The American “Tiki culture” began in the 1930s with the Polynesian-themed restaurant Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood, but it’s time for LA to relinquish the tiki throne and pass the torch, literally, east. And what better on a gray, sleety day than a tiki drink (or several)? These tropical concoctions aren’t just for summer anymore. They’re being proffered as the antidote to the cold-weather blues at hot spots all around the city and on the Island. Plus, the options have gotten so much more sophisticated than Zombies with little umbrellas. Here are retreats where you can tap into the trend.
Parker & Quinn: 63 West 38th Street, Manhattan
The bar at the Refinery Hotel has started hosting Tiki Tuesdays, with a different drink each week. But they keep the cocktail of that night a secret until one-week prior, when the name is posted on the spot’s Instagram. The bartenders concocting them rotate; all the drinks will ring up at $10. One of the more popular surprises of the winter season thus far has been Basil Eyes (shown). Go.
Mother of Pearl: 95 Avenue A, Manhattan
This modern, elegant tiki bar (no grass-anything here) has a seasonal menu that changes monthly. Instead of tiki specials, they have “bartender’s choice.” How it works: you tell the bartender a few ingredients/attributes in a cocktail that you like. Then he or she takes that information and whips up either a classic or a just-for-you aperitif. Fun garnishes—such as straws, picks, lime wheels, orchids, mint, even a little fire—make the end result feel even more unique. A popular bartender’s choice that seems to fit a lot of customers’ wish list is a mai tai called Tiki Peat (shown). Go.
Cienfuegos: 95 Avenue A, Manhattan
Right next door to Mother of Pearl is this rum bar named after the Cuban town known as “the pearl of the south.” They specialize in exotic punches with a Cuban flair. One of the most-requested at this time of year is the Gosling rum-based Autumn King Punch (shown), laced with carrot juice, pumpkin syrup, lime and a few baking spices. The Madrugador Happy Hour from 5–7pm everyday is when all punch bowls are half price. A beef empanada, topped with yogurt chimichurri, is a delish bite to go along with them. Go.
Ladybird: 127 Macdougal Street, Manhattan
A chic, lively vegan tapas bar in Greenwich Village, Ladybird is known for inventive cocktails in a globally-inspired setting. Crystal chandeliers and marble counters give it an eclectic vibe. The Bleeding Heart (shown) is one of the many tiki-esque drinks, created with blood orange, hibiscus and champagne. Indulgent food offerings range from vegetable charcuterie (think smoked carrots, beet chorizo, mushroom pate) to saganaki (pan-fried mozzarella with smoked carrot and gremolata). A nice bonus: a percentage of all Ladybird’s proceeds go to fight animal cruelty. Go.
Lynn’s Hula Hut: 426 West Lake Drive, Montauk
About as close as you can get to the tropics without going over a bridge, this laid-back hangout at The End is everything a tiki drink fan could want, but it’s only open May–October. But don’t despair of your tiki fix! Lynn Calvo, proprietor of Lynn’s Hula Hut and author of Tiki With a Twist (Sterling Publishing), has a motto: “Have Tiki, Will Travel.” She plans tropical parties in clients’ homes in the off-season, with pro bartenders and Pacific Rim cuisine prepared by some of the top chefs from Manhattan to Montauk. Her bourbon-based cocktails (topped off with her secret ingredient…what’s with secrets and tropical drinks?) are a top request for parties. Go.