When Donn Beach and Trader Vic first birthed the miracle of tiki in the 1930s, the number of Polynesian-inspired cocktails was (somewhat) manageable. But as the movement has continued to grow, the list of complex, lavishly garnished, tropical cocktails contributed by new tiki blood has become overwhelming—especially for tiki newbies. So, we pared down the almost endless collection of tiki drinks to just five essentials. If you’re looking to kick start your education in all things tropical and boozy, consider this your first lesson.
5 Essential Tiki Cocktail Recipes You Should Know
One of the most well-known tiki concoctions of all time, the Mai Tai has been the subject of much speculation since its invention sometime between 1933 and 1944. No one knows for sure if it was Donn Beach or Victor Bergeron (aka Trader Vic) who first blended rums with lime juice, orgeat and orange liqueur, but one thing is certain: It tastes great.
For years, Donn Beach’s recipe for the Zombie remained a secret, thanks to his habit of mysteriously coding recipes by numbers. Thankfully, the recipe was eventually recovered by dedicated tiki-heads, and the powerful combination of rums, absinthe, falernum, grenadine and Beach’s special mix is a secret no longer.
Embraced by both Beach and Bergeron, Planter’s Punch actually predates the tiki movement, making it a sort of proto-tiki cocktail. While you can use any tropical juice you want, be sure to first try the basic recipe of Jamaican rum, lime juice, demerara syrup and black tea.
Like the Mai Tai, it’s hard to say whether Beach or Bergeron first invented this multi-spirited drink. Whoever did certainly wasn’t afraid of alcohol. Made with a base of gin, cognac and white rum, the drink also calls for fresh citrus juices, orgeat, sherry and bitters. The combination may sound bizarre, but it’s so easy to drink that Bergeron felt the need to warn readers in his Bartender’s Guide: “Fog Cutter, hell. After two of these, you won’t even see the stuff.”
As the Scorpion Bowl legend goes, this large-format cocktail got its start at a bar in Hawaii called The Hut. Bergeron snagged the recipe and tweaked it enough to make it his own. An impressively sized, potent blend of gin, rum, cognac, pineapple juice, orgeat, grenadine and orange juice, it is served in an ornate punch bowl, usually with a flaming volcano in the center. This is not a solo drink. Share the boozy wealth with friends.