12 Best Cocktail Books For Tropical Drinks

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There's something powerful about a tropical cocktail. One sip of a good Mai Tai and you can feel your troubles fading away as you picture yourself lounging on an island — even at your hometown bar. Inspiring, fun, and oh-so-delicious, it's no wonder that we love tropical drinks so much. In fact, over the past few years, tiki culture has experienced a revival, with themed bars making a comeback.

The origins of tiki culture take us back to the 19th century when Americans became interested in the South Pacific, Hawaiian, and Polynesian cultures. As for tiki bars, we have Ernest Gantt to thank. In 1934, he opened Don the Beachcomber, a California bar inspired by his Caribbean and South Pacific travels. Soon enough, Victor Bergeron decided to give him some healthy competition with Trader Vic's, which remains a famous tiki chain today. These bars, and their successors, were the birthplaces of countless classic tiki cocktails, many of them rum-based, including the zombie, the mai tai, and all sorts of punches.

Tiki bars thrived in the post-World War II era but lost popularity over time. They have faced controversy too, due to elements of cultural appropriation and colonialism present in many bars. However, as tiki bars experience a modern revival, bartenders and consumers can approach tiki with sensitivity. With this book selection, we explore tropical drinks through several lenses: From historic to contemporary, from amateur to expert, and most of all, with love for their enduring power.

'Let's Get Tropical' by Georgi Radev

During his time at London's Mahiki bar, Georgi Radev fell in love with the tropical and tiki lifestyle and everything it entails — rum, easy living, and making other people happy, which he considers to be the essence of hospitality culture. He decided to write "Let's Get Tropical" right after he opened his bar, Laki Kane, also in London, and was hopping all over the world, sharing his knowledge on tropical drinks. Inspired by a beachside vacation, he took notes that would eventually become the knowledge and recipes shared in this tome: Drinks learned throughout his career, travels, and time behind the bar.

True to his mission, Radev's approach in this book is friendly and easygoing. He includes an easy-to-follow introduction on the rum production process, as well as 50 recipes that range from classics to contemporary creations. We love the classic twists on iconic cocktails, like the reimagined mai tai and daiquiri, as well as the useful illustrations that guide you through the quantities to use in each recipe.

Find "Let's Get Tropical" on Amazon here.

'The Home Bar Guide to Tropical Cocktails' by Kelly Reilly and Tom Morgan

Kelly "Hiphiphula" Reilly and "Trader" Tom Morgan are here to prove that home bars — specifically, home tiki bars — are where the magic's at with this fun book, compiling more than 150 original recipes. The duo spent years bartending at home bars all over the United States, including The Rumpus Room in California, where they worked every Wednesday for years. The result of these tropical nights is a collection of creative concoctions like the Ivre Poire (Drunken Pear), the Zombie Jamboree, and the Kona's Curse. Along with each recipe is the drink's origin story, offering a peek behind the curtain.  

Images show tropical drinks in all their glory, as well as some of the most stunning home bars the pair have visited over the years. We appreciate their respect for the home bar as a place where the amateur bartender can have a blast yet prepare a seriously good drink. Case in point: They include excellent tips to organize your bar and how to substitute spirits if you don't have them on hand.

Find "The Home Bar Guide to Tropical Cocktails" on Amazon here.

'Minimalist Tiki' by Matt Pietrek and Carrie Smith

Matt Pietrek, also known as Cocktail Wonk, is a rum-obsessed, award-nominated author, thanks to his cocktail and spirits-themed work. Joining forces with his wife, Carrie Smith, he brings tiki to the 21st-century home bar with "Minimalist Tiki." Born from a 2015 post on Cocktail Wonk called "Minimalist Tiki: What you truly need to make the classics at home," the tome seeks to make tiki drinks achievable and approachable, allowing the home bartender to feel comfortable enough to start working with the basic ingredients and elements, and eventually work their way up to more complex ones.

Perfect for those already familiar with tiki culture, "Minimalist Tiki" delightfully dives into nerdy topics — is the piña colada tiki? what ingredients are most often included in tiki recipes? —, guides you on the ideal equipment for your home bar, from blenders to tiki cups, and of course, dives deep into the world of rum. Recipes come courtesy of contemporary tiki masters like Brian Maxwell, who works in New Orleans and Pittsburgh, and Marie King from the legendary Tonga Hut, as well as some creations by Pietrek himself. Beautiful photography makes the tiki journey all the more enjoyable.

Find "Mininalist Tiki" on Wonkpress here.

