Jeff Berry (mixologist)
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (born c. 1958) is an American restaurant owner, author, and historian of tiki culture, particularly the drinks associated with the tiki theme. In addition to researching and reconstructing lost recipes, he has invented and published his own cocktail recipes.
M. Carrie Allan of The Washington Post described Berry's work in researching and reconstructing lost recipes as that of a "cocktail archeologist". Wayne Curtis, historian and author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, dubbed him "the Indiana Jones of tiki drinks". Berry calls himself a "tropical drink evangelist". Steven Kurutz of The New York Times said, "Mr. Berry’s lasting contribution may be in salvaging tropical drinks from decades of bad bartending." The Australian Bartender noted, "It's hard to overstate this guy’s importance for tiki bars: Jeff Berry literally wrote the books on tiki."
Berry describes himself as a "professional bum". He is a graduate of the UCLA film school, and he worked as a journalist and screenwriter in Hollywood for many years. He did several Disney rewrites and directed a TV movie starring Olympia Dukakis. But he came to realize that he "liked making drinks more than making movies" and decided to focus on his real passion: tropical drinks.
Berry fell in love with tiki culture as a child in 1968, when his parents took him to a Chinese restaurant in the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles area. He loved its faux-Polynesian decor and was fascinated by the elaborate cocktails that were served. He later explained, "It was this weird, mysterious adult thing that was a part of the whole exotic fantasy world.... drinks would come with all kinds of elaborate garnishes. It had a huge impression on me, and that became my favorite place to go."
By the 1970s the tiki craze, which had been launched by Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron in the 1930s, was fading; formerly popular with celebrities and trend-setters, tiki-themed restaurants forty years later were regarded as "tacky". As Berry explained in a 2010 interview, "the fad entered middle-age, and became something your parents did." But as an adult Berry still loved the style, as did his wife Annene Kaye, a former bartender. He particularly wanted to know how to make the elaborate, exotic drinks associated with the theme. Owners and bartenders of the tiki era held their drink recipes as closely guarded secrets; Beach kept the actual recipes secret even from his bartenders, telling them to use one ounce from Bottle A and a quarter ounce from Bottle B. As a result, low-quality imitations of classic drinks like the Mai Tai and the Zombie had become common. Berry and Kaye set out to rediscover or reverse-engineer the original drinks that were served at now largely defunct icons like Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber as well as surviving tiki palaces like Mai Kai, Tiki Ti, Tonga Room and Bali Hai. He bought out-of-print drink recipe books and collected memorabilia like placemats, menus, and coasters. He searched out old-school bartenders and persuaded them to share their secret recipes with him.
At first Berry's research was just a hobby. He and fellow enthusiasts would gather at backyard luaus hosted by Otto Von Stroheim; the parties proved a strong influence in keeping tiki culture alive and helping to inspire the "tiki renaissance" of the early 21st century. Berry began to compile the recipes he found through his research into scrapbooks for friends. He published his first book, Beach Bum Berry's Grog Log, in 1998. The book has been called "pivotal" for popularizing the tiki theme as well as giving bartenders the recipes they needed to attract a new generation of customers. The Tonga Hut, Los Angeles's oldest tiki bar, offered customers a Grog Log Challenge: to drink, within a year, all 78 cocktails whose recipes are printed in the Grog Log.
Two years later Berry wrote the chapter on tropical drinks, called "Mixologists and Concoctions", in Sven Kirsten's influential The Book of Tiki. Tiki-themed bars and restaurants began to come back into style. Soon researching, writing, and giving talks about tropical drinks was his main activity. In 2015 he commented, "All these neo-tiki bars were opening up all over the world... and between 75 and 90 percent of their menus were all recipes I had found."
The recipes in Berry's books are mostly for classic drinks, some of which had never been published before and required years of sleuthing to discover. They also include historical information about the originators of tiki such as Beach and Bergeron, as well as important early contributors to the tiki renaissance such as Von Stroheim and Kirsten. His fourth book, Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari (2007), includes what he believes to be Beach's original recipe for the Zombie, which had never been written down except in code. He spent a year and a half researching how to make the perfect Daiquiri. Some of his rediscovered classic drink mixes are marketed by Trader Tiki.
In 2014 he and Kaye opened a tiki-themed restaurant and bar, Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He said operating the restaurant is "the first time I've worked set hours since 1985."
- Beach Bum Berry's Grog Log – 1998, Diamond Comic Distributors, ISBN 9780943151205
- Beachbum Berry's Intoxica! – 2003, Slave Labor Graphics, ISBN 9780943151571
- Beach Bum Berry's Taboo Table – 2005, Slave Labor Graphics, ISBN 9780943151991
- Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari – 2007, Slave Labor Graphics, ISBN 9781593620677
- Beach Bum Berry Remixed – Slave Labor Graphics, 2010, ISBN 9781593621391
- Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean – Cocktail Kingdom, 2014, ISBN 9781603113809
- Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari (expanded 10th Anniversary) – Cocktail Kingdom, 2017, ISBN 9781941199169
Although Berry's books have primarily chronicled the sometimes "lost" recipes from historical bartenders of the past such as Beach, Bergeron, Tony Ramos, and Harry Yee, Berry has also invented and published some of his own cocktail recipes. Examples that have appeared in other bartender guides, drink apps, or tiki websites include the Ancient Mariner, Bum’s Rush, Castaway, Hai Karate, Restless Native, Sea of Cortez, and Hula-Hula. Another of Berry's original creations was the Von Tiki, which first appeared in 1998 in Beachbum Berry's Grog Log.
- Kurutz, Steven (November 28, 2007). "Cracking the Code of the Zombie". The New York Times. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- Allan, M. Carrie (April 11, 2015). "Heres a beach bum who is serious about one thing: Tiki cocktails". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- "You like tiki drinks? Well, this guy — Jeff Berry — is the reason you get good recipes". Australian Bartender. November 8, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- Clarke, Paul (May 3, 2007). "Characters: Jeff "Beachbum" Berry". Imbibe Magazine. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- Anderson, Brett (February 15, 2008). "Tiki titan Jeff Beachbum Berry dips toe into New Orleans - from the archive". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- Frodelius, Blair (May 19, 2010). "Bum Rap: A Conversation with Jeff "Beachbum" Berry". frodelius.com. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
- Berry, Jeff (2017). Sippin' Safari (10th Anniversary Expanded ed.). New York: Cocktail Kingdom.
- "Otto Von Stroheim interview". abvmagazine.com. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
- "Tales of the Grog Log: My Year-Long, 78-Drink Tiki Marathon". talesofthecocktail.com. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
- "The Best Tiki Drink Recipe Books: A Review of the Works of Jeff Beachbum Berry (So Far)". news.critiki.com. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
- "The Ultimate Guide to Completing the Grog Log at the Tonga Hut". moderntikilounge.com. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
- "L.A.'s Oldest Tiki Bar Is Turning 60 This Year and That's Cause for Celebration". lamag.com. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
- Berry, Jeff (2010). Beachbum Berry Remixed. Club Tiki Press. p. 160.
- Collins, Amy C. (June 12, 2017). "Mastering the Daiquiri With Jeff "Beachbum" Berry". Punchdrink.com. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- Anthony Giglio, Jim Meehan (2009). Mr.Boston Official Bartender’s Guide. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley & Sons.
- Berry, Jeff (1998). Beachbum Berry's Grog Log. Slave Labor Graphics. p. 87.