Mai Tai, anyone? Thanks to legendary bartenders like Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, the tiki cocktail is an international favorite. Tiki drinks became a bar trend right after the Prohibition with the 1993 opening of Don the Beachcomber’s first tropically themed restaurant in Hollywood. With US soldiers returning from the South Pacific with stories about the culture, the nation became curious about all things Polynesian. Tiki bars became popular staples of the 1940s and 1950s when Hollywood stars frequented them. Trader Vic joined in the action during this period with a chain of restaurants. Tiki drinks were hot then, and they are hot now with Mai Tais, pina coladas, slings, daiquiris, and tropical punches making a splash.
With rum as the main ingredient of the vast majority of these drinks, things get tropical with the addition of citrus, pineapple, cloves, mint, and sugar. Today, these drinks also include passion fruit, mango, kiwi, and guava. The key of the tiki cocktail is to create an ideal balance between the rum and a sweet or sour flavor. When it comes to tiki, presentation is important. If you don’t know how to decorate a drink, it’s time to learn, as Mai Tais and daiquiris aren’t complete without paper umbrellas, fruit garnishes, and swizzle sticks.