Drift away to a tropical island this summer without leaving the confines of Denver. Tiki drinks have long been part of the American bar experience, but they're experiencing a resurgence at watering holes around town — and they're the best, booziest way to have a beach vacation at your favorite bar. While the metro area doesn't have a ton of tiki bars, there are a couple of establishments dedicated to the theme, plus many others delivering one or two tropical concoctions to guests thirsty for pineapple, mint, rum, orgeat and other beloved tiki ingredients. Here are ten great places to get your tiki on. Beware, though: Many of these are extra-boozy blends that come on like a typhoon.
218 South Broadway
If you're looking for tiki drinks, Adrift has nearly every classic recipe, plus creative mixes you didn't even know you wanted. From flaming creations to cocktails infused with cold-brew coffee to two-person drinks poured into hollowed-out pineapples, there's something for every taste. One favorite is the frozen Calpyso's Curse, made by general manager Josh Duncan, which features rhum agricole (rum's rustic country cousin), overproof Jamaican rum, guava, Chareau aloe liqueur, fresh cucumber, mint, pineapple and a whole lot of lime. Duncan blends the mint and pineapple into a smooth purée that mixes wonderfully with the ice. It's refreshing and potent (the menu shows a skull and crossbones, denoting high alcohol), and drinks far too easily. One Calypso's Curse feels like downing a healthy pressed juice; two, and you'll feel the curse the next morning.
The Lucy BBarcelona Wine Bar
2900 Larimer Street
Named after famous redhead Lucille Ball, this petite potion pays homage to the actress through booze. A blend of cachaça, Rhum Clément, coconut, pineapple, lime and smoked-pepper agave nectar combine for a true tiki taste, only without the outlandish garnish, kitschy glassware or open flame. Overall the cocktail proves light, fruity and tropical, with an elegance expected from a bar specializing in wine.
The Angry GodFreshcraft
1530 Blake Street
Freshcraft owner Jason Forgy somehow found himself with a full case of whimsical tiki glasses, so he decided to create a drink to showcase the barware. He and beverage director Ben Paul came up with a take on the Goombay Smash, a drink invented by Emily Cooper in the 1960s that's now a staple in the Bahamas. The Freshcraft version varies a bit from the original, and the downtown pub has dubbed it the Angry God. Made with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Malibu rum, triple sec, lime and lemon juice and Fee Brothers peach bitters, this refreshing and boozy blue cocktail looks totally tiki and tastes like a tropical vacation, complete with a tiny umbrella.
The Banzai WashoutThe Garden at The Ramble Hotel
1280 25th Street
What's a tiki list without at least one blue cocktail? This tropical option at the Ramble Hotel's second-floor outdoor bar proves perfect for the job, as it refreshes with pineapple, almond, coconut and the required blue hue. It does not, however, rely on rum, a constant in tiki culture. Instead, vodka is the star, and the clear spirit does a great job of taking on those fruity, nutty and sunny flavors without ever becoming too cloying or sweet. The Banzai Washout was created by Death & Co. downstairs, but you can only order the drink al fresco at the Garden.
Benjamin Roper's Hawaiian Pineapple T-ShirtHearth & Dram
1801 Wewatta Street
Yes, the name of this tiki cocktail is a mouthful, but once you spit out "Benjamin Roper's Hawaiian Pineapple T-Shirt" to your server, you'll just want sip after sip of this skeleton-encased drink. The spooky vessel adds whimsy and fun, and inside it you'll find crushed ice cooling a mixture of sweet pineapple rum, bittersweet Fernet Branca, fresh lime juice, almond-tinged orgeat and floral vanilla. A dash of orange bitters furthers the tropical vibe, and the reddish ice domes above the rim of the glass, as if the skeleton is showing off his brain. Suck it up and order another, but keep in mind that it's a strong blend, and you, like the grinning skull in front of you, could lose your mind.
Dr. FunkHidden Idol
2240 Clay Street
Unfortunately, the glassware at this relocated bar hasn't yet made the move from East Colfax Avenue to Jefferson Park, but the drinks should soon be served in their traditional tiki containers. Until then, enjoy Hidden Idol's creations in a plain glass, especially the Dr. Funk, a festive mixture of Hamilton Jamaican black rum, Cruzan Blackstrap rum, lime juice, housemade grenadine and a dash of absinthe. It comes lit on fire and offers a nice balance of sweet and caramel-tinged rum notes highlighted with citrus and the licorice lick of absinthe. The menu is ripe with new and old cocktails and plenty of tiki vibes — even without the funny vessels.
The CatamaranKisbee on the Roof at the Jacquard Hotel
222 Milwaukee Street
As far as we know, this is the only tiki cocktail in town that you can actually sip poolside — that is, if you're a guest of the Jacquard Hotel. Even if you don't have a room, you can still enjoy the Catamaran at the rooftop bar with the glimmering pool nearby, so you can experience a taste of the tropics along with stunning views of the city and mountains. All the drinks at this bar are made in batches for quick and easy pouring, including the Catamaran, which combines Plantation pineapple rum, falernum (a traditional Jamaican liqueur flavored with warming spices, ginger, lime and almond), mint and lime flavoring for an easy-drinking refresher on hot summer nights.
The Tally ManPoka Lola Social Club
1850 Wazee Street
The bar next to the Maven Hotel at the Dairy Block downtown certainly has an air of the tropics, with its mint-green furnishings, intricately patterned tile floor and shiny ceilings. It's no wonder beverage director Peter Danyluck was inspired by island vibes for his Tally Man, a tiki drink built with rum, pineapple, banana, Coco Lopez cream of coconut and fresh lime juice. It's fruity, coconut-y and creamy — reminiscent of a tropical vacation, with a hotel stumbling distance away.
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Captain Dan's Milk PunchSeñor Bear
3301 Tejon Street
South American influences creep onto the food menu at Señor Bear, and that's also the case with the cocktail roster, and a tiki drink fits right in with the Latin American flavors and ingredients. Captain Dan's Milk Punch, created by beverage director Keegan Labrador, starts as a classic Southern milk punch and then incorporates the essence of tiki. You'll find rum, falernum, pineapple, Fernet, anise and an array of citrus. It's something a Southern belle might sip — if she were at the beach under a palm tree, or at the breezy Señor Bear.
The Scorpion BowlSteuben's Food Service
523 East 17th Avenue, 303-830-1001
7355 Ralston Road, Arvada, 303-830-0096
Head Uptown or to Arvada for a bowl of devilish, dangerous delight that's sure to sting you in a variety of ways. We're talking about the classic Scorpion Bowl, a Trader Vic's creation that debuted around 1947. The original cocktail way back then was built to serve twelve drinkers, but the $22 version at Steuben's is better suited for four. The recipe calls for Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Gosling's Black Seal rum, 151-proof rum, Leopold Bros. peach liqueur, orgeat, cranberry, pineapple, orange and lime. The overproof rum fills the volcano at the center of the ceramic bowl and is lit on fire when served. You can wait until the the flames have ebbed before mixing it in with the rest of the fruit-filled cocktail, which has been a fan favorite at Steuben's since the Uptown location opened in 1997.