Depending on whom you ask, Tiki means many things. To the Maori people, he was the first man. In the art world, Tiki refers to Polynesian sculptures depicting him. It’s also a style of furniture, a cuisine and a kind of torch. (To fans of the New York Giants, the word even describes a running back with a penchant for fumbling.) And in the cocktail world, it’s not just a festive, flavorful drink, but a lifestyle and a relaxed state of mind.
It would be easy to define Tiki drinks as a mishmash of fruit juices and spirits (almost always rum), often sweetened with the exotic syrups orgeat and falernum, but that’s missing the point. It’s better to look to the birth of the culture. Tiki was the first new drinking genre after Prohibition and came during the Depression. It was time to have fun and not worry about mixing a proper this or a classic that.
And ornate Tiki bars like Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s provided the perfect diversion through dozens of drinks with perilous sounding names like Cobra’s Fang, Head Hunter, Scorpion and Suffering Bastard. The genre was strong for decades, fading in the ’60s, only to be rediscovered amongst the classical cocktail revival for its devil-may-care attitude.
The Zombie, with its mélange of rums and evocative name, is most emblematic of the movement, and considered the original Tiki drink. Its inventor, Donn Beach (of Don the Beachcomber), never revealed his secrets, but Jeff “Beachbum” Berry sleuthed it out for his tropical drinks website, giving the recipe found below.
- 1/2 oz. falernum syrup
- 1 tsp. grenadine
- 3/4 oz. lime juice
- 1 1/2 oz. gold Puerto Rican rum
- 1 1/2 oz. gold or dark Jamaican rum
- 1 oz. Lemon Hart Demerara rum
- 1/2 oz. Don’s Mix (2 parts grapefruit juice to 1 part cinnamon-infused sugar)
- 6 drops Pernod
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- mint sprig
Place all ingredients in blender with 3/4 cup crushed ice and blend at high speed for no more than five seconds. Pour into a Beachbum Berry Zombie Glass (or Collins glass) and fill with ice. Garnish with mint.