10 Favorite Tiki Cocktails in Metro Phoenix

The Almost Always Bad News is a revamped version of the classic tiki drink, the ZombieEXPAND
The Almost Always Bad News is a revamped version of the classic tiki drink, the Zombie
Shelby Moore

Whether you're a connoisseur or just beginning to dip your toe in the world of tiki drinks, we've got good news for fans of pina coladas, painkillers, and more. If you know where to look, you’ll be thrilled by the sheer volume of options for creative, rum-filled tiki-style drinks in metro Phoenix — including at the recently opened Under Tow, the Valley's first dedicated tiki bar. 

To prove our point, here are 10 drinks from 10 bars where bartenders are shaking up modern mai tais, taming jungle birds, and reviving zombies. Batten down the hatches. We’re going sailing.

Almost Always Bad News at The Clever Koi

Polynesian flair and flavor are crammed into every nook and cranny of the Almost Always Bad News, Clever Koi owner and barman Joshua James’s resurrection of the zombie cocktail, a tiki stalwart. If Don the Beachcomber created the zombie, then James gave it back its soul. His personalized zombie mix get swirled with molasses-tinted Skipper Demerara and fiery 151 Hamilton rums. And he gives it some style, too, in the form of a tall tiki mug full of crumbly ice and decadent decoration. You may even find a tiny plastic mermaid has found a slice of lime to call home. 

The Jungle Bird at Bitter & Twisted is deliciously bitter and devastatingly beautiful.EXPAND
The Jungle Bird at Bitter & Twisted is deliciously bitter and devastatingly beautiful.
Shelby Moore

Jungle Bird at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

We can't be sure, but there’s a pretty good chance your bartender's favorite tiki drink has, at some point, been the jungle bird. It’s frustratingly simple and relies heavily on Campari, best known for its role in the negroni. Some consider it the "Coca-Cola of amaro" due to its heavy-handed marketing, signature red color, and pervasive nature on bar shelves. However, in the jungle bird it does the two things Campari does best: adds orange-rind bitterness and colors the drink crimson. And a bitter note is exactly what's needed to counteract the pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and rum in this drink. 

Left: Head bartender Noah Momyer shaking up the Caribbean Spirit. Right: The Caribbean Spirit is a rare tiki drink served up.EXPAND
Left: Head bartender Noah Momyer shaking up the Caribbean Spirit. Right: The Caribbean Spirit is a rare tiki drink served up.
Shelby Moore

Caribbean Spirit at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

The hottest cocktail ingredient to hit the Phoenix market since Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur is Plantation Pineapple Rum Stiggin’s Fancy, a pineapple-flavored spirit that does wonders in whichever drink it lands. At Blue Hound Kitchen, bartenders combine the spirit with grapefruit liqueur, a ginger and almond liqueur called falernum, and lemon juice. Though head bartender Noah Momyer says that some “tiki purists may not approve,” it's really too bad for them, because we’re all aboard.

A Tahitian Rum Punch basks in the high sun gleaming down on the Sanctuary Resort grounds, tucked into Camelback Mountain.EXPAND
A Tahitian Rum Punch basks in the high sun gleaming down on the Sanctuary Resort grounds, tucked into Camelback Mountain.
Shelby Moore

Tahitian Rum Punch at Jade Bar

The Tahitian Rum Punch has 10 ingredients, and every single one of them matters when you’re honoring the Don the Beachcomber, the legendary Prohibition-era smuggler-turned-restaurateur who invented some of the world’s first tiki drinks. Among them was the Tahitian Rum Punch, which combines several fruit juices, rums, and fruit liqueurs so well that even a century later, guys like Jade Bar’s Eddie Garcia — a devoted fan of tiki — take great pride in doing the classic well. Served in a proper tiki mug, the big drink has spiciness, funkiness, fruitiness, booziness, and more. 

The Voice Among Trees at Market Street Kitchen in North Scottsdale, where the drink menu revolves around a Treasure Island theme.EXPAND
The Voice Among Trees at Market Street Kitchen in North Scottsdale, where the drink menu revolves around a Treasure Island theme.
Shelby Moore

Voice Among Trees at Market Street Kitchen

It looks like a julep in its frosty metal cup, buried under ice, garnished with a fistful of aromatic mint. But it isn’t a julep — not even close. And it doesn’t contain rum, either, which might surprise anyone who assumes the sugarcane spirit is required in the tiki genre. Well, Market Street Kitchen is getting experimental, swizzling up a take on Smuggler’s Cove's Chartreuse Swizzle, which pushes the boundaries of tiki drinks. It relies on boozy and wildly herbaceous green chartreuse, mixing in mint, pineapple, falernum, and fresh lime juice. Dashed with spicy, red angostura bitters, you’ll find tiki has fewer boundaries than you thought.

