By Lyre's Spirit Co
8th Jul 2022
A tiny paper umbrella stuck in a wedge of pineapple jammed into the lip of a sweating hurricane glass filled with something bright and fruity... That’s what someone might picture when they hear the words, “Tiki drink.” Then they usually start to giggle meanly.
But it’s so unfair! Tiki drinks deserve much more respect than they get. Sure, for a long time they’ve been associated with dopey mid-century kitsch, but Tiki drinks are actually brilliantly well-constructed and absolutely delicious cocktails with an aesthetic of laid-back, super-fun escapism.
So yeah, we love the Tiki. And it’s time you loved the Tiki too. Here’s a bit of background plus 3 great recipes to inspire you to embrace Tiki at your place with Lyre’s. Call it the WikiTiki.
What is a Tiki drink?
Tiki drinks usually combine rum with flavoured syrups, mixers, fruit juices and fresh-cut fruit, plus spices like cinnamon, almond and nutmeg. The way they harmonise all those different flavours is an absolute feat of nature. Make no mistake, these are drinks invented by culinary geniuses and they deserve respect.
Obvs not ALL Tikis drinks are rum-based, but heaps are. Rum was a big part of the whole Tiki culture thing, which is interesting because rum didn’t come from the South Pacific; rum originates in the Caribbean. So when you look back to the start of Tiki, those early guys, by serving Caribbean drinks in a Polynesian setting, were consciously creating something that didn’t exist but was super-appealing; a faux, idealised world designed to take people away from their drab, ordinary one. It was like a hybrid of Disneyland and the Pacific Islands, and when done properly, was bloody brilliant.
History of the Tiki bar
The Americans had been loving exotic tales of South Sea adventures since the late 1800s. Then in 1933, a colourful dude with a history as an actual smuggler who came to be known as Donn Beach opened a Hollywood restaurant called Don the Beachcomber.
He combined his knowledge of the South Pacific with his drink-making skills and came up with an over-the-top, island-themed tropical bar that revolutionised the cocktail world.
Decorating it with treasures and nautical relics from his travels around the South Pacific, he created an escapist paradise: an imaginary South Seas island getaway where people could unwind with soft music and dim string lighting while sitting on bamboo furniture underneath palm trees and a thatched roof while Easter Island head statues looked on.
But while the décor was a trip, it was Donn’s drinks that transported people to paradise, balancing complex layers of tropical flavours with bright and colourful OTT presentation that blew their minds.
And Donn wasn’t the only one. Not long after, Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, started his own Tiki restaurant with his own legendary cocktails. He lays claim to the Mai Tai.
People loved loved loved it all. The whole Tiki thing took off around the States, and the world. Now it’s over to you to keep it going.
Non-alcoholic Tiki cocktail recipes
Created at Trader Vic’s - the Great Granddaddy of Tiki Bars - the Mai Tai is the rum-based fruity favourite of hornswogglers, deck swabbers and scurvy dogs from all four corners of the globe.
- 30mL Lyre's Dark Cane
- 30mL Lyre's White Cane Spirit
- 30mL Lyre's Orange Sec
- 30mL fresh lime juice
- 7.5mL premium almond syrup
- 7.5mL white sugar syrup (1:1)
- Shake briefly, strain into an old fashioned glass, top with fresh ice
- Garnish with a lime wedge and plump mint spring
For a lower alcohol (as opposed to zero alcohol) option, swap our Dark Cane or White Cane Spirit with 30mL of dark or white rum.
While Ernest Hemingway was penning The Old Man and the Sea in one corner of the La Bodeguita Bar in Havana, a fellow visionary was creating the Mojito on the other side. Lyre’s White Cane Spirit with muddled mint and hints of sugar cane is a true mojito that should rightly be stirred with the bill of a giant marlin and enjoyed with a Montecristo rolled by Blackbeard himself.
- 75mL Lyre's White Cane Spirit
- 30mL lime juice
- 15mL white sugar syrup (1:1)
- 8 - 10 mint leaves
- 30mL premium bottled soda water
- Add all ingredients into a highball glass, fill with fresh cubed ice, stir and add soda
- Garnish with a lime wheel and plump mint sprig
Some say this iconic, tropical, fruity and refreshing cocktail is making a comeback. We say it never went away. White Cane spirit, coconut water, fresh pineapple and a splash of sugar syrup. “Club Tropicana, the drinks are free, fun and sunshine, there's enough for everyone. All that's missing is the sea. But don't worry, you can suntan!” Here’s to you, Mr Michael.
- 75mL Lyre's White Cane Spirit
- 75mL fresh young coconut water
- 20mL white sugar syrup (1:1)
- 6 fresh pineapple chunks
- Muddle/press pineapple chunks in a shaker glass, add remaining ingredients and ice, close, then shake hard
- Strain into highball glass and fill with fresh cubed ice
- Garnish with plump mint sprig and a pineapple wedge