Shake juices, Lopez and rum with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into tall glass or tiki mug. Dust with cinnamon and nutmeg. Garnish with a pineapple stick, cinnamon stick and orange wheel.
~ from "Beach Bum Berry Remixed" by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry
With only a few weeks of warm weather remaining, I feel it is imperative I offer a few words on a subject I have neglected to address for far too long: the venerable vessel known as the tiki mug...
One of my firmly held beliefs is that it is impossible to be morose when you are drinking out of a tiki mug. Tiki mugs have a quality about them, despite their often fearsome appearance, that engenders good cheer. Holding a tiki mug means you have entered into a contract that dictates you will not only be consuming a distinctive drink, but will also be doing so in high spirits. Tiki mugs are to be used in times of celebration, and are an unambiguous indicator of a festive mood. You can cry in your beer, but you cannot cry in your Mai Tai.
Speaking of which, what you put into your mug is of paramount importance. You can technically drink anything out of a tiki mug, but in your heart you know it's wrong to do so. Beer? It has its own mug. Wine? Please. Straight spirits? Seems lacking somehow. And you are most certainly inviting swift and unflinching punishment from the pagan gods if you are foolish enough to put something like Mike's Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice, or any of their shameful ilk into a tiki mug. Anything that goes into your tiki mug outside of quality spirits, fresh juices, and respectably-made flavorings is at best a faux pas, and at worst a deliberate affront.
But enough scolding. The key thing about tiki mugs is finding one. Or several. Like tattoos, tiki mugs have the peculiar aspect of making it unbearably difficult to stop acquiring them after you've gotten your first one. Depending on where you live, you may have the good fortune to find them "in the wild" at flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales, and the like. Flea markets and yard sales can yield amazing specimens, and often for ridiculously low prices. Thrift stores can also produce worthwhile finds, assuming they haven't been cleaned out by hipsters more interested in their value as kitschy display items than as functional barware. Expect to pay more at the stores, but don't let it deter you- the prices will likely still be more reasonable than if you attempted to buy the same piece at an online auction site. And make sure you clean them well before you drink out of them- you have no idea what people have used them for, and not everyone treats them with respect.
Fortunately, used or vintage mugs are not our only option.Unearthing a genuine antique mug is a thrill to be sure, but these days there are many contemporary examples to be had without subjecting you and your car to all that mileage. Easily available though online stores, mugs of remarkable artistry and craftsmanship are being created all the time at designer studios. Two of my favorite sources are Tiki Farm and Munktiki, both of whom offer up a diverse and always-changing selection. I recommend browsing the web for other vendors as well...there's bound to be someone making a mug that suits your style perfectly.
And that's really what's most important: getting a mug (or several) that suits your style. There are more varieties of mugs* now than at any time since their creation, and selecting just a few can be daunting. Taking into account your preferences for things like size, shape, color, detail level, and so on can make picking one easier, but I happen to think that under ideal circumstances the mug chooses you, not the other way around. Should you find yourself face-to face with a mug that seems compelling in some vague way, take a minute, peer into its timeless visage, and listen. You may, just for the briefest of moments, hear something. New or old, on a screen or a dusty shelf, these little gods can speak to those who choose to hear them...don't ignore what they have to say.
They're just inviting you to have a good time.
Thanks for drinking!
* For anyone interested in learning more about tiki mug history, the vast array of mugs available and other specifics, I recommend picking up the excellent book Tiki Mugs: Cult Artifacts of Polynesian Pop by Jay Strongman.