Ever wonder what kind of drinks would be popular in Disney’s Moana? Our best guess: tiki cocktails!

Want to explore the world of tiki? You're invited on a specially curated learning journey with the EBS Tiki Course.

‘Tiki.’ It’s a catchy word you’ll have heard before, but what does it actually mean? Well, various things. Let’s take a look at how the romanticised image of this culture came about, meet its infamous figures, and - what we all came for - study its sweet, sweet drinks recipes. 

The tale of tiki: a foreign fantasy

What’s first important to grasp is that the ‘tiki culture’ widely known today is a vision of Polynesia dreamed up by Americans in the 1930s. 

So what provoked this infatuation with idealised island imagery? 

With the country speedily spiralling into socioeconomic catastrophe, things were looking rather bleak. 

In his article* about the revival of tiki, Simon Difford explains that, set against this dreary financial landscape, “America was in need of some escapism. Although Prohibition ended in 1933, the country was still reeling from the October 1929 Black Tuesday stock market crash and the Great Depression that followed.”

Tiki bars can be considered an attempt to recreate a piece of Pacific paradise on American shores. The first bar of its kind to open was Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood by ‘founding father’ Ernest Raymond Gantt (who later legally changed his name to Donn Beach). 

Don the beachcomber tiki bar

Don the Beachcomber tiki bar, Hollywood

Don Beach Ernest Raymond Gantt
Donn Beach himself

What Donn referred to as tiki was in fact a cocktail of various cultures he thought to be novel and exotic in the eyes of his American clientele. A true mixologist, Donn took visual inspiration from Polynesian mythology, rum from the Caribbean, and gastronomic gems from Asia. 

tiki first man made

tiki statueA tiki statue


Typical tiki

Donn’s daring mix of traditions gave rise to the stereotypical snapshot of tiki we recognise today. How many clichés can you name? We'll start.

  • Bamboo decor 
  • Thatched rooves
  • Hawaiian shirts 
  • Hula skirts
  • Pineapple mugs
  • Paper umbrellas
  • Tiki masks and statues

Tiki mugs haka maori war dance

Top tiki treats

Boozy, brightly coloured, fruity, artistically garnished… It’s easy to see why tiki cocktail popularity spread quickly across the globe. These are the top ten most famous tiki concoctions and their memorable names.

1. Mai Tai
2. Zombie
3. Three Dots and a Dash
4. Jungle Bird
5. Painkiller
6. Fog Cutter 
7. Scorpion
8. Nui Nui
9. Cobra’s Fang
10. Saturn

meme tiki cocktail toor sour

Prepare the perfect Mai Tai

Both big names in the birth of tiki claim to have invented this cocktail: Donn Beach and Trader Vic. Donn stated that the Mai Tai had been based off his more complex Q.B. Cooler that Vic allegedly tasted in 1937. So, to whomever we owe this rich rum flavour with a hint of lime, thanks a bunch! 

Mai tai bamboo straw

Here is EBS' adapted version of the Mai Tai for you to enjoy!


40 ml dark rum
10 ml Cointreau
20 ml fresh lime juice
10 ml orgeat syrup
10 ml overproof rum


- Pour all the ingredients except the overproof rum into a shaker and shake.
- Strain into a rocks glass or tiki mug.
- Fill with crushed ice.
- Float the overproof rum on top.
- Garnish with a mint sprig.

Read more about the mighty Mai Tai here


Tricks of the tiki trade

Tiki cocktails are amongst a bartender’s favourite drinks to prepare. It’s impossible not to smile whilst sculpting a banana dolphin or pineapple parrot. But there’s more to tiki than amusing garnishes. It’s a whole branch of bartending, with a strong focus on specific types of rum and cocktails with 10+ ingredients

You can cover the crucial information in 5 days with a specialised tiki course and learn through fun activities like tiki mug modelling, rum tasting, and homemade syrup production. Bartenders with extensive tiki knowledge are rare so adding a course qualification to your CV is certainly impressive. 

All this reading has probably got you thirsty. So google your nearest tiki bar and enjoy the theatricality of every drink you’re served! 


Difford, Simon. "Tiki's rise, fall and revival." Difford's Guide, 20 January 2023, 
Don the Beachcomber bar image from Food Republic
Donn Beach image from Cocktail Kingdom