Tiki Tolteca pops up at Felipe’s

00:00 May 08, 2013
By: David Vicari
[Courtesy of Anne Berry; Styled by Matthew Noel]

What does "tiki" conjure up for you? Hawaiian shirts, bamboo bars, and Caribbean cocktails, probably, built on multiple rums, tropical citrus and exotic sweeteners.

Felipe's will broaden the genre with its own Tiki Tolteca pop-up, coming to their French Quarter upstairs lounge beginning May 14.

"We'll use tiki's big bold flavors, spices, tropical fruit and mysterious blends of different ingredients, and translate it to drinks" based on Latin American spirits like pisco, mezcal, tequila and cachaça, as well as rye whisky, says Nathan Dalton, Felipe's bar manager.

The idea for the pop-up, he says, comes from Felipe's bartender Richard "Trader Dick" O'Dell, a tiki enthusiast.

It was furthered along by Nathan's recent trip to Peru with wife Kristen. They brought back carved totems to decorate the tiki bar, which is also graced with coconut heads, surfer girl mugs and stuffed parrots.

The drinks list plays up the mystery and storytelling legacy of tiki cocktails, and there will be plenty of rum (in the classic Hurricane, traditional and frozen daiquiris, as well as tiki expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's own double-rummed Ancient Mariner).

Nathan has also begun barrel-aging J. Wray & Nephew's overproof Jamaican rum, to approximate the original Mai Tai.

The Latin American influence comes in concoctions like Nathan's lush Last Guinea Pig in Cuzco, based on Peruvian pisco, a fruity, soft grape brandy that's long lent itself to tiki drinks (Trader Vic himself used it in dozens of recipes).

Pisco is deceptively smooth, and lets the Last Guinea Pig's passion fruit syrup and lime shine. Grapefruit juice adds a touch of tartness, while the drink is grounded in earthy green tea, and cinnamon and allspice syrups. It's swizzled and served over crushed ice.

Another signature, Richard's Escorpion Punch, is a lavish pour of tequila and mezcal in a clay cazuela (meant to be sipped through straws), at the center of which is a volcano-shaped cone of ice that's flamed, tableside.

"Tiki is about atmosphere, about being over the top," says Nathan. "The idea is to come in and be transported to a tropical place."

Felipe's Taqueria is located Uptown and in the French Quarter, where Tiki Tolteca will pop up Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. 301 N. Peters Street, 267.4406. Bartender Danielle Maurin also contributed a drink to the Tiki Tolteca list.

Felipe's kitchen will cater Tiki Tolteca with Polynesian and Central American cuisine to include ceviche and deviled eggs with black beans; chef Marcus Graham's Salvadoran mother taught them how to make authentic pupusas, which will be served as well.

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