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Cheers! Bourbon for the summer means a Tiki drink

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Using the Eastern Kille Bourbon from Grand Rapids in a 1930s tiki drink.

Lester: Hi Tammy!

Tammy: Hi Lester!

Lester: That's Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings. And you have a bottle there that I really like. We visited Eastern Kille in Grand Rapids a while back. I actually bought a bottle of their rye, which was really delicious. You've got the bourbon.

Tammy:That's right.

Lester: What are you using it in?

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Mixing up the Halekulani.

Tammy: I've been teaching these online cocktail classes because I had to figure out how to transition my business to being online. And the most recent one that I did was a summer bourbon cocktails class. And we think of bourbon drinks as kind of being those heavy sipping drinks.

Lester: It's a winter drink, or fall anyway.

Tammy: Right. So this was like, what's the summer side of bourbon? You know that I am a fan of Tiki drinks while being very aware of their complicated history. But that's definitely where my mind goes when I think about the summer.

Lester: Just to clear up what you mean, you’re talking about cultural appropriation issues.

Tammy: Right.

Lester: I understand that. But what I don't understand is: I always think Tiki drinks are pretty much made with rum.

Tammy: Lots of people think that. But actually, other kinds of spirits have been part of the Tiki tradition and the tropical drink tradition since the very beginning.

Lester : Oh, okay. What did you make with Eastern Kille Bourbon?

Tammy: This is the Halekulani cocktail. It comes from the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. And it was invented in the 1930s.

Lester: Oh, it’s that old, huh?

Tammy: So, when I say that Tiki tradition of non-rum spirits goes back a long time, it goes back to the very beginning. And this is a really, really interesting combination of ingredients. Tons of different ingredients in here. It's very much representative of the Tiki tradition in that way. And they come together into this beautiful sum of its parts.

Lester: Is this something we can actually make at home?

Tammy: Oh, sure. There are a couple ingredients you'll need to make yourself. But you can absolutely make this at home.

Lester: Are there any kinds of bourbons we should avoid when making this drink?

Tammy: I don't think so. I think lots of different kinds of bourbons would work. This is the second bourbon I've tried with it and I think it's just as great both times.

Lester: OK, I'm going to take a taste now. Is that okay?

Tammy: Yes, please.

Lester: I like the aroma. (sips drink) Wow. Summer or winter, I would drink that. It's got a really citrusy end. So at the beginning you get that big round bourbon taste and the sweetness of the juices. And then at the end, it's just all a bit of citrus. And then it's done. It's gone. The finish is quick.

Tammy: And then also that Angostura bitters. That spice note kicks in there, too, which I think is why you said this could transition from fall to winter.

Lester: Right. Yeah, that makes sense.


Tammy: It was funny the first time I made it. When you read the recipe, you think that could taste a little bit sweet with all those sweet juices and the grenadine and the demerara syrup. But when I tasted it, I was like, whoa. One: this isn't sweet. And two: this is surprisingly complex. And then I looked at the recipe and I thought, well, it has seven ingredients in it. Of course, it's a complex cocktail.

Lester: It's really delicious as well. I just want to say about your online cocktail classes, I'm glad that's working out because I imagine it's kind of difficult to pitch a cocktail class when you can't taste the cocktail. But it's good that people are interested.

Tammy: I took a little bit of time after the (COVID-19) shutdown to think about what is it about my cocktail classes that people enjoy and how can I best translate that to the online experience. So, people get to make whole drinks in their house (versus small samples at in-person classes) and they really like that. They don't have to drive anywhere after, which is fantastic. And the thing I've always loved teaching in my classes and people have always loved hearing is about the history and the stories.

Lester: Right!

Tammy: And those translate even better to the online format because we can use videos and pictures and slides and really make it an interactive experience. So I have people who tell me they like my online classes better than the in-person ones.

Lester: Well, cheers!

Tammy: Cheers!


1 1/2 oz bourbon
1/4 oz rich demerara syrup (recipe below)
1 teaspoon grenadine (recipe below)
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz orange juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
Garnish: with Tiki intent (umbrellas, flowers, tiki stirring sticks, etc.)
Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake, strain into coupe
or martini glass.

Grenadine: Heat 1/2 cup POM with 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan just
until sugar dissolves. Optional: add 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses. Let
cool and store refrigerated. Yield: 3 oz

Rich Demerara Syrup: Combine 1/2 cup demerara sugar/”sugar in the raw”
with 1/4 cup water in a saucepan and heat until sugar is completely
dissolved. Let cool and store refrigerated. Yield: 4 oz

Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are the authors of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers from the University of Michigan Press. The book is based on the Cheers! episodes heard on Michigan Radio.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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