What is a Tiki Cocktail?
Move over Summer of ‘76, the heatwave in the UK over the past few months is challenging the mantle! While we would love to claim it was by design, it just so happened that our Summer Limited Edition flavour, Blazing Pineapple, dropped just as the mercury started to skyrocket! Inspired by tiki cocktails, it really is the perfect non-alcoholic spirit to craft those types of serves!
But what is a tiki cocktail? What are the origins? What are the most popular tiki drinks? Fear not, we have all the answers to all these questions and more as we break down everything tiki and kitsch.. Wait, what’s kitsch? We’ll have to answer that one too!
Origins of Tiki
Inspired by Oceanian art, influences on Tiki culture span across the Pacific, from Australasia and Polynesia to the Caribbean Islands and Hawaii. The name comes from Tiki, the Māori name for the first human, often represented in the form of hei-tiki, a pendant and important taonga. The hei-tiki was often appropriated by Europeans as a commercialised good luck charm, hence the name of Tiki culture.
Moving into the Western World
Tiki culture began at the end of Prohibition in 1933 with the opening of Don's Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in Hollywood, California. This restaurant featured Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum cocktails and punch drinks, with a décor of flaming torches, rattan furniture, flower leis, and brightly colored fabrics. If Tiki culture began as a restaurant theme made to look like a Hollywood set, alcoholic drinks dressed up in elaborate barware are its cornerstones and main actors.
Just as the Don the Beachcomber restaurant is largely credited as being the first "tiki bar" from which all other such establishments "liberally borrowed", Beach himself is also credited as having almost single-handedly created the entire "tiki drink" genre. He was the first restaurateur to focus an entire drink menu on the mixing of flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum, which he called "Rhum Rhapsodies" and were served in fancy glasses, hollowed out pineapples, and drilled coconuts.
These "exotic" drinks, such as his first, the Sumatra Kula, quickly made Beach's restaurant the hot spot for the elite and movie stars from the 1940s well into the 1960s. Howard Hughes was a regular at the Hollywood Don the Beachcomber, as were Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra.
Beach was very secretive with his drink recipe ingredients, with only a select few of his bartenders knowing them. Some drinks Beach would only make himself, and he frequently placed alcohol into generic bottles labeled with only letters or numbers, or premixed "secret" ingredients in a similar fashion so that employees only needed to "mix X, Y, & Z with lime juice" to make a certain drink.
Tiki drinks, as they are generically called, are typically heavily garnished, with ample fruit, swizzle sticks, cocktail umbrellas, or flowers. Establishments that were part of or influenced by tiki culture also eventually served at least some of their cocktails in decorative ceramic mugs, which came to be known in the 1950s as tiki mugs because the barware started to bear the shape of a tiki or "faux tiki" approximation.
Styles and sizes vary widely, and are generically referred to as tiki mugs even if they are in the shape of a skull, hula girl, or other motif. Vintage tiki mugs are highly prized finds and are considered to be as much of a symbol of the tiki culture as a tiki itself.
Tiki cocktails are also occasionally served in hollowed out pineapples, or in large communal drink bowls with long straws that are meant to be shared. Some are set on fire with overproof rum for additional theatrics and flair.
Our Favourite Tiki Recipes - Mai Tai
The Mai Tai is one of the most famous Tiki drinks in the world. Composed of rum, orange curaçao, fresh lime juice and orgeat (a nuanced almond syrup)
- 50ml White Rum
- 25ml Orange Curaçao
- 25ml Lime Juice
- 15ml Orgeat
- 15ml Dark Rum
- Lime Wheel & Mint Sprig Garnish
- Add the white rum, curaçao, lime juice and orgeat into a shaker with crushed ice and shake lightly.
- Pour into a double rocks glass.
- Float the dark rum over the top.
- Garnish with a lime wheel and mint sprig.
Our Favourite Tiki Recipes - Piña Colada
A tropical blend of rich coconut cream, white rum and tangy pineapple – serve with an umbrella for kitsch appeal
- 60ml Light Rum
- 50ml Cream of Coconut
- 50ml Pineapple Juice
- 15ml Lime Juice
- Pineapple Leaf & Wedge Garnish
- Add the rum, cream of coconut and pineapple and lime juices to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Strain into a chilled Hurricane glass over pebble ice.
- Garnish with a pineapple wedge and pineapple leaf.
Our Favourite Tiki Recipes - Singapore Sling
The Singapore Sling was created in the early 20th century at Long Bar in the Raffles hotel in Singapore. Inspired by tiki flavours, it’s essentially a single-serving punch variation on the Gin Sling.
- 25ml Gin
- 10ml Benedictine
- 10ml Grand Marnier
- 10ml Heering Cherry Liqueur
- 30ml Pineapple Juice
- 15ml Lime Juice
- 1 Dash of Angostura Bitters
- Soda, chilled, to top
- Orange Slice & Cherry Garnish
- Add the Gin, Benedictine, Grand Marnier, Cherry Liqueur, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice and Bitters into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
- Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice, and top with the club soda.
- Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.
Our Favourite Tiki Recipes - Blazing Mai Tai
CROSSIP’s twist on the tiki classic, using our Summer Limited Edition flavour, Blazing Pineapple. Absolutely zero alcohol, this is the ultimate sipper as the tiki flavours intertwine with the bold profiles of CROSSIP Fresh Citrus.
- 25ml CROSSIP Blazing Pineapple
- 25ml CROSSIP Fresh Citrus
- 25ml Lime Juice
- 10ml Orgeat
- Garnish with Mint Sprig & Lime Shell
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.
- Shake hard.
- Strain over cubed ice and garnish
Oh, and what is kitsch? We're not entirely sure either! Ask our Co-Founder, Tim Blake, he should have the answer!!