If you follow my Facebook or Instagram Social Media pages, then you probably already know I've been slowly wrapping up work on my 4th cocktail book, code named Kahuna Kevin's (not so) Tiki Cocktails - Vol. 4. 3 years of work is very difficult to summarize and compress, but here's the whats, whys, hows and whens.
TLDR: This is going to be awesome. Can't wait. Maybe end of 2018 - early 2019. Prepare your liver.
I never intended to actually write a 4th cocktail book, as the recipes I've been creating and jotting down on paper after Kahuna Kevin's Vol. 3 were more experimental and drinks I personally gravitate towards. Spicy, extremely bitter and herbal drinks, funky tasting flavors, odd flavor shifts, smoky peaty profiles, and ingredients that technically shouldn't work together but I managed to make them play along nicely with incredible results. These recipes were basically going to be a secret stash in my laboratory drawer only to see the light of day for personal use or when guests and friends visit for dinner. Once I realized I had a collection of over 30 brand new cocktails, I decided why not. Publish the damn drinks already!
Most of the drinks are not typical of Tiki, or even Tiki, but may have distant inspiration from Tiki yet go completely off the rails full speed into uncharted territory. Others are shaken Daiquiri inspired cocktails (some safer not too out there, others with major shifts) served in Coupe glasses focusing on the drink itself with minimal garnish, while some are spirit-forward drinks served up in Whiskey Rocks glasses with a large ice cube, chilled Whiskey stones and some even garnished with rich smoked cheeses of all things, creating more of a secondary experience when snacked on between sips. Then there's the Swizzles, beautifully complex and potent with swirling flavors that keep you guessing. Flavors that you can't quite get a grasp on, or may recognize but then shift to something else eluding your perception.
The cocktails use a backbone of varying top quality Scotches (heavily peated Islay and non-peated Speyside), Gins (barrel aged, pepperd rye and even Douglas Fir), Rye Whiskies, Rums (which happen to take more a back seat in this collection), or interesting combinations of these unique base spirits, along with very pronounced aromatic cocktail bitters combinations, herbal Amaro liqueurs, staples like Green Chartreuse, Pimm's No. 1, Fernet Branca, varying fresh fruit juices, and flavored syrups or natural syrups like Maple and rich Turbinado Sugar. I've developed a serious personal love for varying degrees of smokey drinks over the years and there are many to choose from in this upcoming volume, from faintly smokey to straight up blissfully in your face smokestacks.
Many drinks in this book will at some point become underground barroom classics. If not in this century, it won't be because the drinks aren't good, it'll be because the world has been too busy quietly breeding soft & weak-willed types not yet ready for flavor profiles that unapologetically serve up a sucker punch to the face. What I'm saying is you'll need to pull up your big boy undies/girl panties for this one, you might even need to revisit the same drink again later on to fully get it as your palate starts to develop and accept more complex flavors, and if you can't do that, then this isn't your book. Stick to my first 3. If that last bit didn't scare you away but instead made your ears perk up and gave you a cocktail boner, then this will be your favorite bar book.
I specifically wanted drinks that left an impression, kept me guessing what the heck I was tasting even though I was staring directly at each of the bottles, and purposely chased illogical ingredient combinations yielding some initial failures but ultimately pushed on and reaped golden end rewards. Sometimes the slightest deviation from the final recipe would completely wreck the overall flavor balance. Some are right on the cutting edge of the push & pull sweet/sour/spice/bitter/smoke dynamic.
The Gentlemen's Swizzle for example: A personal challenge to pull and use 13 bottles of the most heavy flavor-forward liquors & liqueurs in my 'lab-bar-atory' collection, named aptly as gentlemanly patience is required to mix these 13 ingredients into the final amazing result. It really shouldn't work by any logical means, there's just too many loud flavors going on at once especially when each individual bottle is taken into account on its own potency, sort of like 13 stereos on full blast playing different songs, yet somehow once this combination hits the ice, it works exceedingly well, and synchronizes into a beautifully unique flavor never before tasted.
I'm currently refining and photographing the first 30 cocktails, and another 10 or so highly experimental ones still need to be reworked into their final recipes. In all I'm shooting for a minimum of 40 drinks, to a maximum of 50.
Volume 4 will also include my aromatic cocktail bitters recipe and instructions on how to recreate batches of them yourself at home, and most likely a couple custom drink recipes added that specifically must use these bitters. If you're too lazy to batch these yourself, you can get a labeled and wax dipped bottle right here as a free gift by purchasing one of my signed books.
I'm fully expecting a polarizing response to these drinks, and I'm absolutely OK with that. To reiterate, these are a collection of my personal favorites and "wildest experiments", personal challenges and proof of concept to make many competing strong flavors harmonize. I'm not releasing Volume 4 to make a load of cash. I'm releasing these drinks because I've decided they deserve to be shared for what they are, a 3 year time capsule and tome of bar experiments that push boundaries, to be enjoyed by future generations of bartenders and bar enthusiasts, properly cataloged in a quality printed barguide format. To simply break even on R&D costs over the years and initial book printing will suffice. If it keeps selling after word of mouth, well, even better. As long as there are books circulating out there in professional bars and the shelves of home bars who seek something different, the drinks will live on and speak for themselves.
