What’s Your Favorite Tiki Drink?

Wisdom of Pele

Late winter seems to have summoned the exotic in all of us, with Matt and his attempts to try 473 different combinations of rum in his Mai Tai, to an entire Thursday Drink Night devoted to the Zombie, and finally with Doug, who devoted the entire month of February to tiki drinks.

My consumption of exotic cocktails diminishes significantly in the winter months, so I am apt to be pickier, turning to my favorite potions when the desire strikes me. Though deciding which tiki tipple to make proves to be a struggle more often than not, and this question has been on my mind for some time.

What is Your Favorite Tiki Drink?

If this question is as hard to answer as ones like “What’s your favorite kind of salt?” or “What’s your favorite part of the pig?” I understand your pain. If it’s closer to “Who’s your favorite child?” then I’m slightly concerned, yet still on board. There is absolutely no way I can narrow it down to just one, so what follows are some of the ones I turn to most often. Though many may seem like a melange of ingredients, they each possess a unique tikiness that reminds me of everything I love about this style of drink.

Jet Pilot

Jet Pilot

  • 1/2oz lime juice
  • 1/2oz grapefruit juice
  • 1/2oz cinnamon syrup
  • 1/2oz falernum
  • 1oz dark Jamaican rum (Coruba)
  • 3/4oz gold Puerto Rican rum (Bacardi 8)
  • 3/4oz Lemon Hart 151
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 6 drops Herbsaint or absinthe
  • 4oz crushed ice

Throw everything into the blender, ice last. Flash-blend for less than 5 seconds. Pour into a fun glass and throw in a fresh cherry if you like. Alternately, shake with crushed ice while climbing the hill on a rickety wooden roller coaster.

Sippin’ Safari, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry

The Jet Pilot is often the drink I use when introducing someone to the world of tiki. It has all the traditional elements of the genre and it’s fun to tell them about this mystery ingredient called “falernum” and let them taste it on its own after seeing how it works in the drink.

Wisdom of Pelé (pictured above)

  • 1oz Lemon Hart 151
  • 1oz dark Jamaican rum (Coruba)
  • 1oz light Puerto Rican rum (Cruzan, Oronoco, Old New Orleans all work well)
  • 1/2oz aged Martinique
  • 3/4oz lime juice
  • 3/4oz grapefruit juice
  • 3/4oz falernum
  • 1/2oz honey mix (equal parts honey and water)
  • 1/4oz cinnamon syrup
  • 2 dashes Fee’s whiskey barrel-aged bitters

Shake with a whole ton of crushed ice and donate to your most dauntingly-sized tiki bowl. Garnish with the most precarious flaming vessel you can come up with.

Blair from Trader Tiki

Not enough good things can be said about this drink, and I’m not just saying this to get Blair to buy me the Ice Butler we keep talking about. The Martinique rum and whiskey barrel-aged bitters are what make this potion stand apart from other tiki drinks, and the overall balance is astonishing.

Pearl Diver's Punch

Pearl Diver’s Punch

  • 3/4oz Pearl Diver’s Mix
  • 3/4oz lime juice
  • 1oz orange juice
  • 1t falernum
  • 1 1/2oz gold Puerto Rican rum
  • 3/4oz Demerara rum (El Dorado 12-year)
  • 1/2oz gold Jamaican rum (Appleton V/X or Extra)
  • 6oz crushed ice

Follow the process.

Sippin’ Safari, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry

Though I love this drink, I don’t make it that often because it’s a pain in the ass. Gabe from cocktailnerd has a penchant for classifying most tiki drinks as arduous adventures to nowhere, and I might almost agree with him on this one. Except for one point: the journey ends in a gloriously creamy and magical land of joy.

