New Paltz tiki bar plans March 27 opening

Tiki Torch (left): tequila and mezcal, tropical juices, spices. Pina Colada (center): blend of rums, tropical juices, coconut, and orgeat. Undead Gentleman (right): Aged and overproof rums, absinthe, fresh citrus juices and spices.

Attention, class: Say “fuchsia.” You know, that deep purplish-pink color. If, like most Americans, you pronounced it “FYOO-sha,” you got it wrong. Being named after a botanist named Fuchs, it’s properly “FYOOK-sha.”

Why should you care, if you’re not a gardener or an interior or clothing designer? Beginning next month, it will be important for Paltzonians to be able to get this right. That’s because you’ll be wanting to corral a group of friends to go out for an evening of enjoying exotic cocktails at a new watering hole in the previously underutilized downstairs bar at Asian Fusion. The Fuchsia Tiki Bar will hold its Grand Opening on March 27. “A little bit hole-in-the-wall, a little bit tropical escape, Fuchsia is the colorful community bar that will make you feel like you’re on vacation in Mexico while still in the Hudson Valley,” promises the PR for this new venture.

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“I’m not sure that we can be friends,” mutters Anton Kinloch dryly when this correspondent admits to associating tiki bars with tackily decorated finished basements on Long Island in the early 1960s. Kinloch, who was brought on board as a consultant by Asian Fusion owner Ada Xiao to renovate the ground-floor bar, give it a fresh theme and create a new cocktail menu, is a “self-proclaimed professional cocktail nerd” who cut his hospitality chops at the CIA and Turning Stone Casino. And he’s a serious student of “traditional” tiki culture, whose roots go back to the early 1930s at least.

The guru of tiki, long before Trader Vic’s made it a fad, was a Texan named Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, better-known as Donn Beach. As a young man he traveled the world, including the South Pacific, working as a bootlegger and rumrunner during Prohibition. He opened his first Don the Beachcomber-branded bar in Hollywood in 1933, and quickly expanded it into a chain. The popularity of tiki style blossomed when US servicemen stationed in Hawaii were redeployed to California after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kinloch said, with Don the Beachcomber supplying delicious reminders of the fruit-forward drinks that they had enjoyed in the islands.

As restaurants, they served mainly Cantonese cuisine with flourishes of pineapple and coconut. The pu-pu platter is said to have originated with Don the Beachcomber. But their main claim to fame was the rum cocktails, served in Polynesian-themed mugs and topped with tiny paper parasols. Donn Beach is the acknowledged creator of the Zombie, and claimed to have invented the Mai Tai in 1933, eleven years ahead of Trader Vic’s.

A proper tiki bar is distinguished by its tropical décor, and Kinloch is shooting for a “modern, more minimal” approach in his design for the downstairs lounge. The space, which seats 35, will retain much of its existing look, including the original faux-marble bar, barstools, chairs and tables, stonework and tile trim and dark slate tile flooring. A formerly purple wall that he characterizes as “hideous” has been covered with rough wooden shiplap panels, trimmed with a strip of lights that can be programmed to change colors. Other walls will be accented with wallpaper in understated green-and-white tropical foliage patterns.

A shadowbox divider trimmed with palm fronds screens the entrance to the bathroom, whose interior has been completely remodeled. By the opening date, there will be some tiki masks on the walls, a few live plants and other thematic touches, such as light fixtures made from pufferfish. Think tiki, but tasteful. “I’m going for a striking visual element,” Kinloch explains. (To avoid political quarrels that might be sparked by their presence, tiki torches, recently adopted as a prop for marches by white supremacist groups, will definitely not be part of the décor.)

The food served in the bar space will be a more limited selection of the same Chinese and Japanese menu offered at Asian Fusion. The emphasis will be on handcrafted cocktails that incorporate fresh fruit and tropical fruit juice blends, following recipes authentic to Don the Beachcomber’s 1940s heyday. “Every single cocktail has its own unique vessel,” Kinloch says: ceramic mugs in the shapes of parrots, rum barrels, volcanoes, scorpions and so on. The drinks will be primarily “rumcentric,” with a wide variety of rum brands ready to sample. But he promises that variants using bourbon, gin and tequila will also be available, and even a non-alcoholic selection of fruit cocktails, demonstrating “the versatility of what tiki is… We want to break the stigma that rum is what tiki revolves around.”

The atmosphere is promised to be calm and relaxing, a “tropical escape from reality” with low lights and soft music (“cross-genre,” in case you were worried that it would be wall-to-wall Jimmy Buffett). “We want it to be a place where people can comfortably enjoy libations, by themselves or in groups.”

Hours of operation at the Fuchsia Tiki Bar, located at 215 Main Street in New Paltz (use rear entrance), will be from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, beginning March 27. For more information, including opening-week drink specials, visit the website at www.fuchsiatikibar.com or www.facebook.com/asian-fusion-new-paltz-ny.

There are 3 comments

  1. Ryan

    As a tikiphile, I am obligated to point out a couple things in this article. And I say these with respect, so that others who read this and aren’t well-versed in Tiki have this information.

    “But their main claim to fame was the rum cocktails, served in Polynesian-themed mugs and topped with tiny paper parasols.”
    While Don did use rum to make what became staples of “tiki drinks” (he called them ‘Rum Rhapsodies’ and used rum because it was ole tofu and cheap when Prohibition ended), what he did NOT originate in 1933/34 when he opened was Polynesian-themes mugs and paper parasols. Don used some “eye catching) glassware, but he had no tiki mugs. There was one early ceramic vessel that was used for a certain drink but it had no “carvings” or tikis on it. As for the drink umbrellas, the credit usually goes to Harry Yee in Hawaii for popularizing them in the early-to-mid-50’s. Along with the Tropical Itch and Blue Hawaii cocktails.

    A “modern, more minimal” approach to decor makes this sound like it will be “tiki” in name only because calling things “tiki” right now is trendy. Tiki isn’t tacky. Tiki decor in a true Tiki Bar is about enhancing the escapism that is partially at the center of “tiki” culture. Making it “minimal” but wanting to call yourself a “tiki bar” is like saying you want to make a Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but without all the immersive decor and animatronics. We just want to have more “tasteful” pirate decor. Why bother.

    Also, any “tiki bar” with “wall-to-wall Jimmy Buffett” is no tiki bar. Buffet is not “Tiki”. Never has been. Any insinuation otherwise is misinformed. Tiki bar music should be “exotica”, ideally. Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, or any of the new exotica styled bands that have formed in the last decade (Tikiyaki Orchestra).

    Look forward to seeing and reading more about Fuchsia after it opens.

    1. Deltoro

      Thanks Ryan, you sure you’re not the owner lol trying to clarify things haha. Sounds like the author doesn’t have all the details or colorfully added her own.

      When I went there for dinner for a private party I remember that hideous purple wall with the plates. I do hope the owner luck because people don’t even know what tiki is in this area.

      As a fellow tiki lover I’ve seen places like Tiki Temple spring up and do “okay” but then again, it’s upstate NY, you can’t expect people in this area to be aware of what’s going on haha. If you go go the city, there’s plenty of good bars down there. I guess is how will the owner make it stand out from the local bars.

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