Tiki culture took off when Don the Beachcomber opened his self-named Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in southern California in the 1930s. Don was Texan by birth, but he was fully aware of the world that lay outside his state, so he traveled to the Caribbean and South Pacific where he learned about their culture. 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 exotic islands with soft white sand, tropical fruits and clear blue seas.
Nowadays, it’s much easier to find blends of tiki culture in drinks, food and décor. Stylized tiki haunts consist of dark woods, wooden masks, thatched surfaces, rattan and bamboo elements, integrated in the architecture and even in the straws placed in your drinks. Tropical plants and hand-carved Tiki gods and Moai are also commonly seen. Food and drink are usually an Americanized combination of South Pacific and Asian cuisine and rum-based. Tropical cocktails are a central focus and are served with exotic fruits, flowers, flames, extra large bowls, and unnecessarily long straws, all epitomizing holiday fun.
The great thing about tiki culture is that it appeals to a variety of people, from your pirates to your 007s. It’s become somewhat of a mish-mash 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 and, more recently, Mahalo Tiki Lounge. Both bars, located in Central and Wan Chai, successfully promote the culture through their décor and the extensive variety of exotic cocktails available.
Honi Honi has been named as one of the top 100 global party venues and paves the way for the promotion of tiki culture within the city. With an interior that screams Polynesian style, you’ll find the typical elements of dark wood, timber and bamboo decorating the walls and bar, set against an impressive collection of over 200 different varieties of rum.
Similarly, Mahalo (Honi Honi’s sister bar), is yet another Polynesian themed cocktail lounge that boasts a very similar appearance with a touch of 1970s glam. It’s tropical, it’s chic, and with an open-air terrace full of lush greenery you can easily forget you’re in the midst of a concrete jungle as you sip on their tropical treats. From the adorable and unique tiki mugs to the cocktail menu disguised as a treasure map, both bars really bring the tiki culture to life in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Rum Fest
To further promote tiki culture, Rum Fest was introduced to the city and to celebrate rum in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia. Founded by Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell in 2007, and introduced to Hong Kong with the help of Max Traverse, founder of Honi Honi and Mahalo, Rum Fest informs the public about rum and tiki culture on a global scale. It showcases over 400 rums produced by a variety of distilleries and also provides a number of workshops and seminars for real rum aficionados. Hong Kong is well on its way to embracing tiki culture, and Hong Kongers are now more clued up than ever on the world of rum, and why we should ensure that the rum is never gone.
By Michaela Fulton