Tiki drinks have been around for over 80 years, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that they experienced a resurgence in popularity. These cocktails are known for their fruity flavors, exotic ingredients, and elaborate decorations. In this article, we’ll explore the history of Tiki drinks, their unique ingredients, and how to make some of the most popular recipes.

Tiki drinks are a type of cocktail that originated in mid-20th century America and became popularized by bars and restaurants with a Polynesian or South Pacific theme. The drinks often feature tropical fruits, rum, and exotic garnishes like paper umbrellas and pineapple wedges. Tiki drinks are known for their bold and complex flavors, and are often enjoyed in large, elaborate glasses. In this article, we will explore the history of tiki drinks and some of the most famous recipes.

The History of Tiki Drinks

The Origins of Tiki Culture

Tiki culture originated in the 1930s in California when Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, also known as Donn Beach, opened a bar called Don the Beachcomber. Gantt was inspired by his travels in the South Pacific and created a Polynesian-themed bar with tropical decor and exotic drinks. The bar was an instant success, and soon other bars followed suit.

The Golden Age of Tiki Drinks

The 1940s and 1950s were the golden age of Tiki drinks. During this time, Trader Vic’s, a chain of Tiki bars, opened across the United States, and the popularity of Tiki culture continued to grow. These bars were known for their elaborate decorations, including bamboo furniture, thatched roofs, and carved wooden statues. Tiki drinks were the perfect complement to this exotic atmosphere.

The Decline of Tiki Culture

In the 1960s, Tiki culture began to decline in popularity. This was due in part to the rise of the counterculture movement, which rejected mainstream culture and traditional values. Tiki culture was seen as a symbol of the mainstream and was no longer in vogue. However, in the 2000s, Tiki culture experienced a renewed interest, and Tiki drinks once again became popular.

The Ingredients of Tiki Drinks

One key takeaway from this text is that Tiki drinks have a rich history dating back to the 1930s, and include unique ingredients such as rum, tropical fruits, spices, and syrups. While Tiki culture experienced a decline in the 1960s, it has undergone a resurgence in popularity in recent years. The Mai Tai and Zombie are two classic Tiki drink recipes that can be easily made at home.


Rum is the most important ingredient in Tiki drinks. It’s a spirit made from sugarcane and is an essential part of Caribbean and South Pacific culture. Tiki drinks often use several types of rum to create complex and layered flavors.

Tropical Fruits

Tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango, and passion fruit are commonly used in Tiki drinks. These fruits add sweetness, acidity, and complexity to the drinks.

Spices and Herbs

Tiki drinks often use spices and herbs such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and mint. These ingredients add depth and complexity to the drinks and complement the sweetness of the fruit.

Syrups and Juices

Tiki drinks often use syrups and juices made from tropical fruits. These syrups and juices add sweetness and balance to the drinks.

How to Make Tiki Drinks

Mai Tai

The Mai Tai is one of the most popular Tiki drinks. To make it, you’ll need:

  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. orange curaçao
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
  • Mint sprig for garnish

To make the Mai Tai, combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.


The Zombie is another classic Tiki drink. To make it, you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 oz. dark rum
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine
  • 1 dash absinthe
  • Mint sprig and lime wheel for garnish

To make the Zombie, combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wheel.

FAQs for What are Tiki Drinks

Tiki Drinks are tropical cocktails that originated in Polynesia during the mid-20th century. These drinks are made using a combination of rum, fruit juices, and syrups that have been inspired by the exotic flavors and themes of Polynesia. Tiki Drinks are characterized by their colorful appearance, elaborate garnishes, and exotic names, such as the Mai Tai, Zombie, and Planters Punch.

What are the ingredients used in Tiki Drinks?

The ingredients used in Tiki Drinks vary depending on the recipe, but most of them include rum, which forms the base spirit of the cocktail. Other ingredients commonly included are pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, passionfruit syrup, orgeat syrup, grenadine, and allspice dram. Many Tiki Drinks also use bitters, which is a combination of herbs, spices, and fruits, to add flavor complexity.

What types of rum are used in Tiki Drinks?

Tiki Drinks typically use rum as their base spirit, which means that rum is a crucial ingredient in creating an authentic Tiki experience. Most Tiki Drinks use light and dark rum, which can be blended together to give the cocktail a unique flavor profile. However, aged rum is an essential ingredient for creating more complex, nuanced Tiki Drinks. Jamaican rums have a funkier, tropical taste, while Cuban rums tend to be lighter and more delicate.

How are Tiki Drinks typically served?

Tiki Drinks are usually served in Tiki-style mugs, which are designed intricately and reflect the Polynesian themes of the drink. These mugs are typically carved out of clay or ceramics, and they come in a range of shapes and sizes that reflect the different styles of Tiki Drinks. Some Tiki Drinks may also be served in hurricane or martini glasses, depending on the recipe and preference of the bartender.

Are Tiki Drinks just for summer?

Tiki Drinks are typically associated with summertime, but these cocktails can be enjoyed year-round. Tiki Drinks offer a refreshing and exotic escape from the ordinary, making them an excellent choice for any season or occasion. Tiki Drinks can also be enjoyed at home with friends or served at a Tiki-themed party complete with décor and tropical-themed food. Their versatility and delicious flavors ensure Tiki Drinks will always be in demand regardless of time or season.

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