Tiki Cocktail Adventures: Tiki Lounge
26 bis rue de la Fontaine au Roi
Since 1931 when Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt aka Don the Beachcomber set up the first tiny tiki joint in Hollywood, this kitschy culture has been injecting a bit of South Pacific fun into cocktails and given birth to some of world’s most notorious rum based drinks like the mai tai and the Zombie. Tiki style bars and drinks have experienced a resurgence over the past several years with hotspots like PKNY (New York) and - my favorite - Smugglers Cove (San Francisco) garnering international attention for their transcendent tiki drinks. This month Paris has finally taken to the trend with its first dedicated tiki bar: Tiki Lounge.
Tiki Lounge is kitted out with all the appropriate decor details: masks and carvings, creaky rattan furniture, and ceramic mugs. Blowfish lamps hang from the ceiling alongside glass floats. On the night of my visit, a few customers sat at the small thatched bar chatting with the friendly owners while south seas sounding music - with a bit of Tom Waits thrown into the mix - played in the background.
Thanks to the tiki theme, the menu diverges from the usual multiple vodka-based choices and features mainly rum. While they do offer a few things like caipis, mojitos and cosmos, the nine tiki options are front and center. All but two are rum-based, with the exceptions being a Waikiki Breeze with tequila and an Eastern Sour with whisky. Most of their classic tiki cocktails like the mai tai, missionary's downfall and pina colada mainly adhere to simplified standard recipes. Drink prices are 8 Euros and drop to 5.5 Euros during the 18h - 20h30 happy hour.
I started with one of tiki's most familiar and debated drinks: the mai tai (theirs contains two types of rum, orgeat and 'citrus.') While this isn't the exact recipe I might use, I was pleasantly surprised. Based on experience I was preparing for an overly sweet alcohol masking mix. But, you could taste the rum through the light touch of orgeat and citrus and I enjoyed it (espeically at happy hour price). They also offer their own "Tiki Lounge Mai Tai" which includes pineapple juice and grenadine. I was less impressed with the tequila based Waikiki Breeze and I was really hoping one of my drinks would have come in a coconut shell or tiki mug. While we were sampling, the crowd was growing and an hour or so later, the place was busy with a hipstamatic young crowd who were probably grooving on the themed vibe as much as (or more than?) the drinks.
Thanks to the friendly atmosphere and novel (to Paris) ambience, I enjoyed my visit. However, I think there are some areas where they could amp things up the drinks front. I'd like to see their current offering of 5 rums bumped up. I think a more extensive offering of tiki drinks diverging from just the most popular ones could be interesting. And, just for fun, I’d like to see their bar munchies move from crisps, carrots and dip to something more theme-appropriate.
From a strictly drinks perspective, the Tiki Lounge can't compete with some of the internationally known big boys of tikidom or even some of the bars in town like Prescription or Curio who occasionally feature a tiki option on menu and have the range of rums and necessary ingredients to pull them off with aplomb. But for nightcrawlers seeking the whole tiki experience – deco and all - this is currently the only place in town to get it. It may be just baby steps, but it is a valid start to the tiki trend in Paris.