Whether you are a serious tiki enthusiast, or your experience extends no further than Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, in this humble barman’s opinion, no standard cocktail menu is complete without at least one authentic Tiki Drink.
I have long been a fan of the genre, and my interest extends back to a chance visit to a tiki-themed bar in Columbus, Ohio, where I had my first encounter with a properly-made Zombie – to this day one of my all-time favorite drinks.
The history of the tiki craze, which had its heyday in the 1940’s and 50’s, begins (and ends?) with the venerable and colorful Don The Beachcomber. If you aspire to be a true cocktail pro, this is 101-level stuff.
Trader Vic (Bergeron) of course holds his own place in the tiki pantheon, notwithstanding pop-culture references from Warren Zevon. But time and trends may have deprived us all of the great (and true) tiki drinks, were it not for the efforts of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and his dogged research. Again, required reading.
If you haven’t yet experienced the Zombie, the Mai Tai, the Swizzle, and others do yourself a favor and find them. But review the correct recipes first, and don’t be afraid to ask your bartender how he/she makes them. The most unfortunate fact is that tiki drinks are some of the most commonly bastardized (and ruined) drinks you will find, partly due to uncommon ingredients, and also due to the laziness of many drink programs.
The fun is in the hunt!