The Scorpion Bowl is having a moment.
In fact, Eater reports that the Washington, D.C., bar Tiki on 18th has had to purchase more ceramic bowls to meet the ballooning requests for the drink. Meanwhile, in New York, “there was a stampede on our Jungle Bird bowl,” says Krissy Harris, co-owner of the bar Jungle Bird, after indoor dining resumed. “We didn’t have enough bowls in-house and couldn’t keep enough ice on hand to keep up with demand,” she says.
Be it the roaring return of alcohol-fueled social interaction or the warm weather influencing our thirst for summer drinks, communal cocktails have catapulted to the top of bars’ bestsellers lists. And when it comes to large-format, more-is-more cocktails built for sharing, tiki does it best.
“Rum lends itself to large-format drinks, mainly because it plays well with so many different juices [and] bitters,” says Harris of tiki’s default spirit. Following suit, at Tiki Tatsu-Ya in Austin, Texas, the elaborately garnished Skeleton Cruise combines both unaged and Demerara rum, joined by Japanese whisky; pineapple juice, lemon juice and guava purée provide refreshing counterbalance to the drink, while green Chartreuse offers herbal complexity. “I generally create group drinks with flavors that most people will enjoy; nothing too bitter or herbal or smoky,” says Cory Starr, Tiki Tatsu-Ya’s beverage manager. “Balance is the key, not too sour or too sweet.”
Though rum is a safe starting place, any spirit can be lengthened into a large-format drink with proper consideration of the other ingredients and garnishes, says Al Thompson, beverage director of the Washington, D.C., tiki bar Hanumanh, which has also seen a rise in communal drink orders. “I don’t think there is a spirit that can’t be batched or made into a punch,” says Thompson. Hanumanh’s Romulo in Space, for example, calls on a gin base, balanced out with cinnamon syrup, a housemade pineapple orgeat and citrus.
To build a batched cocktail, Thompson suggests simply supersizing existing recipes. Sours and cobbler-style drinks work best, he says, as bitters and certain liqueurs that accompany more complex recipes “tend to expand in a batch.” Harris’ Jungle Bird Bowl follows this straightforward approach, turning tiki’s greatest crossover hit into a bowl that serves four to six people by scaling up the blend of two rums, Contratto, Campari and lime juice, then serving it in a punch bowl. For creating new large-format drinks, Harris suggests following the classic Planter’s Punch recipe—one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak. “There’s so much room for creativity in that recipe,” she says.
Tiki Tatsu-Ya's Skeleton Cruise comes shrouded in dramatic fog.
Arguably, the most important element of such a theatrical serve is its presentation. To amp up the drama, the Skeleton Cruise comes shrouded in fog, activated by pouring an aromatic coconut chai over dry ice, which envelops the skull-adorned pirate ship carrying the communal cocktail, garnished with fruits, flowers and chocolate coins. Other drinks, however, make use of more easily accessible vessels. The Romulo in Space, for example, is served in a stormtrooper helmet that is actually a repurposed cookie jar. But the drink is not without its own fanfare: A portable speaker plays Star Wars’ “Imperial March” theme as the cocktail arrives at the table. Even in a more traditional punch bowl, the chosen garnishes and ingredients themselves can play up the excitement. As Starr explains, “Champagne floaters are always a great touch.”