Sip Your Way to Paradise with the Best Tiki Drinks in LA
Written By: Fernando A. Funes 6 Tropical Drinks in LA That’ll Make You Think You’re in Hawaii
Photographed By: Noble Andrews
Los Angeles is the birthplace of tiki drinks. Popularized by the Hollywood scene of the 1930s, especially at Don the Beachcomber, tiki drinks are distinctly LA: cool, smooth, sweet and relaxing. If you’re looking to take a mini vacation to Polynesian paradise, then check out the following LA tiki spots.
The Potent Potion
The Good Luck Bar
A mysterious pink glow draws you inside the Good Luck Bar, where blenders buzz in sequence and coconut ceramic mugs, beer bottles and cocktail glasses dot the landscape. The drink orders just keep coming as regulars, first timers, old college friends, blind dates and work buddies all order the same drink: the Potent Potion. The most popular drink at the Good Luck Club, the Potent Potion is a rockstar cocktail of Sailor Jerry rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, Angostura bitters and ground nutmeg, all blended to icy-smooth perfection. David Granger, Good Luck Club bar manager and drink co-creator, worked with Jones Hollywood bartender Eric Tecosky to create an original cocktail that captured the essence of classic tiki drinks while adding some kick and sting in the process. The Potent Potion was that collaboration, and it’s a been a successful one. He calls it “Christmas in a cup.” Stop in and try one for yourself.
Keeping it Old School: The Good Luck Club pays homage to a legendary and now long gone Chinatown dive bar, Yee Mee Loo’s. In fact, the Yee Mee Loo bartender, Richard, was invited to be the first bartender at the Good Luck Club as a star attraction.
Native Knowledge: Three hundred Potent Potions are served every week from 16-18 bottles of Sailor Jerry; that’s 15, 600 Potent Potions a year from 832-936 bottles. David Granger, The Good Luck Club bar manager and drink co-creator, attests to serving 20, 000 himself.
Recipe: Potent Potion
Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
Fresh pineapple juice
Garnish with nutmeg
1514 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
323.666.3524 | www.goodluckbarla.com
The Suffering Bastard
Tiki No pays homage to the tiki bars that came before it. Blowfish lampshades dot the roof of the bar, emitting a rainbow glow that bounces off the wood counters, tiki masks and totem poles create a fun, kitschy ambiance. At night, palm leaf thatched bars and booths give the sense of a tropical outdoor paradise. Tiki No makes you feel comfortable, welcome and ready to have a good time. But when you’re here, make sure to try the Suffering Bastard. A Tiki No favorite, the Suffering Bastard has quite a history. Cairo, Egypt 1920s, The Shepheard Hotel: A busy bar is out of rum, low on other essential ingredients and filled with hungover patrons looking for a cure. Surveying the ingredients around him–cognac, gin, spritzer spruce and ginger–a desperate bartender makes a new tiki concoction to quench his clients’ thirst, relieve their headaches, and save his own ass: The Suffering Bastard. Since then, the Suffering Bastard has been a tiki drink staple. Tiki No’s version is made with Barton London Extra Dry Gin, Paul Mason Brandy, ginger syrup, Fee Brothers Falernum, a dash of Angostura bitters and a squeeze of lime. Unlike your usual tiki drink, this one has no rum and it contains West Indian flavors–the falernum and Angostura bitters–that set it apart from other tiki drinks. Come in and relieve your suffering.
Native Knowledge: According to Tiki No’s general manager Simon Jones, “The botanicals, the juniper of the gin, really pops with the West Indian falernum, so you have a mix of the two—the spice of the ginger and the botanicals from the bitters. It’s very spicy. The cognac gives it a mild backend. It gives you a taste of the West Indies.”
Party Central: Tiki No has food trucks every Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m., and it also hosts karaoke every Sunday starting at 9 p.m. Plus, every Wednesday, Tiki No hosts a POG tournament so you can relive all your ’90s glory. The entry fee is $10 but first place earns a $100 prize and runner-ups are consoled with Tiki No’s Scorpion Bowl drink.
Ingredients: Suffering Bastard
Barton London Extra Dry Gin
Paul Mason Brandy
dash of Angostura bitters
4657 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91602
Nestled between the winding lanes of Pacific Coast Highway and the surf-and-sand necklace of Malibu’s coastline, Duke’s Malibu celebrates the life of Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii’s most famous citizen surfer. Because of the ultra relaxed island vibe, you can enter in your Sunday best or you can roll into the side bar with your board shorts, tank top and flip-flops, plop down at the bar, and order Duke’s Mai Tai, their pinnacle drink. Don’t confuse this version with your generic, middle-of-the-road, overly sweet Mai Tai; this is something else. Using light and dark rum, a symphony of fruit juices and orange curaçao, this is a tiki drink with quite a wallop. It’s refreshing, sweet and deceptively strong, and the perfect accompaniment to the stunning waterfront location and excellent service at Duke’s.
Location, Location, Location: Duke’s has locations in Huntington Beach, Waikiki, Maui, Kauai and a new location in La Jolla.
The Man, The Legend: Duke Kahanamoku was something out of a comic book: He won an Olympic gold medal at 21 in swimming for the US and continued as an Olympian for the next 20 years. In addition to appearing in 28 movies, Kahanamoku is credited with the global popularization of surfing.
