Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Review: Beachbum Berry Remixed

© Jeff Berry, 2010
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry is, without a question, one of the most important figures in the current tiki revival. I am far from the first to sing his praises. While a self-professed bum, he has spent countless hours scouring old cocktail books and interviewing the remaining tiki bartenders to pry the secrets of lost tiki drinks from them. Given the secrecy surrounding a lot of tiki drinks, that was no easy task. The founders of tiki, namely Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, used all sorts of tricks to prevent their bartenders walking off with the most important drink recipes when they were hired away by rivals. Some of the trickiest ingredients, like "Don's Spices" and "Don's Mix" were such closely held secrets that it took decades of investigative work and no small amount of luck to figure out what they were.

Beachbum Berry Remixed contains most of the recipes from two of his earlier works, Grog Log and Intoxica!, which have been updated and reworked as necessary. In addition, there are a number of new recipes, both from Berry himself and from the growing legion of tiki-phile bartenders across the globe. All said and done, there are several hundred recipes, most tested and honed over the last decade. To make things even more interesting, the recipes are interspersed with bits of tiki history, from the long running debate over the creation of the Mai-Tai to the complex trail of leads that the 'Bum followed to determine the true recipe for the Zombie.

This is definitely the best book to get if you want an introduction to tiki. You'll get some good background and enough recipes that it's pretty much guaranteed there'll be something in there for everyone. To reduce the confusion of all the obscure ingredients, there's a list in the back that explains what everything is.

Even for the more established cocktailian, this is a must-have book. Think tiki drinks are all sugar and no balance? Peek through the Bum's work and be amazed. People like Donn Beach and Trader Vic were absolute geniuses behind the bar, carefully utilizing obscure components to create nuanced and balanced drinks. Not a huge fan of rum? There are drinks in here with just about every base spirit imaginable.

My one quibble with this book is that it should have been shipped spiral bound, especially considering that several of his earlier books came that way. Trying to make a drink and keep the book open at the same time is a bit of a pain. Thankfully you can just drop by your local FedEx/Kinko's and get it rebound, but that does cost a few extra dollars.

So, go forth and get Beachbum Berry Remixed! If you can't find it locally, check out Trader Tiki, where it's $5 off with free shipping.

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