A “tiki detective” cracks the secret codes of Donn the Beachcomber, kept in coded little black books.
THE culinary world seems to inspire a certain kind of dedicated, if slightly obsessive, connoisseurship. Think of Elizabeth Tashjian, who for 30 years ran the Nut Museum out of her house in Old Lyme, Conn., and spent her off hours painting portraits of walnuts. Or, more recently, Steven Kaplan, an American academic whose scholarly energies are principally focused on French bread.
Add to this list Jeff Berry, an easygoing California native who has spent more than a decade tracking down original recipes of drinks with names like the Cannibal Grog and the Nui Nui. A self-described “tropical drink evangelist,” Mr. Berry, who goes by the name Beachbum Berry, has written four slim books that serve as remarkably detailed bar guides to the tiki culture that began in the 1930s, sputtered out in the ’70s, and was revived a decade ago. He sees his mission as elevating the lowly reputation of umbrella drinks to their rightful standing.