PARADISE FOUND: TIKI’S CARIBBEAN ORIGINS WRITTEN BY RENEE CEBULA
In 1945, a wave of American servicemen began coming home from the Pacific Theater, having defeated the Empire of Japan in some of the most brutal combat of the Second World War. These sailors, flyboys, and marines— people from the cornfields of Iowa to city slickers from New York—had seen parts of the world that only a handful of Americans had known before. Sand beaches, palms trees, exotic cultures, and beautiful island women made a deep impression on many. Back home, some would try to recreate the better part of their wartime experience by embracing Tiki, a uniquely American popular cultural movement that appropriated Polynesian culture to create distinctive new commercial architecture, food, and drinks. This movement, however, was really a rebranding of a much older tradition. The Tiki drinks of mid-century post-war America originated with American imperialism in the Caribbean and Central America in the late 1800s. When not busy digging the Panama Canal, American engineers, military personnel, and laborers experienced both the tropical environs and exotic drinks. Word of drinks such as the cocoyage, bird of paradise fizz, and the ubiquitous daiquiri spread, palates developed, and rituals were created around these rum concoctions. Prohibition gave the tropical rum craze a boost. Tourists from the states flooded places such as Havana and Jamaica, drinking daiquiris and swizzles. Meanwhile, bootlegger’s boats loaded with rum made midnight rendezvous up and down the East Coast supplying speakeasies. These clandestine establishments were soon looking for the latest drink recipes to utilize all that smuggled Caribbean gold. Havana became the center of this new drinking tradition. Commercial cruise lines advertised drinking vacations to the Caribbean, and the development of rail and air transportation enabled Americans to get to that daiquiri faster. American bartenders went abroad and staffed the swanky new hotels that were rising along Havana’s Paseo del Prado. Multilingual bartenders such as José Abeal Y Otero (aka Sloppy Joe, widely considered to be the finest barman in the world) made Havana home. Winter- and Prohibition-weary middle class Americans soaked up sun whilst sipping drinks adorned with pineapple slices and citrus wedges. Lingering effects from the First WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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