March 23, 2022 by Sonja Edridge
When it comes to crowd–pleasing cocktails, tiki cocktails are in a league of their own. The best tiki cocktails go all out on the tropical vibe. They’re sweet, mostly made with rum, and always with a flamboyant, vibrant garnish bursting out of the glass.
The tiki craze spawned from the Great Depression when two kingpins wanted to create a cheery distraction from the doom and gloom. Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber) and Victor Bergeron (aka Trader Vic) exploded onto the California scene in the 30s and started playing one-upmanship with their faux tropical paradise bars and tiki cocktail recipes. Here are a few cocktails from Don and Trader Vic’s legacy. Big thanks!
1. Piña Colada
We start our list with a pin-up of the best beach cocktails, the Piña Colada. Undeniably tastier when sipped within earshot of lapping waves, this grown-up pineapple milkshake is silky smooth and sweetened with cream of coconut and fresh lime juice. This cocktail is a must for any reputable classic tiki cocktails list.
2. Rum Punch
Rum Punch is one of those perfect tiki cocktails that channels swashbuckling Jack Sparrow vibes. When the need for watching Pirates of the Caribbean films on a rainy day with a bunch of friends strikes, make a jug of this sweet and sour tiki cocktail to bring a little sunshine. Mix 5 oz of gorgeous golden rum with an equal measure of freshly squeezed orange juice and 2½ oz of lime juice (fresh, of course). Sweeten with 2oz of simple syrup and a dash of grenadine and aromatic bitters. Swirl with plenty of ice and a few slices of orange.
3. Mai Tai
The Mai Tai is the quintessential tiki drink poured with both dark and light rum. This tropical sip is tart and sweet, shaken with fresh lime juice, an orange liqueur like Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, and orgeat syrup. Orgeat is an almond syrup made with a little orange flower water that makes this tiki cocktail stand out from the crowd. There is good reason a Mai Tai is on the IBA’s official list of cocktails, it’s one of the classic tiki cocktails!
4. Zombie Cocktail
Let’s introduce the Zombie cocktail—if you haven’t already tried this easy fruity cocktail recipe. This tiki bar classic is a tad potent, shaken up with equal measures of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum and Wray and Nephew overproof rum, lime juice, pineapple juice, and grenadine. The double rum kick is balanced with the super sweet juice and grenadine combo. If you’re not under the shade of a palm tree, make sure you have a colorful umbrella bursting out of the top of your glass for all the retro vibes.
5. Hurricane Cocktail
The Hurricane cocktail is another of the classic tiki cocktails that include both light and dark rum. Pick a top-drawer one from the aged Maison La Mauny range, Signature Appleton Estate, or the Trois Rivières collection from Martinique. The duo of rums is mixed with fresh orange and passion fruit juice, a dash of simple syrup and grenadine, and a good squeeze of lime to bring it all together! Make sure you honor the name and pour it in a hurricane glass for all the island vibes.
Learn more: The 10 Best Beach Cocktails to Sip this Summer
6. Navy Grog
Poured with a trifecta of rum, this tiki drink combines all three types of rum in one boozy powerhouse of a cocktail. Gold rum gives rich caramel notes, which mix perfectly with the fruity brightness of white rum and the spice of dark rum. It’s easy to make, just pour an oz of each of the rums, top up with 1oz of honey syrup, ¾ oz of each club soda, grapefruit, and lime juice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and sip gently.
7. Three Dots and a Dash
Anyone who’s down with Morse code will know that three dots and a dash stand for V for Victory. This tropical cocktail was created by the kingpin of tiki cocktails, Donn Beach, during WWII and is a classic rum, syrup, and juice combo. This victory cocktail is a blend of Martinique Trois Rivières rum, allspice dram, honey syrup, lime and orange juice, and a dash of bitters. Then for the standout garnish, 3 Luxardo’s maraschino cherries (or blueberries) are skewered on a stick representing the three Morse code dots.
8. Singapore Sling
This 1920s gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling, is refreshingly tart and fruity. To make one, mix ¾ oz of a good zesty gin like O’ndina Gin with ¼ oz of each Grand Marnier, cherry, and herbal liqueur. Then add 1 oz pineapple juice with 1/2 oz fresh lime juice, a dash of bitters, and chilled club soda to top up. The Singapore Sling was created in 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon, loved by locals, and remained a firm favorite worldwide. It’s a fabulous drink to sip with spicy foods.
Pronounced Ha-le-koo-lah-nee, meaning house befitting heaven, this cocktail was created in 1930 at the famed Halekulani resort in Waikiki, Hawaii. It was the signature drink of the bar and is made with bourbon. It’s punchier than a Whiskey Sour but more tropical with the caramel bourbon vibes. When shaken, it’s the most beautiful plum color. To make this tasty sip, pour 1 ½ oz Rye whiskey and ½ oz demerara sugar syrup with ½ oz fresh lemon, orange juice, and pineapple juice. Top it off with a teaspoon of grenadine and a dash of aromatic bitters.
If you love a Piña Colada, the Painkiller is a fruity rum cocktail with your name on it. It was created in the 70s in the British Virgin Islands as a relief measure to the hot, humid weather. To make this drink, mix up 2 oz of good dark rum with 4oz of pineapple juice, 1oz of both orange juice and cream of coconut. Shake vigorously over ice and strain into a tall glass, and garnish with a large wedge of pineapple.
11. Jungle Bird
The Malaysian Jungle Bird cocktail is known for its unique blend of flavors that make it a favorite drink among locals and tourists alike. Despite containing Campari, typically associated with bitter cocktails like the Negroni, the Jungle Bird recipe offers a much sweeter taste that sets it apart from other Campari-based drinks.
12. Rum Runner
A terrific tropical drink that’s on the stronger side, the Rum Runner cocktail is sweet and fruity filled with fruit liqueurs, juices, and a sneaky kick.
13. Blue Hawaiian Long Island Iced Tea
If you are keen on a fun, refreshing drink with an island-style vibe, you’ve got to try our Blue Hawaiian Long Island Iced Tea recipe. Featuring a bright cerulean color thanks to the inclusion of blue curaçao, it looks as lively and boisterous as it tastes. Even though it features a long-ish list of ingredients, it also comes together very easily, which makes it perfect for beginners.
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With its muddled mint leaves and buoyant lime wedges, the Mojito is a summery classic for a reason. The bright citrus and vanilla flavors of white rum bounceu off the fresh lime and fragrant mint, with sugar adding a touch of sweetness to temper the acidity and club soda bringing it all together for an effervescent finish.
15. Banana Daiquiri
The Banana Daiquiri tastes like summer in a glass, and is a great addition to your pool and beach party menus. What’s more, this boozy adult slushie can easily be made in a batch, which makes it a great solution for fuss-free entertainment.