It occurred to me recently (today) as I was talking to one of my regulars about the merits of a book I had recently finished, that that is a spectacular idea for a blog post!
Smugglers Cove: Exotic cocktails, Rum and the cult of Tiki
by: Martin Cate (& Rebecca Cate)
I purchased the hardcover because 1. I always prefer hardcovers, especially with things that go in the Kitchen or bar and 2. I absolutely will not get cocktail or liquor books on Kindle or any other digital copy. These are reference books and I need to be able to open them up and use at will. It is a surprisingly thick book, probably about an inch and a half so I certainly feel like I got what I paid for, at least paper wise. The raised text and images on the cover also appeal to my sense of ‘worth it’, though my copy did come slightly scuffed up. Thanks Amazon, but I prefer to put my scuffs on myself.
Right from the beginning, the book is very visually pleasing. It has exotic colors, patterns, watercolor and illustrations. The book is full of visually stunning and evocative pictures, particularly nice given that the content repeatedly states how visually stunning and evocative Tiki is. I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘picture book’ kind of girl, but as someone whose attention span is so short as to raise very real questions, it makes the book feel less content heavy, or dusty. Just feeling like you are reading a fun book can go a long way towards actually finishing it.
Let’s just get this out of the way early: I don’t care about Tiki. I don’t find it especially interesting or fun and it doesn’t call to me the way that it clearly calls to the people writing and discussed in this book. That said, I have a great deal of respect for Tiki artists in the cocktail world. Their job is magnitudes more difficult than the average bartender and for that I am grateful. I’ve been looking for a good rum book for several months now and frequently this book is recommended to me. I put it off because I don’t like or care about tiki, I like and care about Rum. While I was correct that this book didn’t have sufficient information on Rum for my purposes (a measly 34 pages), I am still glad to have read it.
The first 70 pages or so are primary focused on the history of tiki, which is a fantastic addition to my history of cocktail knowledge and gives context for much of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. While the author can sometimes be slightly too prose-y for me in this section, it is clearly a trait born of love. His voice is clear and engaging and I felt like much of the book was very conversational.
In part 2 he discusses his own life and the journey to create his own tiki bar, a modern must-drink place in San Francisco. Finally, someplace I could potentially actually drive to… (Also, upon looking it up just now the second word in the Google description is ‘kitschy’ which is deeply ironic seeing as how Martin spends much of this book arguing that that word is insulting to him as a genuine tiki lover).
Next up we have Part Three: The Spirit of Rum. For the average consumer, this is more than enough information on rum to be getting started with. I myself found it incredibly useful and learned a great deal from it. He also gave several suggestions on books that focus more exclusively on rum, for which I thank him. From there, the rest of the book is about curating your own Tiki experience, from building to cocktails to parties. This was also very informative to me as a bartender (an actual real use for swizzle sticks? Who knew!?) regardless of my lack of tiki-related aspirations.
Overall, if you are even remotely interested in Tiki or Rum, it’s a great read. Very informative, engaging, well written and clearly a labor of love. I may not be passionate about tiki, but I’m passionate about people who love what they do. Martin and Rebecca Cate clearly have found their passion and carved a space in the world in which to showcase it… sometimes literally.