Canada’s tiki scene has started to flourish again in recent year, but the history of the tiki bar dates back to the 1930s, when Ernest Gantt introduced his bar Don the Beachcomber to the city of Los Angeles. More than 80 years have gone by and frankly, the tradition of the tiki bar has not changed significantly: requisite components still generally include a combination of kitsch, tropical décor, and boozy, fruity drinks (with plenty of cocktail umbrellas abound). Whether you’re keen to relive the golden era of tiki or just getting into the trend now, here’s where you can get into the spirit of things across the country.
The Shameful Tiki Room – Vancouver and Toronto
Don’t take the name too seriously, there’s nothing shameful in enjoying a good tiki drink. The Vancouver location just celebrated its fourth anniversary in March, suggesting that tiki culture is alive and well. With décor brought in from places as far as Tonga and Fuji, Shameful Tiki is about as close as you will come to actually transporting yourself to Polynesia. As for the drinks themselves, dive right into Oceania with one of its signature tiki bowls, like the voodoo bowl, with various juices, rums, and spices. It’s a secret recipe that The Shameful Tiki refuses to reveal. If you’d rather ease into it, a Blue Hawaii is always a good place to start.
Ricardo’s Hideaway – Calgary
Not technically a “tiki bar” per se, but rather more of a rum bar, Ricardo’s is still the cheapest way for Calgarians to take a vacation to the tropics without leaving Alberta. The bananas on the wallpaper is a good start but the drinks are the real star and nothing runs you more than $10 a pop, which is pretty impressive for a handcrafted cocktail. Try the Sherry Cobbler with sherry, strawberry and banana liqueurs, peanut butter, and bitters. It’s like a PB&J sammie in drink form! The Trinidad Sour with tons of Angostura, along with pisco, orgeat, and lime is also a fan favourite.
Snowbird Tiki Bar – Montreal
Montreal’s newest tiki bar, Snowbird, just opened and has been getting lots of positive hype. It’s no surprise given the harsh winters the city has to endure; respite in alcoholic form is appreciated. Ironically located on St. Laurent in Little Italy, of all places, it’s really the only full-scale tiki joint in Montreal. The décor is tiki to the max with pieces from the old Sheraton Hotel tiki bar, Kon Tiki, that hasn’t been around since the 1980s. Drinks follow suit with staples like daiquiris, and Mai Tais, as well as in-house creations.
Le Mal Nécessaire – Montreal
Half tiki bar, half night club, this Chinatown spot is always bumping, late into the wee morning hours (3 a.m. to be exact, Thursday through Saturday). Don’t let the clubby atmosphere or the hollowed out pineapple and coconut cups fool you though, the bartenders there know how to mix a stiff drink. Whether you want a drink with gin, rhum, tequila, pisco, bourbon, or vodka, it has got a menu that covers all your bases.
Miss Thing’s – Toronto
Both a Pan Asian restaurant and a cocktail bar, Miss Thing’s caters to all of the tropically-inspired eats and drinks expectations you possibly have. Indulge in playful cocktails like the Acceptable in the 80s, with rum, coconut liqueur, blue Curaçao, coconut water, lime, and egg whites; or the Disco Juice, with citron vodka, watermelon juice, Thai basil syrup, lemon juice, and Chamostar bitters. For those who prefer their drinks sweet and boozy, its barrel-aged rum cocktails and fantastic spins on brown liquor drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.
The Shore Leave – Toronto
A well-made cocktail can do wonders for the mind and soul, and Shore Leave takes that belief to heart. Its drink menu includes a selection of tiki offerings, as well as punch bowls, martinis, and a melange of other classic bevvies. Zoning into the tiki side, the signature Shore Leave is like a cross between the Dark and Stormy and a mojito, with zombie rum, ginger raisin, IPA ginger beer, cucumber, mint. Sip away alongside snacks like Polynesian ceviche with coconut raita, mango ghost chili, and black sesame.