Uga Booga, please
Thursday, February 28, 2008, 8:44 PM

There's this wee bar on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, called Tiki Ti. It was opened in 1961 by a guy named Ray, who was fascinated by the tropics and the drinks found there. No beer, wine or Saki is sold at Tiki Ti, my friend. They take cash only, the place is small--about the size of my studio apartment, which is just shy of 700 feet--but the ambiance is worth those wee inconveniences, I pinky swear.

Ray's son and grandson (both named Mike, by the way) now man this intimate, colorful gem of a bar. I've been there twice and both times, I was enchanted by the tropical masks, fountains, lights and ambiance of the place. There's even stuff on the ceiling; scrawled names on white plaques from patrons of the eighties and nineties who downed the first Ray's Special, the first Pain killer, the first Scorpion. If you're a regular long enough, they give you a totem-shaped cup that's yours to use any time you swing by for a Laka Nuki. It's like being on the football or hockey team long enough to merit a letter to put on your jacket. Dedication. Perseverance. Prestige.

The first time I was there, it was after eleven at night and it was body-to-body-to-body. By the time I'd shimmied my way up to the bar, I'd traded phone numbers with six men and three girls, been felt up and down, and had my back cooled off by someone's Caribbean Limbo.

(I jest. But it reads good, no?)

All of Tiki Ti's drinks are made of rum, gin, tequila, vodka or liqueurs. The menu doesn't tell you what's in the drink, and the noise and press of people behind you waiting to place their drink order, makes you think twice about asking. Instead, they hope you're intrigued by the name of the drink and the vice of your choice, be it rum, vodka, gin or tequila. What'll it be? The Navy Grog? Dr. Funk? A Swamp Water? Skip and Go Naked? Or the Pink Fire?

I chose the Uga Booga because it's made with rum and I liked the name. Say it out loud. It's fun. It might even make you crack a grin.

The Uga Booga looks exactly like the Mai Tai on the Tiki-Ti home page. But it's more than a Mai Tai. I'm not sure how much more, but everybody in the bar started shouting, "Uga Booga, Uga Booga," while Mike-the-first poured.

I sat on my bar stool and tried not to look like a frightened boob. What else was in the drink? "Uga Booga, Uga Booga," I shouted back. Just like a native, yeah, only I was fully clothed.

Everyone is a regular at Tiki Ti because once you've been to the tropics, you want to go again. I can't explain it to you. I can't show it to you (my phone takes crappy photos). It's just something you have to experience for yourself.

I do recommend the Uga Booga, especially if you like rum. It's potent, though. Just one will make you stagger off the stool you're sitting on.

Note to self: the men's restroom has the beads across the doorway. Not the women's.

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