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Modern Tropical: A Taste of Tiki

By Willa Van Nostrand / Photography By Chip Riegel | March 07, 2017
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The tiki genre is one of the most alluring and misunderstood movements in American cocktail history. Known for its romanticized mash-up of Pacific island cultures, tiki was invented in 1930s Hollywood by a world-traveling rumrunner named Don the Beachcomber, born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt. Tiki cocktails were a liquid vacation and an escape from the darkness of the Depression era. Eighty years later, tropical cocktails continue to deliver the miraculous ability to evoke paradise, no matter the climate.

When Marshall Muir and Nadya Koltakova asked bartender Jason Kindness to join the team at Kai Bar in East Greenwich, it was clear they shared a vision: fine rum, great hospitality and an accessible bar menu with a tiki twist. Kindness has a unique culinary-inspired bartending style and he conceived his current hit, the Wolf of Main Street, in a bold attempt to add a salty-savory umami quality to a Mai Tai recipe. It showcases Thomas Tew Rum from Newport, fresh-pressed lime juice and savory sweet coconut-miso orgeat, an almond syrup (orgeat is used in the classic Mai Tai) that adds texture and rich, nutty notes to round out the tart salinity of the drink. Jason forgoes the CuraƧao entirely, adding Angostura Bitters to temper the delicate balance of rum and frothy coconut. Pert sprigs of mint crest the mug, a fitting hairdo for a gleefully grimacing tiki god.

For other enticing spring cocktails like a Boy Named Sue and the Sugar Snap, visit

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