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Dole Stole Hawai'i Cocktail

Tiki drinks are a fun diversion in good times, and a comfort in hard times. I’ve personally enjoyed going to many a tiki bar, and indulging in both the drinks and the fantasy. But tiki cocktails aren't just based on fantasy. They're based on real cultures of real people, reflected through the fun-house mirror of someone else’s oppressive system of beliefs.

The Dole Stole Hawai’i is inspired by the Mr. Bali Hai, a mix of white and dark rum, pineapple juice, coffee liqueur, and lemon. I love the combination of pineapple and coffee, but the acidity of lemon was out of place. Inspired by Hawaiian exports, I used macadamia nut instead to create a syrup. Next I replaced the white rum with demerara 151 rum; its strength balances the powerful ingredients better. The result is a frothy mix of coffee and sweet tropical fruit with a satisfying, nutty depth.

The cross cultural interactions between white colonists and the native, Polynesian people of Hawaii inspired what is now known as 'tiki'. This fraught history led to the diaspora of the Polynesian people, and immeasurable pain and suffering caused by white colonization.

It’s not a 'diversion' when someone else moves into your neighborhood, and claims it as their own. It’s not 'comforting' when these interlopers criticize your culture and use violent force to impose their way of life.

Tiki has always been about the conquerors telling the story of the conquered. The story is basically this: a westerner sets sail on the pacific, meets the friendly people of some 'far off' island, and doesn’t come back, or returns home victorious with the spoils of their adventures. This tale highlights comfort and escape from a white, colonial perspective, and it’s a highly sanitized version of what those encounters truly were. Capitalist greed and missionary zeal (working in evil tandem) permanently altered the lives of the indigenous people of Hawai’i, without them having much say in those changes.

The stench of colonialism is part of the reason tiki culture started to die off in the Viet Nam War era, as younger generations of Americans found its indulgent escapism tacky. They rejected tiki like they rejected Nixon; both represented capitalist greed and white America once again occupying a space that didn't belong to it.

The tiki drink revival started in the 1990s, with a few obsessives who found each other online. Then there were meetups, like Tiki Oasis. People like Jeff Berry dug up old recipes and shared them with the world, sometimes for the first time (Donn the Beachcomber was famously secretive about what went into his drinks). Pretty soon, tiki drinks went from tacky and overindulgent to 'cool' and 'unpretentious'.

As the tiki revival grew, however, its cultural price tag was forgotten. As tiki bars pop up more and more, there's less effort to distinguish the love of the drinks with the the racist ephemera that goes with them.

This drink is an effort to combat that, by calling attention to one of the many stories of oppression that the West has tried to excise from public memory. The white descendants of American missionaries, including the Dole family, asked for the US military’s help to overthrow the native, sovereign government in order to profit their sugar businesses. The US government sent a warship into Honolulu harbor to ensure the coup's success. Sanford Dole was then made president of the new provisional government of Hawai’i.

Our goal with Dole Stole Hawai'i is to remember the harm that tiki has done by perpetuating the narrative of white colonialism. The story has to evolve, and sometimes, so do the drinks.

Join the Club to get the recipe for Dole Stole Hawai'i.

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