Tiki cocktails are tropical drinks, typically rum-based, that usually include fruit juice or syrups and have a heavy focus on bright colors and elaborate garnishes. They are often served in tiki mugs or other kitschy, themed glassware. Tiki cocktails are usually served on crushed or pebble ice, giving them a slushy texture and adding dilution as they often contain large amounts of rum.
The Tiki cocktail originated in the 1930s and 40s in the United States, particularly in California, and was inspired by the Polynesian culture and aesthetics. Tiki is usually associated with, and draws it aesthetic inspiration from, the Polynesian culture and history, but we include all tropical cocktails in this category, also those that are closely tied to the Caribbean culture.
One of the most famous Tiki cocktails is the Mai Tai which was created by Trader Vic in 1944. The drink is made with rum, lime juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat, and is often garnished with a sprig of mint and a slice of lime. Another classic Tiki cocktail is the Zombie, which was created by Don the Beachcomber in the 1930s and is made with multiple types of rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup, and grenadine.
It can often be difficult to get started on Tiki cocktails in the home bar, because each cocktail often requires several types of specific rums. To make Tiki more accessible, we try to divide the rum into a few broad categories for all our recipes here at World of Mixology.
Overall, Tiki cocktails are known for their sweet, tropical flavors, bold presentation, and often high alcohol content. They have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, after not seeing much popularity for several decades.
To see recipes from other cocktail categories, go to our Cocktail Recipe Overview.