Pagan Idol's Daniel Parks Achieves the Perfect Tiki Flame

Liz Grossman

Flaming cocktails have always been a part of tiki tradition, but at Pagan Idol in San Francisco, Daniel Parks and his team are shaking things up a bit—at least when it comes to the source of the flame. Rather than rely on the ubiquitous Bacardi 151 to ignite their punch bowls, they douse sugar cubes with lemon oil and light them for a taller, more concentrated flame that burns yellow-orange. “The problem with 151 is that the flame burns blue and it’s relatively invisible,” Parks says. “We’re talking about potent potions with multiple rums, and we don’t want someone to get hurt.” The rum also tends to spread to the capacity of the vessel, making melted straws and burns more likely. “Lemon oil is more focused and doesn’t run,” he notes. “So if something were to happen where it got tipped, the sugar cube holds the oil, stays put and burns vertically.” Parks originally tried soaking croutons with lemon oil, but the scent of burnt toast filled the bar after the oil burned off. “Sugar cubes soaked in lemon oil were the best option since once it gets to that point of caramelization—where it’s actually burning the sugar cube—the smell isn’t offensive,” he says. The flaming cube floats on a hollowed-out grapefruit peel atop rum punches like the fassionola gold, and a sprinkle of cinnamon makes the flame swell in front of guests. “It’s a good fit for a proper tiki bar to have a little fire and magic; we just keep it regimented and as safe as possible,” says Parks.

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