In the August issue of the magazine, writer/barman Andrew Bohrer referred to tiki cocktail culture as “a sleeping volcano about to spew new life onto the increasingly austere craft-cocktail scene.” While other cocktail cities like New York, San Francisco and even Portland have bars dedicated to Polynesian-inspired drinks, Seattle’s craft tiki cocktail presence has largely been relegated to special menus or a handful of drink listings at certain cocktail bars with tiki devotees behind the stick.
New Capitol Hill restaurant Chino’s isn’t a tiki bar per se (well, actually not at all), but it does provide Polynesian-seekers with a dedicated menu of tiki drinks courtesy of bar manager Veronika Groth. After masterminding herb-focused (and delicious) drinks at Poppy since its opening, Groth said she had a good time playing with the fresh juices and getting acquainted with the bevy of rums that are the foundation of tiki drink culture.
Chino’s owners Mari and Walter Lee say their new Pike Street spot serves Los Angeles street food, a casual mashup of the Taiwanese and Mexican dishes the couple grew up with. However Groth said the tropical drink list is actually a logical fit given the tiki movement’s roots in Southern California, specifically with the opening of both Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s in 1930s Hollywood, long before several decades of kitsch and those Hawaiian Brady Bunch episodes gave tiki a bad name.
The citrusy, vacationy flavors stand up nicely to Chino’s menu of snacks and bowls, from the addictive furikake kettle corn to steamed buns filled with pork belly, daily pickles, and perhaps the best (and saltiest) fish sauce chicken wing this side of Pok Pok.
Groth’s menu includes three mai tais, including faithful replicas of the Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s recipes, and a seasonal version. Right now most of the drinks are tiki classics, including a Singapore sling, Navy grog and a zombie, made with three types of rum, house-made falernum and grenadine, bitters and fresh-squeezed lime and grapefruit juices. Once things calm down after the opening, Groth is eager to put her own stamp on the tiki side of the menu. She’s already making her own grenadine and sweet falernum syrup.
The other half of Chino’s cocktail list is dedicated to classics, including a ramos gin fizz made with spirits from nearby Oola distillery and house-made jasmine flower water. The old fashioned comes with a house-made muscovado sugar cube, containing star anise, fennel, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon and clove…the same seasonings that amp up the char siu pork on the dinner menu.
Chino’s opened this weekend at 1024 E Pike St.