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.
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.