Women in Rum Take Over Trader Vic’s Emeryville

It’s no surprise that the world of tiki has transcended from what it once was in the 1950s. While many of the aesthetics remain, such as bamboo, palm fronds, hibiscus flowers, and of course delicious tropical cocktails; the world of tiki is developing into a much more inclusive community – with a high-level focus on rum, and what comprises these beautifully garnished drinks.

This transition was evident at Trader Vic’s Emeryville on April 7th, 2019.

Created by Vic “The Trader” Bergeron, Trader Vic’s opened in 1973, overlooking the San Francisco Bay and Emeryville Marina. With its tropical interior and exotic cocktails, it was the perfect venue to host a book-signing for the author, Shannon Mustipher on her successful new cocktail book, TIKI: Modern Tropical Cocktails, and hold a Tiki panel from prominent women in the rum and Tiki community.

Eve Bergeron, host and granddaughter of Trader Vic himself, brought together these women in Tiki, including our fearless leader, Michelle Perez!

Taking the stage of the panel was Shannon Mustipher, the Beverage Director for Glady’s Carribean in Brooklyn, and now the first female African-American bartender to create a cocktail book; Suzanne Long, founder of Longitude in Oakland and one of the only female rum experts in the world who has appeared in numerous symposiums and cocktail events such as Tales of the Cocktail, the Beverage Academy at Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco, Hawai’i Cocktail Week, and Tiki Oasis (just to name a few). Jeanie Grant, bar manager at Pagan Idol in San Francisco and the 2018 Tikitender champion (she won using Rum Fire overproof rum!); Humuhumu Trott founder and creator of Critiki, who has also appeared in symposiums at Tiki Kon, the Bar Institute, Hale Pele, and at her own home tiki bar, Balhi Ha’i. And of course, Michelle Perez, founder of Ladies Who Tiki who has hosted numerous meetups across the US, winner of Best Tiki Drink at Tiki Caliente 9, and has hosted rum sponsored room parties at Tiki Oasis, Tiki Caliente, and her own home bar, the Hollywood Lanai.

The panel of women answered questions about everything from rum to Tiki’s former days of cultural appropriation and to where they feel Tiki is headed today: A more inclusive community of people appreciating more than appropriating and completely revolutionizing this facet of Americana culture with a more modern approach.

Jeanie Grant told Ladies Who Tiki directly, “What I found most inspiring about the event was seeing how many people care about continuing the Tiki movement with a modern view. This view includes well-crafted cocktails, transparency in rum and the creation of an inclusive environment for all people. Being in a room full of people eager to talk about these aspects of Hospitality affirms that I am on the right path.”

When the panelists were asked what the new trend in rum was, there was a resounding agreement that the future lies in Rhum Agricole – a cane juice rum originally distilled in the French Caribbean islands from freshly pressed sugar cane juice rather than molasses. The term ‘Rhum’ is used to distinguish the fact that it is a sugar cane rum since most rums are distilled from fermented molasses. Rhum Agricole typically comes from Haiti, Martinique, and the Guadaloupe islands of Marie-Galante, Grade-Terre, and Basse-Terre, and throughout the Caribbean including Trinidad, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Grenada. Sugar cane is specifically grown for the production of Rhum Agricole, and the fields are managed and controlled like vineyards. Distillers first ferment the raw cane juice with wild, indigenous yeast to create a sugar cane wine, which they then distill into a raw, funky, and flavorful spirit that’s more vegetal than sweet. So when someone says they think rum is too sweet and they don’t like it, have them try a good Rhum Agricole.

From Mustipher’s new beautifully constructed book published by Rizzoli, a quote from the mixologist herself, “Mixing a fantastic cocktail requires a balance of art and science – knowledge of ingredients, flavors, and technique, and the skillful application of all three, Before being tasked with creating a rum-focused bar at Glady’s Carribean, I’d had very few craft cocktails made with rum, Tiki or otherwise. The latter I regarded with skepticism: While the restaurant’s interior – trimmed by jewel-toned formica, adorned with lush foliage, and energized by upbeat island music – created the perfect setting, I knew one of the challenges the bar would face was the perception of rum being too sweet, and Tiki as tacky.

It’s clear that bartenders in Tiki are changing this mindset with their new cocktail inventions and twists on some of the classics. “I made it my mission then to present bright, crisp, and nuanced drinks to not only debunk these clichéd notions but to show rum as an exemplary mixing spirit.” (7 Mustipher, Shannon. TIKI: Modern Tropical Cocktails. 2019)

As the panel continued on and Mai-Tais were sipped, it was a powerful moment to be surrounded by these female movers and shakers within rum and Tiki. It truly showed that women in this community are rocking the industry and they’re not stopping.

If you missed the opportunity to buy Shannon’s book in person, you can still purchase it online through Amazon. The layout is easy to follow and it’s the perfect size to prop open for mixing up delectable cocktails. The gorgeous photography is done by Noah Fecks.

“The key to making a truly special cocktail is to engage all the senses, and this is the heart and soul of Tiki.” – Shannon Mustipher.

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