Cardinal bartenders Baylee Pruitt and Chris Resnick are the wizards behind the weekly oasis known as Tiki Tuesdays. You’ll find this couple behind the bar every Tuesday night, shaking up tropical delights like Cobra Fang, Traditional Family Voodoo and Montego Babe, using fresh fruits and ingredients that they've made from scratch. The garnishes are just as spectacular — you can’t not Instagram their gorgeous drinks.
Their love for tiki runs deep, and not just at Cardinal. At home, they have more rums than most bars do, they stalk tiki treasures online and sometimes they serve drinks out of a giant conch-shaped vessel. No big deal.
OK, let’s talk tiki with these two.
You guys are really into tiki, so much so that you got matching pineapple tattoos a couple months ago. What’s the story?
CHRIS RESNICK: We woke up one day and we just really wanted to get tattoos, and we kind of wanted to get the same thing. It was right after Tiki Tuesday and we were still on a high from the night before.
BAYLEE PRUITT: I said, "What if we got pineapples?" and Chris said, "Yesss."
What got you hooked on tiki drinks in the first place?
CR: The fact that they weren't super staunchy and boring.
BP: Yeah, they're silly and over-the-top.
CR: I think it mostly stems from rum more than anything. I was almost always a whiskey drinker, but the more tiki drinks I make, the more I find how much I enjoy rum. A lot of people don't really think they like rum. They've only had bad stuff and made terrible mistakes when they were 16 years old.
BP: I was one of those people. But now we drink rum all the time. At home, it's our go to liquor.
When you started Tiki Tuesdays at Cardinal, there was just vodka and gin to work with — no rum yet. What’s the trick for using something other than rum successfully in a tiki drink?
CR: Making it taste like rum, mostly.
Is it possible to make a tiki drink with gin?
CR: Gin will actually be a really fun challenge. Tea goes really well with gin. Then something probably with cream, and maybe orange? We usually never know until we get here.
What’s your favorite Tiki Tuesday cocktail?
CR: My favorite is the Jungle Bird, which is a classic cocktail usually made with a really deep Black Strap rum, a dark rum. So, (our version) doesn't taste quite as full as a regular one, but it's still really nice with our housemade bitter liqueur. Actually, ours is a little easier to drink than a regular Jungle Bird.
BP: My favorite one to make would probably be the Seabag, which has coconut milk, cinnamon and passion fruit, and toasted coconut shavings. I make the coconut milk, and that process is really fun and it makes the cocktail super fresh.
What’s the key to a good tiki drink?
BP: And not too sweet.
CR: Tiki drinks typically have three to nine ingredients, so there can be a lot of stuff in there, and you want to be able to taste every flavor.
Speaking of ingredients, which ones do you make from scratch?
CR: Falernum (an almond-ginger-lime syrup), coconut milk, cinnamon syrup, black pepper syrup, strawberry syrup, ginger syrup.
What do people love about your Tiki Tuesday drinks?
BP: Definitely the orange-rind skulls that I spend hours carving! Garnishing is just a huge part of a tiki cocktail. It's as important as any other part of the cocktail. I'm getting much faster at the skulls.
CR: Yeah, she can do around 50 in an hour.
BP: Which doesn't sound like a lot, but it is!
Your garnish game is strong. And then there's the cool tiki glasses.
BP: The tiki mugs we have at Cardinal, those are from our personal collection. We have twice as much at home as what we have here. We look on eBay, and shop at places online. There's this one company (Bespoke Barware) in London that's fantastic and we lust after everything they make. We do have one thing from them.
CR: It's a big, beautiful conch shell (for shared drinks). It's enormous.
What kind of rum is best for making tiki drinks at home?
CR: I like Appleton Jamaica Rum for most purposes. For a white rum, I would go with Barbancourt.
BP: Rum is great, as far as being affordable. You can get some really nice stuff for the same price as an "eh" bottle of any other spirit.
And, finally, where do you get your sweet tiki shirts?
BP: We buy a lot of stuff from local shops in town, like A.Z. Vintage and Cherry Canary.
CR: I got a decent haul at H&M recently. They went tropical for spring, which worked out really well for me.