The Bartender Behind the Blue Hawaii

A successful tropical cocktail could have a million mothers. Have a mai tai. Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic’s, a kitschy restaurant chain that helped popularize fictitious representations of Polynesian culture for wistful mainlanders, claimed he invented rum. , otherwise suggestions aggravated his ulcer and said, “Anyone who says I didn’t make this drink stinks dirty”. There is a famous tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber, but fell in love with his Don the Beachcomber persona and legally changed his name to Don Beach. Beach claimed Mai Tai was his brainstorm. You may never really know who to thank/responsible for Mai Tais, especially since recipes cannot be copyrighted.When it first appeared on bar menus in the mid-1940s, island culture (including cocktail glasses adorned with sacred cultural symbols), bartenders around the world were probably sloshing together rum, lime and coconut to catch the waves.

On the other hand, it is plain fact that in 1957 Harry Yee (1918-2022) created Blue Hawaii (rum, vodka, blue curacao, pineapple juice, sweet and sour mix). Yee tended the bar at his one of the largest hotels in the United States outside of Las Vegas, the Hawaiian Village. Beginning as a small collection of low-rise tourist huts, Hawaiian Village has expanded to accommodate the ongoing new wave of tourism. At the time, getting to Hawaii might still have been daunting, but Americans were determined to see the paradise raved about by servicemen returning from the South Pacific, and sought sweet and sultry cocktails to match the experience. I got

Yee’s parents are from China and he was born and raised in Honolulu. He was petite, wore glasses, and had a shy smile. His father owned a general store in downtown Honolulu. After high school, Yi attended aviation school in San Francisco and later served as a fighter pilot in the Chinese Air Force under Chiang Kai-shek during World War II. He returned to Honolulu after the war and worked at his family’s store for several years. He also began helping a friend who owned a bar popular with military personnel. For someone who only drank cognac, it was an interestingly opposite career choice, but Yi quickly embraced it. His style was more business than schmoozy.Former Honolulu reporter Rick Carroll AdvertiserWriting about Yee in 1984, it states: “He was enthusiastic and bright, but serious. I never heard him laugh.” , learned how to layer multiple liqueurs and liqueurs and juices. He then headed to the Hilton. The Hilton was not only huge, it was charming. Celebrities have dined there regularly.

For example, while New York City bars kept customers satisfied with their dry martinis, Hawaii bars, especially in the late 1950s, were flooded with tourists seeking novel, “Hawaiian” drinks. Indigenous peoples of the South Pacific did not use alcohol much, so it is a mistake). Yee recalled being regularly asked for local cocktails that didn’t exist. He filled the gap with a Mai Tai, telling one reporter: Around that time, the Dutch liquor company Bols was promoting Bleu He Curacao, an orange liqueur. A local Bols rep asked Yi if he could come up with something delicious with it. Presto, Blue Hawaii. (Contrary to popular assumption that this drink was named after an Elvis Presley movie, Yee apparently took his name from the 1937 Bing Crosby movie Waikiki Wedding. , this song contains the original version of “Blue Hawaii”). It hit. Inspired Yee Tapa Punch, Chimp In He Orbit, Tropical Ich, Hawaiian Eye, Nautifula, Scratch Meelani, Wahinez He’s Delight, Hot He Buttered He’s Okolehao, and more, he has nearly 20 cocktails invented.

The usual garnish for these sweet drinks was cane stalks, but Yee’s daughter Marilyn noted how dirty and sticky it was, especially because bar patrons had a habit of putting chewed cane in ashtrays. Garnishing His first inspiration to up his game was to garnish his cocktails with Vanda Orchids. people loved it. For his tropical itch, he procured a 14-inch-long bamboo back scratcher, and for each drink he stuck one on. (For the record, Puerto Rican bartenders claim to have started using the Buck Scratcher in similar cocktails around the same time. In 1893, at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago with the Chinese Village. (according to When Absorption magazineIn the 1890s, miniature parasols were at the center of the miniature debate.In the 1890s, they were the subject of lawsuits arguing whether they were subject to the same import duties as real umbrellas.of toothpicks and tissue paper. A court ruled that umbrellas should not be taxed as umbrellas because they do not appear to function as rain shelters. It’s impossible to know, but he was celebrated for it and has always cemented the notion of the umbrella drink in popular culture.

Yee ran bars at the Hilton for decades and retired in his late 70s. Over the next few years, he taught bartending at his institute in Honolulu. The rewards for inventing drinks aren’t always extravagant (apparently, the Hilton bartender who invented the now ubiquitous pina colada only got a medal, a diploma, and a TV set), Yee was proud of his liquor heritage. “He was a humble man,” said Jeff (Beach Bum) Berry, who writes about tropical drinks, recently. “He never imagined that he could still enjoy his drink,” Berry paused. After all, you are in Hawaii. Other things don’t matter. ♦

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