Whether you’re a bartending beginner or a master mixologist, creating your own Home Tiki Bar is easy, especially with these bottles of rum on hand.
This is part one of a series on how to build your own Home Tiki Bar, with a focus on potent rums and delicious liquors. For a full overview of the series, start here.
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Potent Liquors & Caribbean Rums
There is no denying that rum – in all its variations – plays a huge role in a good Home Tiki Bar. You can get away with two basic types of rum as you start to build your tropical oasis, but eventually you’ll find yourself experimenting with all sorts of blends, brands, and flavors.
Of course, not every Tiki drink is rum-based. Always on the lookout for the newest attraction, Tiki bartenders are known for their inventive recipes as they find more interesting and theatrical methods to get their audiences intoxicated. From the start of the cult of Tiki in the early 1900’s, these pioneers have used whiskeys, gins, vodkas, and even tequilas in their combinations.
Nevertheless, aged and overproof Caribbean rums form the foundation of a solid education in Tiki Culture. Expanding out from there is up to you, but for now let’s start with this essential addition to your Home Tiki Bar.
Ruminating on Rum
Many Tiki recipes include at least two types of genuine Caribbean rum. Applegate Estate Signature Blend Aged Rum and the original J. Wray and Nephew White Overproof Rum are both longstanding staples for any Home Tiki Bar. Both varieties are produced in Jamaica (with a heritage dating back to 1825), easy to find in even smaller liquor stores, and relatively inexpensive compared to other varieties of rum. You can’t go wrong with these, and will find yourself using them in all sorts of drinks, Tiki or no.
Stepping It Up:
The sky is the limit, and every bartender has their favorite supplies. Additional overproof rums, locally crafted aged and white rums, and even flavored rums can find their place depending on your particular preferences and choice of cocktail recipes.
A comprehensive guide to all of the types of rum and their various uses is conveniently provided in Martin Cate’s previously mentioned Smuggler’s Cove, but here are a few of the bottles I personally like to have on hand in my Home Tiki Bar:
Plantation Overproof Artisanal Rum O.F.T.D. (aka, Old Fashioned Traditional Rum): This incredibly strong blend combines Guyana, Jamaica, and Barbados rums with the goal of replicating the rums of old seafaring days, “according to the way they used to measure these things in the Royal Navy”. It’s hard to explain the flavor – it’s smooth and dark with touches of oak and smoke and full of sweet caramel and deep molasses flavors. It has a particular “funkiness” that gives a true tiki drink their distinctive flavor. This rum was specifically recommended to me by a wonderful lady appropriately nicknamed the Booze Muse, and she has never steered me wrong.
Coconut Rum: I’m really picky with my coconut rums, as I find more widely distributed brands to taste a bit too artificial for my tastes. Two bottles I find particularly delicious are under the labels Brinley Gold Shipwreck and Seacrets Distilling, the later being a craft distillery in Maryland (Both also go fantastically in my Rendezvous Rum Punch recipe).
Spiced Rum: Spiced rum can have so many more uses than just the boozy half of a rum and coke. My personal preference is Kraken Black Spiced Rum, and not just because the label is a gothic dream.
Craft White Rum: Many newer distilleries haven’t been open long enough to sell more traditional-style aged rums, so finding local craft rum is always a treat. Some try their hand at white rums, since those don’t need the lengthy barrel aging of other varieties. I’ve a tried a few corn-based white rums here on the eastern seaboard. So far, my favorite is New Liberty Distilling’s Dreadnought White Rum.
What are your favorite varieties of rum? I’m always happy to look into new brands and craft distilleries, so please list them in the comments!
From the Blue Hawaiian to the Mai Tai, a bit of orange liqueur is often a welcome addition to many a Tiki cocktail, and never a bad thing to keep around the house for a variety of recipes.
Orange liqueur is a broad name for a number of options. If you’re on a budget, you are perfectly fine with an inexpensive bottle of triple sec or orange curacao. Some recipes – like the aforementioned Blue Hawaiian – call for specifically blue curacao. I find orange is more versatile, and color doesn’t matter much if you use a ceramic Tiki Mug. It depends on what is most important to you.
Stepping It Up:
Any orange liqueur will work in recipes that call for orange curacao, and I much prefer using Cointreau – a premium French triple sec – in my Home Tiki Bar. I love it in whiskey sours and classic margaritas, and often add it to drinks for a bit of sweet citrus flavor. It’s a little pricier than the previously mentioned options, but the quality is noticeably higher. Another option is Grand Marnier, which is brandy-based. If you use it in your drinks the flavor will be a little different, but it would still taste lovely. My general opinion is to purchase whichever one you personally prefer and will use most often in your Home Tiki Bar – or whichever one you already keep on hand.
Up next, I’ll discuss the different mixers, syrups, and bitters every Home Tiki Bar should have, as well as demystify a few foreign words often found in Tiki cocktails. Stay tuned!