Monday, March 4, 2024

Long Beach, step into the very boozy, very tiki-y, very holiday-y world of Bamboo Club

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Don’t get it confused with Miracle the Ordinarie—Long Beach’s staple holiday drinking space in DTLB—because it’s not the same vibe-wise, drink-wise, or intention-wise. And that is what makes the Bamboo Club’s “Tinsel Club” such a welcomed addition.

Indeed heeding on The Ordinarie’s spirit (as does Beach Garden in the Gayborhood over at Cherry and Broadway), it allows an over-the-top Christmas party to be welcomed in all parts of the city, which is something Long Beach should be aiming for when it comes to every holiday—but especially the holidays that surround this time of year.

So what is Bamboo Club’s “Tinsel Club” like?

While The Ordinarie goes for “tacky Christmas—not Martha Stewart,” Bamboo Club’s holiday takeover is one that honors what tiki culture is all about: Americana during its peak 50s, and 60s eras—Polynesian pop with Norman Rockefeller gone rockabilly.

Holiday odes to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride sit next to the bar’s growing tiki decor masqueraded as Santa and Christmas helpers. Greeting cards that look like holiday appropriated ads from the Nifty Fifties’ magazines. Plenty of lights—particularly the massive bulbs that prevailed in the country from the 50s well into the 80s—adorn the thatch hut roofing details.

Two outdoor spaces—their back patio as well as the massive tent that has greeted patrons since the beginning of the pandemic—are equally deck-the-halls-ed out: While their back patio sticks to the traditional with tons of lights, the tent will be Tinsel Club’s entertainment space on weekends, where live bands will perform under the glow of a space that acts as a tribute to Surfin’ Santa.

And the cocktails of Tinsel Club?

They are precisely what one should expect from the city’s best tiki joint—and that is thanks to hear barman Dustin Rodriguez.

“While sticking to our roots, and crafting fine tiki cocktails, I wanted to add familiar holiday flavors to the menu,” Rodriguez said.

That means cranberry, apple, cinnamon, allspice, white chocolate, mint… He even made an egg nog-inspired cocktail, “Not Your Papa’s Nog,” a wonderfully boozy concoction melding the citruses of oranges and lemons with three rums (a spiced rum from 9North, a white overproof rum from Wray & Nephew, and the Guyana legend that is Lemon Hart’s 151 proof rum).

“And I also wanted to use some classics—y’know, the Pina Colada and the Monkey Pod—and do fun little riffs on them,” Rodriguez said.

“Fun little riffs” doesn’t quite match the wit of Rodriguez’s cocktails—most of which will likely be missed come the third one in or for those dabbling into tiki drinks for the first time.

“The Fall of Whosville,” a matcha ode to the mighty Monkey Pod where tamarind and matcha meet lime, coconut and rum, resulting in an earthy-meets-tropical vibe that is one of the menu’s most amusing creations (particularly with its attached decorations that are likely to encourage petty theft among patrons).

The “Yukon Cornelius”—a peppermint-saturated Piña Colada—is one of the most surprising concoctions and a creation of Rodriguez’s right-hand man, Devyn Langenheim. Beautifully white and milky, the peppermint isn’t overwhelming more than it is a strangely great accompaniment to coconut and pineapple. And again, those decorations…

If one were to search for Rodriguez’s most balanced drink, however, that would be the “Rudolph’s Flame,” a dangerously pound-able, cranberry-centric cocktail that melds hints of cinnamon and amaro with the funk of agricole and the brightness of lime and soda water.

“I think Rudolph’s Flame is my favorite cocktail in the list,” Rodriguez admitted, “but I’m proud of the whole menu.”

And the menu is expansive: His recent discovery of a “wonderful ginger rum” from San Diego’s Malahat Spirits is used for a hot pear cider, among a handful of other warm drinks, including the man’s famed buttered rum.

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“Of course, we couldn’t leave folks out in the cold and had to do something hot drinks,” Rodriguez said. “My locally famous black pepper molasses hot buttered rum is a winter favorite here at Bamboo. This year, I made a white chocolate butter batter as well with the option to add rum or mezcal—mezcal being my fav of the two.”

Whichever one you decide, just make sure to order another.

Bamboo Club is located at 3522 E. Anaheim St.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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