But if you had to chose, which one? Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic’s cocktails?
It all started innocently, but Ashleigh had asked a question that I’d never considered. We were having a simple conversation about the origins of tiki drinks, but she’d cut right to the dramatic climax, that final cliffhanger before a final series of bad commercials that leave you in a mix of horrid suspense for way too long.
How would I answer? How should I answer? How could I answer?
Scott and Ashleigh just opened The Royal Tot, a wonderful new tropical bar in Charlotte, North Carolina that serves some amazing tiki cocktails, and I’d been invited to “talk tiki” and sample the mastery of their beverage director’s classic and modern creations. When I started by ordering a Mai Tai, Ash asked me if the Mai Tai was the “first” tiki drink. So, I launched into a brief explanation (it might have bordered on mansplaining, I admit) of Don the Beachcomer and Trader Vic’s creations of the original cocktails. I stressed the importance of Beachbum Berry’s amazing work to catalog and establish cannon for what we now know as tiki drinks.
But which one is your favorite? Don the Beachcomer or Trader Vic?
There must have been an awkward pause as I imagined all of the air had left the room. She really wanted me to choose between them.
I couldn’t speak. It felt something akin to becoming Meryl in the final scene from Sophie’s Choice, or that moment when Kirk is faced with the Kobiashi Maru, or when Indiana Jones has to chose the right chalice, or when your least favorite child asks you who is your favorite child, or worst ever, when some unsuspecting well-intentioned friend asks you what your favorite tiki bar is. Amiright? God forbid we’d ever have to select just one!
So, I answered “both.”
Ashleigh was not dissuaded. She looked at me, intent, quietly waiting for my answer.
So, I considered the question for another moment, and I said “Trader Vic.” My rationale was that he introduced more flavor profiles and additional options of ingredients that expanded tiki offerings. Of course, it could have also been that I was sipping on a Mai Tai, which was Trader Vic’s creation.
But, as soon as the words left my mouth, I felt guilty. It was my horrible choice at the train, my failure of the Kobiashi. I was worried I had picked the wrong chalice. I could just see Earnest Gantt, in his iconic hat, in the fog down the train station platform, shaking his head, so sadly.
Was it too late to take it back?
Thank goodness we really don’t have to choose. Pour me another Mai Tai.