I’d like to keep with the ongoing trend of highlighting some of the tiki bright spots in my home city, and share my recent sit-down with the author and illustrator behind the book “The Mai Tai Manifesto”. This cocktail recipe book is the brainchild of one J. Edward Preisman of the local Dallas exotica group The Tiki Torches , and the fun illustrations were done by band percussionist R. “Hami” Hamilton. I had an opportunity to check out their new book, which will be released later this month, as well as ask them a few fun questions!
What drove your decision to write The Mai Tai Manifesto?
J: Mostly, Hamilton. I had an idea to include an illustrated cocktail recipe with our promo kits, just for fun, and he thought it was a great idea, so we planned on that. Then, some weeks later, he either secretly masterminded this new idea, or it was just a moment of confusion; I don’t know which, but he just blurted out that we were gonna write a book of cocktail recipes to merchandise, and then, all of a sudden, for me, it just had to happen. I love writing. I love drinking. I love recipes. It was a very exciting idea.
H: Yep, that’s about the size of it. The band needed some really cool merch, and shirts weren’t going to do it! A cocktail book sounded so fun, unique, and needed. Everyone loves a good cocktail. J is a good writer, I like to draw…boom, cocktail book!
What is the best tiki drink you’ve ever had (homemade or bar-made), and what made it so great?
H: I have been a beer guy forever. So this book is actually for my benefit too, in that it’s taught me a few things about rum cocktails, and how to order and appreciate them. I don’t have a fave just yet, but I liked illustrating “The Movie Star.” Vavoom!
J: Another hard question. So many rums… But, as of right now, the most delicious rum I’ve ever tasted is from Barbados: Plantation 20th Anniversary. I try every rum neat to know it better before I ever mix it into a cocktail. Rums from different regions can vary greatly and it really changes the flavor of a cocktail, so you have to know what you’re dealing with. But, this one, the Plantation 20th Anniversary, I have never mixed it. I only drink it neat. It’s just too perfect on its own. It’s… my precious.
H: J played host one night a while back and let me try a little taste of all of his rums. It was a great adventure. I tried “Papa’s Pilar” and could drink it straight for days.
4. What is the best/most useful drink-making advice you’ve ever been given?
J: Knowing the flavor differences of rums from different regions, probably. When mixing drinks, the techniques aren’t difficult, and if you procure quality ingredients, the end result is bound to be good if you measure well enough. But, turning a good drink into a great drink can be greatly helped by really knowing your rums. Where they come from makes a big difference, and knowing whether to start with a Jamaican rum or a Puerto Rican rum or a wherever rum is very useful, I think. That and fresh, clear ice.
H: The doctor says 2 drinks a day, but if you stay a little conservative on the pour, you can make it 3! Maybe 4 if the party is swingin’!
What exotica artist inspires you and the Tiki Torches the most?
H: Ixtahuele from Sweden is my pic for contemporary exotica. They inspire me to make music here in Texas. They’re just magicians at what they do. It’s so cool, because they’re living, breathing music makers. All of our other heroes are no longer with us in the jungle.
The Mai Tai Manifesto itself covers a lot of essentials for budding Tiki mixologists, such as how to make your own syrups. There is even a nice, simple recipe for orgeat, which I might try very soon, as I have found other recipes to be a bit too intensive for my (currently) teeny-tiny kitchen to handle. The inclusion of a recipe for coconut rum is also intriguing, as most brands of coconut rum on the market are too syrupy-sweet for my liking. It does require some work, but J. does a great job of explaining everything step by step, and being very detailed, so you don’t wonder halfway through if you did it right.
Probably the coolest thing about the Mai Tai Manifesto is the array of completely original recipes that J. has included, such as the eponymous “Tiki Torch”, which is very simple to make, and the Lava Luau, which is named for the small tiki-themed event Carrollton, TX hosts every year. I love the detail with which J. talks about not just the drink itself, but the side notes regarding rums, ingredients, and garnishes.
I am anxious to concoct J.’s favorite recipe, the Milk Of Paradise. I don’t see a ton of tiki drink recipes containing milk, and this one sounds amazing. I also have to wonder if I can use almond milk or some other type of rich milk substitute, as my own significant other, like Hami, also doesn’t drink milk. I’ll have to try it out when I move to my new place, and let you know!
Hami’s colorful, fun illustrations accompany each drink recipe, and give the reader a rough idea of what their finished product might look like. Overall, this is a great and easy read, and not intimidating for anyone wishing to have a taste of paradise at home.
Tikiphiles will have a couple of great opportunities coming up to purchase the Mai Tai Manifesto; there are book release parties planned this month. If you are able, support these fine gentlemen, who are enriching our little tiki scene in Texas, and grab a copy of their new book. If you are geographically challenged, visit their site to purchase:TheTikiTorchesBand.com. Price online includes ship costs, FYI.