With Tiki Caliente 9 only a day away, I figured what better way to kick off 4 days of non-stop tiki than with a visit to one of the most famous and best tiki bars on the planet? I scheduled our flight from Dallas to arrive in L.A. on Wednesday, when the Ti opens for the week. Even better still, the day before we left, I found out another round of the famous Ray’s Mistake tiki mugs would be released that afternoon. Talk about a fortunate coincidence!
Todd in particular was very excited, as this would be his first visit to the Tiki Ti. For those of you who don’t know much of its storied history, it was the brainchild of Ray Buhen, one of Don The Beachcomber’s original great mixologists. Though Ray is no longer with us, his cocktails and spirit live on thanks to the dedication of his son and grandson, Mike Sr. and Mike Jr. The bar itself retains a lot of the original magic from the Tiki heyday, in part because so little of it has changed. The bar is TINY – with only 12 stools and a few tables, it can get packed in there very quickly. The staff follows strict occupancy rules, so if it fills to capacity, you will be one of many waiting in a line outside to get in. We were a little overzealous about this, so we showed up around 3:15 PM, and no one was around. Luckily, the wait went by quickly, thanks to some other tiki-philes who also showed up early.
One of the people we met outside the bar was the designer of the Ray’s Mistake mug, Thor (aka Tom Thordarson). I have to give a major shout out to him, because he VERY patiently answered all my burning questions about how the mugs go from design to actual mass production. I wish I could detail it all here, but it’s a LOT of information!
Finally, 4PM came, and we went in to start our drink-a-thon. We grabbed seats at the bar, and our friends Greg and Kelsi from Modern Tiki Lounge came and met up with us as well. The only thing better than tiki drinks at a great tiki bar is to enjoy them with great ohana! There are over 90 different menu drinks at the Tiki Ti, so you will definitely find something you love. The Ray’s Mistake (so named because Ray Buhen created it by mistake while trying to make a different drink) is far and away the most popular drink on the menu, and with good reason – it’s delicious. I highly recommend you start with this one. Some of the menu drinks come with a special surprise, such as the Blood & Sand, and the Ooga Booga. These are fun to order, because fellow bar patrons can get in on the act, and make the drink experience more fun for you. If you find yourself REALLY stuck and unsure of what to drink, spin “The Wheel” and try something new! Oh, and last, but not least, be to sure to BRING CASH!! They don’t take cards. They do have an ATM, but who wants to lose their seat at the bar for that?
Everywhere you look, there are all kinds of tchotchkes and interesting things on the ceilings, walls, and everywhere in between. License plates, photos, love notes, and autographs from patrons past and present can be seen all over the place. The bar area has mugs galore, swizzles, and other fun items, as well. It’s a feast for the eyes, any way you look at it, but it’s also a testament to the bar’s longevity, and to the love and appreciation people have bestowed upon it since its inception.
The afternoon went by WAY too fast. So many drinks were consumed (as well as bowls of their free bar snack mix…omnomnom), and I walked outside for fresh air a few times. Each time, Mike Buhen, who was manning the merch mug table outside, kept encouraging me to take pens and swizzles, and who am I to say no? Without a doubt, he and Mike Jr. really have done Ray proud – The Tiki Ti is something very, VERY special. I find it curious that I have been only twice – both times were on a Wednesday, and there just happened to be a mug release both days. My first visit yielded a Tiki Diablo mug purchase, and this one resulted a Thor mug purchase. Are the Tiki gods giving me a sign?
Todd and I had the best time – we were very sad when it was time to go, but we were happy that not only did we get to hang at one of the best tiki bars still standing, but that we had a great time with wonderful friends . I have some fabulous memories, a cool new mug, and a bunch of pens and swizzles (Thanks, Mike!) to remember this day by.
Want To Visit? Yes, you do!
4427 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027