Steve Crane's Scorpion Bowl

Scorpion from Steve Crane’s Luau, 1958

  • 2oz gold Puerto Rican rum
  • 2oz gin
  • 1oz brandy (Salignac)
  • 1oz lime juice
  • 2oz orange juice
  • 3/4oz simple syrup
  • 1oz orgeat syrup
  • 8oz crushed ice

Donate everything to a blender. Spin up like the devil for 3 seconds. Pour, unstrained, into a wisely sized bowl. Drink by yourself or with friends.

Recipe donated by Jeff “Beachbum Berry”

This recipe holds a special place in my heart, as Jeff Berry allowed me to publish it for what I believe is the first time ever. Not only did this libation win my Scorpion recipe comparison, it is a stunning use of orgeat syrup and a crazy freak in how well it combines so many base spirits.

KP Question

  • So, what’s your favorite tiki drink?

25 Responses to “What’s Your Favorite Tiki Drink?”

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25 Comments to “ What’s Your Favorite Tiki Drink?”
  1. Doug WinshipNo Gravatar says:

    Nice time to bring up this question, Rick! At least for me.
    As is my won’t, I won’t give a straight answer.
    The Jet Pilot is my favorite, fun, “I’m in the mood for a Tiki drink, dammit!” Tiki concoction. It is delicious, hard to make, and uses weird ingredients and a blender.

    But really now, you are missing the top dog of all in your list!
    It’s not just a great Tiki drink, it’s one of the top cocktails EVER. It is stupidly easy as Tiki drinks go, and allows for endless tinkering.

    Mai Tai, baby!

  2. Dr. BambooNo Gravatar says:

    Rick, you’ve got two of my absolute favorites already listed- the Jet pilot and Luau Scorpion are at the tippy-top of my list for sure. I also love the 1950 “Spievak” Zombie, which makes it a 3-way tie.

    Oh, and I can’t forget the Painkiller. Or a properly made Mai Tai. Do we have to pick just one? ;-)

  3. ZuckervatiNo Gravatar says:

    I have to say I’ve made a few Jet Pilots this past couple of weeks (thanks to this blog), and they are quite good. You make a good point about the Pearl Diver’s Punch; to me, a drink can be transcendental, but if it’s too complicated, I’ll never make it, and you can’t have a favourite drink unless you have ready access to it.

    Sounds weird, but this goes for fruit especially. If the drink needs grapefruit and I don’t have it, then I’m stuck. The more exotic the fruit, the harder it gets to make the drink. I try to keep the bar fully stocked with all available citrus, but if a fantastic drink recipe exists with dragonfruit and durian, I just can’t make that.

    So, for me, a classic Trader Vic Mai Tai, or a Don the Beachcomber Zombie would be my favourite — mostly due to the provenance of the drinks.

    My favourite fast tiki drink is the Short Hoist from The Great Tiki Drink Book. You can whip up one of these in a minute.

  4. TiareNo Gravatar says: have listed the Jet Pilot and the Pearl Diver..and its a pain in the ass for sure, or it was bec i nowadays after taking all the measures needed serve my PD in a pineapple so i cannot see if there´s any solids.

    Then we have the Missionary`s downfall, i just love it, and Don`s Caribbean Punch, but the best of all – Mai Tai.

    Great pics, great garnishes, great post, great drink, great averything!

    And yes..i DID get thirsty.

  5. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    Forgot the Zombie..Spindrift and PortLight!

  6. ~RupeNo Gravatar says:

    The recipe I most covet: the BLACK MAGIC from the Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale.

    The drinks I probably most enjoy:
    1) the classic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai with fresh mint.
    2) Mai Kai Rum Barrel
    3) Navy Grog!

  7. JenTikiNo Gravatar says:

    I have many favorites and they tend to lean toward the drinks with Falernum, Orgeat, and Pimento Dram. I love the spicy flavors of those liqueurs. At this point I am tempted to state that my favorite tiki drink is the one I created that was on the Forbidden Island menu last fall, however, I will go the more humble route (unusual for me) and say that the Saturn is my favorite. I don’t have the recipe however, so if any of you does, please post it. I know it’s in the Bum’s “Taboo Table” (the only one of his books I don’t have).

