When Beachbum Berry released his Grog Log in 1998, it was a watershed moment in the rediscovery and revival of the classic tiki/tropical drink. Shortly after, a number of authors attempted to jump on the bandwagon, often publishing the same disgustingly un-potable pre-revival recipes that had turned people away from rum drinks in the first place. Home mixologists, inspired by Berry's work, started learning the flavor profiles of the tiki drink's stable of ingredients and began creating and publishing new recipes, often on personal blogs and with little fanfare other than the admiration of others in the scene.
One of these home mixologists, 'Kahuna' Kevin La Bounty, has taken the bold move of self-publishing a collection of his original recipes. KAHUNA KEVIN'S Why Is The Rum Gone? - A Collection Of 40 Tiki-Licious Rum Cocktails (Volume #1) is the result, and it's absolutely worth the effort.
Despite being self-produced, the book is professionally printed on thick 100-pound glossy paper and is spiral bound for ease of use in the kitchen or behind the bar. The entire book is attractively designed and printed in full color. I really like the fact that each drink is accompanied with a photo to give you an idea of what it will look like completed. At the bottom of each page are five outlined stars that you can fill in to rate each recipe as you work through the book—a very smart idea that I wish more recipe books had. There is no index, so unfortunately there's no way to find out which drinks contain which ingredients at a glance, but this is a minor quibble.
The flavor profiles of the 40 drinks in the book will be exceedingly agreeable to anyone who likes cocktails from Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic's, and the Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale. Most drinks are a combination of fruit juices, syrups, and a combination of rums. The ingredients Kevin calls for are excellent—the rums, in particular, are very high quality. While this has a huge benefit in flavor, it does have two minor drawbacks: cost and availability. The more exotic of Kevin's rums run $30 a bottle and up and many of them (and the other ingredients) weren't even available in my area. Tack on shipping charges and suddenly some of the hard-to-get ingredients (like Depaz cane syrup) nearly doubled in cost. Availability may not be an issue if you live in a major metropolitan area or a more mixing-friendly state like California, but here in Florida the rarer items are hard to come by. Having said this, each of them are outstanding selections and totally worth the expense if you can afford it.
Also worth noting is the complexity of the drinks: many contain a dozen or more ingredients which must be precisely measured. It may seem daunting, but again, the result is worth the effort.
Putting the Recipes to the Test!
For review purposes, we chose three drinks to evaluate: Bac-O-tini, Punahele Pod, and the Scurvy Mouthbanger.
As bacon is on the upswing in popularity, I expected the Bac-O-tini to be a cute novelty drink. How wrong I was: the drink is an incredibly balanced and delicious concoction which hangs on the interplay of Zaya Gran Reserva 12 year rum, maple syrup, and brown sugar. It's as if these are made for each other—the combination of flavors is absolutely brilliant!
The Scurvy Mouthbanger is fine combination of orange and lime juice, falernum, and light rum and is exceptionally smooth and balanced. One of the simpler drinks, I highly recommend this one for parties.
Finally, we rolled up our sleeves and got to slicing pineapples to make the Punahele Pod. This is a very complex drink, combining 4 juices (including pineapple juice you squeeze), 2 rums, 2 syrups, and allspice dram. How is it? Mind-blowing. Life changing. Baby making. It's simply that good.
If you're a budding home mixologist that has worked your way through the Grog Log and Trader Vic's Tiki Party, Kahuna Kevin's Why is the Rum Gone? is a must-have for your bookshelf. Those with discriminating tastes will enjoy sampling Kevin's beautiful, complex, and satisfying flavors.
Purchase Kahuna Kevin's Why is the Rum Gone? (Vol 1) directly from the author's website
Note: Tiki Talk is giving away a signed copy of Kevin's book in our monthly contest. Enter now for a chance to win!