I, obviously, usually gravitate toward tiki bars.
Well, tiki bars and bars from that era, anyway. The recent increase in 'craft cocktail' bars and 'speakeasies' has really widened my appreciation for all kinds of new, themed environments.
It seems that those bars are starting to realize that the true originator of 'craft cocktails' was, in fact, Don the Beachcomber.
Think about it. Complex, exotic drinks, utilizing freshly squeezed fruit ingredients and a multitude of different infused liquors, finished off with creative and appropriate garnishes. Tiki was the start of the craft cocktail.
Due to Beachbum Berry pointing out the intricacies of those drinks, bartenders are taking tiki more seriously. In turn, lots of these craft bars are now having tiki-themed nights.
Last week, they had their first ever "Mahalo Monday." I had been there once before for some fantastic depression-era cocktails and I figured a "Mahalo Monday" was a good time to see what they could do with tiki drinks!
The speakeasy is the hip, new-ish thing in craft cocktail bar theming. I kinda find the reservation making part of speakeasies a tedious distraction from getting to the fun, but it does also keep the standard clubby chicks or loud bro guys from ending up in the bar. So actually, I guess I'm on board with that rule. Sometimes I have to write stuff out to come full circle on an opinion.
If you didn't know that you were looking for a bar, you would absolutely walk right past the place.
The Anaheim Packing District is a really cool food court type of mall... Not a Hot Dog on a Stick kinda place, more like hip and tasty open-walled small restaurant kinda thing. Amazing smells waft through the building, pulling you from eatery to eatery.
The Blind Rabbit is attached to a Shabu-Shabu restaurant and the main door is hidden behind a wall of faux bags of rice. In the picture above, see the little black thing in the middle of the middle row of bags of rice? That's the rabbit door release. You pull on that guy and the rice wall opens up!
I grabbed up one of my oldest friends in the tiki scene, Adrian Eustaquio (Polypop), and my adventuring buddy, Tom Stratton (take a look at our video for the "Search for the Spider Pool").
We were each (ahem) leid, the hostess yanked on the bunny, and we headed through the rice bag hidden door...
Once inside, we were greeted and seated by the bartenders, some of whom are fans and friends of The Hula Girls. We immediately felt right at home.
Here's the specialty menu for Mahalo Monday. As a graphic designer, I was super impressed with the illustrations, the typography, and the paper stock that it was printed on. Care and attention to detail in everything that they do in this place is unmatched.
First round was a Cryogenic Hemingway for Tom (left), Polynesian Paralysis for Adrian (right), and I would have really been fooling myself if I didn't get a Topless Hula Girl (middle) right out of the gate...
Mixologist, Andrew Winters, told me that the inspiration for naming the Topless Hula Girl was, in fact, The Hula Girls!
Wonder which 'Girl' he was referring to? I'm sure it wasn't me or Shorty or one of the musicians in the band...
Here he is, performing a table-side cocktail lighting on the Polynesian Paralysis!
Who doesn't like their tiki drinks on fire??
I loved and was raving about the Topless Hula Girl so much that without even asking, Andrew hand wrote the recipe for me.
It was pricy to buy all of the proper ingredients for home, and it's not the same as drinking it at the Blind Rabbit, but it sure is great to enjoy in The Breezeway!
Our friend, Damien Montanile, was also behind the bar, serving a bevy of pin-up styled girls while showing some leg with his shockingly short shorts. All for the theme, right? Love the dedication to making something fun for the customers!
We are well into our second round here... I've moved on to a Miehana (a Beachbum Berry cocktail and the backwards spelling of 'Anaheim') while both of the fellas are working on Polynesian Paralysees. Is that the plural of 'paralysis??'
Not the best photo in the low light of the bar, but I wanted to show you the Anaheim-related orange 'ear' garnishes of the cocktail. Wonder what the 'ears' are supposed refer to? ;)
Somewhere around this time, Tom was on to a Shark's Tooth and some kind of fancy shot showed up with it. He, as instructed, dumped it in and happily enjoyed the interactive cocktail.
About that time, my Bali Bali showed up. A delicate blend of gin, cognac, dark rum, light rum, lime, orange juice, pineapple, falernum, and passionfruit, topped with an orchid and served in a mysteriously smoking bowl.
|(photo from The Blind Rabbit Facebook page)|
The only thing that I like more than a drink on fire is a drink that uses dry ice as an effect in a cocktail. Presentation is SO important to tiki drinks.
Another amazingly well balanced and mixed cocktail. Never, did I ever taste anything syrup-ey or too tart... Just great drinks.
This is actually how I felt during my only visit (so far) to Smuggler's Cove. Throwing my own sobriety dangerously out the window, I wanted to try every drink at SC. Not to get drunk in some kind of frat-party way, but more for experiencing this something special... a kin to immersing yourself in a symphony or enjoying a fine art piece. A truly great cocktail can take you there.
The great thing about Mahalo Monday at The Blind Rabbit (besides the flawless cocktails and the great company of my buddies) was that in the super low light of the bar, a few Polynesian/ Tiki things transformed the feel of the bar.
A few lengths of hula skirt type straw, strung up around the top of the bar, visually transformed it into a tiki bar. The music was all surf, hapa haole, and exotica. The staff all wore vintage Hawaiian shirts and cabana suits. The patrons were required to wear Hawaiian attire. No TVs or windows to drag reality in to the space.
That's what it's all about. Escapism. The Blind Rabbit did the job better than many actual tiki-themed bars do it.
The time was up on our reservation (yes, they do time your stay in order to allow for others to come in and enjoy the experience. It was fine too, any longer probably would have killed us), so we were handed some absolutely unneeded yet appreciated parting shots, searched for the door in the bookcase, and found our way out.
A blurry picture of us blurrily walking back out to reality.
If you unknowingly walked by here, you would have no idea that the exit to a wild tiki party was right behind those 'boxes'.
Aloha, Blind Rabbit.
See ya next Mahalo Monday!
In the meantime, don't forget to get tickets to our Oct 30th show at Don the Beachcomber.
Live bands, sideshow performers, burlesque, and a costume contest!