Tiki drinks will reign at Liz Lessner's newest project, Grass Skirt. In anticipation, mix up the ultimate summer cocktail at home.

Story by Faith Durand // Photos by Jodi Miller

Pineapple and rum, torchlight and swaying grass skirts--the tropical fever dream of classic tiki culture has deep local roots in Columbus.

"Tiki is part of Columbus' history," Carmen Owens of Columbus Food League explained over Mai Tais, in a home tiki bar festooned with carved mermaids and conch shells.

The bar belongs to Jim "Chisel Slinger" Robinson, a founder of tiki society The Fraternal Order of Moai. He and co-founder Matt "Kuku Ahu" Thatcher are lending their expertise to Grass Skirt, a forthcoming addition to the Liz Lessner-founded group of restaurants, and the only bar in Columbus that'll boast both a waterfall and a volcano.

This is pure South Seas fantasy, but it's founded on local memory thanks to Kahiki, the now-shuttered Polynesian restaurant that captivated tiki-lovers in Columbus and beyond.

"There are so many people in Columbus with fond memories of the Kahiki," Owens said. "Because of Kahiki, tiki is both exotic and local. It combines absurdism, kitsch, surrealism, memory--so many feel-good things in one place."

Grass Skirt won't open until later this summer, but it's not the only way to explore tiki's delights. Tiki drinks themselves brim with fruit, rum and a seductive balance of sweet and sour. Whether mixed over a bar or at home, they offer the fantasy of the tropics any time, any place.

(All recipes courtesy of Matt "Kuku Ahu" Thatcher of local tiki society The Fraternal Order of Moai and Carmen Owens of Grass Skirt.)

Carmen's Coconut Sangria
(Makes 1 drink)
Sangria, usually associated with Spanish cuisine, gets a tiki twist with coconut cream, rum and lime.

3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
8 oz. Carmen's Sangria, plus a spoonful of fruit (recipe follows)
3/4 oz. coconut cream, such as Coco Real
1 oz. Cruzan light rum
Pineapple wedge and fresh mint, to garnish

Combine all ingredients and stir with ice until chilled and blended. Pour into large wine goblet and garnish with pineapple wedge and mint sprig.

For Carmen's Sangria:
To make 3 cups (24 oz.) sangria, mix 1 (750ml) bottle inexpensive pinot grigio with 3 cups chopped pineapple, 1 cup chopped apple, 1 cup halved red grapes, 1 oz. fresh ginger slices and 2 oz. apricot brandy. Stir and refrigerate for 48 hours. Use within 3 days.

Pele's Curse
(Makes 1 drink)
Despite the name, we think Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lightning and volcanoes, smiles upon this playful drink infused with sweet pineapple, spicy pepper and soda pop syrup.

1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 oz. Cruzan vanilla rum
2 oz. pineapple-peppercorn-infused rum (recipe follows)
2 oz. vanilla soda, such as Boylan Natural Creme Vanilla Soda
3/4 oz. Tahitian Treat syrup (instructions follow)
Maraschino or Luxardo cherries, pineapple wedge and pineapple leaves, to garnish

Shake lime juice, vanilla rum, and infused light rum with crushed ice, and pour into a highball glass. Top with vanilla soda and stir, then drizzle slowly with Tahitian Treat syrup. Garnish with maraschino or Luxardo cherries, pineapple wedge, and pineapple leaves.

For Pineapple-Peppercorn-Infused Rum:
To make 3 cups (24 oz.) infused rum, mix 1 (750ml) bottle Cruzan light rum with 3 cups chopped pineapple and 1/4 cup lightly cracked black peppercorns. Stir and cover. Refrigerate at least 1 night and up to 4 weeks.
For Tahitian Treat Syrup:
To make 1 cup (8 oz.) syrup, pour 3 cups Tahitian Treat soda into a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup. Refrigerate for up to 4 weeks (add 1.5 oz. vodka to make it shelf-stable for a longer period of time).

Classic Mai Tai
(Makes 1 drink)
Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron invented this iconic drink in the '40s at his California restaurant.

3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. Ron Atlantico Private Cask rum
1/2 oz. orgeat syrup, such as one made by Torani or Monin
1/2 oz. Orange Curacao
Pineapple wedge, maraschino cherry and fresh mint, to garnish
Shake well with ice and pour into double old-fashioned glass. Serve with spent lime shell, and garnish with pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry, and a fresh mint sprig.

My Blue Hawaii
(Makes 1 drink)
What would a tiki bar be without one blue drink? This light, sweet cocktail is no gimmick, with a balanced mix of juice, brandy, and--of course--rum.

2 oz. Appleton Estate White rum
1/2 oz. Blue Curacao
1/2 oz. apricot brandy
3 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. rock candy syrup, such as Amoretti
3 dashes Fee Bros. Peach Bitters
Orange wheel and pineapple wedge, to garnish

Shake all ingredients with ice, pour into highball or hurricane glass, and garnish with orange wheel and pineapple wedge.

Ahu's Navy Grog #2
(Makes 1 drink)
This is a splendid example of the sweet-sour-strong balance in a tiki drink, with a sour lime and grapefruit start, a sweet maple middle, and a strong, alcoholic finish.

3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice or Simply Grapefruit
3/4 oz. Grade A maple syrup
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
2 oz. dark rum, such as Myers's Original Dark
Orange or lime wheel and fresh mint, to garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake well with ice. Pour into double old-fashioned glass and garnish with orange or lime wheel and mint sprig.