The Dark Side of Tiki

photo by Herbus Maximus via Flickr

photo by Herbus Maximus via Flickr

In the early 1930s when tiki style Polynesian bars and restaurants began capturing the public’s imagination, there was always an underlying theme of something dangerous or taboo woven into the décor of the establishments. Artifacts discovered on faraway islands and brought to the United States in the form of ancestral masks, shields, clubs and spears covered the wall, while canoes, floats and exotic lamps descended from the ceiling. Mix this with some Cantonese cuisine and exotic cocktails and the fantasies of many patrons were ensnared with the ideas of what dark secrets these distant islands might reveal.

It did not take long for the cocktail creators to tap into this idea as well, and patrons began seeing tiki cocktails with names like Skull and Bones, Cannibal Grog and the now infamous Zombie. This has also led to a long line of interesting tiki mugs with themes that transport imbibers back to those mysterious islands where the primal is evoked and macabre myths such as that of drinking from the skulls of one’s enemies abound.

Presented here are two classic and modern tiki cocktails that will fit perfectly in your Halloween or tiki-themed party.


by Mannie “Blackie” Andal, from Beachbum Berry’s Remixed

Put everything in a blender and blend on high for five seconds. Pour unstrained into glass or tiki mug.

Blood of the Kapu Tiki

by Bosko Hrnjak, from Beachbum Berry’s Remixed

serves 6

  • 3 oz/90 ml fresh lime juice
  • 3 oz/90 ml grapefruit juice
  • 3 oz/90 ml orange juice
  • 3 oz/90 ml grenadine
  • 3 oz/90 ml sugar syrup
  • 10 oz/300ml Gold Puerto Rico rum, such as Bacardí
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod
  • 3 dash Angostura Bitters

Fill a pitcher with crushed ice and add ingredients. Swizzle until a frost appears on the outside of pitcher. Pour in glasses or tiki mugs and garnish with orange and lime wheels.

Headhunter, photo by Paul Senft

Headhunter, photo by Paul Senft

Voodoo Priestess

by Thayer Lund (Forbidden Island, 2006), adapted by Oriol Elias of

  • 1.5oz/45 ml Don Q Añejo rum
  • 1.5oz/45 ml Kraken Black Spiced Rum
  • 0.5oz/15 ml brandy
  • 2 oz/60ml orange juice
  • 1 oz/30 ml lime juice
  • 1 oz/30 ml lemon juice
  • 2 oz/60 ml Pumpkin Real syrup, or homemade pumpkin spiced syrup
  • 1 dash orange bitters

Garnish a Hurricane glass with a rim of sugar and grenadine. Add all the ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and serve unstrained into glass.  Add more ice to fill if necessary. Garnish with an "eye,' made with lichee and a cocktail cherry speared on a bamboo stick.

Just starting out with your home tiki bar? For a list of the best rums to stock, please click here.