A conversation with Martin Cate, co-author of Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki

Here at The Hawaii Project, you know we love great books. And you know we love great cocktails. And you can guess we’re into the Hawaii thing. So when Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails came out, you can imagine our excitement.

Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails is the brainchild of Martin and Rebecca Cate, the owners of world-renown tiki bar called (you guessed it) Smuggler’s Cove, a San Francisco institution. We were recently in the area and made pilgrimage to Smuggler’s Cove as well as the Cates’ new gin establishment, Whitechapel, and had a fantastic time at both.

Martin was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book. We hope you enjoy the answers as well as running out and buying the book!


Aloha Martin! The world has been missing a Tiki cocktail book for a long time now. What triggered this book, and what took you so $%#! long?!

Haha - well, we didn’t want to just write a recipe book. We felt that two more things were really needed- 1) to put exotic cocktails into the larger context of tiki culture, and explain how they are part of a larger pop art movement that involved sculpture, music, art, architecture, and more and 2) to help offer a primer on rum and try to demystify it while offering a new way of approaching it.

Much of the book is drawn from the Smuggler’s cove menu and experience, but there’s a treasure trove of history in the book. How much is right out of your head? Could you talk about your research process?

Much of the research was undertaken by my better half and co-author, Rebecca, who holds a research-based PhD from UC Berkeley. I highly recommend marrying a PhD before undertaking a project like this! Some was out of my head, some was from a fleet of books both period and contemporary, and part of it comes from the fact that we’ve been involved in the tiki community since 1999.

What’s most misunderstood about Tiki culture and tiki cocktails?

People don’t understand the structure of the drinks, and people don’t understand the context and inspiration for the aesthetic. I also think people need to understand that the drinks are best enjoyed in the context of a tiki bar - that’s where they were created and designed to be enjoyed.

For home mixologists, beyond the obvious spirits and fruit juices, what are some key secret ingredients for tiki cocktails people haven’t heard of that they should stock?

The two most important are Allspice Dram and Falernum - key spiced liqueurs that are part of any good tiki arsenal.

There’s no ingredient more Hawaiian (and perhaps more abused) than pineapple. What’s your favorite pineapple-based cocktail?

I like the Boo-Loo - big, frothy and refreshing. Served for two in a freshly cored out pineapple.

Are there authors you particularly admire or were inspirations for you? Whether around cocktail books or otherwise? What are you reading right now?

Certainly Jeff Berry and Sven Kirsten were huge inspirations and they laid much of the groundwork of documenting the era’s style and libations.

If this book had a playlist, what music would be on it?

Exotica Music for sure! Martin Denny & Arthur Lyman. Check out Sven Kirsten’s CD compilation “The Sound of Tiki” for a great primer.

(We took the liberty of assembling a playlist for Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki…Enjoy!)

There’s been a surge in craft rum distilleries in Hawaii. What do you think about the Hawaiian rums, any thoughts or favorites?

I think the people at Kō Hana are doing excellent and creative work with fresh pressed Hawaiian Cane rums.

Late last year you opened Whitechapel, a gin bar. What led you to that? Have you run out of rums to try :)?

Haha! My partner Alex was the inspiration behind Whitechapel - I wanted to bring the same education, drink selection, and gin list (largest in North America) to the world of gin like I did with Smuggler’s to show that gin is indeed a fun and versatile spirit and not stuffy or old fashioned. With a wild interior and outstanding food, it’s a great destination, and just 5 blocks from Smuggler’s Cove.

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