Get Tiki With Me at UnderTow

My middle name should have been Fog Cutter. That’s what my father used to say. Jim Billups, or simply “The General” was a commanding figure to be sure. Everything about him was larger than life, including his stories. One of his favorites had to do with my mother’s pregnancy with yours truly. They were living in Colorado Springs and my father had just retired from his post as Second in Command for the Army at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. He was 51 and she 41, and expecting their fifth child. They chose an OB at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora and would make the hour-long drive to Denver for her monthly maternity appointments. Mom would fast during the day, and after her weigh-in, they would have a celebratory late lunch at Trader Vic’s before heading back to The Springs. Pupu platters and Kung Pao Chicken were washed down with their favorite tiki drink, the Samoan Fog Cutter. For the uninitiated, the Fog Cutter, so potent that it is said to put you in a fog, is a blend of orange and lemon juices, orgeat syrup, rum, gin and brandy with a cream sherry float. Of the drink, Vic Bergeron himself said that after two, one could hardly see. My response to hearing that my mother drank Fog Cutters during pregnancy with me was one of wide-eyed shock. Her response as she pulled on her long stem of white wine was, “Don’t look at me that way, Miss Marci. My limit was three.”*

So I guess you could say that tiki drinks are in my blood. Therefore, when I was asked if I was interested in visiting UnderTow, a tiki bar in Phoenix, and snapping a few pics for my blog, I was all in. UnderTow is an intimate 30-seat tiki bar discretely situated beneath Sip Coffee & Beer Garage at Indian School and 36th Street. There is no sign…you literally walk into Sip and stare around befuddled until someone points you in the direction of a set of stairs leading below. The bar derives its name from the fact that it is situated in a (former) oil bay that is part of the (former) auto garage that Sip currently occupies. Because of its size–500 square feet–it is recommended to make a reservation. Reservations for parties of 6 or fewer guests are for a 90-minute block of time. The décor is reminiscent of the belly of a classic clipper ship, with portholes that run a series of maritime experiences (footage played on LCD screens) including sailing along calm seas, running into the occasional rainstorms and docking in exotic ports. In celebration of their one-year anniversary, owners Jason Asher and Rich Furnari have launched a new drink menu that includes 25 new drinks on their 38 cocktail menu. The list is extensive, and yes, they can make a mean Fog Cutter. Albeit, slightly different than Vic Bergeron’s Samoan Fog Cutter recipe that I have listed below, but any one of UnderTow’s tropical drinks will have you bellowing “Drunken Sailor” in no time.  Cheers! xoM


3620 East Indian School, Phoenix  85018

Tropical concoctions from UnderTow to put you in the vacation mode.

Broken Code: Osemanthus Infused Swedish Vodka, Pineapple, Lime, Mint and Orange Bitters served up with a dehydrated orange slice.

Trade For Passage: Guyanese Rum aged for 12 years, Dark Jamaican Rum, Blanc Agricole Rhum, Apricot Liquor, Crème de Cacao, Papaya and Lime served over crushed ice with fresh mint and nutmeg.

I love the UnderTow logo.

Sea Wench: Blanc Agricole Rhum, Earl Gray Infused Bergamot Vodka, Orange Curacao, Italian Amaro, Pineapple, Lime and Honey served over cubed ice.

First Mate’s Delight: Butter Washed 12-year old Nicaraguan Rum, Blend of Aged Island Rums, All Spiced Dram, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Don’s #2 Mix and Gardenia Spices served over crushed ice with a pineapple leaf and an orchid.

Samoan Fog Cutter

2 ounces orange juice

1 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce orgeat syrup

1-1/2 ounces light rum (Frances probably would have recommended 2)

1/2 ounce gin

1/2 ounce brandy

1/4 ounce cream sherry for garnish

Pour everything into a blender with 1 heaping cup of crushed ice. Blend for 5 seconds on high speed. Pour into a tiki mug or a tall glass. Float the sherry on top.

* By no means am I making light of the dangers of alcohol and pregnancy. I am merely relating a story. If you look through my baby book there is a card from the management and staff of Trader Vic’s after my birth stating, “So glad the baby is alright.” True story. 

I was hosted at UnderTow, but all opinions are of my own.

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  • Sylvia Canelos

    The Undertow just went to the top of my “next time I’m in Phoenix” list. Thanks for the great story!

    • TexazTaste

      It’s an awesome spot! You and Alejandro would love it!


    I love this and remember that story. Kimo and i were reminiscing too and thinking of you while at Hi Ranch last week. Keep ’em comin’! Bridget and I were thinking we may me due for another long weekend in SB or maybe a visit to PHX for our December Bdays next month.

    • TexazTaste

      Many thanks, Steve. There are so many great stories about Mom and Dad and I am starting to write them down. They were wonderful and colorful characters indeed. We miss them so!

  • Michele Beyer

    SUCH a favorite Francis Billups story…definitely missing our Trader Vics! Will have to check out Under Tow – love it!

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