Liquor.com recently announced their Top 263 Bars Around The World – 2017 Edition. I quickly scrolled through the list seeing what bars I knew of made the list. I was surprised to discover that I have heard or read about almost all of the bars that made the list.
I was happy to learn that eleven (11) tiki bars made the 2017 list but I was saddened that one of those bars, Suzanne Long’s terrific Longitude in Oakland, CA, closed the same weekend the list was published. Below are the tiki bars designated as the 11 best in the world (in no particular order).
HALE PELE (Portland, OR)
WHY HERE: The man behind the BG Reynolds mixers line, Blair Reynolds’ Tiki obsession is best expressed in his bar, Hale Pele. The bar is lush with palm fronds, bamboo and Tiki paraphernalia.
WHY NOW: Sipping Zombies and flaming volcano bowls under blowfish lanterns, hourly tropical rainstorms and island cuisine transports drinkers to a faraway island.
LOST LAKE (Chicago, IL)
WHY HERE: This festive Tiki bar run by lauded bartending vet Paul McGee, with a rum list curated by partner Martin Cate of San Francisco Tiki haven Smuggler’s Cove, will have you feeling like you’ve been whisked away to the islands, no matter the time of year.
Why Now: After an electrical fire shuttered the space for a few weeks last year, the Tiki palace is back and better than ever. In addition to the drink menu’s delicious libations, you can also get cocktails made with Maison Ferrand’s Plantation O.F.T.D. overproof rum, a newer spirit created by McGee, Cate and a slew of other influential Tiki masters.
THREE DOTS AND A DASH (Chicago, IL)
WHY HERE: As Tiki was heating up around the country, Three Dots stoked that fire with modern riffs on rum-based classics, took new strides with punch bowls and even made a dolphin glass accouterments out of a banana.
Why Now: Three Dots imported heralded L.A. mixologist Julian Cox, who now steers the ship at this subterranean Tiki paradise. Cox kept the classics and large-format cocktails served in glass skulls and treasure chests but spiced up the list with reimagined Tiki drinks with unexpected spirits like the Poblano Escobar, made with mezcal, poblano pepper and pineapple.
PORCO LOUNGE & TIKI ROOM (Cleveland, OH)
WHY HERE: This is an ideal destination if you’re looking for a break from the self-seriousness of craft cocktail bars. The whimsy of Porco, which salvaged artifacts from Cleveland’s late great Kon Tiki restaurant that shuttered in 1976, has a gentle, festive vibe.
WHY NOW: Come for the authentic, throwback Tiki experience; stay for super boozy yet balanced cocktails made with fresh lemon, lime and passion fruit, as well as hand-grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Porco feels like it has been around for 50 years instead of the few it actually has.
MOTHER OF PEARL (New York, NY)
WHY HERE: Most Tiki dens are either darkened caves, packed-to-the-walls totems to midcentury kitsch or both. MoP is a colorful, happy oasis on an East Village street corner. Each cocktail arrives in distinct, specific glassware, and some drinks are made at your table.
WHY NOW: Rather than Tiki mugs, drinks arrive in inventive receptacles shaped like anything from a large conch shell to a shark emerging from the water. This is a thing you want, along with an on-point, Polynesian-inspired vegetarian menu.
LONGITUDE (Oakland, CA)
WHY HERE: While California is known for sunny skies, the Bay Area is not. Never fear, one step inside Suzanne Long’s cheery Tiki bar, and you’ll forget all about the cloud cover. After all, it’s tough to be gloomy with a bright yellow Daiquiri or spicy cup of pirate-inspired grog in hand.
WHY NOW: Tiki drinks have been making a splash, and while plenty are filled with sticky sweetness and cheap rum, the tipples Long is pouring have an elegance that speaks to the beginning of the culture. Try the Black Orchid, a special tropical drink made with house-flambéed rum cordial, Angostura 7-year-old rum and citrus. As a bonus, it comes with a real pearl you can keep.
SMUGGLER’S COVE (San Francisco, CA)
WHY HERE: The one-and-only Smuggler’s Cove is equal parts a pioneer—pushing forward the Tiki revival since it opened in 2009 and showing us how to do Tiki right—as it is a rum haven with more than 500 rums, one of the world’s biggest collections.
WHY NOW: Historically accurate recipes—from Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s classics to drinks from Havana’s glory days—and house favorites on the extensive cocktail menu continue to draw regulars and world travelers to this magical Tiki getaway.
TIKI TI (Los Angeles, CA)
WHY HERE: This unassuming hole-in-the-wall in L.A.’s Los Feliz neighborhood has a solid part in Tiki history. Tiki-Ti’s original owner, Ray Buhen, was one of Don the Beachcomber’s Four Boys, four Filipino bartenders who purportedly created the legendary cocktails for which Donn Beach took credit.
WHY NOW: Up until just a few years ago, Tiki-Ti was one of the only bars in town that allowed smoking, and the place definitely smelled the part. Now that’s changed, and patrons can yell “Toroooo” without hacking when ordering a Blood & Sand.
BOOTLEGGER TIKI (Palm Springs, CA)
WHY HERE: Located in the home of the original Don the Beachcomber restaurant, Bootlegger Tiki has massive Tiki shoes to fill and does so quite ably.
WHY NOW: Staying true to Tiki classics doesn’t mean you can’t get inventive. Bootlegger experiments with all kinds of house ingredients and new recipes, showcasing riffs such as coconut-fat-washed gin, while deploying everything from cachaça to Chartreuse.
LATITUDE 29 (New Orleans, LA)
WHY HERE: Latitude 29, owned and operated by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, is the culmination of Beachbum’s decades-long commitment to (almost-single-handedly) reviving Tiki culture across the country.
WHY NOW: The bar is a mecca for devotees of Tiki’s second coming. It has become the premier place for drinkers looking to pay their respects to the legacy of Don the Beachcomber while snacking on tropical dishes like loco moco. Start off with a classic, like the Navy Grog, and work your way toward some of Beachbum’s historically rooted new concoctions.
MAI-KAI (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
WHY HERE: Open since 1956, Mai-Kai continues to showcase Polynesian cuisine, culture and classic Tiki cocktails with nightly live shows, just as it has for nearly 60 years. Also, while the bar whips up a mean fruity drink full of booze, it also has a whole kid’s menu, so you can bring your tikes with you for a taste of the tropics.
WHY NOW: Recently named the No. 1 Tiki bar in the world by Tiki reference site Critiki, Mai-Kai offers the best in handcrafted rum-based cocktails and an experience reminiscent of the original spots from the ’50s and ’60s.