Category: Tiki Month 2011
Basement Bar
Tiki Month 2011

Basement Bar Design #9: Tiki Bars

Tiki Bar TV cast and set
Some accessories are harder to come by than others....
The essential nature of Tiki is that it is so much more than just the drinks. Tiki is an experience. It can take you away from who and where you are, and give you permission to be someone else. With it's pagan overtones and pre-civilized vibe, Tiki is inevitably naughty. Going to Tiki world carries with it an implicit permission to misbehave. Whether you do or not is actually irrelevant, the feeling that you could can be liberating. I understand this psychological effect pretty well. My murder mystery party business, though not Tiki-related, provides that same, "permission to be bad" for guests. Stepping into another identity will set you free. In this and prior Tiki Months, I've written about small and easy ways to slip into the Tiki world. The shirts. The Music. The Mugs. But right now, let's talk about the big Magilla: How to outfit your own Tiki (Basement) Bar. Nothing will more fully immerse you in the Tiki world than actually being able to physically enter it. So mix yourself a Mai Tai and let's discuss the many ways you can construct your own magical wardrobe. To start with, a Tiki Bar need not be a permanent beast. After all, while the Tiki Gods may shake the Earth at the thought, not everyone is prepared to establish a permanent rum-soaked shrine to Polynesian idols, rattan, and kitsch in their homes.

"We are unamused."
Sorry, guys. But many people just want to have a Tiki Bar for that special event. Others want to have an outdoor focal point for a Summer of Tiki. (Or a refuge in February from a Winter of Snow) If all you want is a Tiki bar for a quick party, it can be cheap and easy. (If you aren't interested in the low-end portion of this discussion, skip to here) Take a normal table, set it up in the Living Room, and decorate it with a kit like this one from Century Novelty: Yes, it is cheap and tacky. So what? This is entry level, one-off, throw it away when you are done stuff here. Serve enough high-quality Tiki drinks, and it'll be remembered the next day as the second coming of Trader Vic's. (Come to think, serve enough crappy Tiki drinks and the same applies.) For temporary Tiki set-ups, you can get surprisingly good vibes with the simplest stuff. Remember, the atmosphere you are trying to create is ultimately in your guests heads. If you are doing a backyard party, the somewhat more expensive retrofit for your patio umbrella shown above will help your guests feel like there is a view of Diamond Head from your patio. You can improve on this in many ways, of course. Wrap the edges of your tables with raffia table skirting. It is the interior decorating equivalent of the paper parasol in a drink. Buy a box of plastic leis and hang them on your guests as they arrive, making your guests part of the decor. The crinkly plastic ones are dirt cheap, but spring a few extra bucks for the ones that have actual plastic flowers and you'll look like a hero. Enough supplies like this, and you can craft your room or patio into something pretty fun. Load up your iPod with a selection of Exotica music and scatter some Tiki torches (not too close to the decor!), and your guests will have what they need to craft their internal atmospherics. abc
Tiki Month 2011

