From the Mai Tai to the Zombie, no cocktail is able to elicit all the fun summer feels more than one with tiki flair. But while these drinks may not take themselves too seriously, their generous use of booze, orgeat syrup, bitters and spice along with all those juices and coconut make them both layered and dangerously super-sippable.
Take an island getaway without leaving the District at these spots where tropical tipples rule.
The new menu for the Adams Morgan whiskey mecca’s sunny rooftop terrace and tiki bar officially launches May 11 and head bartender Benny Hurwitz hints at Caribbean and classic-inspired cocktails this year, including ones with lots of tropical fruit, baking spices and fresh citrus. The seven libations cost $13 each, except on Tiki Thursday from 5-9 p.m., when they are half price.
Bitter Blue Hawaiian mixes Cana Brava Rum with pineapple, coconut cream, lime and Blue Curaçao that’s infused with gentian root and bitter orange peel to tame its sweetness. “[It] makes this fun classic a bit more palatable and drying on the finish,” Hurwitz says. The Jerk is staff’s take on the Ti Punch, with Hamilton Jamaican Rum--an agricole-style rum with funky and vegetal notes--lime and a house made jerk syrup with thyme, cayenne and cinnamon.
Elevated tiki creations are the jam at this U Street spot owned by D.C. bartender Owen Thomson, who submits that while tiki never fell entirely out of style, it’s currently experiencing a resurgence linked to two factors. “One is a bevy of bartenders like us who greatly enjoy how the style allows us to be quite serious about our drinks while at the same time not forcing that seriousness on guests or the overall mood of the bar itself,” he says. “Secondly, tiki cultures hallmark is escapism, whatever life is like outside the doors, you're somewhere else when you step in... and it sure seems like people need that more and more these days.” At any given time the bar offers sixteen drinks served in tiki mugs and priced $11-$14 (higher for communal drinks served in Volcano Bowls), all of which make use of seasonal produce.
Look for The Retired Stripper to return soon to the menu, with melon cordial, Reposado Tequila, rhum agricole and Licor 43, and The Truck Bed Funeral, with peach brandy, mezcal, Smith & Cross rum, grapefruit and cinnamon. During Archipelago’s daily happy from 5-7p.m., select drinks are discounted, including the Pina Colada and Ti Punch.
Arlington’s ode to our 50th state channels its eight islands through Polynesian drink ingredients such as roasted pineapple puree, Hawaiian sea salt, hibiscus syrup and macadamia nut bitters. “There is no formal definition of tiki, but to me it means rum, rum, rum,” declares owner, chef, shaker of tins and dishwasher Mikala Brennan. “Then tropical juice, spices, layers of flavor and crushed ice--sometimes a funky glass, fire or garnish.” In other words, beverages evocative of exotic islands and sunny times. She is partial to the Mai Tai ($14), with Appleton Rum, ginger liqueur, tiki bitters, pineapple, macadamia nut orgeat, lime and a Gosling’s Black Rum Float; and the Bitter Hawaiian; a bit more left-of-center is the Never Below 75 ($13), with black sesame-infused Bourbon, honey-ponzu and burnt orange.
Throughout the week, Hula Girl does a Hawaiian Happy Hour from 4:30-7 p.m. with drink specials at the bar. During their Friday Get Lei’d promotion, all guests at the bar get a lei, and featured sips include the Blue Hi (with vodka, Blue Curacao, light rum, pineapple, lemon and lime) and the Hula Punch (with rum, coconut rum, guava, passionfruit and pineapple).