Bay Area bars and their top tropical cocktails

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If you think all tropical drinks are boozy, blue and carry a paper umbrella, you probably need to find a new cocktail bar.

Here in the Bay Area, we have a small but fiercely dedicated group of tiki loyalists, including San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove and Alameda’s Forbidden Island, making exotic cocktails in the way that Vic “The Trader” Bergeron intended when he opened Trader Vic’s nearly 45 years ago: using quality rums, hand-squeezed juices and house-made syrups.

And if you prefer other spirits, chances are high that you’ll find a well-made tropical cocktail on the menu of more and more bars and restaurants right now. Fueled in part by a growing interest in rum, this current wave of tropical sipping is less about Hawaiian shirts and reliving the past. Instead, it’s about bartenders who want to explore creativity, push the principles of the craft cocktail movement and offer their patrons an escape.

Consider Rhett Rosen, the executive vice president of Trader Vic’s. On a recent trip to Tokyo, Rosen spotted mixologists sweetening their cocktails to order using fresh cane juice. Rosen, a bartender at heart, returned from the trip and purchased the Emeryville bar and restaurant its very own sugar-cane juicer. The team has since developed six cocktails featuring the natural nectar. In May, they followed that up with another innovation: Uncharted Cocktails, a menu of new exotic drinks, like the Black Sand Beach, made with activated charcoal (yes, the trendy medicinal powder), rock candy syrup, pineapple juice, two types of rum and lime.

“We wanted to do something different with an ingredient you don’t often see in tiki cocktails,” Rosen says. “Plus, it’s reminiscent of some black sand beaches in Hawaii.”



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