smuggler’s cove | book review

smuggler’s cove | book review

Everyone always seems to be saying that in order to sleep better we should stop staring at screens well into the evening. I always have the best intentions of shutting down my computer and going to read in bed before lights out, but usually the siren song of the internet is too tempting to resist. Until Smuggler’s Cove

smuggler's cove

You may recall this book from my tiki temptations wishlist – I put it on my actual wishlist and received it as a birthday gift from my parents. Yay!

Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki is a tiki tome written by Martin Cate (with his wife Rebecca), the owner of the San Francisco tiki bar of the same name and an all around tiki enthusiast. His passion for tiki really comes through so strongly in every page of his book. There’s a lot of love in it, and that makes it all the more enjoyable to read.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect inside the book; I’d heard it described as a “tiki bible” and the “one tiki book you’ll ever need,” but I didn’t know how one book could stand up to such lofty descriptions. But, guys…I might have to agree.

First off, this book is substantial. It clocks in at just over 350 pages; it’s not quite a coffee table book, but it definitely is oversized. The cover is embossed, the pages are a really nice weight (and I’m a bit of a paper nerd, so you can trust me) – overall, it’s a beautifully made book and it feels really high quality. But nice paper can only get you so far…how’s the inside, you ask?

It’s awesome. Seriously. I already thought I was pretty hyped about tiki, but reading this book made me even more enthusiastic. Cate covers everything from the creation of the tiki bar/tiki aesthetic to tips on how to best host your own home tiki party. It includes the story of how Cate conceptualized and founded Smuggler’s Cove and comprehensive resource lists of everything the home tiki enthusiast needs. It really does cover a vast array of topics, but it never feels like you’re being rushed through them. The intro on the inside cover of the book invites you to “make yourself a Mai Tai, put your favorite exotica record on the hi-fi, and prepare to lose yourself in the fantastical world of tiki.” I made do without the Mai Tai (it was bedtime, after all), and a streaming exotica station on my phone had to do, but I really did feel like I was entering another world for an hour or so each night.


And the recipes. OH, the recipes! Each section closes with several recipes related to the overall topic. I loved that the book packed in enough recipes to really feel like you’re ready to start experimenting with exotic cocktails without sacrificing the other content. I felt like every page I turned, I was shocked by how much information was packed into this book. I even read most of the recipes, since the descriptions and notes contained useful historical information, great tips, or just fun facts. I did read this book straight through like a novel for the first reading, but I can tell that it’s going to be a well-worn reference for me, flipping back and forth to new recipes. I definitely will be spending most of my time in the back where the resources are! I feel such a renewed passion to start experimenting with more advanced cocktails at home. Maybe I’ll do a series for the blog – would you be interested in retro mixology posts?


Just in case all that wasn’t enough, the book is also filled with beautiful photos of both the tiki heyday and modern revivalists. I could pore over them for ages, especially the drinks! I know how hard food photography can be, so A++ on the gorgeous cocktail shots!

If you couldn’t tell from all the gushing, I loved this book. I would recommend it to any tiki enthusiast, and even to lots of non-tiki enthusiasts. I think reading this book could make someone love tiki. Not only is Cate’s enthusiasm infectious, it’s just so…open. Too often, we fall into the trap of being protective of the things we love. We feel ownership over them. It would be easy for Cate, who turned a passion for tiki into a home bar, then an award-winning tiki bar, to sit in an Ivory Tower (a Bamboo Tower?) and preach the gospel of tiki. Instead, reading this book feels a lot like meeting someone at a party who’s Really Excited about something and just can’t believe that you’re interested in it too, and they just want to tell you EVERYTHING because they really, really want you to love it as much as they do. I felt like I was being invited to join in the giant proverbial luau that is tiki, and folks, hand me my lei and my cocktail. I’m ready.


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