Gatekeeping the Mai Tai is a new article from our friend Matt Pietrek on the Cocktail Wonk blog. It is definitely a good summary of what’s happening online these days, as our tiki community grows and as more newcomers start to explore exotic cocktails.
The Mai Tai is the defacto standard tiki cocktail, so of course is the bellwether for this discussion. Though, Pietrek is quite savvy by changing the narrative to another cocktail in the example:
Newcomer: Check out my Navy Grog! I didn’t have grapefruit juice, so I used pineapple juice. And I subbed cinnamon for honey syrup.
Tiki Veteran: Sounds great, but it’s not a navy grog. The grapefruit and honey are core flavor elements of that recipe.
Newcomer: Don’t be elitist. I like my Navy Grog the way I made it.
Narrator: Off to the races we go!
It is a good example. Newcomers sometimes accuse veterans of being elitist and know-it-alls, and there’s no doubt the shoe sometimes fits. Yet, the particular example is indicative of a newly emerging point of view that the cocktail can be whatever you want it to be.
When it comes to tiki culture, I’m a “big tent” guy. Geeki Tiki mugs based on Star Wars? Love them. Disney inspiration? Totally up for it. But the line has to be drawn somewhere and cartoonish “clown tiki” is my personal line.
Same goes for cocktails. As Pietrek points out in his article, nobody would defend newcomers who make a Manhattan with orange juice or a Margarita without tequila. So why must a Mai Tai made with whatever you want be okay?
It isn’t okay.
If that makes me a snobby gatekeeper then I am totally okay with that.
I do like Pietrek’s example where the tiki veteran says “sounds great, but…” That’s an education the newcomer needs to hear (and quite a few bartenders, I might add). As long as it is said nicely.
Pietrek’s site is a wonderful resource that compliments his amazing book Minimalist Tiki. He concludes that leveraging permanent sources is key for intellectual discourse and not just merely ephemeral social media comments. That’s one of the reasons why we started this site; to document historical facts along with our opinions and recommendations.
Read the article:
Cocktail Wonk: Gatekeeping the Mai Tai