Umbrella drinks are coming back big.
Trader Vic’s closed in Bellevue in 2008. Don’t remember? Neither does anyone else, which may help explain its quick demise, after just two years in Lincoln Square.
But what do you know? Tiki is back in all its kitschy, tacky faux-Polynesian glory.
The new hotel bar Pennyroyal in downtown Seattle will start Tiki Sunday in April. But you don’t need to wait that long. Below are 10 bars for those beach umbrella drinks — just in time to welcome in spring.
To the uninitiated, some words of advice: All those big tropical spices and juices mask how potent these cocktails are.
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The Zombie, for instance, includes three to four ounces of rum, often at 151 proof. Down a few of these and you may stumble out like one of the “The Walking Dead.” Sun Liquor and Rob Roy limit patrons to two per customer. Other bars, though, may not. Pace yourself.
And yes, those tiki glasses are cool, so cool they’re arguably the second most stolen bar ware after the Moscow Mule copper mug. (Liberty on Capitol Hill has a $100 reward for the safe return of its ceramic tiki kitty vessel.)
Bartenders won’t tell you, but they reserve their antique and favorite tiki mugs for patrons who sit at the bar, where they can keep an eye on them.
But enough of that. Here’s a toast to the late Vic “The Trader” Bergeron who helped introduce the mai tai to locals when Trader Vic’s opened its first franchised location in Seattle in1940. (It sadly closed in 1991.)
Long live Trader Vic’s.
Most Seattle bars run tiki night only once a week. The owners behind Ocho and Hazlewood built an entire bar behind that concept in January. This Ballard spot also features cheap island and street-food grub (under $10). 2319 N.W. Market St. (206- 566-6181, Web page pending)
Aptly named, this Capitol Hill den goes all out for tiki every Wednesday, using fresh pineapple and coconut. (Once you’ve tasted fresh juice, especially in a piña colada, you’ll never want to go back to that pasteurized stuff in a can again.) Mark your calendar for March 18, when Blair Reynolds of Hale Pele in Portland, one of the best tiki bars on the West Coast, takes over Rumba from 5-9 p.m. Expect lots of fire. 1112 Pike St. (206-583-7177 or rumbaonpike.com)
Most restaurateurs would choose a taco or tiki theme to drum up business on a slow Tuesday. But leave it to the clever folks behind Essex to think: street food, fun drinks. Why not both? Hence, Taco and Tiki Tuesday. 1421 N.W. 70th St. (206-724-0471 or essexbarseattle.com)
If you’re going to do tiki only on the first Tuesday of every month, you better make every appearance count. Sun Liquor, the bar, not the distillery, has not only some of the best tiki deals (many $7-$9) but also makes the best Nui Nui, a 1930s Don the Beachcomber classic. Bar manager Cale Green makes his with Angostura rum with fresh lime and orange juice, rounded out with baking spices and Angostura bitters. 607 Summit Ave. E. (206-860-1130 or sunliquor.com)
This acclaimed Belltown bar does tiki Monday, putting a twist on some rum drinks by subbing in sherry, scotch and aquavit. The most original drink list. 2332 Second Ave. (206-956-8423 or robroyseattle.com )
And the rest:
Tacoma Cabana is the best tiki bar in Western Washington if you want to venture south. Hula Hula in Lower Queen Anne features $4 off on tiki drinks during happy hour (4-6 p.m. daily), the cheapest in Seattle. Tiki’s in Kirkland and A Very Taki Tiki Bar & Grill in Edmonds are more about the kitschy décor than actually serving decent beach drinks. And Ocho will continue to do Tiki Monday, even though its owner opened a tiki bar, Hotel Albatross, next door.