Tiki Drinks: The Many Faces of Chief Lapu Lapu

Two verisons of the Chief Lapu Lapu
One of the more interesting characteristics of Tiki drinks is how many variations there sometimes are under the same name. The iconic example is the Mai Tai, of course. Donn Beach and Vic Bergeron each made one (as did, eventually, everybody else) but the drinks are practically unrelated. I often say that one secret to creating a great drink is to give it a good name with a good story. Since the original Tiki masters were so often obsessively secretive about their concoctions, it was hard for one bar to steal adopt the creation of another. But it was pretty easy to appropriate a good name or story. Today, I thought I’d look at one such drink that seems to have been passed around more than Madonna in an NBA locker room, the Chief Lapu Lapu.

In Remixed, Jeff Berry offers three versions of the Lapu Lapu. I tried the two that date to the original Tiki era, the Chief Lapu Lapu, and the Aku Aku Lapu. The Chief dates from the mid-50s, and its original place of nativity is lost to history. The Aku Aku Lapu dates from around 1960 and originated in the Las Vegas Tiki restaurant Aku Aku. The drinks are similar in that they are fairly typical Tiki concoctions. They blend different rums with a variety of juices and syrups, and are traditionally served in a vessel sized for two. Both are relatively well balanced and tasty, though both present the distinctively Tiki “muddled flavor profile” that leaves some cocktailians dismissing the genre. If you like Tiki drinks in general, one or another Lap Lapu is worth a spin.
Chief Lapu Lapu Tiki Drink


  • 3 part orange juice
  • 2 part lemon juice
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 1 part passion fruit syrup
  • 1 1/2 part dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 1/2 part light unaged rum

Shake well with ice cubes, then pour, unstrained, into a bowl or large snifter. Add more ice to fill. Serve with two straws. (When 1 part = 1 ounce, this recipe serves two nicely)

This recipe seemed to me. upon first reading it, like a hell of a lot of sweetness. But you serve it with a lot of ice so there is much dilution. This gives me an excuse to point you toward my recent post about Giuseppe Gonzalez’s studies on dilution, and his realization that the more dilution you have in a drink, the more sweet is needed to maintain balance. This drink demonstrates that in practice, as it is well-balanced, despite all that syrup and OJ.
The Aku Aku Lapu Tiki Drink


  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1 part unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1 part grapefruit juice
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part Trader Tiki’s Falernum
  • 1 part gold rum
  • 1 part dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 part Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum (or 1 1/2 part regular proof Lemon Hart)
  • 16 parts crushed ice

Combine in a blender and hit it until mostly smooth. Decant into your bowl or vessel and add more ice to fill. Traditional garnish is a gardenia.

The Aku Aku Lapu is a more complex recipe, and frankly strays into the Damn Pain In The Ass To Make school of Tiki drinks. I had to make it with a slightly larger pour of regular Lemon Hart, since the Great Lemon Hart 151 Drought of 2010 has yet to be broken. Also, this drink is not as much more complex than the Chief Lapu Lapu as I had anticipated. I liked it a bit better myself, but the PeguWife preferred the Chief. I’d really like to try it with the LH 151, as I don’t think that the Aku Aku is as balanced (as I made it) as the Chief, and I’d like to see if that is the issue. Does anyone have a good rule-of-thumb replacement ratio for LH 151 to LH 80?

As an afterword, I mentioned that a great drink benefits from a great story behind it or its name. Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that the Lapu Lapu is not a more aggressive or assertive cocktail. There was a real Chief Lapu Lapu centuries ago. He was a Muslim chief on the island of Mactan in the Philippines when Ferdinand Magellan came through on his cruise round the globe. And he’s the reason Magellan’s voyage completed it’s circumnavigation of the globe, but Magellan himself did not.
It seems that in the Philippines, as elsewhere on the trip, Ferdinand decided to engage in a bit of conversion by the sword. However, Lapu Lapu decided to engage in a bit of shooting the Spaniards in the unarmored legs with poisoned arrows instead. He was a fierce and independent Badass, and a drink named for him ought to be a bit more dangerous, or at least fierce.

About the author


I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.


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