'Rum Made Me Do It' by Lance Mayhew

Taking his experience as a mixologist and drinks writer, Lance J. Mayhew, a Certified Specialist of Spirits, shares his love of rum in this beautifully illustrated book. Mayhew's comprehensive yet clear, friendly writing makes his introduction to the world of rum easily digestible, leading you along the spirit's pre-Caribbean origins, production process, and many fascinating styles. Through the book's 60 recipes, Mayhew also explores rum's versatility, showcasing timeless recipes like the Cuba Libre and dark and stormy, to rum-based variations on classics, like the rum Collins and rum old fashioned, as well as innovations like the Mayhew's World's Best Hot Buttered Rum. Each recipe includes a brief story, easy-to-follow instructions, insightful tips, and lovely illustrations by Ruby Taylor. Fans of the duo will also enjoy "Whiskey Made Me Do It."

Find "Rum Made Me Do It" on Amazon here.

'Polynesiacs: Tiki at Home' by Tiki Tom Tom

Most of us have one or two tiki mugs in our home bar, but some dream of going the whole way: A full-blown tiki bar with bamboo panels, a palapa roof, hanging lamps, and of course, all of the mugs. For those readers, there is "Polynesiacs," the work of author and photographer Tiki Tom-Tom. Born Tom Jaynes, Tiki Tom-Tom is a tiki-loving traveler who has built his own tiki home bar in Durham, North Carolina, which he named Queegueg's Coffin, and the perfect guide on this tropical journey.

Along these pages, you'll find the result of his travels across the continental United States, photographing 75 home tiki bars. Highlights include stories like that of Jonathan and Allison, whose unique Atlanta home bar blends tiki and horror; or Bryce and Xanthia from Houston, who tried a mai tai so spectacular they felt compelled to build their own home bar so they could recreate it. Tom-Tom's whimsical storytelling and immersive photos are the perfect inspiration for those who dream of having their little tropical paradise at home.

Find "Polynesiacs: Tiki at Home" on Wonkpress here.

'Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink' by Victor Jules Trader Vic Bergeron

San Francisco-born Victor Bergeron, best known as Trader Vic, is one of the must-know names in tiki culture. In the thirties, he opened an Oakland burger joint called Hinky Dink's, which he transformed into a tiki joint to compete with Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber, essentially the creator of tiki culture. Eventually, it was Bergeron who created the mai tai — at least, where it got its name and fame — and opened a chain of restaurants that would bear his name where you can, in fact, still sip this concoction.

Given this background, it's safe to say that Bergeron's1946 book is a jewel for hard-core tiki lovers who want to dive deep into the recipes of the post-war days. Featuring many rum-based cocktail and party food recipes, as well as tips on party etiquette, the book is also an opportunity to read Bergeron's colorful prose.

Find "Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink" on Amazon here.

'Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl' by David Wondrich

Right from the beginning of "Punch," cocktail historian David Wondrich lets you know that this is not a book about the history of frat party punch, nor does it have to do with the fruity punch served at fancy brunch. It is, in fact, a book that will tell you the story "of a means of communal inebriation," says Wondrich in the preface, and proceeds to guide us along with the historical accuracy and beautiful writing that he is known for.

Punch, explains Wondrich, was the first largely popular mixed drink, starting with a simple formula that could become more complex depending on who was making it and what ingredients they had available. Turns out, it was the British who were in this position, and Wondrich does an incredible job of introducing all sorts of whimsical characters, including Dr. Salmon, whose punch promised to "make the body profoundly helpful," and James Ashley, history's first celebrity mixology. Throughout the book, Wondrich explores more than 40 historic recipes, some dating back to the seventeenth century, analyzing their original formula and backstory, and suggesting practical tips to adapt them to our days.

Find "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl" on Amazon here.

'Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology' by Tamika Hall

A tribute to the legacy of African-American bartenders in cocktail culture, Tamika Hall's book "Black Mixcellence" shines the spotlight on the Black influence on mixology since colonial times. Growing up with parents who started dinner with cocktails and sipped Wrap & Nephew overproof rum, Hall seems destined to tell this story, highlighting the role of African-Americans in the history of rum production without glossing over the fact that slaves were employed in sugar cane production and celebrating their contributions to mixology and the hospitality industry.

Hall also compiles more than 70 recipes, including creations by some of today's most avant-garde Black and Brown mixologists, including Camille Wilson, Glendon Hartley, Joy Spence, and Vance Henderson. Like any mixology lover, we love the Prohibition-inspired design, the straightforward recipe style, and the creative photos accompanying each cocktail.

