An open letter to Martin and Rebecca Cate, authors of Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki

smugcocoverMartin and Rebecca Cate have written the most comprehensive book about tiki style, rum, and the history of tiki drinks. I’ve begun making some of the drinks from the book and will post those on later dates, but for now, this open letter is my way of reviewing it, and thanking them for it.

Thank you so much for all the hours, energy, and heart you put into your new book.  I will wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to know anything about tiki or tiki drinks, newbies and pros alike!  Here are a few things I especially appreciate about it:

  1. The rum categorization system:  Finally a system that makes sense!  Any chance any of the judging panels will be adopting the system?  I hope so.
  2. Finally having recipes for the Smuggler’s Cove drinks I’ve missed so much since leaving the neighborhood.  Although everybody knows the atmosphere of “The Cove” always makes things taste better, it’s good to know I can at least get really close now at home.  I don’t even mind that you kept the Rum Barrel recipe a secret, I respect that.
  3. The way you used the rum system in the drink recipes!  It’s a relief to not feel like I need to run out and get another bottle to make a certain drink when I already have something of the same category in my bar.  Admittedly, my collection is sorely lacking in a couple categories, but that can be remedied easily enough.
  4. Featuring your staff!  You have assembled a top-notch team of professionals at Smuggler’s Cove and I love that they each have their own amazing page in your book.  I don’t think most business owners truly appreciate how important their employees are to the customer experience and reinforcement of the “brand.”  The fact that this team has been with you so long in such a fluid industry (see what I did there?) speaks volumes for how much you respect them as employees and care for them as people.
  5. Your respect for the torch bearers who came before, and those who carry it still.  Your reverence for the Mai Kai, Tiki Ti, Oceanic Arts, and the other great tiki icons is evident in the experience you’ve created in San Francisco.  Rather than re-making the wheel, you’ve respectfully built upon the foundation they created and made something truly unique.

Now when someone asks me questions like “what do you mean that’s not really a tiki bar?” or “what makes it a tiki drink?” I have one great reference book that explains it all in a way that anyone can understand and makes it all look like so much fun!  I even took one of my copies (not the signed one) to the office so I’ll have visual references when someone asks me to explain what I was doing in Fort Lauderdale on my summer vacation.

Congratulations to you on this epic accomplishment!  I know you poured so much of your lives into this for quite some time while also running a very busy tiki bar and opening an equally grand gin palace nearby.  How you did it all without losing your minds is a testament to the strength of your partnership.  I wish all the success in the world to the two of you, your book, your bars, and your future endeavors.  Thank you again for putting your passion into the world so all of us can benefit from your knowledge, experience, and love for this thing we call tiki.


Get your own copy here

Visit Smuggler’s Cove and pay a visit to my Black Tassel Brigade plaque on the wall.


The Breadfruit & Rum Bar – Phoenix, AZ

I recently spent a few days in Phoenix on business and had a free evening on a Monday night.  So I asked a couple friends to join me for dinner at a Jamaican restaurant and rum bar that had recently been recommended to me.  The place is hard to find, but once you’re there, it’s worth the effort.

Of course we started with cocktails (which ranged in price from $9-10) and between the three of us, tasted six or seven of them.  I could give you the names, but the menu changes seasonally and most of the drinks we had two weeks ago have since been replaced.  Much to my glee, the cocktails are all rum-based, and the ones we had were all very delicious.  They ranged from light and slightly sweet, complex and smoky, to tart and spicy.  One whose name I can’t recall was a bit too bitter for my taste, but I know lots of people who would find it right up their alley.  I was a bit confused about why the Tradewind Swizzle was called a swizzle when it came in a DOF with one big cube, rather than in a chimney with crushed ice and a frosty exterior, but it was still delicious.  The others I would all order again and again.

The food was also quite good!  We started with an appetizer of Roasted Plantain and & Mango Chutney Dip ($8) which had the soft, sweet plantain I remember my Panamanian mother making when I was a child.  I did wish we’d ordered another plate of them.  Then a small palate cleanser of a spoonful of what I think was a Jicama Slaw came for each of us.  It was refreshing and served its purpose.  I had the Jerk Pork & West Indies Polenta ($15) and was very pleased with the spice of the tender pork and the rich flavors of the polenta.  My friends both had the Pimento Wood Jerk Chicken ($20) and were very happy with their meals as well.

We were presented with a dessert menu.  We were all full enough at that point to choose to skip dessert, and to be honest, I can’t remember what was on it, perhaps because I’m dieting and blocked it out of my mind in a desperate attempt to not gain too many pounds on that business trip (an endeavor at which I failed to the tune of four pounds in four days).

Instead of dessert, we retired to the small patio out back where we enjoyed a flight of three rums (English Harbor 10-year old, Appleton 21-year old, and Zacapa XO – $30 for the flight), and cigars.  (Don’t judge. One cigar every year or two isn’t going to kill me.)  I finished the evening with a neat glass of El Dorado 15, while my companions switched to Red Stripe and red wine (wimps). 

On our way out the door, I took a few minutes to appreciate the impressive selection of rums behind the bar.  There are about a 100+ bottles and not a single one at which I’d turn up my nose (read: no Bacardi).  In fact, several of my favorites were there.  I met the owner and talked about their selections, their philosophy, and my rum experience.  I could see myself spending many hours sitting at that bar sipping through the collection (although I think asking $2,500 for a single pour of Appleton 50 is a bit excessive).   If I ever move to Phoenix, The Breadfruit and Rum Bar will be my go-to watering hole.  (Note: that’s not as big an “if” as you might expect.)

All in all, it was a great night of food, drinks, and friends that I will happily repeat whenever the opportunity arises. Next time, I’ll spend more time at the bar learning what’s in the cocktails and discussing important matters of spirit.

The Breadfruit & Rum Bar
108 E Pierce St, Downtown Phoenix