Here we present the Tiki Triangle which is all things Polynesian Pop, Culture and that which falls in the Tiki-Triangle from the South Pacific to West Indian Islands and down into parts of South America.
The History: If you don’t already know it, the islands and the new world were discovered by sailors. It does not matter if it was Vikings, British, Spaniards, Portuguese, US Navy during wartime, or otherwise, the common denominating factor is it was all due to sailors that we learned this culture. Before Americans had facts, they had stories. Most Americans did not have money to travel, so they relied on stories from those who did to envision the idea of a tropical paradise.
Polynesian is definitely not was captured in this 1970s frozen TV dinner. This is just wrong on every level, but its typical for the marketers to cash in on any pop culture craze.
Polynesian comes from the word poly meaning many. But the question of where Polynesia is or what culture it entails is too broad. The best example is that of Easter Island. Ask anyone where it is and they will say the South Pacific. Never would they say the country of Chile, but the fact is Easter Island is territory of Chile and if you watch the movie or read the book Kon Tiki, they express that it is far more logical and practical that explorers traveled from east to west rather than vice verse.
But let’s not take the fun out of this with history, geography or even facts. Let’s just enjoy a pop culture phenomenon which everyone seems to love, Tiki and Polynesian Pop culture.
The Founder: In the 1930s a man known by the name of Don The Beachcomber was serving exotic cocktails and had to offer his patrons something to eat, so he hired Chinese cooks to prepare easy dishes to serve. Thus the Tiki culture was born. It was a fictitious interpretation of culture which was far to broad to summarize in a single themed restaurant, but somehow it stuck, and nearly a century later we still have fond images and fantasies of women in grass skirts, drinks in fresh pineapples and flaming pu pu platters of delectable Asian cuisine to nibble on while escaping from reality for a bit.
The Cocktails: Starting with the basics of tiki drinks, limes were grown in the tropics, and limes full of Vitamin C helped prevent diseases like scurvy. Its no wonder that limes are the base of nearly every drink today, especially where rum is involved. Rum, also made from sugar cane is from the new world, the Caribbean and tropics. So its safe to say Sailors, Rum and Lime all go together.
The Cuisine: Tiki or Polynesian pop culture is something that originated in the mid century USA. Some say it was as early as the 1930s after prohibition, some indicate it was in the 1940s and 1950s when soldiers at war and/or stationed in the South Pacific returned home with stories of exotic food, women and drink.
The Music: Tiki is an experience or an escape so much more than it is a cocktail or drink. It is really hard to come up with a single definition of this term and there is no real authenticity to it. Should you walk into a tiki bar and they are playing anything from the 1980s it ruins it for me. The 1980s is what saw the death and basically all but buried tiki. That, along with artificially powdered sweet and sour mix is what the 1980s is all about. So, no 80s music, no reggae either. As much as I love reggae and it might remind people of Jamaica and the Caribbean islands, those cultures are very real and authentic and should not be confused with the Americanized fantasy of the South Pacific. The only type of music other than erotica might be anything that pre-dates the mid 1970s backwards.
Starting with the basics of tiki drinks, limes were grown in the tropics, and limes full of Vitamin C helped prevent diseases like scurvy. Its no wonder that limes are the base of nearly every drink today, especially where rum is involved. Rum, also made from sugar cane is from the new world, the Caribbean and tropics. So its safe to say Sailors, Rum and Lime all go together.
The musts of tiki or Polynesian style cocktails and drinks always contain fresh fruit juices, never powdered mixes. Try to remember, you are on a tropical island somewhere, void of preservatives and supermarkets. Everything must be fresh.
Bars, Books, Movies & Recipes:
- Chan’s Dragon Inn
- China Paradise
- Kon Tiki
- Lee’s Hawaiian Islander
- Otto’s Shrunken Head
- Tiki Drinks