Tiki Time: Two Classic Tiki Drinks

With their vibrant flavors, endless ingredient lists, and elaborate presentations, tiki drinks can be intimidating to new bartenders. But the results are worth the extra work—brimming with fresh fruit juice, specialty syrups, and multiple types of rum, tiki cocktails are nuanced and compelling when done right. While many in the craft cocktail community have left behind the cultural appropriation that defined the original tiki scene, many of the classic recipes from the ‘30s remain favorites among professional bartenders and casual cocktail drinkers alike.

Two tiki drinks that inspire wholehearted devotion from purists and endless variations from less rigid mixologists are the Mai Tai and the Zombie. Don’t be put off by the ingredient list—the intoxicating blend of aromas and flavors will make these drinks an instant hit with friends and family. And no, you should not skip the fresh crushed ice and a mint sprig garnish. Tiki is all about the details.

The Undeniable Appeal of the Mai Tai

The Mai Tai, a classic Tiki cocktail, has timeless allure that combines creamy, nutty flavors with tangy lime and the rich, fruity complexity of aged rum. The result is a concoction that’s more than the sum of its parts—a dangerously smooth yet nuanced drink that’s impossible not to love. While you can serve a Mai Tai in a highball glass, it just tastes better sipped from an extravagant vessel. 


Ingredients: (Serves 1)

  • 1 oz light rum
  • 1 oz aged dark rum
  • 1 ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz orange curaçao 
  • ¼ oz orgeat
  • ¼ oz demerara simple syrup
  • Lime wheel and mint sprig for garnish


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.

Add the rums, lime juice, orange curaçao, orgeat, and simple syrup and shake vigorously.

Strain into a tiki mug filled with crushed ice and garnish with lime wheel and mint sprig.

The Mind-Numbing Zombie

Brace yourself for the powerful and intoxicating Zombie cocktail, known for its formidable mix of rum, fruit juices, and grenadine. This complex concoction is a masterful blend of flavors and is the perfect vehicle for experimenting with different types of rum. Like the Mai Tai, you can serve it in a boring highball, but why would you want to? Find tiki glassware that speaks to you and have fun with it.  


Ingredients: (Serves 1)

  • 1 oz light rum
  • 1 oz gold rum
  • 1 oz high-proof dark rum
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz passionfruit syrup
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters
  • Mint sprig for garnish


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the rums, fruit juices, syrups, and bitters.

Shake vigorously and strain into a tiki mug filled with crushed ice, the garnish with mint sprig.

You can also add the high-proof dark rum as a float at the end instead.

Embrace the Tiki Spirit

Tiki cocktails are not just about the ingredients; they are an experience that engages all the senses. Embrace the Tiki spirit by adorning your creations with decorative garnishes such as fresh fruit skewers, edible flowers, aromatic herbs, and colorful cocktail umbrellas. 

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Unleash your creativity and experiment with variations of the Mai Tai and Zombie cocktails, adding your personal touch to these Tiki classics. Explore the world of rum, play with different citrus juices, and venture into the realm of specialty syrups and bitters to craft your own signature Tiki creations.

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