Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dr. Sam Tee

Back when I first got on the Internet, circa 1995, I tried to do some research online about my Tiki mug collection, but there wasn't much to be found. Nowadays, of course, the online hive-mind has sprawled out to cover everything imaginable, and now I can find out more about my Tiki mug pictured below (which isn't even a Tiki, actually, but appears to be a Fu Manchu-type character) than I ever wanted to know.

It's an "Orchids of Hawaii" R-82, circa 1960s.

According to a website of Tiki-obsessives called Ooga Mooga:

"Orchids of Hawaii was a restaurant supply company, based out of the Bronx, with most items being manufactured in Japan, and later Taiwan. Orchids of Hawaii made a wide assortment of mostly non-exclusive mugs, many fairly similar in overall (if not quality) look to their competitor Otagiri Manufacturing Company. Also produced a number of other items for Polynesian restaurants that were used throughout the eastern seaboard, many items being of a cheap quality, but the lamps being rather nice. Orchids of Hawaii had a showroom in New York as recently as the 1990s."

But if one consults Sven Kirsten's great book Tiki Modern on Taschen, there's a scan of a 1960s cocktail menu from Hawaiian Village, Tampa, Florida. On it we clearly see a clumsily rendered graphic of what seems to be our man. He's called "Dr. Sam Tee" and the drink is described thusly:

"Those oriental doctors know something. This drink is prescribed for the timid, the daring, the young in heart. A tropical adventure with delectable rums."

(Should I bother mentioning that Rum has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese medicine? Nah. Oops, I just did.)

I'd be interested in finding out whether the R-82 was made expressly for Tampa's Hawaiian Village, or if they picked it out of the catalog and said "let's use this for our Sam Tee drink." According to Beachbum Berry, the Dr. Sam Tee cocktail was but one of a succession of similar drinks all owing their lineage back to something called a "Doctor Funk" created by Don the Beachcomber but inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's friend Bernhard Funk:

All these drinks came from one man, the most influential bartender of the 20th century, Don the Beachcomber. He came up with 70 original cocktails in the 1930s. These drinks were stolen by thousands of other bars and were the template for this entire trend. The Doctor Funk cocktail, for example, traveled from Don the Beachcomber to Beverly Hills where it was called the Dr. Fong. Then in San Diego it became with Dr. Won. Then in Florida it became the Dr. Sam Tee.

Back in the day, Tampa's Hawaiian Village was a huge Polynesian themed complex with a motel, restaurant, nightclub, coffee shop, etc. It was located at 2522 N. Dale Mabry, then went out of business and became a Days Inn, and then came back for a while in the 2000s, then went bye-bye again when it was sold out from under them and subsequently bulldozed to make room for a car dealership. Things just don't stand still in Interzone.

1 comment:

  1. The one you have was not the HV mug. The menu image is accurate. Notice the almost straight sides. It is marked HV. I also have another that came from there that is unmarked, but the same style. This style: