What makes a tiki drink? Well, it's not the accessories.
"Some people think you put an umbrella in a drink and can call it a tiki drink but you can’t," said Tiki Lindy, aka Linda Panofsky, an accomplished bartender and tiki modernist.
Panofksy can easily break down the difference between tropical and tiki drinks — tropical ones use juice or a component derived from the tropics, i.e. guava, passion fruit, pineapple, while tiki can vary depending on how much of a purist you are — as part of her vast knowledge of tiki culture, which also extends to the food.
Adding author to her list of accomplishments, the Bay Area resident recently released a new cookbook, "Field Guide to Pupus, Tidbits & Exotic Provisions," which she will be signing at an event Tuesday at Tiki-Ko.
The joy of tiki culture didn't take roots in Panofksy right away. She worked as a bartender and ran a catering business putting herself through college and graduate school.
It was a visit to Trader Vic's in Emeryville that put the tiki spell on her.
"I was blown away by the escapism," she said. "The mishmash of Polynesian culture, I was fascinated by it."
"That’s how I got into it, piecing together the clues. I'm meticulous, whenever I learn about something I really dive deep."
But when it occurred to her to make use of her research in writing, she looked to the food popular in tiki culture.
"My love of food way predates my interest in cocktails," said Panofksy, who was the cook of her family growing up.
Realizing how many tiki cocktail recipe books were out there, she wanted to try her hand at something unexplored, thus the "Field Guide" was born.
Since the influences of tiki culture span many regions, she aimed to find a way to connect them in the book. So she fashioned it as adventure following a band of explorers in the late 1800s.
"I laid out my book in such a way to represent regions. In this fictitious world of tiki, I was able to inject a lot of humor into the story line. It's a hilarious way to educate people."
Readers can venture to the Bay of Bengal for crab Rangoon, a favorite of Panofksy's, enjoy Bora Bora lamb chops from the South Pacific, have some hatoshi (shrimp toast) from the East China Sea or chow down on coconut thins from the Caribbean Sea.
The remaining two regions will be represented by food served at Tuesday's event, prepared by chef Richard Yoshimura of The Kitchen: pulled pork sliders from the North Pacific and Chinese five-spice wings from South China Sea.
For the event, which is sponsored by Plantation Rum and BG Reynolds, Panofsky developed cocktails highlighting the spirits and her own bitters.
Captain’s Quarters combines Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum and Tiki Lindy coffee bitters; Galley Grog mixes Plantation OFTD Rum, BG Reynolds paradise blend syrup and Tiki Lindy Key lime bitters; and Port of Call showcases her chai bitters with Plantation 3 Star Rum, BG Reynolds passion fruit syrup.
Those cocktails are $10 or $30 with a Plantation ceramic tiki mug that guests can take home.
The event will also feature door prizes including a Tiki Lindy Collins glass, set of Tiki Lindy bitters and a Tiki-Ko T-shirt.
Panofksy said she's excited to share her book with a wider audience. (And those who can't make the event Tuesday can order a copy at tikilindy.com.)
Of course, she knows support starts at home, including her husband, a big chicken wing fan, and her 10-year-old daughter, who she describes as a "champion of my food."
"We were having to make the dishes repeatedly to take the photos for the cookbook. When we got to the last photos, she said, 'Oh but I don’t want to have to give up the tiki lifestyle."
With this cookbook in your hands (or trips to Tiki-Ko), you won't have to.
"Field Guide to Pupus, Tidbits & Exotic Provisions" book signing: With specialty cocktails, free appetizers, 6-11 p.m. Tuesday, Tiki-Ko, 1919 K St. Free to attend; book $30, drinks $10 or $30 with take-home Plantation Rum mug.