Tiki culture took off when Ernst Gantt, better known as Donn Beach, opened his Don the Beachcomber Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in southern California in the 1930s. Donn was Texan by birth, but had travelled to the Caribbean and South Pacific. When he returned to the United States, he was driven to emulate the laid-back culture he’d been lucky enough to experience in these locations. People flocked to his bar, which was famous for its unique rum-and-fruit-juice cocktails. It soon turned into a retreat of sorts, where patrons would go to escape reality and dream of faraway islands.
Nowadays, it’s much easier to find blends of tiki culture in drinks, food and decor. Stylised tiki haunts consist of dark wood furnishings and rattan and bamboo elements integrated into the architecture. Tropical plants and hand-carved tiki gods and Moai are also commonly seen. Food and drink is usually an Americanised combination of South Pacific and Asian cuisine and rum-based. Tropical cocktails are a central focus and are served with colourful fruits, flowers, flames, extra large bowls and unnecessarily long straws, all epitomising holiday fun.
The great thing about tiki culture is that it appeals to a variety of people. It’s become somewhat of a mishmash of pop culture, as it has altered slightly depending on location and period, but the ideals it represents stay true to the end.
Tiki culture in Hong Kong
Tiki finally made its way around the world to Hong Kong in 2012 following the opening of Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge. The bar, which has been named in Forbes magazine’s Top 100 The Global Party Venues, is decorated in typical tiki style and boasts a collection of over 200 varieties of rum. Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge has really brought tiki culture to life in Hong Kong and introduced it to a new audience.
Hong Kong Rum Fest
Rum Fest was launched in 2007 to further promote tiki culture in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia. Created by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and Max Traverse, founder of Honi Honi, the festival informs the public about rum and tiki culture on a global scale. It showcases hundreds of rums produced by a variety of distilleries and also provides a number of workshops and seminars for aficionados of the drink.