You may not have heard, but Desert Polynesian Culture is alive and well in Palm Springs. This month we’re sharing some of our favorite drinks at some of our favorite Palm Springs’ Tiki bars. Sure, you can order a Mai Tai, but why not a Hot Hula Hibiscus? Or a Nutty Chi Chi? Check out our guide to some of the Desert’s coolest tropical hideaways right here!
Here’s a selection for you to savor:
The Reef Palm Springs
Set in the historic Caliente Tropics Resort, The Reef Palm Springs is the latest creation from Tiki Caliente and Mod Palm Springs Founder and Host, Rory Snyder. In its original incarnation, The Reef was once the location of Palm Springs’ infamous Conga Room restaurant.
Rory Snyder’s connection between cocktails and Tiki culture goes back to his early days manning some of Southern California’s notable bars, including Woody’s Wharf and Taco Surf in Orange County, California. Proudly hailing from Chicago (but being an intelligent man) Rory moved to Palm Springs, California in 2006 and became a popular bartender at Wangs In The Desert and Trio, creating craft cocktails before that was even considered “a thing”. One of his signature cocktails (and most requested) is Palm Springs’ official libation, the “Palm Springs Punch”.
In 2008, Rory decided to share his love of all things Tiki by hosting the annual “Tiki Caliente”, taking place every May. In 2013, he created his second annual event, “Mod Palm Springs”, celebrating Mid-Century style with a Tiki twist.
Some favorites from The Reef Palm Springs –
The Elegant Bastard
Gin, Don Q Anjeo Rum, Spicy-Sweet Ginger Beer and Fresh Lime Juice
Hot Hula Hibiscus
Sino Tequila with Hibiscus Syrup and a lively kick of Jalapeno.
The Navy Grog
A potent tiki classic, made with various rums, grapefruit juice and honey.
The Reef Daiquiri
Elderflower liquor and Don Q. Rum
The Bootlegger Tiki opened in September 2014 in the space once housing Don the Beachcomber. It also features a coffee shop called Ernest Coffee Co., named after Don the Beachcomber’s real first name.
In 1926, a young Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt left home to travel the South Pacific, Caribbean and beyond. After returning to America, (and after a stint as a Prohibition era bootlegger) Ernest opened the first tiki bar. Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood became such a success that Ernest legally adopted the moniker. By the 1940s, he had moved to Hawaii turning over the business to his ex-wife, Cora Irene (“Sunny”). Over the next few decades, Sunny opened more than a dozen additional locations including Don the Beachcomber Palm Springs. Opened in 1953, the Palm Springs location attracted many famous faces (and voices) like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
Some favorites from Bootlegger Tiki –
Reposado Tequila, Mezcal, Honeydew, Tamarind, Lemon, Lime, Mole Bitters.
Boaty McBoatface AKA Lil Yatchy
Agricole Rhum, Demerara Rum, Mezcal, Lime, Pineapple, Grapefruit, Orgeat, Banana, Bitters.
Whose Man is This?
Aged Agricole, Amburana Cachaca, Swedish Pumch, Lime Absinthe, Bitters.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Navy Strength Jamaican Rum, Pineapple Rum, Falernum Amaro, Lemon, Lime, Cinnamon, Absinthe, Bitters.
Mezcal, Michoacan Rum, Falernum, Ancho Chile, Lime Magno Bitters.
Valkyrie on Vacay
Aquavit, Pear Brandy, Aperol, Blackberry, Passionfruit, Lemon Ginger, Soda.
Amburana, Cachaca, Multi-Island Rum, Amaro, Lime Guava, Vanilla.
Los Angeles’ oldest continually operating tiki bar has expanded with a Palm Springs location boasting delicious cocktails, a full dinner menu at The Hideaway and a “secret” tiki room. With a prime second-floor location on Palm Canyon Drive (right across the street from the Hyatt Hotel), the Tonga Hut is a great perch to watch all the happenings on the busy street below.
The Hideaway’s booths display photos and memorabilia from Palm Springs’ rich Tiki past (South Pacific Room at the El Mirador, Romanoff’s and more.) The Tonga Hut celebrates the Desert Polynesia renaissance wave of local Tiki art and culture festivals, as well as a newfound scholarly appreciation for this often-derided mid-century style of fabulous architecture and design.
Some favorites from the Tonga Hut –
Shrub Old Fashioned
Tin Cup Whisky, house made tangerine shrub and cranberry bitters
Nutty Chi Chi
Vodka, macadamia nut liqueur, coconut cream
Tequila, lime, fresh cucmber and habanero
House made hibiscus syrup, rums, juice and passion fruit
Toucan’s Tiki Lounge
A perennial favorite, Toucan’s is on every one’s list of best gay bars in Palm Springs. Sunday night drag shows and weekly theme nights are always popular. Specializing in strong Tiki drinks, you can’t go wrong with one of their Mai Tais, Hurricanes, Rum Runners, Scorpions, or our favorite, the Bahama Mama!
Recently purchased by Palm Springs’ F10 Group (Birba, Cheeky’s and Mr. Lyons) we’re eager to watch what happens in the next year. We’re guessing even more tiki fabulous is on the way.
Tiki Caliente (May 16-19, 2019)
Tiki Caliente is an annual event creating the aura of island living transported to Palm Springs! Bringing together music, art, cocktails and people, Tiki Caliente creates a celebration dedicated to Tiki culture. It’s a combination of sights, sounds, scents and tastes, all in one memorable weekend. From music to art, shopping and socializing, Tiki Caliente will immerse you into the colorful and escapist Polynesian-Pop world. And since Tiki culture is partially focused on crafted cocktails, you’ll be enticed with delicious concoctions made from exotic rums, juices and spices.
On the main stage and in our late-night lounge shows, Tiki Caliente features some of the best live entertainment on the Tiki scene. In between live performances, DJs spin Tiki vinyl, so the air is always filled with well-themed music. If shopping is your thing, vendors selling Vintage aloha wear, Tiki-inspired art, Tiki mugs, trinkets and other fine baubles are plentiful, so you can take home your own personal souvenir of desert tropical paradise.