Tiki Drinks, Zombie Cocktail. Tiki Rum Punch & Mai Tais
The first Tiki bar appeared in 1934, Don Beach (a.k.a. Don the Beachcomber, born Earnest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) opened a Polynesian themed reastraunt in Hollywood California. Don The Beachcomber, is also credited as having created the tropical drink genre singlehandedly. Donn was the first restaurateur to mix flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum. These drinks were called Rhum Rhapsodies and made Don the Beachcomber’s restaurant the hot spot for Hollywood elite and stars from the 1940s well into the 1960s. Donn Beach is credited for having created some of the most memorable exotic cocktails such as the Scorpion and the Zombie.
Most of these drinks are rum-based, simply because back when the tropical drink craze started after prohibition, rum was the cheapest liquor available. It also mixed well — a little lime, a dash of pineapple, and a pinch of sugar, in combination with a few or many more flavorings, and originators like Ray could invent a slew of new potions to rival the old-school cocktail favorites of the 1930s, which were made largely with whiskey and gin.
The mai tai is considered to be the quintessential tiki cocktail. A protracted feud between Donn Beach and Trader Vic erupted when both claimed to have invented the mai tai.
Most, if not all, tiki-themed establishments served at least some of their cocktails in ceramic mugs depicting tikis; also known as tiki mugs. The styles and sizes varied widely. Today, the tiki mug is a highly prized find and is considered to be as much a symbol of the Tiki culture as a tiki itself.
There are two Tiki bars that seem to be considered the best at the craft these days, those being Forbidden Island in Alameda, California and Tiki Ti, from Hollywood (founded in 1961 by one of Don the Beachcomber’s bartenders).
Done right, these drinks seem to make the summer last just a little bit longer, which is why our summer cocktail package this year doubles as an offering to the tiki gods. Here are some recipes to get you started mixing up these classics.
More Exotic Drinks
Mahalo! (Hawaiian for thanks and gratitude and is a typical salutation in Tiki circles.)