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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

Polynesian Pop : A Tiki Extravaganza 2019

Notes from the Nashville Cocktail Festival's Tiki Festival

Polynesian Pop Logo

The 6th Annual Nashville Cocktail Festival hosts several events around Nashville, each based upon a different cocktail genre. This year I had the pleasure of attending the Polynesian Pop : A Tiki Extravaganza event at The Pavilion in East Nashville. The event was sponsored by El Dorado Rums and included booths from multiple distillers and a lot of local bars and/or restaurants. I'd love to to give you a complete run down of everyone that participated but alas, this happened a few weeks before I launched this site so I was more of a participant than reporter...

However, I did pick up the cards from a few that I found most impressive. One of the most informative sections was a presentation from El Dorado Master Distiller Shaun Caleb. He kept quite the crowd while going into great detail about the distilling processes used by El Dorado... and if he's not getting a kick back from the Guyana Tourism Board he should be. Between the rum (getting to try their 21 year old was a treat!) and the images shown in his presentation I was ready to book a flight.

Still can't afford that hand model...

Probably the most interesting bit about this festival was who showed up to promote that they have Tiki drinks. Nashville has a great bar scene and no shortage of hi quality mixologists. However, as recently as 2017 there wasn't a single bar in town that I'd classify as Tiki. Since then a couple have opened (Pearl Diver, Choppers) but to be honest, I don't even think Choppers was officially open yet during the festival! However, I quickly learned that the lack of an official Tiki bar doesn't mean that you can't find a great Tiki drink in town!

Before I start naming names, a few caveats. I see no reason to be negative so I'm just covering what I liked. However, don't take my not mentioning a participant as a sign that I don't think they are any good. Each bar essentially presented a set menu of one or two drinks that they were making and everyone was serving 8-10 ounce pours. So, you never really had a single drink long enough to have the ice melt and change the flavor profile to any degree. This definitely benefited some drinks over others IMO. And, I may not mention a bar that was there (and makes great drinks) just because I may not have cared for the one particular drink that they had on offer that day. ...or I found them after I found the Zombie fountain...

Bamboo Sam @ the Zombie fountain
Bamboo Sam @ the Zombie fountain

Gertie's Bar (at the 404 Kitchen) is a prime example of a bar that I think of for whisky or classic cocktails but not Tiki. However, they had some excellent Tiki drinks on hand and assured me that they were able to make off menu Tiki drinks. Saltine was another surprise. I thought of them as a seafood restaurant not a Tiki bar but it turns out that they have several Tiki drinks on their standard menu. Most notably, they make a rum punch that is kept on tap and consists of seasonal fruit so it's always a new drink. They also keep Zombies on tap. In fact, they had a Zombie fountain at this event. As for standard Tiki drinks they also have a good Navy Grog. Lastly, Choppers (which I've been awaiting the opening of forever) had a booth which was full of good drinks. They also seem to be the only place in Nashville selling their own Tiki mugs, so that's a plus!

Lastly, I met the folks behind Cocktail Theology podcasts. They have a very interesting podcast series combining spirituality and spirits. It's nice to see someone creating on a deeper level.

All in all I had a great time and I certainly hope that the folks at the Nashville Cocktail Festival will have another Tiki event at next year's festival. I just hope it's not the same weekend as the Music City Marathon and the NFL Draft again. Traffic was a bear...

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