Love tiki? If you revel in rum and savor classic concoctions like the Singapore Sling, Mai Tai, Zombie, and Planter’s Punch, there’s a name you’ve probably heard (or should have). As a leader in the tiki renaissance, nationally recognized bar owner, author, and rum expert Martin Cate has ushered in a wave of tropical respect with his beloved Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. Winner of the Best American Cocktail Bar in 2016, and home to over 200 rums, the northern California bar is a bucket list destination for all tiki lovers.
Partnering with San Diego’s own Consortium Holdings, Cate brings his award-winning expertise to False Idol in Little Italy, working with former “In the mix” profilee and CH Beverage Director Anthony Schmidt. PACIFIC spoke with Cate about False Idol, his passion for tiki and his favorite cocktails:
PACIFIC: You’re a pretty famous guy in the spirits world. How did you team up with CH for False Idol?
MARTIN CATE: I was anxious to bring something great to San Diego. I love the city and the people so much, and I’ve always been impressed with CH Projects’ style and attention to detail. Partnering with CH to have top talent on the ground made perfect sense.
How did you get into tiki as a mixologist/bartender?
I became fascinated with tiki as a home enthusiast originally — not just with the cocktails but with all the art of the Polynesian pop movement. I started bartending professionally in 2004 and opened my first bar in 2006.
If you had to name one thing, what’s your favorite aspect of tiki?
The sense of escape and relaxation that a well-crafted tiki bar environment provides — the art, music and cocktails all working together.
Did you have a mentor?
My two mentors were my bar bosses at Trader Vic’s: Lars Hildebrandt and former San Diego bartender, Jim Shoemake.
If you can only go one time (to False Idol), what is the “must-try” cocktail?
Alkala’s Rum Barrel!
Your personal favorite on the menu?
Le Fantome, but it’s only for lunatics.
The one in my hand.
First cocktail you ever made and felt like, “I’ve got this.”
No resting on the laurels — the learning never stops. So maybe nothing yet!
Favorite cocktail in San Diego?
Not sure, but it’s probably on the menu at False Idol or Noble Experiment.
Important bartending lesson?
Share your passion and excitement with a smile to bring the guest with you into the experience.
“Dear patron …”
Welcome! How about some rum?
With 18 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 850 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to firstname.lastname@example.org.