Pretty much all I want to talk about in this post is how obsessed I am with this vintage Kokeshi doll Tiki mug from Benihana of Tokyo. I found this gem a couple of years ago on Etsy. I got her for a steal at $27.95. This particular vintage Tiki mug is fairly rare and has sold for upwards of $100 on eBay.
There are other versions of this mug that don’t have as much detail or come with a straw hole in the front of the mug, which, I think, ruins the aesthetic of the doll.
Traditional Kokeshi dolls were created in the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868). They were first made in the Tohoku region, in Japan’s north-east. It’s widely believed that woodworking artisans of the time, called Kijiya, who specialized in carvings wooden household utensils like bowls and trays, would make small dolls in the winter months to sell to tourists who came to enjoy the many hot springs surrounding their villages.
The few who could afford such luxury would bring back Kokeshi dolls as souvenirs for their children.
Fun fact: Kokeshi dolls serve as the inspiration behind Nintendo’s digital avatars, called “Miis”, which are created and customized by players. Their appearance forms the basis of the platform’s overall aesthetic.
You might be surprised to learn that this Tiki cocktail doesn’t call for any rum. While rum is certainly the alcoholic lifeblood of Tiki culture, there are a wide array of classic Tiki drinks that employ other spirits.
The Monk’s Respite uses gin as the base spirit and is complimented by yellow Chartreuse. In fact this drink is called “Monk’s Respite” because Chartreuse is a liqueur distilled by Carthusian Monks who have been following the same handwritten recipe that calls for 130 different herbs, plants and botanicals since 1737. The liquor gets its name from the Monk’s Grand Chartreuse monastery in France.
Chartreuse is a sweet, aromatic and boldly herbal liqueur that works really well in this pairing as it compliments the herbal components of the gin.
The original recipe calls for this drink to be served in a young coconut shell, which makes complete sense given the coconut water component. That is a perfectly charming way to present this cocktail but I will jump at any opportunity to use my most cherished Tiki mug.
This drink is very light and refreshing with just a hint of sweetness from the honey syrup. Some nice notes of citrus from the lemon juice and orange bitters balance out the herbaceous component of the Chartreuse.
If you’re looking to build your own Tiki mug collection, Etsy, estate sales or antique markets are great places to find the real deal.
Add all ingredients except seltzer to a cocktail shaker with crushed ice and 4-6 whole ice cubes, shake, open pour into an empty young coconut shell or Tiki mug. Top with seltzer.
Recipe from: Cate, Rebecca and Martin Cate. "Monk's Respite." Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. Ten Speed Press, 2016.