April 25, 2019
September 23, 2015
In a world of technological advancement – where the prospect of attaining information and answers requires only the click of a button – is it possible to solve the age-old dilemma of causality?
Forget the vexed question of chicken or egg; we’re confronting the more pressing issue of which came first, the theme of the bar or the widespread trend.
Take Tiki culture for example, an enduring concept used in restaurants and bars primarily in the United States and to a lesser extent around the world.
Tiki culture first gained traction in 1934, with the opening of Don the Beachcomber in California – a Polynesian-themed restaurant and bar. Serving Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punch, this exciting new establishment was decked out in pacific cane furniture, bamboo torches and flower leis.
Don Beach, the owner of what came to be this popular and extensive chain, has even been credited for the innovation of several Tiki cocktails that have stood the test of time.
One establishment, that drew inspiration from and went on to rival the Don the Beachcomber brand was Trader Vic’s, which also grew to international fame.
From here, Tiki culture spread like wildfire, with fruity, tropical cocktails packed with the punch of rum popping up everywhere, including Hollywood – where the Mai Tai featured heavily in the film Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley – before coming to a calm at the end of the decade.
Tiki culture then surfed its way back into the U.S.A on the wave of alcoholic globalization that followed the Second World War, as soldiers previously stationed in the South Pacific wanted to celebrate the good times and forget about the bad.
This time, however the bartenders raised the benchmark for quality cocktails by introducing flavours inspired by the cultures of Hawaii, Tahiti and the Philippines.
As all good things do, Tiki culture came to an end in the 1970’s where it was seen as incredibly kitsch – nothing but a lowbrow style of mass-produced popular culture.
Until more recently, Tiki cocktails – the Zombie in particular – were resurrected by bartenders working in the nooks and crannies of hipster havens across the globe.
Still served in a traditional Tiki mug, the classic cocktails continue to reach new standards as the bartenders interject a modern twist.
While a history of Tiki culture makes it look as though the theme of Don the Beachcomber fuelled a widespread trend, others would argue that the venue simply amplified the relaxed lifestyle of tropical cultures that we as consumers already adored.
So instead of offering a definitive response we dare to question:
When the quality of establishments continues to peak and our cocktail preferences are consistently met, does it really matter if theme trumps trend or does it point to the futility of identifying the first case of a circular cause and effect?
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