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Tiki Vibe Abounds In Denver Day At The Beach Revived At Clubs
By Kat Valentine
July 18, 2003
The allure of island culture long has fascinated the average flatlander, with its promise of carefree days and balmy nights.
At its peak during the heyday of exotic lounge music in the '50s and '60s, the music of Martin Denny and Les Baxter brought visions of the South Pacific to suburbanites everywhere, and Tiki bars sprung up from coast to coast. This Americanized version of Polynesian pop culture was about as authentic as a flaming Volcano cocktail, but that's not the point. More than just a temple of kitsch, and beyond grass huts and umbrella drinks, Tiki culture is about escapism.
While Denver has yet to provide us would-be islanders with a permanent Tiki bar, watering holes around town are adding exotic events to help us escape the tedious summer heat of a landlocked city.
Every Wednesday brings 'Intoxica Exotica' to the Streets of London pub, where the Tiki night struggles to overcome the handicap of being located in a decidedly untropical Colfax hangout.
The Aloha banner above the bar looks self-conscious and out of place, but the specialty drinks on the 'Menu of Deadly Delights' are right on target. The refreshing Singapore Sling ($6) is served in a tall voodoo totem mug, and the Reef ($7), a high-octane 95-proof rum Cosmo (think Bacardi 151 and a splash of fruit juice), is served straight up, martini-style, with a tiny dangling monkey as garnish. Not all are good, like the sickeningly sweet canned-pineapple flavor of the Shark's Tooth ($5), which redeems itself by arriving in a very cool, straw-skewered plastic pineapple. Rounding out the menu are classics such as the Hurricane ($3), Trader Vic's Punch ($3), Mai Tai ($6) and the Rum Runner ($6).
DJ's LuckE, Dario and Vivian Va-Voom add an excellent blend of exotica lounge music, surf boogies and Latin rhythms, focusing on the retro sounds of Henry Mancini, Martin Denny, and obscure '60s mambo and cha-cha records. Va-Voom says she includes mood-setting showtunes from 'South Pacific,' but also gets quirky, adding modern interpretations, such as a Senor Coconut cover of Kraftwerk, or industrial beats remixed with mambo rhythms.
'The heavier Latin beats really get the crowd moving,' adds Va- Voom. 'Seeing a punk-rock couple with their arms around each other, each with a big fruit and umbrella laden drink, swaying back and forth to Yma Sumac or Perez Prado, is totally priceless.'
Intoxica Exotica, Wednesday nights, Streets of London, 1501 E. Colfax (303-861-9103)
House of Bamboo
Wednesday nights at Mynt, the Bamboo Lounge offers a different version of exotica. DJ ben A spins modern Latin house beats culled from exotic locales such as Rio de Janeiro and Puerto Rico, offering killer percussion and an African-influenced Caribbean vibe. Jesse Sandoval joins in with live percussion on bongos, cumbas and timbalas, and the result is thoroughly tropical, but a far cry from the lounge tracks of yesteryear.
Mojitos are the drink du jour at Mynt, with $3 versions offered all night. Try the standard Mynt Mojito, or experiment with variations like the Mojito Limon, the Raspberry Mojito or my favorite, the Mango Mojito. Pure summer in an icy glass, the tangy- sweet cocktail comes appropriately topped with fresh mint and sugar cane.
Get there early to snag a booth or couch, updated for an island look with strands of flowering vines, fresh lilies and palm fronds, and take advantage of the 4-9 p.m., two-for-one happy hour.
Bamboo Lounge, every Wednesday, Mynt, 1425 Market St. (303-825- 6968)
You can find other Tiki-centric nights if you look hard enough. Try any of the following for various tropical tidbits of tropicalia.
Go-Go '66: Tuesday nights at the Skylark Lounge, chill to '60s surf and go-go tunes, live go-go dancers, and ask Andy the bartender about his specials on Blue Hawaiians and Mai Tais. 58 Broadway (303- 722-7844)
Kit Kat Club: Thursday nights at Herb's Hideout have gone from swing music and martinis, to exotic lounge tunes and rum drinks. 2057 Larimer St. (303-299-9555)
Red Monkey Lounge at B-52's: Open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, this scarlet-hued room has dcor that screams Tiki, from rattan lounge furniture to the carved wooden masks, and Hawaiian prints. Sadly, the music and drinks are lacking in anything more exotic than the latest house beats and microbrews. 1920 Market St. (303-383-1941)
Yardi Lounge: Thursdays at Blue Ice, DJ's K-Nee and Dragon bring on the Rasta party with reggae music. 22 Broadway (303-777-3433)