If you’re looking for a tiki cocktail with a refreshing tropical island spice, then this award-winning drink is for you.
Watch as the beverage director of Kettner Exchange, Steven Tuttle, makes the Tiki Cross.
Did you grow up in San Diego?
I grew up in San Jose. I came out here for college at the University of San Diego to get my business degree. I’ve been here for about 11 years now.
How did you get into bartending?
During college. Then the guys over at CH Projects brought me on board, and I got to learn from some great people about cocktail bartending.
How long have you been working at Kettner Exchange?
Since day one.
What kind of experience can someone get at Kettner Exchange?
The thing I love about Kettner is that a guest can get multiple types of experiences depending on where they are in the restaurant. It can be a lavish dinner or a casual night out. The dinner experience is definitely my favorite. Chef Brian’s food is so on point. It’s an honor and an amazing experience to be able to complement his food with a cocktail program.
When you’re not mixing drinks, what are you doing on your spare time?
Golfing with the buds and watching a lot of hockey.
The Tiki Cross
- 3/4 oz. white rum
- 3/4 oz. Navy Strength Rum
- 3/4 oz. Añejo Rum
- 1/4 oz. Curacao
- 1/4 oz. falernum
- 1 oz. pineapple juice
- 3/4 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz. Orgeat
- Black walnut bitters
- Angostura float
- Nutmeg zest
Garnish with pineapple wedge
What’s the origin of The Tiki Cross?
It came as an inspiration from Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel. I was trading recipes with the bartender Kelly and some of his cocktails gave me the inspiration for it.
How would you describe the taste to someone who hasn’t had this before?
A lot of tiki drinks are very sweet, so I wanted to make something balanced. There’s a lot going on with the tropical spices and smooth but not overpowering rum.
What would be the key component in this drink?
Definitely the rums. Rum blends can make or break the drink. So using the appropriate Navy Strength rum is definitely important since it will be the most flavorful and impactful rum in the drink.
What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
They love it once they try it! I think people are nervous about tiki drinks because they’re worried they’ll be too sweet. But they’re always delightfully surprised after they take their first sip.
Where does the spicy taste comes from?
I wouldn’t say it’s a hot spicy. Definitely more tropical. It comes from the rum and nutmeg.
The cocktail features three different rums. Any reason to three?
They all balance each other out nicely. Not too much of one or the others. Don the Beachcomber said it best: “What one rum can’t do, three rums can.”
What makes this drink unique from other tiki cocktails?
It’s not super sweet. It’s a very nice balance of flavors.
What awards did the Tiki Cross win?
It won the Best of the Best cocktail competition in San Diego and a variation of it won Star of the Bar in San Diego. I flew to Chicago to make it at the National Restaurant Association’s Convention.
What are some good dishes to pair this drink with?
Lobster garlic noodles for sure. It’s a great blend of the spices together.
2001 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy
(619) 255-2001 or kettnerexchange.com
Jarnard Sutton is a multimedia producer for DiscoverSD and San Diego Union-Tribune. He loves providing readers with updates on music and events happening in San Diego. You can follow Jarnard on Twitter at @jarnard for everything music, food, beer and television. You can also follow him on Instagram at @nardvillain