Some of the Valley's Best Tiki Cocktails Are at Market Street Kitchen in North Scottsdale

Don’t wait for trade winds to sweep you across town to visit Market Street Kitchen in North Scottsdale. 

Beginning August 4 at a special event co-hosted by famed local bartender Travis Nass, Market Street Kitchen will begin a weekly happy hour dubbed Tiki Thursdays. Each Thursday from 5 p.m. to closing time, the restaurant will price tiki menu drinks at $7 bucks a pop if you're dressed for tiki, and will roll out special island-inspired dishes — think grilled teriyaki “piggy wings,” roasted pineapple and pineapple slaw-topped char-siu barbecue pork sliders, zesty tuna poke over shish leafs, and lomi-lomi-style house-cured sockeye salmon gravlax. 

The tropical beverages come with the continuation of the restaurant’s Secret Book Club series, during which beverage director Garrit Guthrie picks a classic novel and uses it to inspire a special cocktail menu. Last season, The Catcher in The Rye was adapted into a whiskey-themed plot. Now, it’s time for Treasure Island and tiki drinks.

The menu is already available, but there’s a trick to acquiring it — thus the “Secret” Book Club. Sitting down to the bar, you’ll need to ask your bartender for one of the copies of Treasure Island sitting on the back bar. Open it up. Hidden within its pages you’ll find not a buried treasure or a winning lottery ticket, but the next best thing: a Spark Notes-length tiki menu with drink titles such as The Black Spot and “Yo-Ho-Ho, and a Bottle of Rum!”

And if the thought of summer reading doesn’t make you happy, then according to Guthrie, the tiki drinks will.

“You can be sad while drinking wine — drinking to forget, or whatever … But you can’t be unhappy while drinking tiki,” Guthrie says. “And when done right, it can be just as interesting and complex as anything else.”

The proof is in the pages. Guthrie and the Market Street Kitchen team have created a menu that dabbles in both classic tiki ingredients — rum, lime, and pineapple or falernum liqueur — but expands beyond what's expected of the genre to create some unique cocktails with a variety of spirits, spices, and drink preparations that one doesn’t normally associate with tiki.

For instance, The Blood in the Water is a mai tai done in the style of a ramos gin fizz. Rum, orgeat, chai syrup, blackstrap bitters, lime, and lemon juices create a drink with sturdy hat of foam, served in a tall glass, garnished by a small toy manta-ray floating on the surf.

Or take the Voice Among Trees. “Swizzled by hand,” this Smuggler's Cove recipe gets the mint julep treatment and ends up looking the least like a tiki cocktail of the bunch. It's anchored by high-proof green chartreuse, then mint is swizzled — not shaken, stirred, or muddled — at the bottom of the tin cup to release its flavor and signature cooling effect.

“The swizzle is more of a technique than anything else,” Guthrie says. To show us, he places a wooden stick (the stiff root of a tropical plant) in the bottom of a tin cup with the mint, chartreuse, and ice, and begins to roll the stick quickly between his palms. “We do this Mr. Miyagi motion. It’s just a different way of muddling that doesn’t bruise the mint.”

The swizzle style drink is completed by falernum, a clove-and-ginger-spiced almond liqueur, and pineapple and lime juices. Add crushed ice to finish and a couple of dashes of bitters, next to a sprig of fresh mint. The flavor is minty, green, juicy, and spicy all at once — it’s fantastic and includes not a drop of rum.

“I love rum,” Guthrie says. “And if I could go with just one spirit, I’d pick rum. I just didn’t want to pigeonhole us.”

The Dead Man’s Chest achieves similar rum-less feats. “Buried at the beach Kentucky never had,” the drink is made from bourbon, falernum, and many a bartender's favorite, amaro, the bitter orange-vanilla Montenegro. Fresh lemon and pineapple juices give this drink lift; at first, it has the dark tanginess of a bing cherry, though it finishes tropical and a touch spicy. This one is as interesting and as approachable tiki gets.

Among the more adventurous choices is the Hispaniola, in which rum splits spirit duty with reposado tequila, apple jack brandy, and spicy Ancho Reyes Liqueur. Sweetened slightly with maple and pineapple juice and lifted by lime juice and passionfruit bitters, this spicy concoction says tiki from the Caribbean to Mexico.

“Just don’t call it a margarita” the menu warns. We wouldn’t dare.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Shelby Moore