Don The Beachcomber’s Forgotten Recipes
Immediately after the 21st amendment had repealed prohibition, Donn Beach opened Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood, California. Donn single-handedly created the first Tiki bar and, with it, tiki culture. But like most innovators, Donn was worried about others copying his Hollywood-style Polynesian-themed bar and profiting off his ideas. Donn would show up a few hours before the bar opened, mix large batches of his spice mixes and mixers, and give them non-descriptive spice mix #1, #2, #3 labels like Don or Donn’s Zombie Mix, Grog Mix, Gardenia mix. This was all done to hide the recipes. Donn never told the other bartenders or published a recipe, and while he did open other bars, his recipes never got out. Thus Donn’s original recipes died with him in 1989. So keep that in mind anytime you see a Don the Beachcomber cocktail; it is never the original recipe but another bartender’s best guess as to what it was. And some guesses are better than others. Tiki was a lawless free for all for a little over a decade with no continuity between drinks of the same name. There is still a lot of that today. How many Mai Tai recipes have you seen even though we know the original canon recipe for it?
In the late 90s, a Tiki cocktail enthusiast named Jeff Berry came along with the intent of preserving the old recipes and Tiki culture and helping revitalize the public interest in it. Jeff interviewed old bartenders of Donn the Beachcombers and set out to recreate Donn’s secret recipes to the best of their knowledge. Gathering whatever information he could and testing recipes against people who remembered what the old drinks tasted like, he is credited with having saved recipes that would otherwise be lost to time. Remember that these are not Donn’s original recipe but Jeff’s best attempts at recreating them and that Jeff Beachbum Berry is probably the closest one to get it right.
The Meaning Of Three Dots and a Dash.
Donn Beach served in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) from 1942 to 1945, and so several of his iconic cocktails reference the military. The name Three Dots and a Dash is morse code for “V”, which Donn Beach uses here for Victory. The garnish represents the name. The three dots are the maraschino cherries, and the dash is the wedge of pineapple. V for victory became a famous saying after Winston Churchill’s “V” hand gesture to the press to inform the public about the end of the fighting in Europe. May 8, 1945, became known as VE Day since the two letters telegraphed to Winston Churchill to inform him of “Victory in Europe.” The USA and Japan would continue fighting in the Pacific for five more months till the end of fighting in the pacific on September 2, 1945.
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