“The Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard”
Lady coconut, Dr. Tiki M.D., Tonga Tom, Mojita Lolita -- more than 200 wood plaques with nicknames adorn a wall at Tonga Hut, the oldest surviving Tiki bar in LA. But the plaques aren’t just kitschy pieces to match a bar already decked out in retro fountains, bamboo, and Tiki gods. The plaques are all made by hand from those whose names adorn them -- those who belong to the Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard.
For patrons to make it into the prestigious Order, they need to embark on a year-long quest through 78 complex Tiki cocktails.
“What I tell people when they start their journey on the Grog Log is that it’s cocktail archeology,” says general manager Marie King, who has worked at Tonga Hut since 2012. “There's a lot of flavors in this book that they probably don't understand, or don't know, or have never been exposed to. So they get to learn.”
The “Grog Log” was written in 1998 by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry -- and it features every cocktail you’ll need to drink to make the Loyal Order. Berry spent years tracking down vintage recipes from the heydey of Tiki and Polynesian culture to build up this exotic tropical cocktail bible. So, by “Grog Logging” your way through each elixir featured in the book, like a Chief Lapu Lapu (orange juice, sweet and sour mix, passion fruit syrup, dark Jamaican rum, light Puerto Rican rum), you’re time traveling not just through Tonga Hut’s history, but Tiki history at large.
The height of Tiki was in full, tropical force in 1958 when brothers Ace and Ed Libby opened Tonga Hut in North Hollywood. Flaming Scorpions were on every menu and tiny umbrellas were in every cocktail. But as the ‘70s took over, the elaborate Tiki cocktails and the scene that came with them washed away.
While battling the kind of ups and downs that plague most bars, including the addition of sports TVs and a 'Pub Golf' game, the Hut came under new ownership. In 2005, the bar was restored to its Tiki glory just as the Tiki trend boomeranged back around. After fixing the fountains that had remained in the background of the bar for 40-plus years, The Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard was officially awakened.
Since the competition started in 2010, around 600 people have completed their Grog Log journeys, creating a community of Tiki lovers along the way while celebrating the regulars who’ve visited Tonga Hut for decades.
“People will pick a day because they like a bartender and make that their regular day to come in after work and work on a couple Grog Log drinks,” King says. “People love challenges, and it creates a kind of camaraderie to the people that are here and doing it together, you know? It's good to have goals in life, I guess.”