Book Report | Trader Vic's Rum Cookery & Drinkery by Victor J. Bergeron

Front of dust jacket.

Front of dust jacket.

Book Reports will be an ongoing section here at Kapu. This is the 21 and over 5th grade class you have been looking for.

“I am sitting here chewing the fat with Sarvis about this rum book. She asked me what ever happened to the bottle of El Dorado Blended Reserve Rum that she brought back from Guyana for me. And my secretary says, “Trader, don’t you remember. You drank it. We had fancy daiquiris all that week, and then you drank the last two golden drops straight.” Jeezus, do I remember. It was fabulous!”
— - Trader Vic's Rum Cookery and Drinkery - Guyana and Desserts, Page 57
 

Have you ever seen the images of Vic Bergeron sculpting in his studio? (Page 165, Potions of the Caribbean by Jeff Berry) The section of the book was on the Trader and his restaurants but I still think the picture was Picasso. They are doppelgangers. ALthough, Trader's style of ice-cubism was coolly received at the Louvre. Vic was a still a gifted innovator in his own right. And very funny. Cookery and drinkery were not words in my lexicon until finding this rum soaked gem in the lower levels of the public library. 

Neil and I have a good friend named Travis. He is a resourceful and enthusiastically experimental home-based chef.  A number of years ago he entered what I like to call his, "Jam and Jelly Phase." He would search the internet for tips and often as not roll down to the Los Angeles Central Library seeking non-digitized advice from a more preservation rich time period. I work across the street from the LAPL Central Branch but have been incubating my cocktail, rum and tiki obsession on a purchased diet of Beachbum, Wondrich, and NYC-based cocktail bar books. Flipping and reading had more or less downloaded the contents into my brain or given me an index on where to look up a drink or slice of history. I needed more. 

The internet is good resource to start getting into home bar cocktails. Saveur Magazine had a summer trysts with the Bum & Rum back in 2010 - 2011. Wondrich contributions to Esquire are digitized.  Various specialty magazines have great resources online. A few blogs. A few podcast. A few YouTube channels. A couple of Instagram accounts. Then there is the forbidden internet. I have a deep aversion to internet forums - I avoid them like the people offering personality tests on the streets in Hollywood. Still, internet links and searches are really going to be helpful for internet age resources. Need primary resources from the Tiki Gods of Post-War America? Those are out of print. Either pay or look up at the local library.

Text Conversation

Saturday

Travis: Visit the downtown library cookbook and cookery collection yet? It was formative in my jamming studies. 

Brian: No, I look down from 33 and ponder about when I will remember to go at lunch. 

Monday

Brian: So many cookbooks...

Travis: Largest West Coast collection they told me.

LAPL cookbook stack.  Cooking science and cookery sections are a few down. Cocktails are seven shelves. There is a fair amount of novelty type books but many classic and quality newer books. 

LAPL cookbook stack.  Cooking science and cookery sections are a few down. Cocktails are seven shelves. There is a fair amount of novelty type books but many classic and quality newer books. 

The Book

Trader had a way with words. Funny and irreverent.  The book's high points are the colorfully written reflections and commentary. But his voice is slips in between the measurements and ingredients as garnish more than base. Conceptually, this cookbook is a comprehensive list about rum on the plate and in the glass. This book comes close to 30 years and a lot of success after his 1946 Trader Vic's Book of Food and Drink.  In Food, the Trader describes a fantasy land of parties, luaus, and richness - the ingredients of a good time. In Cookery , the Trader list the ingredients. You make the good time.

Vic's rum-based cocktails are crafted from the perspective of a chef. And as a cocktail creator, he had little trouble making delicious food by adding rum. The 72 pages of food range from a French cuisine minded aspec to the essential Jamaican dish, Jerk Chicken. Seafood is made for rum. The prawns in Guyana Rum are on my dinner plans soon. Desserts are a no brainer and they have a very strong showing but surprisingly shallow depth. I made the Pineapple Upside Down Cake as a part of this review. Research. "THREE VEGETABLES AND A BREAD" section is short and has one good idea. I'm thinking this is the "Lousy Food" section*. The recipes are typically built around a rum serving as a sauce base or braise. They make rum the star typically but a few are cook, douse, and serve.

Drinkery is not a familiar word. It sounds like a GRRM word or a one that stopped being a fashionable in 1206 BCE. Mayhaps, that is the same thing. To me drinkery is a kin to encyclopedic with 117 pages of  plain drinks, punches, nogs, fizzes, slings, swizzles, and "Lousy Drinks*." Jasper's Jamaican Drinks are afforded a section all their own. Fitting since Mr. Bergeron based his marketing strategy on Jasper. 

