American kitsch form and not a Polynesian fine art form.
Tiki culture in the United States began in 1934 with the opening of Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in Hollywood. The proprietor was Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, a young man from Louisiana who had sailed throughout the South Pacific; later he legally changed his name to Donn Beach. His restaurant featured Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punches, with a decor of flaming torches, rattan furniture, flower leis, and brightly colored fabrics. 

Three years later, Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adopted a Tiki theme for his restaurant in Oakland, which eventually grew to become a worldwide chain. The theme took on a life during the restaurant's growth in the Bay Area. The Trader Vic's in Palo Alto even spawned architectural choices, such as the concept behind the odd-looking Tiki Inn Motel, which still exists as the Stanford Terrace Inn.
Tiki culture of mid-century America was primarily born in the restaurant industry. Don the Beachcomber's in Hollywood, California, is largely credited as being the first tiki restaurant from which all other eateries and bars "borrowed." Donn Beach, the founder of Don The Beachcomber, is also credited as having created the tropical drink genre singlehandedly. Donn was the first restaurateur to mix flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum. These drinks were called Rhum Rhapsodies and made Don the Beachcomber's restaurant the hot spot for Hollywood elite and stars from the 1940s well into the 1960s. By the mid to late 1950s, many restaurateurs had begun to copy, and in some cases, steal Donn's theme, food and cocktails. Many eventually created their own cocktails and signature food dishes based on Asian themes. Donn Beach is credited for having created some of the most memorable exotic cocktails such as the Scorpion and the Zombie. Howard Hughes was a regular at the

Hollywood Don the Beachcomber.
Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron was a Donn Beach contemporary and the founder of Trader Vic's restaurant chain. Both created a variety of "Polynesian" dishes, including crab Rangoon and rumaki.
The Mai tai is considered to be the quintessential tiki cocktail. A protracted feud between Donn Beach and Trader Vic erupted when both claimed to have invented the mai tai.
Most tiki-themed establishments served at least some of their cocktails in ceramic mugs depicting tikis; also known as tiki mugs. The styles and sizes varied widely. Most restaurants offered their signature drink in a tiki mug that the patron was able to take home. This led to a large number of tiki mugs surviving as souvenirs. Today, the tiki mug is a highly prized find and is considered to be as much a symbol of the Tiki culture as a tiki itself.
With the resurgence of tiki culture in the later part of the 1990s, resurgence in the interest of the original exotic cocktails has grown as well. Jeff "Beachbum" Berry released several drink books containing the recipes for many of the signature drinks from long lost tiki restaurants and bars, as well as classic tiki cocktails from Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcombers.
Today, Trader Vic's is the only major restaurant chain still in operation. However, a new Don the Beachcomber was opened in Huntington Beach, California in 2009—having taken over Sam's Seafood Restaurant/Kona. Sam's was also a long lived tiki-themed restaurant that dated back to the 1940s. It was sold in 2007 and the name was changed to Kona for a short period before the current owner of the Don the Beachcomber corporate name took it over.
Get Tiki Farm Mugs at the Wunderkabinett online store 

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