Whiskey-based Tiki Cocktails

The Sexton cocktail

When you think of Tiki drinks, rum generally comes to mind. But more mixologists are starting to use gin, tequila and even whiskey in sips that evoke the Polynesian theme and tropical flavors.

Not that whiskey in Tiki concoctions is a new thing. For instance, Trader Vic’s has created a few cocktails, including the bourbon-based Eastern Sour, which reportedly dates back to the 1950s. The Port Light bourbon cocktail was developed in the early 1960s at the Kahiki in Columbus, OH.

But given the current interest in all things brown spirits and the resurgence and endurance of Tiki culture, bartenders are taking a fresh look at the combination.


Lost Lake in Chicago, for one, has a few whiskey-based libations, including the Curative Vibrations, with bourbon, tamarind shrub, lemon, pomegranate and Elemakule Tiki bitters. San Francisco Tiki bar Forbidden Island also has several tropical cocktails with bourbon, including the Make Mine Ginger, with Maker’s Mark, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, five-spice syrup and lemon.

Irish whiskey in particular has been catching on in island-inspired drinks. Damon Boelte, owner of Grand Army in Brooklyn, NY, recently created a Tiki-like cocktail using a single-malt Irish whiskey. The Showdown (shown atop) combines The Sexton Irish whiskey with cane syrup, pineapple juice, lime juice and cardamom bitters.


“I’m a big fan of pineapple and whiskey together,” Boelte says. I’ve recently found that cardamom and pineapple is one of my favorite flavor pairings, so that’s where this cocktail idea came from.”

The Sexton is rich in flavor yet smooth, “so I decided to go a bit tropical with this one,” he says. “The song ‘Showdown’ by Thin Lizzy (Irish!) is also a smooth jazzy number, so I felt it was an appropriate match.”

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club

Tim Herlihy, National Tullamore D.E.W. Ambassador, created a number of Tiki-type drinks for the Irish whiskey brand’s Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, which launched late last year. One is the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, made with Tullamore D.E.W. Caribbean Rum Cask finish Irish whiskey, macadamia nut syrup, dry Curacao, velvet falernum, lime juice and Tiki bitters.


Here are a few other Tiki-style cocktail recipes that use whiskey.


Purple Rain
Purple Rain

Purple Rain
1 oz. Bourbon
¾ oz. Fino sherry
⅜ oz. Tamworth Black Trumpet Blueberry cordial
½ oz. Beet juice
½ oz. Lemon juice
½ oz. Black walnut orgeat*
2 dashes Fees Brothers black walnut bitters

Combine ingredients and whip with pebble ice. Dump into Hurricane glass and top with more pebble ice. Garnish with upside down Tiki umbrella with a cherry and dust of nutmeg

*For Black walnut orgeat: Toast 200g of black walnuts for 3-4 minutes, then blend in Vitamix with 660g of hot water on high for one minute to create a nut milk. Strain nut milk with a fine-mesh strainer then combine with equal parts white granulated sugar by weight, plus a pinch of gum Arabic and xanthan gum. Add 1 oz. of vodka to final product.

Brian Evans, head bartender at Sunday in Brooklyn in Brooklyn, NY, created this recipe.


Banana Boulevardier Slushie
Banana Boulevardier Slushie

Banana Boulevardier Slushie
1 oz. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old bourbon
1 oz. Fresh pineapple juice
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Braulio Amaro
½ oz. Banana liqueur
½ oz. Fresh orange juiceWh

Mix all ingredients together. Pour over crushed ice into a Collins glass or your favorite Tiki mug. Serve with banana slices and orange wedges.

Lucinda Sterling of Middle Branch in New York, created this recipe.


Emerald Isle
Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle
1 ½ parts Tullamore D.E.W. Caribbean Rum Cask Finish
½ part Calvados
¼ part Caramel syrup
¼ part Fig syrup
½ part Pineapple Juice
¼ part Half and half
1 tsp. Coco Lopez

Combine ingredients and whip shake with Kold Draft ice. Pour into Pina Colada glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg and pineapple wedge.

Tim Herlihy, Tullamore D.E.W. national ambassador, created this recipe.



2 oz. Coopers’ Craft bourbon
2 oz. Pineapple juice
1 oz. Orange juice
½ oz.-1 oz. Orgeat syrup or almond syrup
2 dashes 1821 Japanese chili and lime bitters

Blend all ingredients with a cup of ice on high for 15 seconds or until smooth.  Pour into a Tiki mug or coupe and top with additional dash of bitters, edible flowers, and slice of pineapple or pineapple leaves. Serve with a metal straw.

The mixologists at Coopers’ Craft created this recipe.