After their glamorous 1950s heyday, American tiki bars became a kitsch joke, populated mostly by teenagers hoping to get served underage. But today, tiki has risen again—and in Paris, of all places. The City of Light has a relatively young bar culture with high quality, creative options (with an artisanal bent, of course) springing up only in the last seven or eight years. As they’ve searched for unusual ingredients and plundered the archaeology of cocktail traditions, it was perhaps inevitable they’d eventually drift up on cheerful Polynesian shores.

By Alexandra Marshall
May 18, 2015
Hilton Paris Opera Tiki Bar
Credit: Courtesy of Hilton Paris Opera

The city’s first tiki bars were standalone places that, though campy and even a little divey, have real talent beneath their cocktail umbrellas. Le Tiki Lounge opened in the 11th arrondissement in 2012, and Dirty Dick in Pigalle a year later. With fresh juices and house-made infusions and syrups, they brought seriousness to boozy punch that transcended their goofy surroundings. Meanwhile, Paris’s growing taste for craft and tropical cocktails found its way to palace hotel bars, traditionally bastions of classic recipes. But today, a swinging five-star isn’t worth its name without a ceramic Easter Island head grinning at patrons from behind the bar.

Here’s where to find our favorite beach-ready concoctions of the grand boulevards:

Le Tiki Lounge: Not far from the tiki joints of yesteryear in décor and inspiration, sidle up to the raffia bar for La Machete, a mix of tequila blanco, house-made hibiscus infusion, cinnamon and lemon juice.

Dirty Dick: With its smattering of taxidermy and fetching pinup girl mural, the décor doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the drinks are next-level. Juice often is pressed to order and the classic Piña Colada, with Don Q Gold rum, fresh pineapple juice, coconut cream and a dash of bitters, shows just how right they get it.

Le Plaza Athenée: Heads of state and the bodyguards who trail them are frequent guests in La Galerie, the bar and restaurant that winds through the lobby of this iconic hotel. For more discreet liaisons they pop into Le Bar du Plaza Athenée, where no one will see them downing rounds of Tiki Mads, made with Barbados rum, it’s-legal-here absinthe, mint bitters, and freshly extracted pineapple and grapefruit juices.

Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme: The lobby’s fireplace and jewel-toned color-scheme are cozy enough, but Le Bar, around the corner, is positively clandestine. Among several surprising options you’ll find the Missionary’s Downfall, featuring the house blend of dark rum, pineapple juice, lime, honey, peach liqueur and a house-made mint syrup.

Hilton Paris Opera (pictured): The restoration of this Beaux Arts beauty apportioned a nook off of Le Grand Salon for Le Petit Bar, where Pierre will mix you a Voodoo out of Sailor Jerry rum, Umeshu plum liqueur, freshly chopped ginger, a shot of vanilla syrup and a ginger beer topper, garnished with a slice of starfruit.

Shangri-La Hotel: At the clubby, intimate but still palatial Le Bar, the Little Island combines Bacardi Reserva dark rum, Amaretto, passion fruit juice and cinnamon.