Launched in 2012, Texas Tiki Week was founded by members of the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and is a week-long celebration of tiki cocktails and culture. Bars, restaurants and brands unite for a week filled with an an exotic mix of educational, social and philanthropic events. Texas Tiki Week events are predominantly held in Austin with some satellite events offered in other cities across Texas.
In 1934 a Texas native by the name of Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt opened a restaurant in Hollywood, California, featuring tropical décor inspired by his recent world travels. His nom-de-tiki was Donn Beach, and his Don the Beachcomber restaurants would forever change the landscape of American gastronomy. From the 1930s and early 40s the glamour of the tiki palace proved irresistible to the denizens of Hollywood, and by the postwar era tiki would find a truly national audience.
Against the combined depravities of Prohibition, the Depression, and a World War, Americans were thirsty for not just a drink, but also a vacation. Through the magic of restaurant design, customers could be transported to the far-off exotic East, without ever leaving their Chicago suburb. Even in Texas, the tiki aesthetic extended not just to the glamorous restaurants—Trader Vic’s in Dallas; Don the Beachcomber in Houston; Steak Island in Austin—but to retail centers and residential developments, such as Tahitian Village outside of Bastrop. By the 1960s Americans could get a taste of the tropics in just about every corner of the Union. Tiki was everywhere.
The luau wouldn’t last forever, however, and as the 70s and 80s wore on, tiki lost its luster, becoming a caricature of itself, the butt of its own joke. After a very long run, tiki was tacky, and today very few of the mid-century tiki establishments remain. Though the old tiki bars are mostly gone, we are fortunate that the cocktail cuisine of the tiki era is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. In nouveau-tiki bars across the country, and in celebrations such as Texas Tiki Week, the classic tiki drinks and culture live on. Come join us for a taste of the tropics!