Of all the bars in Pynchon, Kahuna Airlines’ airborne tiki bar must be one of the most colourful:
Each 747 in the Kahuna Airlines fleet had been gutted and refitted as a huge Hawaiian restaurant and bar, full of hanging island vegetation, nightclub chairs and tables instead of airplane seats, even a miniature waterfall.
Zoyd gets a job with the Kahuna Airlines playing “lounge synthesiser” on flights across the Pacific Ocean. There’re hula dancers and flame eaters, plastic tikis and shrubbery, oversize paper-parasoled drinks. Infuriatingly though, no specific drink references–even when the plane is boarded by mysterious alien pirates, prompting a free-drinks-for-all bonanza. Here’s the closest it gets:
The alcohol flowed torrentially, and soon it was necessary to switch over to a reserve tank of inexpensive vodka, located in the wing. Some passengers fell unconscious, some glazed out, others kicked off their shoes and partied, notwithstanding the grim shielded troopers working slowly, methodically among them.
As much as it pains me, I must accept that the airborne Tiki bar produces nothing more interesting for me to drink than inexpensive vodka. And I can’t even drink it out of the wing of an aeroplane.
However! I recently found myself on a flight across the Pacific, and while it wasn’t Kahuna Airlines, it was Fiji Air, which is pretty close in spirit, right? The business class cabin I was mysteriously upgraded into didn’t closely resemble a tiki bar, but the air hosts were wearing a Pacific Island print, and I had just had Wahoo for dinner, so I figured I was in the ballpark. The sad probability is that Fiji Air was the closest I will ever come to an airborne Tiki bar. So let’s have this inexpensive vodka.
The menu (which the friendly/obsequious Pacific-clad host brought around before takeoff) listed the vodka as Absolute with an e. Unless there’s an affordable Fijian knockoff by that name, I’m going to assume it was Absolut. I ordered a vodka lemonade. It showed up after takeoff not looking too inexpensive at all with its business class glass and ice and slice of lime. I admit that this deviates perhaps from the spirit of Kahuna’s wing-stored vodka, but hey, it was free man, how much more inexpensive does it come?
I enjoyed the thing a great deal too. Seemed at the time so beautifully mixed as to not be mixed at all, but rather some new spirit entirely, magically smooth. Sweet, a quininey note, lime of course, but something else too… Or something of just being impossible to separate into parts, into tasting notes. Goes down easier than the Chivas and dry I’d mixed myself in the business class lounge pre-flight. Goes down easier thanks to that too, I suppose. And it sure is nice to have something to suck on gazing down at the gridded city lights, at the ocean. My inexpensive vodka wasn’t the party Zoyd’s was, but it sure was nice.