Find "Black Mixcellence" on Amazon here.

'Easy Tiki: A Modern Revival with 60 Recipes' by Chloe Frechette and Editors of Punch

We are in a second golden era of tiki, declares Chloe Frechette as she welcomes you to "Easy Tiki," making a case for the genre's easygoing, tropical cheer as a great form of escapism in our turbulent times. Tiki drinks, however, are usually not as easy to prepare, says Frenchette, which is why her mission is to simplify the recipes, making them more accessible to the average home bartender. Throughout the book, the author — teaming up with the editors of Punch — compiles a total of 60 recipes, combining 20 iconic concoctions and 40 modern ones, all of which average six ingredients. You'll also find tips on decorating each drink, stocking your home bar, and choosing the best rum for each drink, as well as a guide on where to find the tastiest tiki drinks across the country and a fun overview of tiki's history and its current second wave.

Find "Easy Tiki" on Amazon here.

'Tropical Standard' by Ben Schaffer and Garrett Richard

As Bar Manager of Sunken Harbor Club — a Brooklyn bar we happen to love — Garret Schaffer knows a thing or two about tropical cocktails. For "Tropical Standard," he teamed up with writer Ben Schaffer, fusing tropical libations with modern bar techniques. The book is divided into thoughtful chapters, starting with a deep introduction to the history of tropical drinks that delves into topics like the goodness of natural ingredients from the tropics, Cuban bars, and the birth of tiki culture, all the way to the opening of Sunken Harbor Club. Keep reading and the duo will guide you through the Foundations section — including Ice, Salt, and Tools — all the way to cocktails divided by preparation method. This book is a true dream for any mixology nerd eager to experiment and innovate, navigating categories such as Up — featuring the yellow bird and the Hemingway daiquiri — or Frozen – where you'll find a piña colada and a frosty buck. Things get even more interesting as you explore topics like cordials and punch syrups, with smart, entertaining writing throughout, plus images by Nico Schinco and lovely illustrations by Pearl Shen.

Find "Tropical Standard" on Amazon here.

'Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails' by Shannon Mustipher

Before launching Glady's Caribbean in Crown Heights in 2014, Shannon Mustipher was worried that customers wouldn't be open to rum, considering it too sweet. She embarked on a mission to create fresh, interesting cocktails using delicious rums, and as the bar evolved and progressed, so did her palate. She became fascinated with developing more complex tiki drinks, incorporating different spirits and techniques. Mustipher's passion for tiki's creative and evocative powers shines through these pages, as she explores almost a hundred recipes. As she shares how-to's for foundational cocktails — including the caipirinha and the iconic Floridita daiquiri —, essential tiki classics – like Don the Beachcomber's planter's punch and Trader Vic's mai tai –, and modern creations by today's tiki masters, like Brother Cleve, Mustipher shares their stories, plus her tips on the ideal spirits to use for each drink. Crowned with beautiful photography, this book earned Mustipher the 2020 IACP Award for Best New Title in Beer, Wine, and Spirits.

Find "Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails" on Amazon here.

'Smuggler´s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki' by Martin and Rebecca Cate

San Francisco's Smuggler's Cove is a must-visit for cocktail lovers thanks to its spectacular rum selection (the largest in the U.S.), fantastic cocktail menu, and immersive tropical decor. Owners Martin and Rebecca Cate capture the spirit of the bar and the world of tiki culture in this James Beard-winning book, exploring the origins of tiki, its revival, and the fascinating story of Smuggler's Cove itself. As a passionate rum collector, Martin is an incomparable guide to explaining the history and nuances of this spirit. As founder of one of the country's most renowned bars, he's also incredibly qualified to explain drink-making techniques, and offer tips on tiki decor and party ideas. Through more than 100 recipes, you'll travel along the history of tiki, from its origins and golden era to its revival and modern expression through the eyes of the Smuggler's Cove crew. Not only is this book a source of great tiki inspiration, but it's also a thoroughly enjoyable read, thanks to the well-crafted storytelling and beautiful imagery and illustrations.

Find "Smuggler's Cove" on Amazon here.


As we compiled this selection, we made sure to include a range of books that included classics like "Trader Vic's" and history-focused tomes like "Punch," as well as modern looks at tropical drinks, like "Minimalist Tiki." We also wanted to include books that cater to bartenders of different levels, from the home mixologist who will love "Easy Tiki," to the more seasoned bartender who will devour "Tropical Standard." We read book excerpts and online reviews to guarantee smooth sailing, no matter where in your tropical journey you are.