How to make 3 fruity and refreshing rum-based ‘tiki’ cocktails

Tiki drinks are refreshing a delicious — and you can make them at home!

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Critics often bash them as “umbrella drinks,” which can be code for “syrupy sweet” and “excessively showy.”

But true cocktail-lovers know there’s more to them than that.

We call them “tiki” drinks, and we recognize the rich history behind them. Their origins are widely traced to the early 1930s and Don the Beachcomber, a Hollywood cocktail bar owned by a New Orleans transplant named Ernest Gantt (aka Don Beach). A well-traveled character and colorful storyteller who went on to decorated military duty in World War II, Gantt is credited with helping trigger what became known as the Polynesian boom, a craze that gave rise to countless thatched-roofed bars and a zillion Mai Tai hangovers.

Nearly all tiki cocktails are rum-based and contain fresh juice, often from tropical fruit. In the wrong hands, they can live up to negative stereotype. But properly prepared, they are balanced and flavorful, and every bit as beautiful as they are delicious.

Here are three that will look and taste great in your tiki mug.

Tiki cocktails look as good as they taste.

Shaun Lewis

Navy Grog

1 ounce dark Jamaican rum
1 ounce gold Demerara rum
1 ounce white Puerto Rican rum
½-ounce honey
3/4-ounce club soda, chilled
3/4-ounce grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
3/4-ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed

Method:

Add the dark rum, gold Demerara rum, white rum, honey, club soda, grapefruit juice and lime juice to a shaker filled with crushed ice and shake until well-chilled (about 12 seconds). Strain into a chilled rocks glass with fresh crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wheel.

Mai Tai

2-¼ ounces aged rum, half dark/half golden rum
½ ounce orange curaçao
¼ ounce orgeat syrup*
1 bar spoon rich simple syrup (or, roughly 1/2 teaspoon)
1 ounce lime juice

Method:

Shake well with ice and strain into a tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wheel.

*Orgeat Syrup
(You can also buy orgeat online or at specialty stores, but it’s hard to beat homemade.)

2 cups blanched almonds
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups water
1 ounce brandy
1/2-teaspoon orange flower water

Method:

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside. Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Boil the syrup for 3 minutes, then add the ground almonds and simmer for another 3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and cover with a lid. Let sit for 4 hours then strain it through 2 layers of cheesecloth. Stir the brandy and orange flower water into the syrup. Seal and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Jungle Bird

1-½ ounces aged Jamaican rum
¼-ounce Cruzan Blackstrap rum
¾-ounce Campari
½-ounce lime juice
¼-ounce simple syrup
1-½ ounces canned pineapple juice

Method:

Pour all ingredients into a shaker. Shake well and strain into ice-filled tiki mug. Garnish with pineapple leaves and a pineapple wedge.

Shaun Lewis is a classically trained chef and cocktail master who serves as general manager at Old Westbury Golf & Country Club, on Long Island.

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