Tiki cocktails aren't just beachy drinks - they embody a whole culture, both in respect to Polynesian traditions and within the bartender community as well.
Tiki drinks are a breed all their own, utilizing wildly different proportions from the basics we talked about here and offering high octane ABVs by way of tropical flavors and crushed ice. They are about escapism and exaggeration of the norm, often served in outlandish glassware with over the top garnishes (banana carved into a dolphin, anyone?) Beyond this Tiki-cocktail culture that has existed since sometime around the 1940's, I would argue that there is a subset of Tiki cocktails, made popular by the newest wave of cocktail bartenders. Beverage directors of rooftop clubs and hotel bars have been slyly sneaking nods to Don the Beachcomber onto their menus, with recipes that have found ways to marry Polynesian cocktail making techniques with subtlety not often found in a proper Tiki bar. Use of nutty flavors, smooth textures, sweet fruits, and dry finishes are all hallmarks of classic Tiki cocktails. When paired with unexpected spirits like whiskey and gin, as opposed to rum, and served with aromatic garnishes in lieu of paper umbrellas, these Tiki methods create cocktails that feel like a modern island getaway.
Try out the cocktail recipe below and decide for yourself - are you a Tiki traditionalist, or a modern mixologist?
1.5 oz Aviation Gin
.5 oz Zucca Rabarbaro
.75 oz Lime Juice
.75 oz Vanilla Syrup
.5 oz Coco Lopez Coconut Cream
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Mix all ingredients in shaker with ice. Strain into rocks glass and add crushed ice. Garnish with pineapple frond. Add grated nutmeg or split coquito nuts for additional garnish, if desired.