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 this Tiki mug (which isn't even a Tiki 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, and according to 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 just picked it out of the catalog and said "let's use this for our Sam Tee drink." And by the way, the place is back in business! Next time I'm down Florida way, I'm there, dude.
I suppose I should get around to logging my complete Tiki mug collection on Ooga-Mooga, but most of them are still packed up and in storage down in my wine cellar. I don't actually drink from them - I'm too much of a collector geek to risk it. However, Tiki Farm offers some amazing reproductions of classic Trader Vic drinking vessels, plus plenty of brand-new goodies, tempting me to stock up and refit the bar in faux-Polynesian style.
- - JSH