We’re calling it: Tiki is ‘in,’ thanks to a group of like-minded enthusiasts around the country who have elevated the form to its rightful place among other sophisticated, noteworthy drink trends. “I don’t think you can deny it’s making a comeback, especially in the cocktail world,” says Brian Miller, the ‘captain’ of the popular Tiki Mondays series held at New York City’s lauded cocktail lounge Pouring Ribbons, a tiki aficionado and accomplished bartender in his own right (he won several awards during his time at Death & Co.).
Yet in the past, where the emphasis was on kitsch, today’s tiki havens are notable for having more substance. “Just as the pre-prohibition speakeasy movement is expanding classic drinks, so is tiki,” Miller says. “It’s more than sweet, syrupy rum drinks, a lot more than that, and you’re starting to see that with these places.”
He notes that the drinks are layered, with a depth most people don’t realize. They may start with rum, lime juice and simple syrup, but a host of other elements, from orgeat and curacao to spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and clove, give them complexity and dimension.
This emphasis on craftsmanship starts with the food and drinks, but at the best places, it extends to décor and beyond. “There’s a certain amount of curation involved, where it doesn’t seem like people are throwing things on the shelf just because there’s space on it,” Miller says. “There should be a feeling of escapism, too. Once you walk in the door, you should think, ‘I’m not in Cleveland, or Tampa, or New York.’ You should feel like you’re in a tropical environment.”