Pre-order information for the first run signed copies of Kahuna Kevin's (not so) Tiki Cocktails Vol. 4 will be announced in the coming months, with a tentative release date end of 2018 to early 2019. Basically, released when it's done and I'm happy with what I've created. This will also likely be my last book, unless I get inspired to offer a 5th that's a "Redo" of maybe my 10 personal favorites from each of the 4 volumes. If the demand is there, it may happen. But not for many many years.
In the words of the great mad Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, it's ultimately up to you to decide if these drinks sound like they're within you or your guest's comfort zones and whether or not to 'Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride'. You can accept or refuse that personal challenge. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed this journey from start to finish and it's one I intend to keep revisiting one recipe at a time - although I absolutely have top favorites I will keep those to myself - maybe they'll be your favorites as well? This is simply my time and effort in a book to all of you, as a thanks for buying my other 3 books since 2009. And as much as I enjoyed absolutely everything about making Tiki Volumes 1-3, the couple of Best Cocktail awards received also prove some of you folks enjoyed those books and drinks as well, Volume 4 will always be my go-to book for drinks. And I hope so for you and yours as well.
Cheers and thanks for your support over the years! I hope you enjoy my upcoming Magnum Opus. And if not, ehh... I'm proud of it and like the drinks plenty. ;)
I'm excited to release a new product today in my shop. Custom 11.5-inch Titanium swizzle-straws that are reusable over your entire lifetime. These straws are custom made to perfectly fit your tallest Tiki mugs where standard 8.5-inch straws are basically useless.
The straws are custom manufactured in the USA by a father and son owned metal shop, each cut, finished and polished to exact specifications. There's even heat anodized finishes available for those of you looking to add a bit of color to your cocktail experience.
These straws are tough as steel but extremely light, and look absolutely incredible. They're available in packs of 2 and come with a high quality reusable stainless steel cleaning brush.
Lastly, the Voodoo Bamboo Series 2 Brown Tiki Mugs are officially completely sold out. Thanks for supporting this small project and I hope you enjoy these mugs for decades. Cheers! -KK
Voodoo Bamboo Series #2 (Brown) Super Limited Tiki Mugs are almost gone. Only 2 left, numbers 27 & 28 out of 30 total produced. These won't stick around long so snag one before they end up on eBay at insane prices - well, if they ever end up on eBay - To date I've never seen a single Series #1 (Green) Voodoo Bamboo mug listed for sale or trade. Probably because they're such awesome mugs nobody wants to part with them.
Thanks to everyone who supported this project by pre-ordering and making a purchase. Mahalo! -KK
Navan was a delicious Cognac based Tahitian vanilla liquor used for a couple recipes in my first cocktail book, Kahuna Kevin's Tiki Cocktails Volume 1, written in 2009. Over the past couple years, I've had many readers ask where to find Navan liquor, so here's a simplified explanation of what happened to Navan, and how to make a decent substitute for your home or professional bar.
Unfortunately the maker of Navan (same maker as Grand Marnier, the bottle shape was even similar) ceased production years ago due to slow sales, the product was quickly phased out, and the spirit offerings today are sadly short of a decent quality vanilla liquor substitute or competing product. Navan liquor had a wonderful Tahitian vanilla floral bouquet, accented by sweet honey notes and tongue warming Cognac. The taste was exceptional by itself as an after dinner sipper, as well as mixed in cocktails, in my personal case Tiki drinks.
Unless you were lucky enough to catch the rare online article mentioning Navan's production closure (swift demise), and hoarded bottles soon after (I've only got 1 small 375ml bottle left after dropping and breaking a new 750ml during my move), you're basically left to your own devices finding a substitute (Hint: There are NONE), or in this case reverse engineering a suitable quality alternative.
Here's the basics on how to recreate one of my favorite flavored liquors, for you to remake my earliest cocktails as intended, but ALSO hopefully a few of you out there will experiment on your own and bring some new Tiki drinks (or non-Tiki) to life that otherwise would have never existed.
What you'll need...
1. A decent mid to high grade sipping Cognac. This is the backbone of the liquor so don't skimp kids! Once the higher quality/proof Cognacs hit water they really open up.
2. Organic Grade A Clover Honey. Do NOT use flavored honeys, like mesquite, etc. You want the Tahitian vanilla and Cognac to be the stars of this liquor, with a simple but high quality honey to smooth out the overall alcohol burn.
3. Purchase Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract. 8 ounce bottles are available at Amazon.com. (This is the best and most flavorful vanilla extract that you will ever find for the price. Great for baking too! Awesome investment for your home bar and kitchen. Put some in a small atomizer as well to flavor other cocktails, because you WILL use this, it's that delicious!)
