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Warm up with these 10 stellar Tiki cocktails

From tropical fruit to vibrant colors, these delicious Tiki drinks will knock your socks off

Tiki culture is a wealth of riches, not to mention elaborate drinks. For the out of touch, it’s mere escapism, a way to feel like you’re somewhere warm and cozy. But for those in the know, Tiki is an art form, a genre, an entire culture.

It all began in the South Pacific and gradually spread to famous hotel bars and, ultimately, the best recipe books. Yes, it’s a vacation in a glass, and that glass might just be a pineapple, coconut husk, shared bowl, or Tiki mug, but it’s also a category of some of the most interesting drinks on the planet (with a devout following, we might add).

Some of it is over the top, full of kitsch, and even, regrettably, flirting with cultural appropriation. But its core elements, the drinks, are mostly well-intentioned and layered, pulled from early 20th-century recipes concocted at some of the most stylish drinking establishments in the world (at least at the time).

Don the Beachcomber (aka Donn Beach) kicked it all off, and since then, it’s been the likes of Trader Vic and Co. The newest Tiki guard is commanded by the likes of Martin Cate and incredible bars like Smuggler’s Cove, Lost Lake, Hale Pale, and more. They are making complex drinks that whisk you off to a finer place (especially mid-winter), but they also impress in terms of structure and taste.

Here are ten classic Tiki recipes to know.

Zombie

Prepared by Josh Duncan, Adrift Bar, Denver Image used with permission by copyright holder

A Donn Beach elixir that first hit bar tables in the 1930s, the zombie first blew people away at the New York World’s Fair before taking the Tiki world by storm.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients to a shaker, shake with ice, pour into glass with used ice, and garnish.

Navy Grog

navy grog
Prepared by Johnny Swet, Grand Republic Cocktail Club, Brooklyn Grand Republic Cocktail Club

An homage to the spirited (and sometimes drunk) British navy, this cocktail counts on high-strength rum and a pleasant mix of juices and bitters.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 ounce Brugal Dry
  • 3/4 ounce Brugal Anejo
  • 3/4 ounce The Kraken Dark Rum
  • 3/4 ounce Velvet Falernum
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Method

  1. Shake with ice and strain into a beer glass over cubed ice.
  2. Garnish with grated nutmeg and pineapple wedge.

Mai Tai

mai tai
Prepared by Devin Kennedy, Pouring Ribbons, New York City Image used with permission by copyright holder

So much more than a sweet drink you’re offered en route to Hawaii, the mai tai is beautiful in the glass and is named after the Tahitian word for “excellence.”

Ingredients

Method

  1. In a cocktail mixer full of ice, combine the rum, cachaça rum, orgeat, and lime juice.
  2. Shake vigorously and strain into glass full of ice.
  3. Garnish with lime wedge.

Singapore Sling

Prepared by Josh Duncan Harry Warters

People often forget about gin’s role in the Tiki canon. This Tiki classic was devised in Singapore sometime around 1915 and blushes in color thanks to the addition of cherry liqueur (or in some cases, brandy).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces London dry gin
  • 3/4 ounce Edel-Kirsch Black Cherry Liqueur
  • 1/4 ounce Benedictine
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1/4 ounce grenadine
  • 1/4 ounce petite shrub
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients to a shaker, shake with ice, pour into a bar glass with used ice, and garnish.

Painkiller

painkiller
Prepared by Abby Wegener, Hades Hula House, Semaphore, Australia Robert Hold Photo

There’s hardly a better name for a cocktail than the painkiller, a sibling of the piña colada treated to orange juice and often nutmeg.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Pusser’s Rum
  • 2 ounces fresh pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  • 1 ounce coconut cream

Method

  1. Put all ingredients into a tun followed by a scoop of ice.
  2. Shake vigorously and pour into a Collins glass.
  3. Garnish with orange and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Saturn

saturn
Prepared by Cory Starr, Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago Jeff Marini

Another gin-focused Tiki staple, Saturn is a little like a Negroni, according to a beach bum. This classic Saturn adds a Jamaican Negroni float on top!

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce Martin Miller Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Appleton 12 year
  • 1/2 ounce Campari
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Falernum
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce orgeat
  • 1/4 ounce passion fruit
  • 1 ounce 2:1 evaporated cane simple

Method

  1. Combine gin, Falernum, lemon juice, orgeat, passion fruit, and cane simple syrup in a shaking tin; fill with ice and stir.
  2. Strain Saturn over crushed ice.
  3. Combine ingredients for Kingston Negroni (Appleton, Campari, sweet vermouth) and float on top without mixing into drink.
  4. Garnish with an orange moon and slice of pineapple.

Piña Colada

pina colada
Prepared by Tristan Mermin, Batiste Rhum Image used with permission by copyright holder

No cocktail book is complete without including the piña colada, born in Puerto Rico, and the perfect example of how beautifully coconut, pineapple, and rum play together in the glass.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients into a blender with ice and blend.
  2. Pour blended drink into any glass you like.
  3. Best served to people you really like to have fun with.

Jet Pilot

jet pilot
Prepared by Tyson Buhler, Death & Company Image used with permission by copyright holder

A midcentury modern classic, the jet pilot took flight in Beverly Hills in 1958, inspired by its cousin the test pilot.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce Appleton Reserve
  • 3/4 ounce Ron Del Barrilito
  • 3/4 ounce Lemonhart 151
  • 1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
  • 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup
  • 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Absinthe

Method

  1. Whip and strain all ingredients with crushed ice.
  2. Pour into a highball glass and garnish with a mint sprig and cherry.

Suffering Bastard

Suffering Bastard Cocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Believed to have been first created at the Shepheard’s Hotel in Egypt in 1942, the suffering bastard got its start curing the hangovers of WWII soldiers.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce London dry gin
  • 1 ounce brandy
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce demerara syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4 ounces ginger beer

Method

  1. Add the ginger beer to a Collins or highball glass. Add the remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill with cracked or cubed ice and shake and strain the contents into the glass.
  3. Gently fill with cubed or cracked ice.
  4. Garnish with a mint sprig and swizzle stick.

Lapu Lapu

Hale Pele Tiki Cocktail
Hale Pele

Showcasing the lovely marriage of sweet vanilla with punchy passion fruit, the Lapu Lapu is breezy bliss in a Tiki mug.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces fresh orange juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce passion fruit syrup (try BG Reynolds Passion Fruit Syrup)
  • 3/4 ounce vanilla syrup (try Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Syrup)
  • 1 ounce dark rum (try Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum)
  • 1 ounce light rum (try Brugal Especial Extra Dry White Rum)
  • Pineapple frond and Bordeaux cherry for garnish

Method

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients and shake with ice cubes.
  2. Pour into a goblet, and garnish with both a pineapple frond and a Bordeaux cherry.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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