There’s a common misconception among the drinking population that tiki cocktails are inherently difficult to make. Perhaps it’s the ingredient lists that can easily climb past 10 items, or maybe the elaborate garnishes—the banana dolphins, the opulent orchids, the flaming rum-soaked lime hull—that suggest “don’t try this at home.” But, as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry explains in Easy Tiki, “there’s no definition in the dictionary that says tiki has to be complicated.”
In fact, Donn Beach, the founding father of tiki himself, set a precedent for tiki-made-easy by offering simplified versions of his famously baroque Zombie and Planter’s Punch, designed explicitly for home bartenders. Berry, author and owner of Latitude 29 in New Orleans, likewise created his own Simplified Zombie, which translates the essence of the 10-ingredient original into a far more reasonable five-ingredient recipe built on two types of rum, cinnamon syrup, grapefruit and lime juice.
Of course, not all of Donn Beach’s recipes require a laundry list of ingredients. Don’s Special Daiquiri, for example, simply adds passion fruit to the traditional template, swapping out simple syrup for honey and splitting the rum quotient between Jamaican and Puerto Rican expressions. In his modern interpretation, Daniele Dalla Pola makes the unorthodox addition of spiced rum for an extra kick. Trader Vic, too, was known to favor simplicity, not only in his famous five-ingredient Mai Tai, but in drinks like his Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, a falernum-laced Daiquiri, and his eponymous Sour.
More-modern entries to the Easy Tiki canon translate the quintessential Donn Beach ethos—blending multiple rums within a single drink—to other spirits. A Coy Decoy, for example, deploys a cucumber-forward gin alongside a more traditional expression as the base of the bright, citrusy cocktail. The 1967 Saturn, meanwhile, takes a simpler route, relying solely on one gin, bolstered by orgeat, falernum and passion fruit for what bartender Garret Richard describes as “the perfect gin tiki cocktail.” And it’s only five ingredients.