Ingredients: Duke’s Mai Tai
Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
POG (passion fruit, orange and guava juice)
Dark rum float
Garnish with a fresh pineapple
21150 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265
310.317.0777 | www.dukesmalibu.com
The Purple Orchard
Fifteen years ago, Dave Fernandez and his wife, Rebecca Jakob-Fernandez, renovated a run-down dive bar in El Segundo to transform it into a classic tiki bar: The Purple Orchid. A few out-of-date tiki drink recipes, however, included no-longer-in-production ingredients. So, working his magic, Fernandez took these old recipes and endowed them with new ingredients and a modern touch to create tiki drinks fit for a contemporary palate. And, as it turned out, the people love his drinks, especially the Funky Monkey. Actually a Purple Orchid original tiki drink, the Funky Monkey fuses banana, coconut, cinnamon, vodka and pineapple juice, with just a little bit of lime juice, into a wonderful tiki drink that can’t be found elsewhere! This unique concoction complements all of the sweet flavors by adding a dash of lime that infuses the drink with the right amount of tartness to make it smooth, balanced and delicious. If you’re looking for a neighborhood bar with great drinks and a welcoming atmosphere that is honest and authentic to tiki culture, then this is the place for you. Like Dave says, “This is a real bar. Things go on here.”
(Not Just) Locals Only: Built before the current tiki bar craze, Dave Fernandez and Rebecca Jakob-Fernandez wanted to bring back the authentic tiki bars they grew up with. This bar isn’t cashing in on a hot trend nor is it a tourist trap with overly ironic kitsch and manufactured ambiance. It’s a real place where people play pool and listen to music from a jukebox and socialize with each other.
Native Knowledge: Beyond reviving old drinks from recipes with extinct ingredients, Dave’s creativity extends to making the lamps, artwork, and other decor (except for the tiki masks).
Ingredients: Funky Monkey
Just a bit of lime juice
221 Richmond St
El Segundo, CA 90245
BOA Steakhouse is not your conventional steakhouse. At BOA you can have a one-of-a-kind dining experience that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Besides wonderful culinary flair and the possibility of catching a movie star or two, BOA Steakhouse is a laboratory for exciting hybrid cocktails. The restaurant’s innovative bartenders, Josh Renfree and Tara Shadzi, are cocktail alchemists who are constantly creating new drinks that fuse elements from eclectic genres. The most recent tiki-inspired creations—Vida de Playa and Tiki Roots—are evidence of their mixology prowess. If you’re looking for the perfect tiki-inspired drink to get your evening going, look no further than the Foreplay. The Foreplay combines Cazadores tequila, Campari, passion fruit and lime to create what Renfree calls a “tequila passion fruit negroni.” The different flavors contrast just enough as they harmonize into a sublime balance of bitter, sour and sweet. Drop by BOA Steakhouse and drink one or two Foreplays with your crew. I hear the steak’s pretty good, too.
Native Knowledge: In addition to great cocktails and tiki drinks, BOA Steakhouse is a great spot to go for wine: BOA Steakhouse is a 2015 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner. They have over 560 wines with an inventory of 4, 400 bottles.
Reputation at the Steak: BOA Steakhouse has a 25-25-23 rating in the Zagat Guide.
Passion fruit purée
Garnish with a lime wheel
9200 Sunset Blvd Ste 650
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310.278.2050 | www.innovativedining.com/restaurants/boa
A Los Angeles hole-in-the-wall, Tiki-Ti is the Vatican of tropical drinks. Tiki-Ti’s lineage dates back to the original tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber. Ray Buhen, the first generation owner and bartender of Tiki-Ti, apprenticed under Don the Beachcomber for a few years before setting off on his own and eventually establishing Tiki-Ti in 1961. Continuing the family tradition, second-generation owner and 50-year veteran bartender Mike Buhen mans the Tiki-Ti helm with his sons. This legendary bar offers 94 tiki drinks with enticing and kooky names such as Banchee, Black Widow, Chi Chi, Dr. Funk, Electric Lemonade, Uga Booga, Zombie and Ray’s Mistake. Each drink has a meaning and flavor all its own, but no drink is as special as the Bayanihan. A Tagalog word meaning “to be together” this coconut, pineapple juice and rum concoction facilitates instant best friends and barside camaraderie as its tropical flavors mix together. The Tiki-Ti facilitates togetherness so much, in fact, that the same patrons dating back to the 1960s frequent the establishment every New Year’s Eve! So drop in and get a Bayanihan for yourself. Make sure to come in early, though—the bar has a small capacity and people line up just to get a seat. Cheers!
Native Knowledge: Tiki-Ti will be celebrating its 55th anniversary this April. Having a direct link to Don the Beachcomber, Tiki-Ti has weathered the ups and downs of the tiki bar craze to earn its own legendary status. Tiki bar enthusiasts must undertake a pilgrimage to this LA landmark at some point in their life.
Drink of the Walking Dead: If you’re looking for the most authentic version of the Zombie, Don the Beachcomber’s most famous tiki drink, Tiki-Ti’s version is a near identical twin!
4427 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
323.669.9381 | www.tiki-ti.com