At the Beach, at the Beach, at Pontchartrain Beach …

You’ll have fun, you’ll have fun, every day of the week!

This Cocktail of the Day sends me into a huge nostalgic rush, and I never even got to taste it it its heyday.

Those of you who are New Orleanians of A Certain Age will fondly remember Pontchartrain Beach, our beloved local amusement park. Built in 1928 and retaining many of its Art Deco design touches until it was demolished (*sob!*) in 1983, I grew up going there many times every summer, and it was part of my childhood.


Pontchartrain Beach, 1940s postcard

One of the more popular attractions at The Beach wasn’t a ride, it was a fabulous resteaurant, New Orleans’ own version of the faux-Polynesian “Tiki” food and drink craze which swept the nation after the immense popularity of Don the Beachcomber’s and Trader Vic’s — Bali Ha’i at The Beach. It opened around 1952 and closed with the park in 1982 … and I never got to go there.

When I was a kid my parents took me to The Beach all the time, but never to Bali Ha’i (I guess they weren’t into Tiki cuisine and rarely if ever drank tropical drinks), and by the time I was old enough to drink I took the Beach for granted, and only went there a couple of times when I was in college. Had I known then what I know now, I would have gone every week.

Recently the Times-Picayune came across a drink recipe from Bali H’ai, which a reader obtained from the family who used to cook there (they later opened their own Chinese restaurnat in Kenner after Bali H’ai closed). It’s their own interpretation of a venerable tropical classic.

The Bali Ha’i Fog Cutter
(from the late, lamented Bali Ha’i Restaurant, Pontchartrain Beach, New Orleans)

8 ounces orange juice.
6 ounces lime juice.
6 ounces simple syrup.
4 ounces light rum.
4 ounces dark rum.
4 ounces brandy.
4 ounces gin.
1/4 ounce almond extract.

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher. Serve in tiki glasses or tall glasses.

Makes 4 (or more) drinks.

Of course, they other key to authenticity in this drink is to serve it in the proper vessel …

Bali Ha'i at the Beach, New Orleans, LA

(Are you kidding me? That stays in the display cabinet! One of my regular tiki mugs will have to do.)

I now also own a menu from Bali Ha’i from the ’60s, which has become a treasured possession.

Let’s all sing …. “Baaaali Haaaaaaaaaaaiiiiii …”