Encyclopedic also mean unedited. Each page offers about 4 recipes. There are around 400 drinks. Some are interesting for history, connection to a particular rum distiller, or for semi-medical uses. The least undead Zombie is offered. One rum and it isn't overproof! Why? Because he knew it was popular and felt complied to include in some form. In his 1946 book, a more faithful version to the Beachcomber Zombie is give the Trader take. However, he dismissed the drink as a, "killer diller." By 1974 many of the drinks golden era tiki drinks were well known and many represented in some form. Why bother putting effort into one you dislike when you can cure the plague of any rum bum.

“The Banana Cow is the greatest hangover drink as far as I’m concerned. People are in a rut serving Bloody Mary’s, and they really kill you rather than cool you. But milk is good for you, and bananas are good for your stomach,”
— The Banana Cow, page 158.
 

The Banana Cow is a banana smoothy with Trader Vic light Puerto Rican Rum. I'd like to have a better sense how these proprietary rum blends tastes and can be substituted. 

Swizzle, I am a big fan.  My recent efforts have been documented on my Instagram. I am always looking for inspiration, flavor combination, and names! Does Bluebeard's Castle turn blue? Grand  Marnier floats! Split the base with vodka. The most interesting take is a three rum (Light PR, Dark Jamaican, and overproof Demerara) Queen's Park. A simple mix of a three rum base is not groundbreaking but it is a nice reminder to think differently. Swizzles will be an ongoing issue of deep R(h)umination.

Dr. Funk is reverse engineered and then riffed into Dr. Funk's Son. The Funk is a favorite drink of the blog. We here at Kapu are thankful for the name choice too. It gives us ability to name our riff in a future the Dr. Funkenstein. I wish the pun was more groundbreaking.

The anecdotes and thoughts on some of the drinks are the highlights lost is a sea of ounces. They are the buried treasure in this cocktail sea. The book will be a nice reference on the shelf. Better for the creative cuisine. Good for the extensive drink recipes and variations. 

HoweverTrader Vic's Book of Food and Drink is the original Vic book from 1946. This is the book I was looking for - recipes, drinks, and the Trader's angelic prose. I am still really happy finding this book on the stacks at the library. Trader's personality in the pages shows his love for his restaurants and craft. His love gave us the success and these recipes to enjoy. 

*a drink that is not the best but Vic is writing an encyclopedia and feels the need to include.


Kapu Test Kitchen

Recipe  |   Menehune Juice 

You can't see or talk to a menehune until you drink some Menehune Juice. So drink some. - Trader Vic's Rum Cookery and Drinkery - Just Plain Drinks and Stuff, Page 134

1 Lime

2 ounces Trader Vic's light Puerto Rican rum (KC Substitute - Cana Brava)

1/2  ounce orange curaçao

1/4 ounce rock candy syrup

1/4 orgeat syrup

Squeeze lime over shaved ice in a double old fashioned glass; save the shell of 1/2 the lime. Add remaining ingredients and enough saved ice to fill glass. Hand shake.  Decorate with the spent lime, fresh mint, and a menehune. 

This is a Spanish-style rum Mai Tai. It is good. It is a Mai Tai....

The Menehune and his juice.

The Menehune and his juice.

Recipe  |  Fresh Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This cake is butter and sugar bound with flour. You can't mess this up. I didn't butter the pan. Not an issue when you are just putting butter in the pan. I am sure many similar recipes will do the trick and be okay for an AA meeting. This is one of the cook, douse, and serve recipes. Pour 1/2 cup of El Dorado 5 (8 would be better. Trader also approved Barbancourt 3 and 5 stars.) over the oven hot cake, letting it soak up the rum. The warm rum becomes very fragrant.  It is really important that the cake is hot to mellow out the booze. Better booze, better cake.

The cake is superb. Have a side of good vanilla ice cream to accompany. 

My first cake. The missing corner is wife quality control. It passed. 

My first cake. The missing corner is wife quality control. It passed. 


Conclusion

Recommend

This book will be placed with pride on my shelf and will venture out from time to time.

 

Also checked out:

Trader Vic's Book of Food and Drink by Victor Bergeron. It features a dense set of recipes and Trader commentary - He looked down on the Zombie but respected its allure. This one is illustrated with great water colors by Guy Huze´ and line drawings by William M. Kay.  Their work is very closely associated with the Trader brand via the Menus. Looking forward to dissecting. 

The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog: Drinks Manual by Sean Muldoon, Jack Mcgarry, and Ben Shaffer.