As one of the modern tiki movement’s most erudite voices, Garret Richard doesn’t necessarily scream “Galliano guy.” But the bartender has long been an avid collector of ephemera associated with the herbaceous Italian liqueur, regularly scouring library archives and odd internet corners alike for old advertisements.
One of these finds, a Galliano-branded insert in a June 1972 edition of The Palm Beach Post, served as creative inspiration for Richard, founder of the Exotica tiki pop-up series and a bartender at New York’s Existing Conditions. Though the booklet’s cocktail section predictably led with the infamous Harvey Wallbanger, several other specs jumped out to him, including the Raffaello, a precocious pisco-Galliano-vermouth mixture that inspired his Golden Horseshoe.
An adjacent column, meanwhile, featured another cocktail that caught his eye for entirely different reasons: the Yellow Bird, which teams up the vanilla-inflected liqueur with white rum, triple sec and the juice of one lime. Its overt tropical leanings tripped Richard’s tiki sensors—“There are very few white rum classics that have not yet been resurrected,” he says—as did the fact that the recipe, unlike many others in the booklet, was not listed with a creator. There’s some speculation that it’s named after “Yellow Bird,” a calypso standard, but Richard’s educated guess is that it was developed in-house by a consulting bartender who wanted a catchy island-time moniker that also referenced Galliano’s signature hue.
What intrigued him most, though, was the untapped potential he recognized in the setup. “I think we’ve seen, within the cocktail renaissance, a lot of herbal drinks be successful,” says Richard, citing full-flavored examples like the Last Word and the Naked & Famous, both featuring Chartreuse. Relying on Galliano’s distinctive botanical backbone, the Yellow Bird is “liqueur-driven, but it’s not sweet—it’s tart first,” he says. “It has layers of complexity.”
Richard is fond of pitching the drink to unfamiliar guests as a fusion of a Daiquiri and a Sidecar, tossing out bitter, sweet, tart and herbal notes in subtle waves. To achieve and sustain this depth, however, he’s had to elaborate a bit on the original recipe.
“The biggest thing I changed was the Galliano, to a slightly larger pickup,” says Richard, who tweaked the recipe from including one half-ounce of the liqueur to three-quarters of an ounce. “This is less of a white rum drink and more of a Galliano cocktail, the same way the Last Word is more about the Chartreuse, and not the gin.” Elsewhere, he incorporates a homemade lime cordial that “bridges the gap between the lime juice and bitterness of the Cointreau,” enhancing the citrus presence throughout.
Before Richard’s Yellow Bird 2.0 can take full flight, however, he hits it with a little salt—specifically, a few drops of a saline solution. “Salt gets you to the point where you can perceive all these layers of sweetness, distinct from one another,” he says. Though it might seem like an unorthodox addition for a drink with obvious tropical elements, Richard sees the cocktail more as a product of a particular time period than a designated genre.
“I wouldn’t even necessarily couch the Yellow Bird as ‘tiki,’” adds Richard. “It’s just a very good example of a midcentury cocktail.”