Okra's summer menu has a few tiki gems, including the Hurricane, a delicious cocktail starring passion fruit juice.EXPAND
Okra's summer menu has a few tiki gems, including the Hurricane, a delicious cocktail starring passion fruit juice.
Shelby Moore

Hurricane at Okra

Hurricanes can wreak havoc on the unassuming drinker. And as one of the tiki drinks you’re most likely to find at a chain restaurant, they are anything but consistent. However, the excellent bartenders at Okra in uptown Phoenix shake up a Hurricane that makes it easy to see how this drink became a classic. Owner Micah Olson found the perfect passion fruit juice to swim in synchronized fashion with his rum blend. The result is bright orange and beautiful.

Left To Right: A piña colada is assembled left to right at Rum Bar, starting with their house-made coconut liqueur.EXPAND
Left To Right: A piña colada is assembled left to right at Rum Bar, starting with their house-made coconut liqueur.
Shelby Moore

Piña Colada at Rum Bar

The piña colada needs no introduction, except that you’ll need to start considering some don’t get poured out of a blender. Not that blended piña coladas aren’t delicious, but one of the best in town resides at the blender-less Rum Bar (for a great blended version, see Bitter & Twisted up the road). And it is far from too sweet. It's controlled and complex in comparison to most versions, since the bartenders here go to the lengths to create their own coconut liqueur in-house. It's creamy, pure in flavor, and rich like butterscotch — making it perfect with fresh pineapple juice and Rum Bar’s painstakingly picked rum.

How cool is this ceramic tiki mug?EXPAND
How cool is this ceramic tiki mug?
Shelby Moore

Painkiller at Hula’s Modern Tiki

A painkiller by any other name would be as delicious, but the bottom line is it ain’t a proper painkiller unless it has Pusser’s-brand rum. The spirit company trademarked the name and has a history of taking legal action against bars that don’t abide. Many places work around it by using a similar style of rum and, of course, another name. At Hula’s, real-deal painkillers flow liberally into coconut-shaped mugs — and an additional shot of rum, floated over the top, comes highly recommended. Being the cousin of the piña colada, the drink has a coconut cream base that works nicely with the bitter tang of orange juice and plenty of rum. A healthy sprinkle of spice over the rim makes each painkiller exactly what the doctor ordered.

The Tiki Ali is one of the Parlor's only bona fide tiki drinks — and it's delicious, tasting like a spiked, frozen strawberry lemonade. Can't beat that.EXPAND
The Tiki Ali is one of the Parlor's only bona fide tiki drinks — and it's delicious, tasting like a spiked, frozen strawberry lemonade. Can't beat that.
Shelby Moore

Tiki Ali at The Parlor Pizzeria

For inspiration, bartenders love to reach back to their childhoods. All over the Valley, bartenders have been doing it with spiked root beer drinks and boozy, frozen orange Juliuses. The Parlor is an Italian restaurant and bar, but Riley Jones dipped his toe into tiki with the Tiki Ali, inspired by sun-bleached summers and family vacations. “It’s like that strawberry lemonade drink you’d order at resorts as a kid,” Jones says. Of course, yours better not have had booze in it — let alone the boatload Jones has a knack for hiding deftly in his. 

The mai tai is a building block for the tiki genre, and The Ostrich serves them any night of the week, though the atmosphere is more fitting on Tiki Tuesdays.EXPAND
The mai tai is a building block for the tiki genre, and The Ostrich serves them any night of the week, though the atmosphere is more fitting on Tiki Tuesdays.
Shelby Moore

Mai Tai at The Ostrich

Mai tais get a bad rap. As the poster child of tiki drinks, it's been simplified, reduced, and substituted since the very beginning. It’s frustrating to know that the rum originally used, 17-year Wray & Nephew, isn't available anymore, but Tiki Tuesday-host The Ostrich in downtown Chandler still gives the classic cocktail its very best shot — tangy, nutty, and a touch sweet, all the ingredients work in harmony to show off a good hit of rum.

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Related Locations

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Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

1 W. Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

602-340-1924

www.bitterandtwistedaz.com

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Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

2 E. Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

602-258-0231

www.bluehoundkitchen.com

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Clever Koi

4236 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012

602-222-3474

www.thecleverkoi.com

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Hula's Modern Tiki

4700 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012

602-265-8454

www.hulasmoderntiki.com

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jade bar
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Market Street Kitchen

20825 N. Pima Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85255

480-278-7044

www.marketstreetkitchen.com

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The Ostrich

10 N. San Marcos Pl.
Chandler, AZ 85225

480-917-4903

www.crustrestaurants.com

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Okra

5813 N. 7th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

602-296-4147

www.okraaz.com

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The Rum Bar
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The Parlor Pizzeria

1916 E. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85016

602-248-2480

www.theparlor.us


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