Behind Bars: Tiki Classics

With "Tikitober" just around the bend, we figured it was perfect timing to kick of a new guest blog series we call "Behind Bars," where we spend a little time with some of our favorite local bartenders. 

For this first installment of Behind Bars, we were lucky enough to hang out with Ben Clemons from No. 308, who's been kicking ass with his Tiki Tuesday events all summer long. We asked him to share his thoughts on classic Tiki drinks and five of his favorite recipes. 

I don't even know where to begin discussing my adoration for tiki drinks. The taste? Yep. The history? Yep. The beautiful colors, glassware and garnish? Yep. Yep. Yep. I think what first really attracted me to it all was, honestly, how unabashedly kitschy the whole culture around it is. See, in a world where everyone is rapidly taking more and more aspects of life so seriously (almost to an unheard of level of pretension and scrutiny), Tiki is just happy. It's relaxed. It's anything but serious. In that, I somehow find solace. It may always be 5 o'clock somewhere, but it's always sunny in a scorpion bowl.

I started Tiki Tuesday at the beginning of the summer for a few reasons. Tuesdays at the bar seemed, well, boring. I realized there weren't any weekly parties to compete with, no crazy happy hour specials at neighboring bars promising 3 free drinks and a sandwich with every purchase of a draft beer. Couple that with my growing desire to see Nashville drinking more rum and the decision was simple, Tiki Tuesday.

I dove head first straight down the rum rabbit hole. I sifted through blogs, books, articles and anything else I could find in print pertaining to the brighter side of cocktail culture. Unearthing original recipes became an adventure. Learning the various cultural ties they had with specific rums, bars and people reminded me just how remarkable and unique of a spirit rum is. Trader Vic, Beach Bum Berry, Mai Kai, The Soggy Dollar Bar, just some of the legendary pioneers in the great Tiki crusades.

Ben Clemons of No. 308

Ben Clemons of No. 308

One Tuesday, a few weeks into our tiki party, I noticed something fascinating. The night itself was almost a sociology experiment. See, normally a bar sees a wide range of spirits being consumed. Tequila drinkers talking with whiskey drinkers. You get the picture. This dichotomy can sometimes lend itself to awkward "vibes" in a controlled environment. Not at a tiki bar though. As I looked around the room and out in the patio I saw smiling faces, jovial conversations. People. Having. A. Good. Time. And THATS why I love tiki drinks.

Enough talking though, here's a few well known classics in their non bastardized by American culture form...

getting #shipfaced at tikitober

When we realized our 3rd 3st of the Month was going to fall on a Friday, we knew we had to go BIG. We needed a big theme, big brands and, most importantly, a big venue. 

All of the stars aligned for Tikitober at Track One in the Wedgewood Houston area. This massive space has played host to a few events in the past, but there was no doubt this was an event like they had never seen the likes of before! 

The big open space was transformed with help from event lighting and a video of waves lapping at the beach projected on the wall (with help from our friends at Nashville Audio Visual) and great event rentals from Liberty Party Rental.

When guests arrived down the tiki torch path, they checked in, grabbed their glass for the night and quickly got lei'd. 

The night was benefiting the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee and there was no shortage of killer tiki drinks, with offerings from some seriously amazing booze brands. While everyone seemed to have a favorite, they were all incredibly popular throughout the night. 

Blue Chair Bay Rum whipped up two different cocktails, the Scorpion and the Painkiller. Both were fresh, fruity and damn delicious!

Patrón came to the table with all three flavors of their new high-end Roca Patrón Tequila (as if the regular stuff was not good enough!). Guests had a "Roca Paloma" (made with Roca Patrón Silver, Aperol, grapefruit juice and a splash of sparkling water), a Roca Patrón Reposado cocktail with Sangrita (a spiced orange juice, lime juice and Eli Mason Grenadine mix) or just had shots of the Roca Patrón Anejo off the big ass ice block shooter. 

Patrón also brought their rum - Pyrat Rum. Two tasty cocktails were mixed at the Pyrat Table. The "Pyrat in Pompeii" featured Pyrat Rum, lime juice, Eli Mason Demerara Syrup and Fernet Branca and the aptly named "Spring Breaaaaak" was a fruity tropical drink with Pyrat, coconut syrup, pineapple juice and pineapple Jarritos soda. 

Next up was Olmeca Altos Tequila. The table decorations alone was enough to get you excited with palms, flowers and even a damn bubble machine, but the "Sugar Skull" cocktail was just as impressive. Regular 3st bartender Galen Johnson whipped up a blend of Olmeca Altos Tequila, Trader Vic's Macadamia Liqueur, coconut milk, lychee, lime and nutmeg that kept the folks coming back all night.

Papa's Pilar Rum kept a crowd coming back all night for two different cocktails. Unfortunately, we drank a little too much to remember what they were called. But trust us - they were really good.

Nobody could miss the big-ass Airstream plopped right in the middle of the warehouse. Affectionately called the "Whisper Wagon," it belonged to the local SPEAKeasy Spirits folks, makers of Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream and Pennington's Strawberry Rye. They offered two amazing cocktails - a frozen Whisper Creek take on the Nashville favorite Bushwhacker called the "Tiki-Whacker" and a Pennington's drink that had everyone stumbling around a bit by the end of the night. We may have had a few shots of Pennington's too. It's hard to remember. . . 

Flor De Caña Rum brought their A-game with a crazy complex cocktail that had as many layers of flavor as there are flowers on a lei. 

Locally-loved Jackalope Brewing Company made their 3st debut with a welcome addition to the lineup of boozy Tiki Drinks - beer! They served up glasses of their Bearwalker Maple Brown Ale. . .and passed out a few antler hats that seemed pretty popular over in the Picture Booth.

We also had a great classic Tiki Drink by Ron Matusalem Rum - the "Three Dots and a Dash." But if that wasn't enough, guests could also sample this amazing rum straight - in one of three different styles.

And, finally, we had a drink that many called their favorite of the night - the "Mexican Voodoo," a combination of Maestro Dobel Tequila, grapefruit and pineapple juices and cinnamon syrup. Yes, please!

The Southern and ACME Feed & Seed kept bites coming as fast as people could eat them (you gotta have something to soak up all that booze!)

Our guests could drink with great confidence, knowing that they had a safe ride from UBER. Guests were also having a blast snapping pictures in the Picture Booth (see the pictures here) and were jammin' to a great beachy playlist from Jacob Jones. 

Thank you to our sponsors!

Venue Host: TRACK ONE

Food Sheriff Consumable Branding 

Liberty Party Rental

Mountain Agency

Moxie Print Market

Nashville Audio Visual

Park Nashville

Picture Booth Co

SPEAKeasy Marketing

UBER Nashville