Sep 5, 2022
How To Throw an Epic Tiki Cocktail Party
.... And Serve Legit Tiki Style Cocktails
Build it, and they will come.
A telltale sign of an authentic Tiki party is the Polynesian decor. Tiki began after the second world war after many American GIs were stationed in the Pacific islands to the North East of Australia and New Zealand which includes Papua New Guinea, The Cook Islands, Hawaii and Tahiti.
We’re talking about coconuts, totem statues, driftwood, masks, fire torches, fishing nets, nautical glass, palm leaves and pineapples (not flamingos or pirates, which are more Caribbean in theme). If you’re making temporary changes for the evening, you can look for tableware, cushion covers, and drapes in traditional Polynesian prints. Head somewhere like LittleGrassShack.co.uk for supplies.
One easy way to Tiki up your existing furniture is to head to the local garden centre and grab some bamboo canes. They can be hot glued for permanent fixings or strung together and temporarily cable tied onto just about any piece of furniture, including a home bar.
Pre-prep Your Cocktails
It’s better to do a small range of cocktails well than offer a massive choice of cocktails made with no prep. If it’s an all-nighter, get one cocktail in a punch bowl or sharing pitcher to which guests can help themselves, one short drink with mostly spirits and one long drink with mostly mixer.
One of the lovely things about Tiki is the laid-back vibes, so don’t get your knickers in a twist serving each guest a complicated, individually made cocktail. You can squeeze and blend juices a few hours before serving them, mix spirits, liqueurs and syrups 24 hours before serving them, and batch up the whole lot just before people arrive. Make jugs of pre-mix under the counter, then as each person requires a drink, just pour or shake with ice. Easy peasy.
So with that in mind, we’ve ranked these drinks from easiest to make to most challenging, with number 1 being the most simple and number 5 being the hardest to make;
- Dark ’n’ Stormy: Dark rum, a squeeze of lime and ginger beer built over ice in a tall glass. These take about 2 seconds to make if you prep your glasses by squeezing in the limes and then pouring out your measure of rum before guests arrive. All you need to do when then is pour the ginger beer out fresh, then you can keep it zingy by sealing the bottle between each pour. Just stir and serve.
- Natural Daiquiri: Lime juice, light rum, iced water and sugar syrup poured over ice in a rocks glass or straight up in a martini. This is an excellent cocktail to start beginning to practice balancing ingredients well. Prep it, bung it in bottles, store them in a cold fridge, and shake the bottle hard before you pour it into the chilled serving glass.
- Zombie: overproof rum, light rum, aged rum, falernum, Pernod, pineapple juice, fresh grapefruit juice and grenadine syrup mixed with ice in a blender and served in a tall glass. WARNING This is a STRONG drink. But again, prep all your ingredients in advance, and you can wiz them up in the kitchen blender sharpish.
- Trader Vics Mai Tai: Aged rum, orange liqueur, almond and sugar syrups and lime juice, shaken in a cocktail shaker and poured into a rocks glass over crushed ice. A true Tiki classic, this gets trickier as it requires balancing the ingredients carefully. But you can pre-prep the hell out of a Mai Tai. Prep the juice and the alcohol and syrups in two separate vessels, so you don’t end up with all the sugary ingredients at the bottom of your pre-mix. Only mix them when you’re ready to shake your cocktail.
- Beachcomber: Light rum, triple sec orange liqueur, Maraschino liqueur, fresh lime juice and sugar syrup shaken in a cocktail shaker and served straight up in a martini glass. As with the Mai Tai, prep your fresh ingredients separately and only mix with the denser syrups when ready to shake and serve.
The Devil is in the Details
It’s the small finishing touches that make things genuinely awesome. Whether that’s the tiny cocktail umbrellas, pre-prepared fresh fruit garnishes for your cocktails, or an authentic piece of glassware that reflects the OG early1950s era.
Fire is a huge part of Tiki culture. From real fire torches to flaming rum shots, you can head to any Tiki themed venue and see open fire as part of the theatre. Obviously in your own home, that could be a little dangerous. So use our Flavour Blaster Mini to produce flavoured smoke for your food and drink serves.
Yes, by all means, lads, don a Hawaiian shirt, but source one in tapa print and maybe add a fifties style hat too (which includes trilby, porkpie, homburg, ivy cap, walking hat and straw hats). Ladies, it's perfectly acceptable to wear printed shirts too, but if you want to go dressy, think about the dress shapes of the late forties and early fifties.
Drape your non-Tiki furniture with temporary materials, and put Tiki prints on the walls. Hide modern electronics, so people aren’t taken away from the illusion of being on a beach in a faraway place.
Put out some nibbles, so your guests don’t get hungry and make sure drinking water is dotted around the room, as some of those rum cocktails are super strong.
One of the main reasons Tiki flew off the chain as it did was the sudden popularisation of island culture. South Pacific, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, was released in 1949, and a slew of Polynesian-inspired shows and films came out in the wake of its success.
The music of this era was also massively influenced by Latin music, with dances like the Samba and the Tango catching on worldwide. It was also considered the golden age of Hawaiian music, which in the 50s merged with sounds like Exotica and Lounge.
You could mix in influences from this era with more current island styles of music. Think Manu Chao meets Dawn Penn meets Perry Como. If you’re too short on time to make your own, here’s the Spotify playlist from London’s legendary Tiki bar, Trailer Happiness.
Tiki also offers great prop opportunities for a photo booth, and hula dancers or a game of limbo can help lift the party if you get into a lull.