If the Tiki bar concept were to be born in modern times, it would be a complete PR disaster. Alas, it came to be back in 1933, designed to be a fun exaggeration of Polynesian island culture — appropriation, if you like. But the concept thrived for several decades in America before fizzling out and coming back in vogue the past couple of years.
There are two kinds of Tiki bars now: the gimmicky ones with overly-saccharine Mai Tais and the ones that take its homage to the drinking culture seriously, from sourcing the right bar decorations to recreating Tiki cocktails down to a T. But at the end of the day, it’s all about having a good, fun time at Tiki bars.
Most of the best Tiki bars in the world are, surprisingly, located in non-tropical countries and cities. But if you don’t find yourself heading over to America, we’ve rounded up five of the best Tiki bars in Asia you should check out for a selection of excellent rum and tropical cocktails.
By now, most people are used to the gaudy decorations that most Tiki bars take on. However, Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge is nothing like that. It oozes style, charm, and elegance – while still adhering to the Tiki bar concept. It was the first Tiki bar in Asia and came in 29th place in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2016 awards. Despite the classy tropical interior, the drinks are the ones that go all out. We hear the Dragon Fire cocktail is a must-try for its theatrics: the spirits are set ablaze and poured between two shakers while “mixing”.
You’re used to envisioning Tiki bars situated by the beach, but what about high up in a concrete jungle? That’s the Ohana Tiki Lounge for you (formerly known as Mahalo Tiki Lounge), perched on the 29th floor of the QRE Plaza in Hong Kong. The bar is opened by the same person who brought us Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge – Max Traverse – but is done in a more elaborate style with more palm trees, rattan furniture, and a gorgeous view of Mid-Levels East. As for the drinks, expect a round of classic Tiki cocktails as well as some signature creative cocktails.
Those deep into the history of Tiki bars will already be familiar with Trader Vic’s. The restaurant and bar chain has been around for over 80 years and is said to be the home of the original Mai Tai. Naturally, when it comes to Asia, you have to pay it a visit to it. Housed in the Anantara Riverside Bangkok, the bar pulls out all the stops with its decor – think Tiki statues, masks, tall ceramic mugs, and more. Go for the classic Tiki cocktails here and order some grub while you’re at it.
Trust us on this one – Tropic City is definitely a millennial’s favourite hangout spot. You can already picture them taking countless photos in front of the palm-leaf covered walls and the neon pineapple. Aesthetics aside, Tropic City’s bar menu is able to hold its own. Our friends in Bangkok recommends the “KL to BKK” cocktail made with fermented Thai pineapple, dark rum, clove, and Campari.
JungleBird takes inspiration from the iconic classic Tiki cocktail that hails from Malaysia. The bar is nicknamed “Rumah Rum”, meaning rum house in the Malay language. Naturally, rum-based cocktails are the norm here. The bar’s interior features plenty of bamboos, palm leaf prints, and rattan furniture – your standard Tiki bar paraphernalia. Naturally, you need to try out the JungleBird cocktail here, but if you’re out with a group of friends, don’t miss out on the large sharing-sized cocktails for a bit of fun. JungleBird also got into Asia’s 50 Best Bars list two years in a row – #38 in 2018 and #44 in 2019.