Most people assume that Tiki originated somewhere in the South Pacific, but you might be surprised to learn that the iconic Tiki culture was actually born right here in the United States.
In the 1920’s this guy, Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, traveled from his home in New Orleans to the Caribbean with his grandfather’s “import-export” business (importing Jamaican rum during prohibition). During his travels he absorbed every drop of the cultures he encountered— the people, the art, the cuisine, and most importantly, the drinks!
In his early twenties Ernest found himself on dry land in Los Angeles with a cargo load of trinkets from his travels. After a couple years of odd jobs he was able to open his own establishment in an old tailor shop in Hollywood. The plan was simple. He created his own cocktails from his arsenal of Caribbean rums, tropical fruits, and the spicy flavors of New Orleans. Then he built a bar with 24 seats, tossed up his exotic island trinkets among thatch and bamboo, and hung a driftwood sign labeled “Don’s Beachcomber” above the front gate. Don’s Beachcomber Café was born, and it changed the cocktail scene for the next 40 years. Ernest eventually changed his name to Donn Beach— either to accept the fate of everyone assuming his name was Don, or perhaps to avoid his bootlegging past.
The Tiki trend spread like wildfire. The return of WWII soldiers sparked a fascination with Polynesian culture, and the Tiki bar, though not at all authentically Polynesian, provided an exotic escape for post depression Americans who couldn’t afford to travel.
Fun fact: Donn’s Tiki drinks were so highly sought after that he developed a secret coding system so that none of his bartenders knew exactly what ingredients they were pouring and therefore couldn’t give away his recipes!
Before we start mixing let’s review the anatomy of a proper Tiki cocktail. We need tropical flavors and spice in the form of something sour, something sweet, something strong, and something weak, and we must serve it in a fun glass with a larger-than-life garnish. Are you ready for the challenge?
Here’s what you need to make Tidal IX:
1 oz aged blended white rum
1 oz black rum
1 oz bourbon
1 oz orange liqueur
1 oz passion fruit juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
Sweet & Weak:
3/4 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz orgeat
And a little something extra:
2 drops cinnamon bitters
I know what you’re thinking. NINE ingredients!? That’s absurd! Perhaps, but we’re talking Tiki, people! This style is known for using lots and lots of exotic flavors to create the perfect balance.
Let’s get down to business. Start by filling an interesting drinking vessel with ice.
Now for the strong stuff. First, pour 1 oz of an aged blended white rum such as Denizen aged white.
Add 1 oz black rum, not to be confused with “dark” rum such as Gosling’s black rum.
Now pour 1 oz bourbon such as Basil Hayden’s for funzies. Bourbon is not typically used in a tiki cocktail, but let’s face it. Bourbon makes everything better!
Round out the booze with 1 oz orange liqueur such as Cranberry Clementine SweetShine.
This seems like a lot of booze, and it is! Tiki drinks are notoriously high proof, but don’t freak out. We’re going to balance it out to make an easy drinking cocktail. Here we go …
Pour 1 oz passion fruit juice.
Add 3/4 oz pineapple juice.
Squeeze some fresh lime juice.
Add 1/2 oz fresh lime juice to your cocktail.
Pour 1/2 oz orgeat. Orgeat, pronounced “or-zha” like Zsa Zsa Gabor, is a non-alcoholic almond syrup with orange and rose water and is used in many tropical drinks.
Finally, add 2 drops of cinnamon bitters. Don’t add too much!
No Tiki cocktail is complete without an over-the-top garnish.
Let’s decorate this beauty with pineapple leaves, a pineapple flower with a fresh cherry, some vibrant purple orchids, and a bamboo straw for authenticity. My girl, Martha, will show you how to make pineapple flowers if you click right here.
Isn’t she lovely?
I give you Tidal IX, a delightfully tropical libation with just enough sweetness and a strong boozy kick.