When the latest snowstorm leaves you wishing for fruity drinks in warmer climes (but taking the private jet to Honolulu really isn’t an option), consider popping into a Tiki bar and soaking in some of its over-the-top Polynesian decor (puffer fish lamps, anyone?) and elaborately concocted cocktails as a curative measure.
Opened in Los Angeles in 1933, Don the Beachcomber was one of the first and most well-known Tiki bars of its era; the other, Trader Vic’s - the establishment that invented the Mai Tai, a Tiki staple drink - opened three years later in Oakland, California. In the decades that followed, Tiki bars opened all over the world, hoping to provide a bit of island flair to even the most landlocked among us. Recently, Tiki bars have enjoyed a bit of renewed interest, so throw on an Aloha shirt and check out some notable spots:
Bootlegger Tiki (Palm Springs, California): Set in Don the Beachcomber’s former Palm Springs outpost, Bootlegger Tiki offers up a selection of playful cocktails with names like Paradise Lost and Heisenberg’s Hawaiian (because, you guessed it, it’s blue). (photo above, bottom right)
Tonga Room + Hurricane Bar (San Francisco, California): Located in the Fairmont Hotel, this South Seas-themed spot has entertained guests since it opened in 1945. Diners are seated around a lagoon on which floats a thatch-covered barge, often with a band playing live music. (photo above, top)
Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): In operation since 1956, this grand, well-known establishment serves up a live luau-style revue (think fire dancers and hula) to go with its American Polynesian food and drink. (photo above, bottom left)
Trader Vic’s (Munich, Germany): Located in the Hotel Bayerischer Hof and opened in 1971 (which you very much get a sense of from the decor), this is one of the remaining outposts of a classic Tiki bar chain. (photo above)
Hale Pele (Portland, Oregon): Hale Pele routinely appears on many “best of” lists - for not just Tiki bars, but bars in general. When putting together the drink menu, owner Blair Reynolds culled recipes from legends like Mai-Kai, Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber, who created the iconic Volcano Bowl shared cocktail. (photo below)
The Shameful Tiki Room (Vancouver, British Columbia) has successfully created an immersive experience for guests to experience the golden era of Tiki. The space - which has no windows to catch sight of the world outside - uses intimate lighting, and a curated collection of Polynesian decor to great effect. The vintage cocktail menu is killer too. They have a second location in Toronto, too.
Dirty Dick (Paris, France): Expertly crafted cocktails served in conch shells, a provocative name, and retro island decor have young Parisians flocking to this Hawaiian-themed bar near Pigalle. (photo at top)