Las Vegas’ Golden Tiki is a magic kingdom of cocktails, one of the top authentic tiki bars in the country serving exotic tropical drinks made with traditional recipes (plus Dole Whip) in an invitingly kitschy South Seas atmosphere.
Location and Setting
Located in The Center at Spring Mountain — a fancy name for a Spring Mountain Road strip mall about two miles from Las Vegas Boulevard — Golden Tiki welcomes “explorers” to a tropical fantasy world straight out of Disney (reference the decor of the Enchanted Tiki Room plus a few Vegas twists, like video poker games at the bar). Stepping through the door immediately transports you to a world of pirates, mermaids and headhunters — all themed areas of a bar that is softly lit by lanterns and candles and decorated wall-to-wall with tiki idols, thatched roofs, bamboo panels, and a clutter of tropical ephemera, all under a fiber-optic night sky.
The level of detail is really incredible, up to and including the talking tiki idol over the bar — it’s a labor of love from owner Branden Powers, a Las Vegas event planner best known for organizing underground raves. Leopard-print booths are adorned with velvet paintings of nudes (Vegas!), and there are plenty of intimate spaces to retreat for conversation and cuddling, notably the backroom lair of Captain William Tobias Faulkner — WTF, for short — whose animated skeleton occasionally pipes up to tell the tale of his ill-fated attempt to steal a golden tiki from the mysterious Skull Island.
The immersive experience extends to the guests: tiki is a subculture that brings out fans dressed in their best Hawaiian shirts, but don’t let the casual garb fool you — many are demanding connoisseurs of tropical drinks. Tiki has a long history dating back to the days of Trader Vic and the legendary Don the Beachcomber, and the original recipes for drinks like the mai tai have been carefully preserved.
The Golden Tiki honors this heritage while still managing to have plenty of fun with creative concoctions of its own. You can get a classic Trader Vic’s mai tai (rum, orange curaçao, fresh lime juice, orgeat, and simple syrup), a Caribbean classic like a Painkiller or Dark n Stormy, or indulge in a creative Hemingway’s Ruin, a blend of Caña Brava rum, maraschino liqueur, lime juice, and a mix of grapefruit and cinnamon.
With a group? It’s hard to resist the giant Scorpion Bowl and Zombie Punch, both authentic Polynesian tiki classics. To challenge your palate, try some rhum agricole, a distinctive French Caribbean rum made directly from sugar cane rather than molasses that star in the Golden Tiki’s barrel-aged cocktails and tableside Martinique Ti Punch service.
The one thing that’s not on the menu is food, but guests are welcome to order Chinese take-out (Golden Tiki is located in Vegas’ Chinatown) from one of the restaurants in the shopping strip; Fat Dumpling will even deliver it to your table if you ask. That tip came from our exotic cocktail waitress Asia Delucia, a former model who proved to be a knowledgeable guide to the Golden Tiki’s history and libations. Her suggestions were all winners, notably that we had to try the Dole Whip, a frozen pineapple treat normally only found at Disney World and in Hawaii — and never topped with dark rum as it is here.
Most Golden Tiki cocktails reasonably priced for Vegas and especially considering the potent, high-quality ingredients and from-scratch preparations. If you want to keep your fancy tiki mug, that will cost you more. Come at happy hour (Monday-Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.) for $5 mai tai.Entertainment covers the waterfront from burlesque and mermaid shows to live bands and movie screenings.