The Art of Tiki Cocktails: A Tropical Escape in a Glass

By Mallory Ambrose | June 13, 2024


Tiki cocktails, with their vibrant colors, exotic flavors, and whimsical garnishes, have been enchanting drinkers for decades. These libations, often served in playful mugs adorned with tropical motifs, transport patrons to a Polynesian paradise with every sip. As we dive into the sunny summer season, tiki culture is more alive than ever, offering a unique blend of nostalgia and innovation. Here’s a look at the magic of tiki cocktails and some of the best places across the US to experience them this year.

The Allure of Tiki Cocktails

The tiki cocktail movement began in the 1930s, spearheaded by pioneers like Donn Beach (Don the Beachcomber) and Victor Bergeron (Trader Vic). These bartenders crafted elaborate drinks that combined rum, fresh juices, and exotic syrups, creating a new genre of cocktail that promised an escape from the everyday. Tiki cocktails are known for their complex flavor profiles, often blending multiple types of rum with citrus, spices, and tropical fruits. Classics like the Mai Tai, Zombie, and Painkiller are staples on tiki menus, each with its unique story and recipe variations. The experience of enjoying a tiki cocktail goes beyond the drink itself, encompassing the ambience of tiki bars which are typically adorned with bamboo, thatched roofs, and island-themed decor.

Where to Sip Tiki Cocktails This Summer

  1. Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago, IL)

A Chicago gem, Three Dots and a Dash offers an extensive tiki menu in an underground, speakeasy-style setting. The bar’s name pays homage to a classic Don the Beachcomber cocktail, and their drinks are as rich in history as they are in flavor. A proven guest favorite on the menu, Three Dots and a Dash’s reimagined New New version of the Nui Nui, features an incredible milk punch topped with nitrous oxide charged methylcellulose stabilized mango, pineapple and vanilla foam.

Patrons can also enjoy a seasonal riff on the classic Trader Vic Mai Tai, with a cranberry twist this Summer. Maintaining traditional proportions of a 1944 Trader Vic style Mai Tai, the overproof Jamaican rum and Dutch curacao are sous vide with fresh cranberries, pulling tart cranberry flavor into the rum. This is then complemented by cranberry spice bitters, cranberry apple tea, a bar spoon of falernum, and a single dash of absinthe for rounded spice notes to create a stunning Cranberry Mai Tai.

 

New New Nui Nui Cocktail

Cranberry Mai Tai

2. Trader Vic’s (Atlanta, GA)

Escape to Trader Vic’s Atlanta for international cuisine, tropical cocktails and an unforgettable ambiance featuring hand-carved tikis, palm-thatched ceilings, and south pacific décor. Located on the lower level of the Hilton Atlanta, Trader Vic’s hosts an ever-evolving menu featuring dishes from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia, and Japan. Following his history-making creation of The Original Mai Tai® in 1944, imbibe from a collection of over 200 Trader Vic’s signature cocktails best described as Paradise In A Glass®, each handcrafted cocktail is an experience all its own.

Using quality ingredients served in Trader Vic’s own over-sized vessels, mugs, and glassware, try the Original Mai Tai® crafted with lime, orgeat, rock candy, orange curaçao and aged rum, or share sips from a Tiki Bowl for two, a delightful punch made using light and dark rums, brandy and almond mixed with orange juice served in an earthen bowl supported by three Easter Island Tikis, serves two.

 

The Original Mai Tai®

Tiki Bowl

3. Pete’s Sunset Grille (Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa)

Experience the vibrant surf and beach culture of Huntington Beach by dining at Pete’s Sunset Grille located in the village courtyard at Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa. Indulge in a delightful array of surf-inspired dishes from coastal destinations worldwide and sip on tropical tiki-inspired cocktails. Try the Painkiller, crafted with Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, cream of coconut, and topped with ground nutmeg, it’s the ultimate rum escape.

 

The Painkiller

4. The Lobby Bar at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

At the heart of the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, the Lobby Lounge offers a nightly hula show, torch lighting at sunset and live music throughout the evening. With stunning views, the lounge is widely known for its craft cocktail program and imaginative menu featuring signature handcrafted tropical libations like the Talisman, made with Jamaican rum, coconut, pineapple, mango, macadamia nut, and lime.

 

The Talisman

5. The Tiki Bar and Grill at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center

Just in time for summer, your newest tropical escape awaits! The Tiki Bar and Grill at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center, overlooking the Rio lakefront, recently opened to the public on Thursday, May 2nd. Tiki connoisseurs can sit back and relax on the outdoor patio as skilled mixologists shake up classic tiki cocktails. The bar menu features favorites including the Mai Tai, the Blue Hawaiian, and Zombie- all made with freshly pressed juices and premium spirits.

 

Left to Right: The Blue Hawaiian and Mai Tai

6. Kane Tiki Bar & Grill (JW Marriott Marco Island)

Named after Kane, the Polynesian god of creation and growth, Kane Tiki Bar & Grill at JW Marriott Marco Island is a creative fusion of Polynesian street food in an outdoor tiki bar setting, offering an unparalleled rum bar experience and stunning Gulf of Mexico views. Clink glasses with your toes in the sand, feet away from the beach, and sample their extensive collection of rums for a memorable lunch or evening by torchlight.

 

Kane Tiki Bar & Grill Rum Cocktails

Tiki cocktails remain a beloved part of the cocktail world, offering a taste of the tropics no matter the season. Whether you’re a seasoned tiki aficionado or a curious newcomer, these incredible venues across the US provide the perfect settings to explore and enjoy these enchanting drinks. This Summer let tiki cocktails be your passport to a mini-vacation, one sip at a time.