Got a tropical shirt at the back of your closet that’s just begging to be worn? Have a craving to be sitting on a secluded beach, sipping a fruity rum drink out of a coconut with a brightly colored straw? Austin bars and restaurants can’t physically transport you to an island paradise, but they can recreate it for you. This summer, they’re all about tiki.
The one time a year when wearing such a shirt is actually not just OK but downright required, tiki parties are starting to kick off for the summer to celebrate what’s become known as tiki culture — a movement that started in the 1950s and ’60s when tropical-themed bars began appearing across the country.
Hallmarks of the movement include exotic decor, extravagant and boozy rum cocktails, and the mini-umbrellas, bright flowers and dolphin-shaped bananas that have come to define outlandish tiki garnishes. (More is always better when it comes to tiki.)
Here are some of the local tiki parties and celebrations that will transform Austin temporarily into a tropical paradise.
Hotel San Jose
Make it a tradition: Tiki Tuesday is back at the South Congress hotel, meaning that you can literally get your tiki fill on a weekly basis through July this summer. From 5 to 11 p.m. every Tuesday, the lounge area will have frozen drinks (like the pink perfection that is the frosé) and live music from the surf rock group the Avocados. Music is from 7 to 9 p.m.
Starting on June 22, there will also be Tiki Thursdays courtesy of West Sixth-area bar Irene’s. Get in an island state of mind at the launch party with strong rum drinks, like mai tais and Sidewinder’s Fang, as well as live reggae, surf rock and tropicalia tunes. Irene’s will also be dishing up appropriate cuisine (at the launch only): Polynesian wings, kalua pork sliders, mini mai tai whoopie pies and coconut pudding.
Revelry Kitchen + Bar
For one day this weekend, Revelry on East Sixth Street will transform into a tiki wonderland. Tiki Night, from 7 to 11 p.m. on June 24, will have a variety of classic tiki cocktails on special, such as Painkillers and Zombie punch, arguably the booziest drink of ‘em all with three different types of rum. Revelry also promises Polynesian-inspired dishes. All of that — and a tiki mug — will cost $30.
On the last Tuesday of every month this summer, the New American restaurant in the Lamar Union development is hosting Tiki Tuesday, with a tiki-inspired food and drink menu. Expect rum, rum and more rum. And if you wear one of those aforementioned Hawaiian shirts or any type of tiki-related attire, you’ll get a free treat. The first Tiki Tuesday is June 27.
It's easy to tell a tiki cocktail apart from other drinks because they come in special mugs and are often garnished with lavish flowers and other colorful accouterments. These cocktails are being spotlighted at Tiki Tuesdays at Vox Table.
The Roosevelt Room
The extensive classic cocktail list above the bar at the downtown den regularly offers a handful of tiki drinks, but there will be even more of these tropical treats available on June 27, when the Roosevelt Room is celebrating its two-year anniversary with a tiki party.
You’ll get an island welcome upon arriving at the party by receiving a complimentary lei and a daiquiri shot. Plus, you’ll be served your booze from under a tiki hut, with palm trees galore. Highlighted drinks that night include the Roosevelt Room’s original Huli Pau!, with dark rum, aloe juice, coconut cream, pineapple, mint, tarragon, peanut oil and butterfly pea powder.
The North Loop cocktail bar is offering tiki cocktails all summer long, in addition to its usual seasonal drinks menu, starting on July 5. These tropical potions include a Daiquiri of the Day special (with prizes awarded to people who make it through 10, 15 and 20 of these rum drinks — not all in one day, of course).
Drink.Well will also have a tiki cocktail made with Jester King’s Rare Corals beer, a farmhouse ale refermented with guava, bananas, strawberries, cantaloupe, toasted coconut and chamomile. Given that this beer is no longer available at the brewery, it’s going to be a fun new way for Jester King fans to try it.
St. Elmo Brewing
Cocktail bars aren’t the only ones going tropical this summer. This South Austin brewery is as well and is throwing an all-day luau on June 25 to mark the release of Mahalo, a pineapple pale ale. The luau will have live music from surf rockers the Avocados, a limbo contest and Hawaiian food specials from on-site food truck Soursop.