  8. Matt SchachtNo Gravatar says:

    Trader Vic’s Mai Tai with Appleton V/X and Coruba/Lemon Hart

  9. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    Trader Vic’s Mai Tai & his (ever so-slighty tweaked) Scorpion Bowl are my top picks.

    However, the (original) Honi Honi, Corn ‘n Oil, Shingle Stain & Queen’s Park (or Barbados Red Rum) Swizzle are all bloody brilliant…

    Guess that’s more than one favorite, but ah well…


  10. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Jen, I couldn’t wait to post this. The Saturn is crazy good. My first time having it. Here is the recipe:

    • 1 1/4oz gin (used Right gin)
    • 1/2oz lemon juice
    • 1/2oz passion fruit syrup
    • 1/4oz falernum
    • 1/4oz orgeat

    Shake with crushed ice and strain into a pilsener glass.

  11. Dana ZiaNo Gravatar says:

    Okay, these sound great! I have a question, have you found the ultimate Mai Tai that is fruity? Also to sound ignorant where do you buy falernum?

  12. […] opened Mai-Kai in 1956 in Fort Lauderdale – at that time serving about 1000 customers a night. It`s one of the tastiest tikidrinks out there and is one of my […]

  13. […] opened Mai-Kai in 1956 in Fort Lauderdale at that time serving about 1000 customers a night. It`s one of the tastiest tikidrinks out there and is one of my […]

  14. Tim KeenanNo Gravatar says:

    Mai Tai of course!
    I like to use Rhum Clement Creole Schrub instead of the orange curacao. It has a blend of spices that really add to the drink. I like to use good rum like Lemon Hart and Appleton too.

  15. Cass McClureNo Gravatar says:

    would have to go with a Zombie,(Tiki Ti’s, a few of the varieties from Jeff Berry’s book), the Missionary’s Downfall, Space Pilot, 151 Rum Swizzle, and the one i drink the most these days, the Navy Grog

  16. scomorokhNo Gravatar says:

    Mai Tai of course! It is magnificent cocktail, actually. One of my last version is SupreMai-Tai – from two premium rums, dry orange curacao liqueur, orgeat, homemade rock candy syrup and final note of angostura bitter.

    My second place of tiki-monster is Zombie. Third – Scorpion. One of my guests favorite – Bahama Mama

  17. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    Nui Nui, Noa Noa, Three Dots and a Dash.

  18. 2 words: Mai Tai.

    Hands down. Easy choice for me. Even if I do love the Missionary’s Downfall, the Great White, the Jet Pilot, the Zombie, and dozens of others, the Mai Tai is the easy and clear-cut winner.

  19. BonzoGalNo Gravatar says:

    Zombie, The Forbidden Island, Nui Nui, and the beloved Mai Tai. And one I found on the tiki forums called “The Jab’s Knockout Punch.”

  20. pablusNo Gravatar says:

    Great question.

    The perfect answer is “the one that you hand me.”

    But I’ll play. I think the Demarara Dry Float (the original) is a simple recipe with a lot of depth.

    I’ve got to say also that Basement Kahuna’s Concubine is incredible as well. Definitely in the top three.

    The other would be the Scorpion from the original Trader Vic book of food and drink.

    However, my tastes change from time to time so things like the Nui Nui, among others, make their way into the hall of the greats before I lean back on my old crutches.

    Mmmmmmmm, cruuuuutchezzzzzzz.

  21. HankNo Gravatar says:

    This may seem like a silly question, but what exactly is a “tiki drink”? I have been looking around, but have been unable to find an actual definition.

  22. Doug WinshipNo Gravatar says:


    Unfortunately, the best answer to that question (what makes a Tiki drink?) I got was… um… 42.

  23. dagrebNo Gravatar says:

    Favourite drink? I dunno. But my favourite photo may just be the bowl with flaming garnish in front of bottle of LH151.


  24. […] I found this cocktail over on […]

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