Mai Tai (credit: chow.com)
Tiki bars and tropical drinks seem to always have their fans. Sipping a sweet, tropical libation in an exotic and festive atmosphere makes everything a whole lot better. Try any of these fun bars for some of the best tropical drinks in the Bay Area.
950 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
The Fairmont Hotel’s legendary Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is what fantasies are made of; it’s all pretty surreal and has been since 1945. Tiki culture lives at the Tonga Room and that’s truly the reason folks come here. Cocktails are heavy on the tropical and rum selections. The Tonga Room Mai Tai ($13) is the classic drink here since 1945, or go for something different with a Lychee Martini ($15), made with lychee infused vodka. A recent renovation confirmed the Tonga Room is here to stay. Join storm at the Hurricane Bar with live music Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday. 8:15 pm -11pm, $5 entertainment charge; Friday & Saturday, 8 p.m. – 12:30 am, $7 entertainment charge. Yes, there is a happy hour, weekdays, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., with Happy Hour Buffet, $10 per person, and one drink minimum.
9 Anchor Drive
Emeryville, CA 94608
Overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Emeryville Marina, Trader Vic’s has been a long time go-to spot for world food and drink flavors with a focus on tastes of the tropics. Since its opening in 1972, Trader Vic’s tropical interior, international menu and exotic drinks and cocktails set the mood of being transported to a Caribbean island. The ambiance and tiki-bar vibe of the place gets you right into the mood for drinks often remembered as poolside pleasures. The legend goes that Trader Vic Bergeron created the Original Mai Tai back in 1944, and went on to create more than 200 distinctive cocktails. These days, Emeryville Trader Vic’s offers a slew of cocktail sensations including Tropical Drinks such as the Potted Parrot ($11.50), light rum, curacao and juices, Vic’s Grog ($9), a blended concoction of dark rum, pineapple and passion fruit, or indulge with a friend in the Tiki Bowl ($16), a drink for two, made with dark and light rums, brandy and almond, mixed with orange juice. Take a peek at the cocktail menu here. Try the place out at happy hour, Tuesday 4 p.m. – close, Wednesday – Friday, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. & 9 p.m. – close.
6150 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Affectionately called a dive bar, Trad’r Sam’s is the San Francisco tiki bar of choice for its many fans. Trad’r Sam’s is known for delicious drinks at inexpensive prices and a pseudo-tiki-Polynesian décor with definite dive appeal that attracts folks comfortable with its laid back style. A Trad’r Sam’s favorite is the Scorpion Bowl ($14), the “must have” drink to share with friends is meant for four and promises to pack a wallop. With most drinks in the $5.25 – $6.50 range, including the classics Zombie ($6.50), Hurricane ($5.50), and Singapore Sling ($5.50), you can have good fun and enjoy a cheap date too, so everybody’s happy. Note: Trad’r Sam’s takes cash only, so come prepared. ‘Nuff said.
1304 Lincoln Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
As Alameda’s first and only Tiki Lounge, Forbidden Island offers the classic and contemporary cocktails that were missing around town. With a wide range of cocktail classics, traditional tiki bar favorites, house specials, premium rums and tiki bar tributes, Forbidden Island has got you covered, whatever taste you crave. If a thirst for traditional tikis brought you in, a Classic Mai Tai ($11) – “the most famous tropical drink in the world,” and made with aged Appleton Estate rum from Jamaica – should satisfy, or go for the Island Mai Tai ($10), with pineapple juice and dark rum, but perhaps a classic Rum Runner ($10) is more your style. Check the website for Forbidden Island’s extensive menu range of drink options. A short menu of classic fried appetizers and snacks is available too. Introduce yourself at Forbidden Island’s Happy Hour, all night Monday and every weekday from 5 pm – 7 pm. Enjoy your libations along with DJ spins and live tunes every weekend and during the week.
1099 Middlefield Road
Redwood City, CA 94063
Latin flavors define Milagros, a popular Peninsula dining spot that pays special attention to the food it serves, and features organic produce, hormone, cage and antibiotic free poultry and beef from top ranchers across the nation. The restaurant cocktail menu “is based on flavor profiles,” which must mean something special. Tropical drinks include the all time favorite, Pina Colada ($9) “blended icy smooth,” Mai Tai 1944 ($13) with Ron Zacapa aged rum, locally produced orgeat, pressed lime and orange curaco, or a Hula Girl ($9), chinaco blanco, guava, pineapple, and lime juices plus a berry cube. Happy hour at Milagros is Monday – Friday, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., when a Margarita de Casa is just $5/glass or $25/pitcher.