Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tiki Classics: Big Bamboo

This drink comes from the estimable Mai-Kai Polynesian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL, one of the few remaining outposts of remaining from the heyday of tiki. Built in 1956, the Mai-Kai is a veritable temple to all things tiki, including 23 tons of Polynesian artifacts, five dining rooms and two cocktail lounges, all under a 40-foot tall concrete A-frame sculpted to look like enormous wooden beams. If I ever have a reason to go to Florida (and it'd probably need to be a pretty good reason given the heat and humidity), I would absolutely want to go to the Mai-Kai. The entire place is an experience, from the tiki lounge built to look like a sunken ship to the mind-boggling collection of rums.

This drink comes from the mind of Mariano Licudine. In the 1930s he was a bartender for Don the Beachcomber, learning many of the seminal tiki recipes in the process. After moving through various Beachcomber locations across the country and rising to #2 bartender, he was hired away by Jack and Bob Thornton, the money behind the Mai-Kai. Mariano was instrumental in every element of the Mai-Kai, from the design details to the drinks. His tenure at the Mai-Kai was so successful that he became something of a celebrity, appearing in papers, magazines and television programs across the country.

This particular drink was a Mariano secret for years, being served only to members of the Okole Maluna ("Bottoms Up") Society who had consumed every one of the 48 drinks on the Mai-Kai's menu.

Big Bamboo (modified from Remixed)
1.5 oz Cuban rum (sub Virgin Islands or Puerto Rican)
0.75 oz dark Jamaican rum
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz grapefruit juice
0.5 oz orange juice
0.35 oz honey syrup
0.35 oz passionfruit syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients, add a handful of cracked ice and blend for 5 seconds, then pour into a chilled rocks glass full of cracked ice.

The sip leads off with rich flavors of the rum and spicy Angostura bitters, followed closely behind by the tropical fruits flavor of the passionfruit syrup, orange juice and the honey sweetness, then last but not least, the snappy sour and bitter flavors of the lime and grapefruit juices. You should be careful with how much you dilute the drink through blending as it has a fairly hefty dose of rum and its good to be reminded how much alcohol you're consuming. Over cracked ice, the drink will mellow with time, becoming dangerously drinkable.


  1. Thanks for posting this drink! I've been on a tiki kick of late and this one is a winner!

  2. Check out the fascinating history of The Big Bamboo ...

    It's part of The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide ...

    On The Atomic Grog ...