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Cheers! It's the summer of Tiki cocktails

Many Tiki establishments serve cocktails in Tiki mugs like these.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Many Tiki establishments serve cocktails in Tiki mugs like these.

The Test Pilot

1-1/2 oz dark Jamaican rum

3/4 oz white rum

1/2 oz orange liqueur

1/2 oz lime juice

1/2 oz


1 dash Angostura bitters

6 drops


Garnish: whatever you want, but make it awesome! Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with a big scoop of crushed ice. Shake and pour into a tiki mug, old-fashioned glass or wide brandy snifter without straining. Top with additional crushed ice (if desired) and garnish.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen of Tammy's Tastings mixes the Test Pilot. This Tiki drink dates back to the 1940s.

“This has been the summer of Tiki in metro Detroit,” Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings declared.

Most tiki drinks are rum-based (the mai-tai is probably the most well known). They were popularized at Polynesian-themed restaurants and clubs in the 1930's and 40's.

“There’s a pop-up Tiki bar at the Oakland (Art Novelty Co.) in Ferndale. Sugar House in Detroit re-branded themselves as the Sugar House Tiki Bar for the spring and they’ve just kept going because Tiki drinks are so good for the summer," Coxen noted.  "Another thing I discovered this summer –which has been around for a long time- is Chin’s (Chop Suey) in Livonia,” Coxen added. Chin’s salvaged the over-the-top Tiki décor from the long-closed Chin’s Tiki which opened in Detroit in 1967.

In honor of the “summer of Tiki,” Coxen mixed a Tiki cocktail called the Test Pilot. As usual in this series, we’re using a Michigan spirit, Ann Arbor Distilling’s Water Hill Rum. The garnishes included a fancy stirring stick, brandied cherries, sprigs of mint, a colorful straw, and an umbrella in a Tiki glass. While the recipe (see above) has a lot of ingredients, it’s not that difficult to make. Unlike many cocktails, this Tiki cocktail uses crushed ice, lots of it.


Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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