Islands Ho!

10 tasty spots for tiki tippling.


Tiki drinks are back in a big way, and in our July/August 2011 issue, we celebrate modern tiki recipes full of tropical fruit juices, island spirits, spiced syrups, and plenty of frou-frou garnishes and tiki mugs to spare. And Polynesian cocktail popularity continues to grow with lounges across North America pouring a mix of tropical classics and modern interpretations. From New York City to Los Angeles, with a few surprising stops in between, here are 10 spots that will whisk you away to a tropical oasis.


Clive’s Classic Cocktail Lounge
Though not a dedicated tiki bar, Clive’s in Victoria, British Columbia offers bar goers a taste of the tropics each summer with their seasonal tiki-inspired menu. Highlights range from classics—think Painkiller and Planter’s Punch—to contemporary twists, like the Tar Pit with two types of rum, Fernet Branca and housemade pimento dram, and the Cannibal’s Campfire with rum, whiskey earl grey tea syrup and grapefruit juice. 740 Burdett Ave., Victoria, British Columbia; 250-382-4221

Forbidden Island
Step into Forbidden Island and prepare to be transported to a perfectly kitschy tiki territory from the ’50s and ’60s—a dimly lit world complete with thatched bamboo huts, glowing puffer fish and velvet Tahitian paintings. With a cocktail menu originally designed by rum man Martin Cate and now with Suzanne Long and Susan Eggett at the helm, Forbidden Island’s drinks run the tiki gamut from classic to contemporary, all made with fresh-squeezed juices, housemade syrups and Bay Area spirits. And before you go, write your name on a dollar bill and tack it to the ceiling—it’s an old Navy tradition signaling you’ll be back again. 1304 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, California; 510-749-0332

Lani Kai
A Polynesian oasis in the middle of Manhattan, Lani Kai draws inspiration from bar owner Julie Reiner’s Hawaiian childhood and is as classy a tiki joint as we’ve ever seen, complete with stunning shell chandeliers, tropical foliage and even a stone-inlayed fireplace. But equally spectacular are the drinks prepared by Reiner’s talented team of bartenders—including swizzles (like the Hamilton Park Swizzle featured in our July/August 2011 issue), tropical punches and hand-selected rum flights. 525 Broome St., New York City; 646-596-8778

Molokai Lounge at the Mai-Kai Restaurant
Housed inside the Mai-Kai restaurant, which offers loads of dramatic tropical theatrics, including fire-dancing, live surf music and an indoor lagoon, the Molokai Lounge mixes up more than 50 tropical drinks under a nautical canopy of sea-worn fishing nets, life preservers and old lanterns. 3599 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale, FL; 954-563-3272

Okolemaluna Tiki Lounge
When Brice Ginardi and his wife relocated to Hawaii, they expected to be awash in tropical cocktail culture. But when Ginardi discovered Hawaii’s taste for tiki didn’t jibe with his own, he did what any hardcore tiki fanatic would do and opened a bar serving cocktails he wanted to drink. Today the Okolemaluna Lounge—which means “bottoms up” in Hawaiian—pours a mix of tiki classics and tropically inspired originals chock full of housemade syrups and fresh fruit. 75-5799 Alii Drive #A6, Kailua Kona, Hawaii; 808-883-8454

Thousands of miles from the tropics but on an island nonetheless, this bamboo-bedecked basement bar (formerly known as Painkiller) lures Manhattanites with its encyclopedic menu of fanciful Polynesian cocktails, including flaming Volcano Bowls, icy Swizzles and boozy Zombies, all meticulously researched and exquisitely executed, right on down to their over-the-top glasses and garnishes. 49 Essex St., New York City; 212-777-8454

Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge
Midwesterners with a taste for tiki venture to this bi-level lounge resting along the Mississippi River, where with seating for near 1,000 people and more than 20 tropical drinks, you’re sure to stay in good company. 1900 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota; 612-788-9069

Smuggler’s Cove
To say Smuggler’s Cove owner Martin Cate is passionate about rum would be a serious understatement. The menu at his Bay Area bar offers more than 200 bottles of the sugar-based spirit as well as 70+ cocktails that all offer their own little taste of the tropics. Try his sun-drenched Center of the Galaxy. 650 Gough St., San Francisco; 415-869-1900

Under the dim glow of puffer fish lanterns and the watchful eye of wooden tiki totems, this Portland cocktail den makes up for what it lacks in size by going big on fresh tropical island tastes with cocktails calling for fresh-squeezed juices, specialty syrups and, of course, plenty of requisite tiki mugs. 2733 NE Broadway, Portland, Oregon; 503-281-8454

In 1961, Ray Buhen—one of the original 1934 Don The Beachcomber's bartenders—opened his own place in East Hollywood. Today, Ray’s son Michael and two grandsons, Mike and Mark carry on the torch of this late tiki great’s legendary Los Angeles drink den with more than 75 tropical libations, most of which Ray himself helped popularize. 4427 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-669-9381