Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt is a great name for a boy from Texas turned Prohibition-era bootlegger in the Big Easy. However, not so much for a guy running a Polynesian-themed restaurant in 1930’s Hollywood. Thus was Don the Beachcomber born. Having legally changed his name, Donn Beach took his colorful past running rum in Caribbean, working in Chinatown restaurants and traveling the world to single-handedly create the world’s first “tiki” bar, combining tropical inspired rum drinks with flared up Cantonese food. Celebrities flocked to his bar, which offered an escape from reality vibe. Ever had a mai tai with a pu-pu platter? If so, its because of this one guy.
After spending the war years opening officer “rest camps” (read: bars) in places like Capri, Nice, Cannes, & Venice for his buddy US Army Air Force General Jimmy Doolittle – for which he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star – Donn returned home to a flourishing tiki-empire that his wife had grown to a chain of 16 restaurants. The tiki fad continued to explode in the 1940s and 1950s, even spawning a Nor-Cal / So-Cal tiki rivalry between Donn and the Bay Area’s Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron. (You really can’t make this stuff up.) Eventually, Donn would divorce his wife (along with his restaurant chain), moved to Hawaii to open a bar with an office atop a giant banyan tree and eventually retire on a houseboat in the South Pacific. Which would be destroyed by hurricanes. (the storm, not the drink)
One of the classic tiki recipes that Donn created that is now enjoying a resurgence, this one combined a heady mix of three different rums tempered with some citrus, a little honey and a splash of fizz. Its a tiki twist on the historical grog of British Navy tradition, which was little more than high proof rum mixed with some water or beer to take the edge off. Donn’s version is refreshing and easily drinkable, but packs a real whallop underneath, just like the grogs of old. Story is Donn limited his customers to only two of these. Enjoy.
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz honey syrup*
1 oz light Puerto Rican rum
1 oz dark Jamican rum
1 oz demerara rum
3/4 oz soda water
Shake ice and strain into double old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.
* Honey syrup is simply a 1:1 or 2:1 mix of honey and water, depending on your sweetness preference. Heat the honey and water until the honey completely dissolves. Let cool, then bottle.
Recipe courtesy of Don the Beachcomber via Jeff “Beachbum” Berry