In recent years, the cocktail revolution has pushed bartenders and booze hounds online, to eBay and Alibris, searching out vintage cocktail recipe books. A look through the Los Angeles Public Library's menu collection shows that old menus ought to be just as prized a source for classic cocktail inspiration.
Today we're looking at a menu that might provide such inspiration -- a 1953 menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills. The Luau was open from 1953 to 1978 on North Rodeo Drive, and has no relation to the bar of the same name in Beverly Hills that opened and closed in recent years. Owned by actor, restaurateur and onetime husband of Lana Turner Stephen Crane, the Luau is given much of the credit for establishing Polynesian food and drinks as a trend in Hollywood. From critiki.com, a website dedicated to the fetishism of all things tiki:
Steve Crane's Luau was one of the Hollywood/Beverly Hills restaurants (along with Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic's) that established Polynesian cuisine (and more importantly -- drinks) as de rigueur in the 1950s and '60s. The Luau produced some of the most beautiful and highly desired serveware objects (designed by Gabe Florian) to come out of midcentury Polynesian restaurants.
The serveware from the Luau is still highly prized by tiki enthusiasts -- you can see why. Critiki.com has a gallery of photos that shows some examples of the amazing tiki mugs used at the Luau.
The library also has a food menu from the Luau that has an extensive and colorful description of the restaurant's decor, as well as dishes "to escort your cocktail," including Alaskan crab puffs for $1.50 or $0.75 for a half order, an omelet section, and barbecued squab for $3.
But it's the cocktail menu that gives you some idea of the design aesthetic and magic of this place. Take a look below, and see if these drink specials don't intrigue you with descriptions like "Meet Dr. Fong, alias Dr. Funk, a strange and mysterious chap, but thoroughly delightful." Dr. Fong cost $0.90.
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