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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Owner Ocia Hartley and general manager Luke Pigott at the Night Pearl bar in Chattanooga on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

A coffee roaster by trade, Luke Pigott spent his days quarantining at home working on his craft.

But, at night, he was looking for something else to entertain and engage him. He began researching and experimenting with vintage cocktails, and over time, he found himself being more and more interested in the rum-based cocktails most often found in the cocktails served at tiki bars.

As his interest and skills grew, he realized other people might share his interest and fortunately for him, and fans of fancy cocktails, he had the resources to create a tiki bar where he could share what he has learned. Pigott and his wife Ocia Hartley own Syrup & Eggs inside the Dwell Hotel on 10th Street.

About three weeks ago, he opened Night Pearl there as well.

"One reason I wanted to do this was because the original tiki bars came out of the Great Depression as a way to escape hardship in your hometown," he said. "The drinks are also a lot of fun.

"Honestly, this took off during quarantine for me," he said. "I've been in food and beverage for a while, but not as a cocktail specialist or bartender. I've been roasting coffee for 10 years now.

"I found this very self-gratifying and I started leaning towards these kinds of cocktails."

The bar is open seven days a week from 3 p.m.-midnight and can seat about 50 people. Pigott said while it hasn't been open long enough to really know, it appears that about 80% to 90% of customers are walk-ins, "but we like to cater to hotel guests and give them priority."

He does so by sharing a drink's history when possible and by recreating specialty drinks one or two nights a week.

"Yesterday, we made Trader Vic's Grog where we froze crushed ice around straws so they looked like an iceberg and then pouring the drink over it."

Among the bar's specialty drinks is a Mai Tai based on a classic recipe that balances sweetness and some acidic flavors. The Blue Hawaii "is a big blue fruit drink with an umbrella. It's from the '50s and was actually the first drink to have an umbrella on it."

Night Pearl's signature drink, however, he said is the White Witch. It's made with overproof rum, white creme de cacao, orange curacao, and lime juice. It's swirled in crushed ice and then topped with white mint and powdered sugar.

"We serve it on a plate because of the sugar. It gets messy otherwise."

Pigott said the drink was created in the Caribbean around the time when ice was just becoming available there.

"It's very decadent as if to say, 'Look at all of this ice we are using right in front of you.' "

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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