Serious Eats: Drinks
How to Make Don's Mix for Tiki Drinks
A simple name for a simple notion. Novelty was the wave Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt rode all the way from the banks of South Pacific to the coast of Southern California. After a stint traveling the seas solo, the Texan settled for Hollywood in 1934 and opened the first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber.
Tart citrus and warm syrups were perfect covers for the clunky liquor being produced post-Prohibition and as World War II came to a close servicemen returned with a taste for the extravagant pours of Polynesia. Part theme park, part watering hole, at Beachcomber the decor was quirky, the cocktails cool, and the scene a hangout for Los Angeles' most infamous.
From legally changing his name to Donn Beach to convincing his amorous customers to stay for another by spraying the water hose over the tin roof, Ernest's craft was that of cheap rum, sweet drinks, and art of innocent deception. Don's Mix, a potion of fresh grapefruit and cinnamon syrup, amounts to a similar sleight of hand. The concoction is a combination of ingredients that could easily have been listed one after the other in a recipe for a Zombie. Fundamental to Donn's Tiki reign was an element of secrecy. With Trader Vic and Sunny Sund, Donn's ex-wife, hot on his trail, Donn was in the business of boozing, bamboozling and branding and so this mysterious mixture was born.
Don's Mix is the perfect project for the passing of the seasons. The smell of sugar and cinnamon bubbling on the stove will make you feel ready for all things autumnal. Grapefruit, a perfect citrus for summer by the sea, will also remind you that the day will come, mid-December, when, if you are lucky, you'll look down and find a box of seasonal citrus on your door.
I shook my mix with an ounce of Carpano Antica and an ounce of Rittenhouse Rye, strained it over crushed ice, speared it with a mint twig and called it a day. Pair Don's Mix with lime juice, falernum, white, gold, and dark rum, and a little Pernod for the classic Zombie Punch.