Local tiki and tropical drinks expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (www.beachbumberry.com) will open his first bar, Latitude 29, in the French Quarter this fall. The space, at 321 N. Peters St. in the Bienville House hotel, is currently occupied by Iris, which will close at the end of May. Iris proprietors Laurie Casebonne and Ian Schnoebelen will concentrate on their restaurant Mariza, which opened in the Bywater in 2013.
Latitude 29 will feature two other familiar names from the New Orleans hospitality industry: head bartender and co-general manager Steven Yamada, who has worked at local bars including Bar R'evolution and Tivoli & Lee, and executive chef Chris Shortall of Coquette and Twelve Mile Limit. Berry's wife, Annene Kaye, will serve as the other general manager. Interior design will be by Bosko Hrnjak.
Berry, whose newest book is Potions of the Caribbean, also released his second drinks app last week, featuring never-before-printed recipes from the golden age of tiki (including some from the legendary New Orleans restaurant Bali Ha'i) and some new recipes by New Orleans bartenders.
There are about 250 drinks featured in Total Tiki ($9.99), the app (iPhone/iPad only) Berry created with designer Martin Doudoroff. When asked how many of the recipes were written by New Orleanians, Berry had the answer at his fingertips (84). That's because the Total Tiki app lets users filter its drinks by recipe writer, decade, alcohol strength or which ingredients are already in your kitchen and home bar.
The tiki king spoke with Gambit about the app (to read the full interview, visit bestofneworleans.com).
How does Total Tiki address the notion that it's a complicated drinks style?
Berry: One of the best things about the app is that you can check off the ingredients you have on hand. Just enter it into the app, and it will tell you which drinks you can make now. Our database also suggests substitute ingredients and helps identify what you're missing, so you can build as you go. By the way, the rest of the cocktail world has caught up to tiki. The recipes we're seeing today — ones calling for, say, smoked rhubarb syrup — are just as complicated.
Total Tiki lets you arrange recipes by potency. Is this because of the perception that it's a high-octane style?
B: Tiki was invented the day after Prohibition ended [Dec. 5, 1933], when Don the Beachcomber opened his first bar. Except there were no real Polynesian cocktails, and people's fantasies were in the South Pacific. So he (and later, Trader Vic) gave Polynesian names to Caribbean drinks. I call it "Caribbean drinks cubed," because they took the original lime-rum-sugar and made drinks with two-three fruit juices, two-three base spirits and two-three sweeteners. They made Caribbean drinks more baroque, complex and elusive.
Which decades are reflected in Total Tiki?
B: The 1930s through the 2000s. I include contemporary recipes from leading lights in the industry. These bartenders have taken cues from the tiki canon and run with it. They're using ingredients and techniques not available back then, and applying them to the classics. For instance, Don the Beachcomber mixed more than one rum in a glass, and now you see bartenders blending two whiskies, gins or tequilas to get base flavors.
— KEVIN ALLMAN & ANNE BERRY