There’s no denying the power of the mai tai. After a huge bout of popularity in the 1950s and then a lively resurgence in 2000s, the rum-soaked tiki bar is back — and in a BIG way. A handful of old-school examples of Polynesian-styled watering holes never went away, but they now keep company with all sorts of new incarnations of the genre found all over the nation. “You could try to draw parallels to the original rise of tiki escapism of the Cold War 1950s to the current economic and political climates,” tiki expert and author Otto von Stroheim states about the new resurgence. As one of the promoters of Tiki Oasis, a wildly popular annual tiki convention in San Diego, he thinks there’s even more to it. “Really, I think tiki style is a celebration of happiness. Simply put, people enjoy being happy.”
You have to admit, sitting in what seems like a tropical paradise while sipping on a carefully crafted summery cocktail does bring on those happy-go-lucky vibes. We don’t think this current round of tiki love shows any signs of slowing down, and von Stroheim agrees. “The cocktail revolution has embraced tiki drinks in a huge way. This has solidified new tiki bars as being well-rounded, respectable drinking establishments with a theme rather than just a kitschy gimmicky environment with a one-visit appeal. Tiki bars have extensive drink menus that tell a story and require repeated visits to conquer.” Looking at these nine tiki bars here, we think we have to agree.
1. Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, IL:Tucked away in an alley near the North Side of Chicago, you’ll find Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki bar that takes pride in their high-quality cocktails. Seasonal fruits, juices that are cold-pressed daily, and fancy syrups — from orgeat to falernum — made by hand are featured in their whimsical list of cocktails. Not only are their drinks original — the Painkiller, Cobra’s Fang, and Rock Out with Your Conch Out to name a few — but there also are crazy-cool group drinks like the Treasure Chest (served in a treasure chest, naturally), which serves 6-8. You won’t want to pass up on taking home one of their unique mugs, either. (Photo via Anjali Pinto Photography/Three Dots and a Dash)