By Elaine Glusac
Originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Virtuoso Life.
Tiki bar popularity has ebbed and flowed like the tides ever since Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s popularized Polynesian cocktails in the 1930s. In time for the recent 70th anniversary of the Fairmont San Francisco
’s classic Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, tiki is cool again, as indicated by a wave of exotic bars that cheerfully swap authenticity for fun.
Woven rattan ceilings, bamboo walls, and glass fishing floats conjure climates far from Lost Lake
. Taste the tropics in everything from a rhum agricole-and-lime punch to a bourbon barrel (left) or a playful flaming cocktail bowl for two.
The new Southeast Asian-inspired Tiger Mama
restaurant by Top Chef-famed Tiffani Faison harbors a corrugated metal tiki bar in back. The specialties: shaved ice cocktails and classics such as the potent Fog Cutter (rum, gin, brandy, and citrus).
In a city renowned for faux and fun, Chinatown’s new Golden Tiki
shakes up mai tais, banana batids (below right), and zombies 24/7 from its thatch-roofed bar, surrounded by carved masks and other trading post finds.
NEW YORK: Mother of Pearl
takes tiki upscale, with starburst light fixtures and white stools carved like totem poles. Pair a passion fruit-bourbon Shark Eye or cashew-pineapple tequila Tide Is High with tuna poke or Spam fried rice from the pan-Pacific menu.
Since 1945, the Fairmont San Francisco’s Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
has served mai tais and pupu platters beside a swimming pool-turned lagoon, with an island stage for musical acts.
Plan your own tiki bar pilgrimage with the help of a Virtuoso travel advisor.