On the Menu

Matt Russell

More than 35 years after its release and subsequent flop at the box office, the surfing movie “Big Wednesday” is finally starting to make a splash, with an impact that can be felt on the shore of Tucson’s culinary and cocktail scene.

The venue is Fini’s Landing, 5689 N. Swan Road, a beach-themed bar and grill with a menu that has transported its patrons to the waterfronts of the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida Keys since it opened in 2012.

While many of its guests have called Fini’s Landing a tropical oasis in the Sonoran Desert, the absence of a formal tropical drink menu was noticeable in an atmosphere featuring flip-flop handles on the front doors and surfboards on the walls. So owners Scott Mencke and Doug “Fini” Finical swung into action and turned to barman Andrew Carlin for inspiration.

After logging some time in his libation laboratory, Carlin ultimately curated a menu of 11 tropical cocktails which anchor the restaurant’s celebration of the surf each Wednesday at an event they call – here it comes – Big Wednesday.

 “This drink menu takes you to your favorite beach,” said Carlin. “With the summer's warm weather and the monsoon’s mugginess, we wanted to create a menu that was refreshing and had lots of variety.”

 Some of the cocktails are unique variations on classically tropical themes, such as the Watermelon Mojito, with West Indies white rum, muddled watermelon, mint and lime. Carlin’s twist on the traditional Manhattan, the Manhattan Beach, brings Luxardo maraschino liqueur to the conventional whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters blend.

Carlin’s cocktail canvas also produced the Point Break, a beverage in the style of a shandy featuring Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA, citrus vodka and lemonade, and the Skinny Fini Martini, with cucumber-infused gin, coconut water and a lemon twist.

“The Skinny Fini is among our more off-the-wall cocktails,” said Carlin. “The coconut water fortifies the drink and hydrates you at the same time; it’s very refreshing, and you can feel good about drinking it.”

The cocktail that apparently packs the most punch, so to speak, is the Mai Tai, patterned after the original Trader Vic’s recipe. It includes Appleton Reserve 12-year rum, Bermuda black rum, Gran Marnier, an herb liqueur called Licor 43 and lime.

This is one cocktail that should come with its own lifeguard.

While these 11 tropical drinks are available every day, they are all half-price on Big Wednesdays.

The surf culture is manifest on the culinary side of the beach fest as well.

On Big Wednesday’s surf-n-turf plate, priced at $24.50, a grilled eight-ounce Angus Beef sirloin fights for room with a baked bay scallop macaroni and cheese, with white cheddar, roasted poblano peppers and a buttered bread crumb crust, and sautéed power greens.

“The movie Big Wednesday is a cult surf classic, and it’s now defining Wednesdays at Fini’s,” said Chef Tim “Tiki Tim” Stevens. “We even have one of the original movie posters hanging on our back wall.”

In addition to the weekly surf-n-turf special, the regular Fini’s menu is available on Wednesdays as well, featuring a wide selection of beach-inspired fare.

With the monsoons in full swing, grab your board, head to the nearest riverbed and catch a wave to Fini’s Landing on Wednesday. Though after a rich meal and some of these tropical drinks, you may need a designated surfer.

(Editor's Note: Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 4-5 p.m. Saturdays on KNST 790-AM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030-AM.)

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