Seminar Report: Jeff Berry and “Lost Vegas” Tiki Luau at Commander’s Palace

Last week (December 7th to be precise), famed Tiki authority Jeff Berry hosted a special dinner seminar at Commander’s Palace in Las Vegas. The attendees to this event were presented with a dazzling collection of authentically prepared cocktails which had once graced the menus of some of the nation’s most popular Polynesian inspired restaurants. Paired with these drinks, were a wonderful set of dishes that were specifically designed to complement them.

Here is the menu that was served this evening. The biggest hits with the guests were the Navy Grog (especially the ice cone garnish, which hasn’t been seen since the late 1960’s), the Mystery Gardenia (the honey-butter mix got them talking), and the Missionary’s Downfall.

1st Course (DRINK: Mystery Gardenia)
Coconut Shrimp
Grilled sugarcane skewered prawns served with a fresh coconut-lemongrass-kaffir lime "froth sauce."

2nd Course (DRINK: Tahitian Cocktail)
Passion Fruit Marinated Hawaiian Tuna Poke
With nori, toasted sesame furikake, red chili threads, sesame oil and ginger.

3rd Course (DRINK: Nui Nui)
Macadamia Nut Crusted Opah
With edamames, Spam croutons, mango cream, and Hawaiian red alaea salt.

4th course (DRINK: Navy Grog)
Sweet and Sour Wild Boar Chop
With Kurobuta pork belly and crystallized ginger sauce.

5th Course (DRINK: Missonary’s Downfall)
Pineapple Tarte Tatin
With rum raisin ice cream.

And here are the recipes for the drinks listed above:

MYSTERY GARDENIA
Served at Don The Beachcomber’s in the Sahara Hotel, 1965.

  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce gardenia mix*
  • 1 1/2 ounces white Bacardi rum
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 4 ounces crushed ice

Blend all ingredients at high speed for 30 seconds.
Strain through a wire-mesh strainer into a cocktail glass.

*GARDENIA MIX: Cream together equal parts honey and softened sweet butter. Prepare just prior to making drink, as mix must remain at room temperature. Do not chill.

TAHITIAN COCKTAIL
Our variation on the Tahitian Planter’s Punch, late of the Aku-Aku restaurant in the Stardust Hotel.

  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce triple sec
  • 1/2 ounce Alize Gold Passion
  • 1 ounce Belvedere Vodka

Shake with ice cubes. Strain into small cocktail glass.

NUI NUI
Served at the Aku-Aku, where this drink was also known as the “Desert Rattler.”

  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce orange juice
  • 1/4 ounce cinnamon-infused sugar syrup*
  • 1 teaspoon allspice-infused sugar syrup*
  • 1 teaspoon Fee Brothers vanilla syrup
  • 2 ounces author Virgin Islands rum
  • Dash Angostura bitters
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) crushed ice

GARNISH: Spiral-cut orange peel (6 to 8” long)
Put everything in blender (except garnish) saving ice for last.
Blend at high speed for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a tall glass.
Add crushed ice to fill. Sink the orange peel in the drink, with peel hanging over glass.

*ALLSPICE SYRUP: Place 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 6 level tablespoons crushed dried allspice berries in saucepan.
Heat until sugar is dissolved, simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1-2 hours. Strain and refrigerate.

*CINNAMON SYRUP: Same procedure, using 3 crushed cinnamon sticks in place of allspice.

NAVY GROG
Frank Sinatra’s Favorite drink at Don The Beachcomber’s.

  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 3/4 ounce soda water
  • 1 ounce Don’s honey mix*
  • 1 ounce white Bacardi Rum
  • 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 ounce Lemon Hart Demerara rum

Shake well with ice cubes. Strain into a double old-fashioned glass with ICE-CONE.

To make cone: Pack a conical pilsner glass with finely shaved ice, run a chopstick through the middle to make a hole for the straw, and then gently remove cone from glass. Freeze cone overnight. When ready to serve, run straw through cone and sip drink through straw.

MISSIONARY’S DOWNFALL
At Don The Beachcomber’s, this was served to cleanse the palate between courses as well as a “liquid dessert.”

  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce peach brandy
  • 1 ounce white Bacardi rum
  • 1 ounce Don’s honey mix*
  • 2 ounces diced fresh pineapple
  • 10 leaves fresh mint
  • 6 ounces crushed ice

GARNISH: Tip of a mint sprig (3 or 4 leaves on short stem) placed in the center of drink.
Put everything in a blender (except garnish). Blend at high speed for 20 seconds. Pour into a saucer champagne glass.

*HONEY MIX: One part honey to one part water. Heat mix until honey is thoroughly dissolved, then cool it and bottle it. Will keep in the fridge.

Special thanks to the sponsors of this event:

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