*Some may be asking why not just use real Tahitian vanilla beans to extract in the Cognac... Simple: CONTROL. Different proof Cognacs will extract botanicals at different speeds, and you can easily wreck an entire batch (too vanilla forward) if not extremely careful. Adding a quality Tahitian vanilla extract gives you absolute control over the liquor to Vanilla and honey balance in real time, and saves potentially trashing both expensive vanilla beans and Cognac.*
-Add 6-12 ounces of Cognac to a Mason jar or other tall cocktail mixing glass. Make sure it's something easy to pour the final mixture into another bottle preferred for storage and to use when actually mixing cocktails. Right now all we care about is ease of mixing ingredients without spilling and ease of checking for consistency and flavor balance.
-Add honey and stir until fully dissolved (do NOT use heat!), until the consistency starts to slightly thicken, similar to the consistency of Simple Sugar Syrup. Simple Syrup is 1:1 ratio sugar to water, so be careful as you approach this halfway point with honey not to go overboard. Less is better at first, sample, add more. The Cognac's alcohol proof will be the deciding factor on final honey amount and overall flavor balance, and main reason I'm not posting an actual recipe with ratio numbers.
-Sample the mixture at each addition. It should be sweet, but also let the Cognac cut through with a nice warming effect. If overly sweet, add small amounts of Cognac until the flavor is balanced again and a pleasant warming Cognac heat returns to the tongue. Warm, not burn.
-Start adding the Tahitian Vanilla extract in small 1/4 teaspoon quantities. Stir the mixture completely. Always sample again before proceeding to gauge where you're at. Add more vanilla as needed (you may want to use an eyedropper at the latest stage) until it's balanced between the honey and Cognac, not overpowering. What you're trying to achieve as an overall flavor is a honey sweet floral vanilla note, then the Cognac warmth wraps everything together and lingers. Scent should similarly be vanilla honey sweetness upfront before the Cognac alcohol completely permeates the nose a split second later.
Nothing should overpower the other, but the Tahitian vanilla is ever so slightly forward, as I'm sampling the original Navan right now as I type.
Once this balance is achieved, transfer the mixture into a bottle with a screw cap or air tight stopper, preferably a bottle the size of the mixture. Do NOT store half a bottle worth of liquor into a bottle twice as large. Air is the enemy, and this extra air gap will only oxidize the beautiful flavors faster over time. Store in the fridge if you're not going to use completely in the next month or two.
Those last 2 sentences should apply to any other natural ingredient liquors in your bar, and any hard alcohol half or more empty should be transfered to smaller bottles to eliminate oxidization degradation. Also keep everything away from indoor light, sunlight, and far away from direct heat sources above room temperature. Keeping your half empty booze in a sun lit garage mid-summer is a recipe for absolute disaster and sadness.
Lastly, keep notes on the brand of Cognac, alcohol proof and ingredient ratios to speed up making your next batch. Don't want to make an entire batch and just need a small amount of this liquor for a couple cocktails? Simply use the same ingredients and steps above, but only use an ounce or so of Cognac as a base starter, then add all other ingredients slowly to taste.
Enough ranting. Now enjoy making drinks from Kahuna Kevin's Tiki Cocktails Volume 1 originally using Navan liquor, and I hope everyone has a blast experimenting and inventing many new cocktails. I think we should call this liquor substitute Kevan...
Thank you for the overwhelming Voodoo Bamboo release day pre-orders. 21 of 30 mugs have been sold in only 14 hours of launching, leaving only 9 mugs left available. My poor phone was nearly blowing up with the constant *cha-ching* sales notifications.
The first 8 mugs are shipping today (Saturday Jan. 20), mugs 9-16 should arrive at my shop by Monday Jan. 22, and rolling shipments will continue on until later that week. Most likely all mugs will be sold very soon and chances are extremely high that all orders will ship before February.
Thanks again for your support, and have an awesome weekend everyone... I'll be preparing lots of boxes. ;) - KK
Series #2 of the Voodoo Bamboo mugs is under production and almost done. Pre-orders to reserve mugs will be open starting Jan. 19 at 6:00pm PST sharp. Only 30 available.
Mugs are glazed in a brown bamboo color, come with hand braided rope with cast Harpy Eagle talons, each one is signed by manufacturer PopTiki and myself, etch nunbered #/30, as a bonus each order will include a signed & numbered Voodoo Bamboo cocktail recipe postcard and Kahuna Kevin logo drink coaster.
Mahalao for your continued support! -KK
A huge shipment of mugs just arrived from the fine folks at Eekum Bookum Tiki Mugs.
Everything is back in stock in limited quantities except for the Blue/Gold Open Edition Idols - Those reserve orders kept racking up and as soon as the shipment arrived they were already sold out. The next shipment should arrive around mid-August, so make sure to reserve order now to guarantee earliest delivery.
The best news today is the arrival of Open Edition Blue Lava Idols with real white gold bowls! The color combination of blues and silver really adds a "cool" appearance to the mug vs the warmer tones of the Red Lava mug. These two opposing color combinations look really awesome next to each other, so if you already have the Red Lava Idol in your Tiki mug collection, you may want to pick up his cooler brother.
These non-numbered Open Edition mugs are the same exceptional hand made quality as the other Idol mugs. Ships double-boxed and over packed to eliminate breakage during transit.
Mahalo for supporting small US businesses and buying products Made In America! You are supporting many families, not corporate shareholders. -KK