Tyler Zielinski / Photo by Justin Sisson
It wasn’t so long ago that tiki was considered tacky. To help shed some light on its resurgence, we spoke with bartender/cocktail and spirits journalist, Tyler Zielinski.
“Tiki caught on as a kitschy trend during a time of unease and angst — the Great Depression — and your everyday American desperately needed an escape from reality,” he says. “Fast forward to today’s political landscape, [and] it makes sense why tiki bars are popping up all over the country as Americans are craving a similar sort of escapism.”
Zielinski describes tiki’s reincarnation as a “modern, less culturally appropriated rebirth“ of the original concept. Tiki cocktails share certain ingredients and techniques with other trends, but the desire to transport oneself is what unites it with other popular concepts like basement bars, speakeasies, and Japanese cocktail bars.
Tiki’s lasting influence on cocktail culture remains to be seen, but it has made one thing clear. “With the craft reaching a point where a quality cocktail is the relative norm, drinkers are wanting something more out of their bar experience to make it memorable,” says Zielinski. “That would be the one takeaway that tiki’s rise has shed light on.”
Tiki Torch cocktail at Fuchsia Tiki Bar in New Paltz / Photo by Allyson Ferrara