the founding father of Tiki

the founding father of tiki

trader vic: the inventor of the most famed tiki cocktail

How Victor Jules Bergeron Jr. Helped Popularized Tiki Culture...

The Beginning...

Victor Jules Bergeron Jr. was born on December 10th, 1902 in San Francisco.  At the age of six, he lost his left leg to tuberculosis.  His parents opened a small grocery store in Oakland, California, across the street from where Victor Bergeron would eventually open his first bar.  On November 17, 1934, Victor Bergeron borrowed $500 and opened a small bar called “Hinky Dinks".

Having caught wind of the great success of Donn Beach’s Tiki Bar “Don’s Beachcomber”, in 1937, Victor Bergeron transformed Hinky Dinks into his own Tiki Bar stating "that he felt that he could it better".  He would trade drinks and meals with customers in exchange for knickknacks that customers had acquired from their travels and used those items to decorate his bar.  This earned him the name of “Trader Vic” which he went on to legally change his name and the name of the bar to “Trader Vic’s”.

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The Mai Tai...
 

Although there has many been many disputes over who invented the Mai Tai, the credit goes to Trader Vic as the inventor of the Mai Tai, although, some argue that the Mai Tai is a copy of one of Donn Beach’s cocktail, the “Q.B. Cooler”.

The following is a quote from Trader Vic about his invention of the Mai Tai:

“I originated the Mai Tai. In 1944 after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I thought about all the really successful drinks: martinis, manhattans, daiquiris, all basically simple drinks.  I took down a bottle of 17-year old rum. It was a J Wray and Nephew from Jamaica, surprisingly golden in colour, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavour particular to the Jamaican blends. The flavour of this great rum wasn’t meant to be overpowered with heavy addition of fruit juices and flavourings. I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of rock candy syrup, and a dollop of French for its subtle flavour.  I added a generous amount of shaved ice and shook it vigorously by hand to produce the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went into each drink for colour and I stuck in a branch of fresh mint.

I gave the first two to friends from Tahiti who were there that night. One took a sip and said, “Mai tai roa ae.” In Tahitian this means out of this world, the best. Well, that was that. I named the drink Mai Tai.”

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His Later Years…

Trader Vic would go on to expand his business to 25 Trader Vic locations worldwide.  He wrote cocktail recipe books and branded his own cocktail mixer.  He partnered with Hilton Hotels and opened multiple Trader Vic's locations throughout the 50s and 60s.  He later developed other interests such as painting and sculpting, until his death in 1984.

Final Thoughts…

Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. (i.e. Trader Vic) was one of the two main founders of the Tiki culture.  He created the Mai Tai, the most iconic of all Tiki cocktails, established Trader Vic’s restaurant worldwide, and help popularized Tiki bars and restaurants with his Trader’s Vic’s brand.  He also was the main competition to “Don the Beachcomber’s”, which led to numerous Tiki cocktails being invented as they tried to out do each other.  Without Trader Vic, Tiki culture wouldn’t be as we know it today.

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