People who are “in the know” know that no, you can’t just “throw together” Tiki cocktails. True Tiki drinks are based on complexity, balance, and that mysterious special flavor that invokes the feeling of laying on a tropical beach in the moonlight.
However…experimentation is also one of the most fun parts about having your own home Tiki bar. Whether you start with an established recipe or from scratch using the building blocks of Tiki drinks, creating your own concoction that is different and tastes great will be very rewarding.
Personally, I like to start with the building blocks that form the basis of many Tiki cocktails:
RUM, of course, including light, dark, and overproof. The complexity of the drink will most likely depend on how you combine different rums. And I don’t just mean these three types…like most home Tiki bars, my bar includes various types of light and dark rums from different countries, all with their own characteristics. Meyers Dark Rum is very different from Appleton Estate’s dark. Demerrara rum has a unique taste. Learning how these rums taste, and how they taste when combined, is the first step in creating your own flavors.
Lime Juice: Used for flavor as much as it is for balancing out sweetness.
Simple Syrup: For balancing out lime juice. (There, I said it)
Lemon Juice: Same as lime juice, with different results.
Pineapple juice: Adds flavor and tartness.
Cinnamon syrup or liquor: Adds flavor and spice.
Felarnum: Adds spice and complexity.
Grenadine or Cherry Liquor: Adds sweetness, flavor, and texture. Too much will ruin a drink.
Grapefruit and Orange Juice: For flavor, body, and balance.
Bitters: For flavor and spice (different flavor bitters are fun to use).
Passion Fruit syrup or liquor: For flavor and body.
Orange and Blue Curacao: For flavor, body, and color.
Club Soda: For fizz.
Again, these are just the basics. Of course there are dozens of other ingredients that can be added to these basics, from different liqueurs to fruit juices to exotic spices and garnishes. That’s where the real fun is. Once you learn how these basic flavors mingle, you can start experimenting with different combinations of these, plus your own additions. So while it’s not “ok” to just throw together Tiki cocktails…it is a lot of fun to experiment. Just try not to get too drunk in the process!
-Tiki Chris P. reporting from behind the bar at Tiki Lounge Talk