A night filled with zombies, scorpions, and painkillers...

....and a mai tai.

Until this week, I had no idea about the true origins of the tiki culture, nor did I realize that a tiki cocktail isn't an electric blue blended drink in a giant fish bowl with a squeaky rubber shark swimming amongst giant straws.

D.C.'s popular restaurant, Founding Farmers, is also home to notable mixologist Jon Arroyo, who is a big fan of the tiki culture and its history.  He's such a fan that he wanted to share his interest with eager recreational alcoholics (at least that was who was seated at my table) and people wanting to expand their knowledge of mixed drinks (me).  Arroyo is now teaching classes at the LivingSocial headquarters on preparing the foundational tiki drinks.

The tiki culture can count two people as its founders: Trader Vic (actual name Victor Bergeron) and Don the Beachcomber (actual name Earnest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, later changed to Donn Beach).  The movement started in the 1930s and was based on the classic cocktail combination: spirit, bitters, sugar, and water.  During the class, we focused on: two of Donn Beach's creations - the Zombie and the Scorpion; a blended Painkiller; and the most famous tiki cocktail originated by Trader Vic - the Mai Tai.  Based on the class, you'd better love the taste of rum if you're going to make a tiki cocktail because the recipes Arroyo demonstrated for us call for at least one kind of rum, sometimes three!

If you're looking for any of the odd ingredients listed in the recipes and live in Washington D.C., apparently Ace Beverage is a good source.

Be careful, this one is STRONG!  Do the math...there's 4 oz. of rum in one serving.  Which may explain the inspiration for the name, since it makes you dead to the world.


  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Falernum syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz. Jamaican Rum
  • 1 oz. Lemon Hart (rum)
  • 1 1/2 oz. Cruzan Single (rum)
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 5-6 drops Pernod Absinthe
  • 1 bar spoon grenadine
  • mint sprig
Place ingredients into a mixing glass, cover and dry shake (no ice).  Pour into a tall collins glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with a mint sprig, pineapple slice, and orange slice.
Usually you find this prepared in a large volcano bowl with several long straws (scorpion bowl), accompanied by special dramatic effects created with dry ice and alcohol aflame in the ceramic volcano.


  • 1 oz. Hennessy VSOP (brandy)
  • 1 oz. Appleton VX (rum)
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Orgeat syrup
  • mint sprig
Place all ingredients in a mixing glass, cover and dry shake (no ice or 1 cube).  Strain into a wine glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with a mint leaf, lemon wheel, orange wheel, and pineapple.

Supposedly, this drink originated at the Soggy Bottom Bar in the British Virgin Islands, so named because there was no way to get to the bar except to just swim there, so all your money was soaked.
  • 2 oz Pusser's Rum
  • 1 1/2 oz. coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • nutmeg
Place all ingredients (except nutmeg) in a blender.  Add 1 scoop (plastic glass) of crushed ice, cover and blend for about 2 minutes.  Pour into wine glass.  Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg, mint sprig, and two large straws.

Mai Tai
The name of this cocktail is Tahitian for "the best."  The legend that accompanies this drink suggests that Trader Vic made this drink for friends visiting from Tahiti, and after a sip a friend exclaimed, "maita'i!"  There are many variations of this recipe, but this is purportedly the original.

  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. Orange Curacao
  • 3/4 oz. almond syrup
  • 1 bar spoon orange juice
  • 1 oz. Rhum Clement Gold (rum)
  • 1 oz. Flor de cana (12 year rum)
  • 1 long dash Angostura Bitters
  • mint sprig
Shake well with ice and strain into a collins glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with a wheel of lime, a mint sprig, and if possible with a little powdered sugar on the leaves.