“If you can’t go to paradise, we’ll bring it to you” reads a poster inviting us to experience Tiki Thursdays at a popular Dublin city centre bar. The beautiful woman starring it holds a coconut with a straw and is dressed only with a few flower lei, the Hawaiian wreath of flowers that symbolises affection when given to someone.
Her promise transcends a €5 Mai Tai; you can almost hear the soothing lullaby of ukeleles in the background as she shows you the way to the tropical escapism of the sunny Pacific islands. Outside, the clouds are grey and the pace is hectic, in the world of tiki, the skies are blue and eternal summer says aloha.
— The Wiley Fox Dublin (@wileyfoxdublin) July 6, 2017
If you think about it, there is a quiet wave of Hawaiian influence nowadays: the island’s cuisine is emerging as one to watch, local speciality poké can now be seen in trendy Dublin venues, even Disney’s latest princess is based in this culture. With a spotlight on the region in what we see and what we watch, it’s only natural that what we drink gets a nod.
As the tiki trend grows stronger in cities like New York and London, which tend to set the trends that inspire bartenders, Dublin’s bar scene is ripe for a tiki revival so sit back and relax. Here’s everything you need to know about tiki right now.
On July 2017, London welcomed its second edition of the Spirit of Tiki Festival, a celebration of “all that’s fun about vibrant tiki culture.” Any cocktail trend that gets its own fest in the British capital is on to something, and to be fair, tiki was never truly gone but it had lost most of its shine: it was not only shadowed by little paper umbrellas but by a reputation for being, well, tacky.
We spoke with cocktail and spirits author and consultant Matt Pietrek, self-defined as a Tiki-phile, about the rise, fall and revival of tiki.
“When tiki was first conceived and became mainstream in the 1930s and 1940s, cocktail recipes and techniques were closely guarded secrets”, Matt points out that recipes were encoded and bar owners were extremely secretive. This contrasts with today, as recipe sharing and collaboration is widespread.
“This lets curious bartenders and enthusiast get involved with tiki even if they don’t have a local tiki watering hole. I’ve seen firsthand, with my tiki bartender recipes sharing information in realtime while thousands of miles apart.”
Another important update in today’s tiki trend is that it has gone beyond its original influences and has successfully integrated pop culture references that keeps it fun and unexpected.
“Some tiki practitioners have moved into new realms like HP Lovecraft, sci-fi, horror. So, while it’s possible for some to misappropriate faux-Polynesian themes even today, there’s much more to tiki than just that.”
But why now? What was the call that awaken the Tiki spirits? Matt correlates the onset of the craft cocktail movement with the reemergence of tiki.
Tiki went through some bad years when the genre became a bad, lo-fi parody of itself. But renewed attention to craft, such as fresh squeezed juices, raised the game.”
Now tiki drinks are better than ever: more inspired and better tasting, what’s not to love? The only remaining question is where to find the best and fortunately, the style is present in many of the best bars in Dublin.
If you fancy a taste of classic tiki, Vintage Cocktail Club has a whole chapter in its comprehensive and historically sectioned drinks menu dedicated to tiki and called “The Roots of the Tiki Craze.” There, you’ll find classic Mai Tai, Zombie and Navy Grog, as well as a few modern takes on the style.
If you’re thirsty for modern-style tiki, sail on to The Bowery in Rathmines and get a hold on their signature rum cocktail menu. To taste cool variations of the classics, just drop by WigWam and ask for a Tiki Colada, So’s Yer Mai Tai or an Island in the Sun.
The Chelsea Drugstore even has fabulous tiki mugs to go with the theme! These mugs are a very important part of the tiki movement and vintage pieces have become valuable collectables among bartenders.
For a high-end tiki experience, a visit to Zozimus Bar is a must. They’ve brought beautiful tiki mugs from a Hawaiian artist into the bar and have an admirable selection of rums. Their tikiest is the Zombie 14, let us warn you, it bites.
Another must try walking dead is Peruke & Periwig’s Thriller, named after Michael Jackson’s legendary hit and, following on their music-themed menu, you could also go for a Pretty Fly for a Mai Tai in which rum is replaced by tequila.
Outside of Dublin, the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder’s Cheeky Tiki is a must-try, made with a mix of claro and in-house spiced rum, lime and pineapple juice, Grand Marnier and passion fruit syrup.
In Galway, The Front Door Pub literally mixes a Hurricane and The Twelve Hotel is a brilliant choice to discover their signature Passion Fussion. Cork’s Edison is also terra tiki as you can visit and sip on a Zombie.
Matt Pietrek kindly shared with TheTaste a recipe he admits to be “pretty proud of.” His Tonga Thunder channels the influence of classics like the Mai Tai and the Jet Pilot, but is at the same time a fine example of what today’s tiki cocktails should be: taste, colourful and fun.
– 1.5 oz Hamilton Navy Strength Rum (114 proof Guyana/Jamaica blend)
– 1.5 oz unaged agricole, ideally at 50% ABV
– 1.0 oz grapefruit juice
– 1.0 oz orange juice
– 1.0 oz lemon juice
– 1.0 oz rich cinnamon syrup (2:1)
– 0.25 oz Hamilton Pimento Dram (or half that if using St. Elizabeth or similar)
– Angostura bitters, to float
1. Shake all ingredients except the Angostura bitters with ice.
2. Strain into a chilled double old-fashioned glass or other festive vessel, and top up as needed with crushed ice.
3. Liberally douse with Angostura bitters and garnish as you see fit.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.