It’s time to liven up the last few weeks of summer at your restaurant or hotel bar. And no other libation embodies summer fun quite like a tiki drink!
Dating back to their origins in the 1930’s, tiki-inspired cocktails are making a strong comeback. When Ernest Beaumont Gantt (a.k.a. Donn Beach) opened the first known American tiki bar in Southern California, ‘Don the Beachcomber’ (which serves signature tiki cocktails today), the bar had a South Pacific/Polynesian vibe and an exotic bar menu that celebrated the many varieties of rum; this is believed to be the birthplace of ‘tiki.’
Because that recipe for success proved timeless, the tiki cocktail culture Gantt created all those years ago has remained virtually untouched.
With names like Mai Tai, Zombie, Scorpion, Hurricane, Beachcomber, Rum Runner and Swizzle, classic tiki cocktails are still the quintessential party in a decorative Polynesian-style glass (or bowl made for two).
So, how do you create the tiki vibe that will fit your bar menu and your brand?
We asked our VSAG master of mixology (and team tiki expert), Jon Arroyo for some essentials to creating a terrific tiki-inspired bar.
- First and foremost – the Rum! Jon says to create a traditional tiki bar it all starts with good, quality rum. Rum remains the main ingredient in which to classify a cocktail as tiki-centric. There are so many varieties to choose from, but it’s always good practice to have at least a selection of white, dark, and over-proof flavors for the best classic cocktail options.
- Freshly-squeezed juices. Jon recommends getting a Vitamix blender behind the bar to always have fresh juices on hand to add to your tiki recipes. The juice of fresh lemons, limes, grapefruit, pineapple, orange and the like are essential for adding a layer of bright flavor.
- Baking elixirs/flavored syrups. To complete a tiki cocktail and add final layers of flavor, baking elixirs such as cinnamon syrup and nutmeg are often used, as well as flavored syrups like sweet falernum, almond orgeat, absinthe, honey, ginger and grenadine.
- The accessories. Tiki is all about the accessories, notes Jon. Depending on the fit within your brand, you can go all out or keep it classic with fun accents that bring the cocktail to above ordinary. Items such as scorpion or volcano bowls, tiki ceramic mugs (which help retain the drink’s cold temperature), colorful drink umbrellas, creatively fun garnishes, swizzle sticks, tiki torches, a bamboo bar, thatched umbrellas and Polynesian style clothing can be visual references to tiki culture.
So, mix up some tiki fun to finish off the final days of summer or even extend it. We know that the re-emerging tiki trend will be such a hit with guests, you will have to set up the bar again next year and make ‘Tiki Time’ an annual summer tradition!