Last Thursday was one of those epic days. Bright blue skies and warm weather enveloped Philadelphia as Rum Week was in full swing. 5 o’clock approached and I strolled the three blocks between the official Rum Week hotel and historic Rittenhouse Square where Rum Bar was about to be converted into Duke’s Surf Bar, a one night pop-up tiki concept created by Adam Kanter.
I knew something wonderful was about to happen, but honestly didn’t quite know what to expect. Would Duke’s be reminiscent of the old-school tiki bars of the 1960’s with low lighting, soft ambient music and bamboo framed artwork? Would it be a craft cocktail bar with precisely mixed faux-Polynesian drinks like the ones that have taken over New York? Or would it be a wild, loud, high volume joint like the UK tiki spots of today? As it turned out, Duke’s was all three wrapped into one.
As I approached, loud rock ‘n’ roll music blasted from the doorway and beach sand drifted out onto the sidewalk. A line was forming out front and I knew I was definitely in the right place! I walked inside at 5 minutes after 5 o’clock with my friend and partner in crime, Robert Burr of Rob’s Rum Guide. We scored the last two seats at the bar and 10 minutes later the place was absolutely packed.
The drink menu was stocked with old tiki classics and a variety of fresh creations skillfully whipped up by Phoebe Esmon, Katie Loeb and Adam Kanter, all veterans of the local mixology scene.
First, we sampled two Mai Tais, one was the original Don the Beachcomber recipe and the other by Trader Vic. Both were excellent but we decided that Don’s version was better. Sorry Vic.
Next we moved on to “Strong” drinks. Up first was the Viking Funeral, a giant drink created by Katie Loeb. It was indeed strong, but the balance of fruitiness played well with the rum and it disappeared in no time.
Drinks kept coming. Next was Pele’s Revenge, a Duke’s Surf Bar original that seemed to be one of the more popular drinks of the night. We liked it so much we had two. Cocktails continued with a Papa Doble, then a Zombie, then a Lava Flip, then a Painkiller. The evening got very interesting and the three-deep crowd at the bar hung around until the wee hours.
Congrats to Adam Kanter for pulling off a crazy-successful one night stand with the tiki gods. It was the highlight of Rum Week. If Duke’s makes the transition from pop-up bar to full time Philly tiki spot, we will definitely be back to support you. Cheers!