There’s nothing better than a summer night. Right, Danny and Sandy? Sure, you could just host a barbecue and have some friends over to enjoy nights like these. But, why not take it to the next level and throw an elaborate summer tiki party?
This year I threw my second tiki party (that makes it annual now right?), so let’s pretend I’m an expert! My first bit of expert advice is that if you want to learn about tiki from some real experts, check out the writings of Martin Cate, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, or Sven Kirsten.
Now, if you want a quick fix, here are some tips for throwing your own summer tiki party:
Pick Your Recipes
For a tiki party, the drinks are the most important aspect. If you want a thorough, but accessible, introduction to tiki drinks, I would recommend checking out Smuggler’s Cove by Martin Cate. I used this book for both tiki parties to select all of my drink recipes and get some extra tips on hosting a tiki party.
One of the best tips I picked up from the book is pre-batching drinks. This allows you to offer a variety of drinks (vs. doing a punch) and allows you to still play bartender, if you’d like.
- Don’t include any carbonated, dairy, or egg-based ingredients in the pre-batch
- Don’t add bitters to the pre-batch—these should be added to individual drinks to control the potency.
- Calculate how many ounces of your pre-batch should go in each serving
I labelled each container of pre-batch with the drink’s name, ingredients, and instructions on how to complete the drink. This allows guests to make them without your help, but it also provides guidance for you if you are playing bartender. Especially after a few of these drinks.
When you select your tiki drink options, it’s important to consider your guests’ varying tastes. For example, this year, I made sure to have at least one non-rum option and each drink featured a different fruit juice (grapefruit and pineapple juices are more divisive than you’d imagine!).
Here’s what I served this year:
- Tradewinds – rums, coconut cream, lemon, and apricot liqueur
- Golden Gun – rums, apricot liqueur, grapefruit, lime, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters
- Jungle Bird – black rum, Campari, pineapple, lime, and simple syrup
- Merciless Virgin – rum, Dry Curaçao, Velvet Falernum, Cherry Heering, lemon, and seltzer
- Suffering Bastard – gin, ginger beer, brandy, lime, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters
If you’re looking to make this party more affordable, stick to drinks that have fewer ingredients, such as the classic daiquiri, hurricane, or grog.
Tools of the Trade
Smuggler’s Cove introduced me to the idea of “flash blending.” With flash blending, the idea is to aerate and dilute the drink, not turn it into a slushie-like texture. You can achieve this consistency with an affordable Hamilton Beach drink mixer. Unlike a typical blender, the drink mixer creates a frothy drink rather than a fully blended drink.
The bonus of buying one of these drink mixers is that you can use it for milkshakes. You’re welcome.
If you feel inspired to invest in a collection of tiki mugs, I found many classic designs on Retro Planet (and they frequently have sales!). If you’re a bit of a nerd, you can also get a set of mugs inspired by your favorite movie or comic characters.
If you don’t want to commit yet, you can always use whichever tall glasses you already own. These pineapple glasses are a nice compromise between tiki mug and everyday glass.
The drinks are good enough to stand on their own, but what’s the fun in that? Tiki lets you get creative with your drink. Put as many garnishes on as you’d like!
Just like tiki mugs, garnishes are an investment. Not because they are particularly expensive, but rather because they are simply just sold in very large quantities for the best price. Guess you’ll just have to keep throwing tiki parties every year?
- Paper Umbrellas
- Fun Plastic Straws (Sorry, environment)
- Toothpicks: Swords, Flamingos, Fireworks
- Swizzle Sticks: Palm Trees, Swordfish, Random Tropical Things
You can also make garnishes with some of the ingredients you may already have on hand for your drink recipes.
If you want to add some pyrotechnics to your party, consider topping your drinks with a flaming lime. You’ll need a spent lime, a sugar cube, lemon extract, and a lighter (and some cinnamon if you want to make sparks). If this sounds both terrifying and dangerous, you can read more about the technique here.
For a safer and cuter option, you can make banana dolphins. Or just add some mint sprigs or maraschino cherries, and call it a day.
Set the Scene
When you think of tiki decorations, you might think that you need to invest in some Easter Island heads. I’d say you could probably hold off on that.
This year for decorations I let my houseplant collection do all of the heavy lifting. Before the party, I brought my plants out of my room and into the party space. Instant tropical look.
You also can’t go wrong with strings of lights! Whether it’s a string of paper lanterns, or globe lights outside, or even whatever Christmas lights you have laying around, lights will help set the festive mood.
And it wouldn’t be a tiki party without tiki torches. I recommend these stylish tabletop tiki torches. Or if you have yard space, the free-standing ones are always a classic look.
And this I leave you without comment: A set of 10 pink lawn flamingos. If you do want to talk about the lawn flamingo market, I’m here any time. Just ask my roommate.
If you want to take the time to make the best tiki party playlist ever, have at it! You can also just search “tiki” on Spotify and come up with this gem of a playlist like I did:
But your friends will probably also demand that you play the Moana soundtrack. Don’t resist.