Before there was tiki, there was tropical. Back in the 1930s and early '40s, as Don the Beachcomber was spawning what was to become a wave of openings of Polynesian palaces, bartenders and restaurateurs were filling up their liquor shelves with rum and experimenting with new concoctions.
One of the earliest to be influenced by the Beachcomber was Victor Bergeron, who saw what Donn Beach had started in L.A. and took the idea home to Oakland, revamping his old Hinky Dinks watering hole and renaming it Trader Vic's. In 1947, Bergeron published Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide, an extensive recipe guide detailing hundreds of drinks, including many proto-tiki mixes that reflected the experimentation that had been going on in earlier years.
The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail has a few of the tropical essentials: first, it's based on rum; second, its flavor is fleshed out with fresh lime juice and the little-known syrup called falernum; and third, the name has both Caribbean and nautical overtones. It's a few steps short of a full-blown Nui Nui, Sumatra Kula or Pearl Diver's Punch, but there's no shame in that. On a warm spring day, when the mood for something bright and tropical hits you but you're not quite up for breaking into full luau mode, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail fits the bill quite nicely.
- 2 ounces Barbados rum (Mount Gay and Cockspur are common, and good, brands)
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 2 dashes Cointreau
- 2 teaspoons falernum*
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well for 10 seconds, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Falernum can be hard to find, but it’s not impossible. Velvet Falernum is a lightly alcoholic version sold in liquor stores, while Fee Brothers makes a non-alcoholic falernum that can be found in some liquor stores and specialty food stores. If you’re still stumped, or just looking for that homemade touch, it’s quite easy to make your own.