Take Your Tiki Into the Modern Era With the Lost Lake Cocktail
A lost drink from a lost bar — and another way to use fassionola.
One of the things I love about making cocktails at home is that it allows me the opportunity to sample drinks from bars that I otherwise might not be able to visit, or might not be able to visit very often.
This newsletter began in 2020, when closures related to the pandemic made that especially important: Many of America’s greatest bars were either closed or might as well have been. In a lot of cases, the only way to try their drinks was to make them yourself.
Today, many more bars are open, and you can visit them if you are so inclined. But, sadly, some of the best bars simply didn’t make it. They closed permanently due to the drop in business.
Among those that sadly didn’t make it was Chicago’s Lost Lake, the home of tiki wunderkind Paul McGee (try his Mai Tai!) and one of the most respected and influential tiki bars in the nation. The bar closed for a long period starting in 2020, then reopened in 2021 for several months. But it closed permanently at the beginning of 2022. That’s especially frustrating to me, since I never managed to make it to Chicago for a visit myself.
So as of now, the only way to know what it was like to drink at Lost Lake is to make its cocktails yourself. Lost Lake’s cocktails will have to live on in my own glassware — and yours.
Unfortunately, the bar did not publish a cocktail book before closing. So we do not have a comprehensive guide to its recipes and theory of drink making. But there are enough recipes published online that we can get a sense of the bar’s ethos, which is heavily informed by tiki classics but essentially modern in its approach. And there’s no better drink to demonstrate this than the bar’s namesake, the Lost Lake cocktail.
Lake of Fire
The Lost Lake was the bar’s best-selling drink during the first few weeks after it opened, and it’s not hard to see why: It’s an alluring mix of the usual rum and fruit juice — in this case lime and pineapple juice — plus passion fruit syrup, and then a bit of both maraschino liqueur and Campari, two ingredients rarely found in tiki originals. The result is an easy-to-drink yet incredibly complex cocktail that takes tiki concepts and updates them for today’s tastes.