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Celebrate (or survive) summer with tropical tiki cocktails

Emma Janzen, Liquid

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Throughout the summer, Bar Congress will host tiki nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

For many cocktail enthusiasts, the dawning of summer means a shift in collective drinking habits. Refreshing, cold cocktails go from being an option to a necessity required to take the edge off the oppressive heat.

No style accomplishes this better than tiki cocktails.

Copious amounts of rum, elaborate garnishes, fresh citrus, spice and syrups come together to create the exotic island cocktail oeuvre of tiki, which abides by only one rule: the more fancy and kitschy, the better.

Austin has dabbled in tiki over the past few summers, with programs rotating through Annie's, Peche, East Side Show Room and Bar Congress. This year, a handful of bars are jumping on the bandwagon to offer tiki-centric events.

Under the supervision of bar manager Jason Stevens, Bar Congress will host tiki nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through at least Labor Day. The menu will feature a handful of classics, but also shift as Stevens deems appropriate, so people will have a chance to try many different styles and inventions. Some of the themes he will explore include Sharing Tiki, where the drink will be served in a party bowl meant for two to four people to share. Gentlemen Tiki will stray from the classic ice and citrus-fueled drinks, opting for tiki versions of old fashioneds, Manhattans and other cocktails. In the Modern Tropical theme, Italian Amari will take the place of rum, the traditional ingredient in the drink.

The Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild is leading the charge in kicking off Texas Tiki Week the last week of June. In addition to tiki events at Anvil in Houston, Bohanans in San Antonio, and the Standard Pour in Dallas, the Austin chapter will host a mixture of industry-only and public-friendly events. Among the lineup, North Loop Boulevard will turn into "Rum Row," with cocktail and food specials from Drink.Well, the Tigress and Workhorse Bar on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Volstead's Rhum Bar will be in full swing with rum expert Ed Hamilton in attendance for specialty rum cocktails until closing time. The main event for the public will be on Thursday, when Cruzan rum sponsors a luau at Contigo, featuring specially priced tiki cocktails and snacks from the kitchen. The week wraps with a Treaty Oak rum block party at Noble Pig. For details, go to usbgatx.wordpress.com.

Peche will also revisit the tiki cocktail theme July 9-11 to celebrate Heiva, a French Polynesian holiday that typically lasts throughout July.

Outside of the established rum bars and tiki events, you can find the occasional tiki tipple at Austin's other cocktail bars as well. Drink.Well has a delightful whiskey spin on the zombie called the Dead Man's Party, East Side Show Room offers up mai tais and a Swedish Punsch-based Doctor Cocktail, Weather Up on East Cesar Chavez Street has several drinks that resemble tiki favorites, and Volstead Lounge will also offer the random "Tiki Tuesday" drink specials and Island rum cocktails at their patio bar throughout the season.

Contact Emma Janzen at ejanzen@statesman.com.