Tiki history – the battle of legends

The story of Tiki comes from the Polynesian Islands. Where it means the first man or a statue of a god.

The godfather of Tiki Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt or Donn Beach as he changed his name to later start the Tiki bar movement during the 1930s with his restaurant Don the Beachcomber.

don-the-beachcomber *Don the Beachcomber

Soon he got a rival in Victor J Bergeron, Trader Vic.

Trader Vic Bergeron2 * Trader Vic in front of his bar

Donn Beach had the Zombie and Trader Vic had the Mai Tai.

They used names to create a history about the different drinks. Zombie, Jet Pilot, Suffering Bastard, Dr Funk, Missionary’s Downfall, Trade Winds, Fog Cutter, Scorpion Bowl for example.

They were encrypting their recipes so not even their employees would know what the drinks contained, that were prepared in the backroom. They relied on their skills of blending different kinds of rum with island spices, orgeat and other exotic ingredients.
The bottles often just had a number to identify them or a special name like Don’s Special Mix, Pearl Diver’s Mix etc.


Jeff “Beachbum” Berry spent years deciphering these recipes by interviewing employees, so we can enjoy them today.

How to make a Zombie

Rum became the key ingredient because it back then was cheap! The Tiki movement also started short after prohibition, which meant many islands had a big stock of aged rum that normally should have been sold to their biggest market back then, USA.

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