Your typical Tiki cocktail is a mix of light or dark rum, flavored syrups, and tropical fruit juices — which is essentially the recipe for the Mai Tai (rum, orange Curacao, syrup, lime juice), the first Tiki drink to achieve widespread popularity after it was (allegedly) invented by Trader Vic in 1944. The other flagship cocktail of Tikidom is the Zombie, a creation of Don the Beachcomber that made its press debut at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It’s a mix of white, golden, and dark rums, apricot brandy, falernum, bitters, and fruit juice (usually lime, pineapple, or papaya). Unlike modern zombies, it is pleasant, and didn’t spend a whole season at a boring farm looking for Sophia. Since the early days of experimentation, Tiki drinks have gotten more and more complex, incorporating new types of fruit (coconut, passion fruit, banana), booze (tequila, rye, Scotch?!), and other ingredients (coffee, cream, mint). Most of these are served in porcelain coconuts (only kind of kidding).
WHAT’S WITH THE TINY UMBRELLAS?
Ah, glad you asked! According to Bamboo Ben, they were originally developed as a way of keeping the ice in a drink cold on a warm day out on the beach (ostensibly chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool). They were popularized by Trader Vic in the 1930s, and caught on from there. On rainy days, the Borrowers whisper praises to old Vic.
Tiki bars are all about three things: exotic drinks, delicious food, and warm hospitality. Blair says, “With a tropical cocktail in your hand, surrounded by tribal artifacts and Tikis, listening to mellifluous music, there’s no need to remember what time it is. You’re on island time.”