The New Tiki

By Jack Twachtman / Photography By Sean Kelly Conway | July 26, 2016
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Tiki Bar Cocktails at the Flask and Cannon
Inspired by travel, today's tiki bars are keeping the "island" tradition alive.

Travel provides the perfect opportunity to explore beyond what we find familiar and comfortable, opening our minds to possibilities and experiences we might never have considered. Inspiration often comes when we find ourselves in new places, out of our comfort zone and ready to try new things. The ability to fuse our past experiences and influences with the unfamiliar, the exotic, even the strange is often the catalyst for new trends—and, in some cases, revolutions.

Bartender making tiki drink at Flask and Cannon in Jax Beach
the zombie tiki cocktail at flask and cannon

Kurt Rogers, the proprietor of Flask & Cannon, Jacksonville Beach’s very own urban-themed tiki bar, began his own love affair with craft cocktails thanks to an experience while traveling. After years spent pouring drinks for the locals at the beach bar Fly’s Tie, Rogers tasted his first proper Manhattan on a trip and never looked back. Inspired, he poured himself into cocktail culture, landing bar manager jobs at Restaurant Orsay and Black Sheep before opening Sidecar in San Marco and, most recently, Flask & Cannon.

Perhaps in response to the rise of the craft cocktail and the adventure of the modern day speakeasy, tiki bars, with their laid-back, fun atmosphere, ornately garnished drinks and complete lack of pretense, are making a comeback. Recent takes on the concept such as Lost Lake (Chicago), Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco) and Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (New Orleans) set the tone for a new school that takes its cues from both classic tiki culture and the craft cocktail scene alike.

bartender from Flask and Cannon smiling
Cocktail Monkey hanging from straw

And so it was in 1933, after traveling the South Pacific and Caribbean, that Ernest Gantt opened “Donn the Beachcomber", the world’s first tiki bar, an odd and eclectic mix of the cultures he had grown so fond of that fused the tropical flavors and decor of Polynesian culture with the distilled West Indian beverage of choice: rum. After World War II, GIs returning from their own travels abroad, presumably enamored with the exotic allure of the Pacific islands, found something familiar in the aesthetic and it wasn’t long before tiki found its place in popular culture.

The Flask & Cannon
mixing cocktail with hand mixer
making a drink
bartender mixing drinks

Flask & Cannon with its urban-meets-island ambience offers yet another unique twist on the concept. In place of cluttered kitsch and over-the-top nautical themed decor, the bar’s interior features street art–inspired scenes of Northeast Florida’s own beach culture, putting the tiki focus squarely on the drinks, which include classic and modern riffs.

There are no rules when it comes to tiki, but there is a standard formula Rogers and his team build upon and bend to regional flavors and tastes that creates drinks reminiscent of a journey. It’s a simple one that can be re-created at home using this old rhyme: one part sour (lime juice), two parts sweet (preferably something tropical), three parts strong (rum, of course) and four parts weak (definitely ice, crushed).

Better yet, leave it to the pros and take a micro-vacation right down the road. Sip boozy tropical drinks out of pineapples overlooking the ocean as the sun sets before catching an Uber home. Who knows, youmay just find some inspiration of your own.

Article from Edible Northeast Florida at http://ediblenortheastflorida.ediblecommunities.com/tiki-bars-northeast-florida
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