Tiki Drink: Hot Buttered Mai Tai

Well, it is Mixology Monday time again, folks! That is our monthly round up of cocktail bloggers, posting in harmony on a single theme. This month's festivities are being hosted by Nancy, The Backyard Bartender. The theme that she has decreed for us is, "Some Like it Hot!"
Now, I'm not much of a hot alcoholic beverage guy, at least not yet. (We'll see after I read everybody's posts) But as it happens, the announcement for this month's MxMo came across my reader less than an hour after I had discovered the perfect drink for me for this month's entry. See, this is the last post I'll be putting up during Tiki Month 2011, my annual month-long exploration of all things Tiki. Tiki drinks are hardly a bastion of hot beverages, tending more to the delicate chill of crushed ice. so it was fortuitous indeed, perhaps fated, that I find this idea. One of the classic hot drinks, perhaps the classic hot drink, is the Hot Buttered Rum, and I'm sure we'll see a few of these this Mixology Monday. One of the classic Tiki drinks, perhaps the classic Tiki drink, is the Mai Tai. The Mai Tai is made with rum. Hmmm. Let's Tiki, an excellent Tiki blog I just discovered this month, had a post late last year producing this cosmic convergence, the Hot Buttered Mai Tai. He even produced a good video of the process for making it, but since I'm stealing his drink for my MxMo post, I'll make you have to visit his blog to see it. Like any good Tiki drink, this one is a little complicated to make and requires a two step process. First, you have to whip up a batch of the mix. Simply combine 4 tablespoons of softened butter with 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Then stir in 2 tablespoons of orange zest. This is going on all the zest you can get from a single large orange. (Remember when zesting to not abrade the orange too deeply. Orange zest is yummy, the orange pith which dwells a millimeter deeper is not.) This is enough to make four Hot Buttered Mai Tais. I don't know for sure, but if you keep it sealed in plastic wrap in single serving sized dollops, it should keep a good while. When you are ready to make your drink, here's the recipe. HOT BUTTERED MAI TAI
  • 2 oz. good dark rum
  • 1 tbsp. mix
  • 2 tsp. honey (to taste)
  • hot water
Combine rum and mix in a small coffee cup. Add a small amount of hot water and stir to dissolve. Add honey to taste. The resulting drink is interesting. It combines the basic Mai Tai taste elements, but from often different directions. It is pretty good, but is very easy to screw up as well. First, don't scrimp on the quality of the rum. Just because this is a hot drink doesn't mean you can get away with any old rum. I know. I tried. Just as with a regular Mai Tai, you need a rich, full-bodied dark rum, or even a blend of rums. (Rum blending for Mai Tais can lead you down the rabbit hole of obsession, so be careful). I tried this first with Mount Gay Eclipse, a perfectly serviceable dark rum which I'd never use in a regular Mai Tai, to totally bland results. The other way you can ruin this drink is too much hot water. Add a small amount at a time. And try to find the smallest Tiki vessel you can to mix it in. Let your mix get to room temp before you make the drink and you won't need much to dissolve it and the honey. Then add a bit more for heat and to taste. The Hot Buttered Mai Tai is a worthy last drink for Tiki Month, and a fun challenge to make with a tasty result. It won't replace the classic in my repertoire, but I'll keep it in my quiver for the right occasion. Now, head back to Nancy's place and check out every one else's hot drinks. Some like it hot, maybe you will too! That's it for Tiki Month. As usual, I have about thirty posts still in my draft queue that I just couldn't get to. I may hit a few throughout the year, and the rest will have to wait for Tiki Month 2012! It's been a gas, thanks for all the readers and the comments. Stick around as we return next month to our usual classic frivolity!abc
Rule 2
Tiki Month 2011

TIki Drink: The Reverb Crash

Reverb Crash Tiki drink, winner of Tiki Central Drink Contest
Libbey vintage Bamboo Flower Vase, which makes a nice Tiki mug. (One currently on auction on EBay. Real bamboo straws can be found at
It's the last day of Tiki Month, which sucks. But this drink doesn't. Over at Spirited Remix, DJ HawaiianShirt (who blogs under that name because people like me have no prayer of pronouncing his real last name), gets into the Tiki Month action with a nice rundown of the original Tiki phenomenon. He combines a truly epic amount of Rule 2 linkage with a perfect listing of the seven reasons why the glorious world of Tiki is also such a pain in the ass. He could not have hit on the head more precisely why Tiki Month is a once a year thing. The list is in the middle of the post. Go read it. He also includes a nice roundup of how to make your own passion fruit syrup. I'll add that this method can be generalized to the making bar syrups out of most any fruit you can juice. His whole post leads up to a description of the Reverb Crash, a Tiki drink that won the Tiki Central Drink Contest in 2003. The creator is a denizen of that board that goes by the handle Kick-The-Reverb, who remains a big part of things over there. With Tiki Month winding down, I whipped up one of these for lunch and a photoshoot. (Work with me, Baby!)
  • 4 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. passion fruit syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3/8 oz. Trader Tiki Orgeat
  • 1 oz. light Cruzan rum
  • 1 oz. Smith & Cross
Combine in a shaker with ice and shake to chill and combine. Fill Tiki vessel with crushed or small ice and strain drink in. Garnish with large, lightly crushed sprig of mint.
This is a nice little concoction. It is not too sweet, but pleasant and refreshing to drink. At six ingredients, it is a good example of a middlin' complex Tiki drink, but one of the good ones where you can still make out each ingredient therein. Give it a try, you'll like
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