The Robin Room creates a tropical paradise through two-week pop-up bar

For two weeks, The Robin Room is hosting The Tipsy Toucan featuring specialty tropical drinks.
tropical drink from above
Courtesy of The Robin Room
The Nui Nui, a drink on the Robin Room’s tropical pop-up menu, features rum, cinnamon, vanilla, orange, lime and allspice.

Shortly after midnight this past Thursday the Robin Room, 821 E. Johnson St., closed its doors early and transformed into the Tipsy Toucan, a tropical-themed pop-up bar that will stay open through New Year’s Eve. The Robin Room has reimagined itself as a tropical bar between Christmas and New Year’s since 2016 — owner Chad Vogel recalls a couple of times where he decorated the bar alone after closing down on Christmas — but took a hiatus last year due to the pandemic. This year the event is back and lasting two weeks instead of one. “It’s fun to change it up for a little while,” says Vogel.

Decked out with colorful leis, palm leaves, fishing nets and pineapples, the Tipsy Toucan also features a new speciality cocktail menu created by Vogel and co-managers Anne Leahy and Kevin Beutin. While Beutin has bartended during previous tropical pop-ups this was his first year helping develop the menu.

“It’s very much a collaboration,” Beutin says. “It starts out with a lot of research and creative ideas and in turn becomes a conversation with the three of us.” Beutin enjoys finding a balance of flavors on the menu and in the drinks. “Everyone thinks [tropical drinks] are sweet and fruity but they can also be smoky and coffee-based,” he says. The carbonated Banana Rye Tai is a riff on the classic mai tai which is usually “a bunch of rums and lime juice,” Beutin says. “We decided to change it up and do banana and rye, which it makes a little more spicy and a little smoky.”

four cocktails on a table at Robin Room

The Robin Room, which has transformed into a tropical themed pop-up bar called the Tipsy Toucan through New Year’s Eve, features a brand-new specialty drink menu. Courtesy of The Robin Room

People might recognize Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, a gin-based drink made with pineapple and lemon, named after Hawaii’s state fish. “It’s a repeat that we always bring back,” says Leahy. “We did a lot of [research and development] with other gin-based cocktails to keep in the spirit of the theme but honestly this is the best tasting one that we keep coming back to.”

“It’s fun trying to get people to say it,” says Beutin.

The Bushwacker is the current slushee offering — the Robin Room always features a rotating icy drink — featuring rum, coconut, cacao and coffee. “It tastes like a Frosty with rum in it,” says Beutin. The Miami Vice is a classic frozen drink with a twist. “It’s two cocktails in one,” says Beutin. “It’s a piña colada and a strawberry daiquiri, the piña colada sits at the bottom because it’s heavier and the strawberry daiquiri sits on top. You mix it together and it’s like a flavor bomb.”

“And it looks like a candy cane,” says Leahy.

cocktail in a coconut with a lei

The Tamarindita features rum, Cynar, tamarind and banana milk made in-house. Courtesy of The Robin Room

A blast from our pre-pandemic past, the Lost Barrel, made with rum, vermouth and peach bitters, gets new life on the Tipsy Toucan’s menu. “We barrel-aged a cocktail and it was still in the barrel when we came back [after the shutdown],” says Vogel.

In addition to speciality drinks, the bar is also hosting special guests in the kitchen with food by Bastard Dining, featuring Joslyn Mink of Settle Down Tavern and Charlie Denno of Underground Meats on Dec. 28 and Ahan on Dec. 30. Teasider, formerly Macha Tea Co., served food last week on opening night and Meat People Butcher were guest chefs on Monday. Food is available from 6 p.m. until it sells out.

Leahy, who has worked at the Robin Room since the bar opened, says she enjoys the tropical pop-ups because it’s a chance to surprise people. “I like seeing people’s faces when they walk in for the first time,” she says. “Especially if they are not expecting it,” adds Vogel. “[They are like,] ‘is it always like this?’”

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