Tiki Treats


Like a law of physics, things slow down in the summer, which means it is the perfect time to take up a hobby after months of quarantine. And there is no better way to fill the time than learning new ways to fill a glass with tasty drinks for the friends you hope to see soon on the patio.

Within the practice of mixology, there are several styles and schools of thought that can consume the mind from tracking down the first mention of a classic cocktail in old magazines to finding “Keto” friendly substitutes to barroom favorites.

Perhaps the most arcane and daunting of these schools is the delightfully tropical tiki drinks.

At first glance, the world of tiki can be daunting, like learning martial arts from Mr. Miyagi you will spend a lot of time knee-deep in menial tasks, like juicing endless limes and lemons, before seeing their broader application.

But much like the age-old techniques, Miyagi passed down to young Daniel LaRusso the rich mixological lessons to be learned are rewarding.

Tiki starts as easy as a mastery of rum and fruit juice, preferably freshly squeezed if possible, but we won’t tell anyone if you find it in the store. 

Shake two ounces of white rum, a little lime juice and sugar together and you have Daiquiri and you also have the basest understanding of building a cocktail. 

Next thing you know you have some dark rum, lime juice and exotic sweeteners like orgeat and rock candy syrup and some orange curaçao in your shaker and you are serving up Mai Tais.

Don’t forget to garnish that with some fresh mint!

Good tiki drinks reward all of the senses, the frosty feel of a cold glass, the bouquet of aromas, the beautiful colors and, of course, the deep flavors.

Visually, drinks will start with a pineapple frond and some maraschino cherries on a toothpick but as your tiki knowledge progresses you will be able to carve all kinds of facsimile out of fruit rinds and manipulate edible orchids into a variety of shapes. Eventually, you will be asking yourself what can safely be set on fire, until you have dropped the “safely” entirely.

Tiki is about exploration, and like a pirate, that means lots of rum. Maybe the most daunting part of any tiki journey is learning the rums and their characteristics. Does Barbados, Haitian or Guyanan rum crack the flavor profile you are going for in this Jet Pilot? Maybe all three is the answer.

That is why the place to start is the Zombie cocktail. Invented by Don the Beachcomber, the father of tiki culture, in 1930’s Hollywood, California.

The drink calls for three rums of simple enough provenance: white, for that clean shot of life, gold, for that signature rum funkiness, and dark, for body. Many recipes will call for a fourth, a float of 151 proof rum to be lit on fire.

The recipes for the tiki classic include some signature tiki mystery ingredients. One popular ingredient is falernum, which you will eventually find out includes flavors of ginger, lime, and almond as well as cloves or allspice, and will eventually start making yourself.

Other recipes call for “Donn’s Mix,” which is a proprietary mix often said to include fresh grapefruit and crushed cinnamon sticks. You can see the depths of flavors tiki cocktails will plumb.

After the Zombie is mastered, the real tiki journey has just begun, just try not to get consumed by its allure.


  • half oz white rum (think Bacardi White)
  • one oz dark rum (Gossling’s Black Seal will get the job done)
  • one and a half oz gold rum (go for something funky like Smith & Cross)
  • half oz 151-overproof rum (Bacardi)
  • one oz lime juice
  • one teaspoon of pineapple juice
  • one teaspoon of papaya juice
  • one teaspoon of superfine sugar

Directions: Stir together ingredients except for the 151. pour the mixture into a 14-ounce glass three fourths full of cracked ice. Float the 151 as a lid by pouring it into a spoon and gently dipping it under the surface of the drink (this mixture is flammable and is up to you to take a match to it for some pyrotechnics). Garnish with mint and fruit. Enjoy responsibly.