How Mad Men Helped Revive The Tiki Cocktail

If you missed the debut of Mad Men when it aired in the summer of 2007, you won't have to watch too many episodes to see how fabulous the drinks of the 1960s were. According to Home Bar Girl, in the very first episode, ad-man Don Draper takes a client out for drinks, and she orders a "special Mai Tai." The drink arrives in what looks like a ceramic bamboo mug garnished with a decorative pineapple slice, cherry, and a vibrant paper umbrella.

The show was wildly successful; it ultimately went on for seven seasons and won five Golden Globes (via IMDb). According to Eater, Mad Men's popularity brought with it an interest in all things mid-century, not to exclude the go-to drinks of the era. There were so many beverages consumed on the show that the AMC website even put together a Mad Men cocktail guide so viewers can recreate the drinks at home. Several fruity cocktails that would fit into the tiki category, like Zombies and Blue Hawaiians, made the list,

Tiki culture died off in the 70s due in part to the new counterculture's resistance to all things their parents enjoyed (via Eater), but the kitschy, tropical movement regained popularity after Mad Men. Not only were people enjoying tiki tipples at home more, but tiki bars started popping up around the country again. In the end, it turned out one of Don Draper's best advertisements may have been one he never even got a commission for.

Where did tiki get its stateside start?

In America, tiki can be traced back pre-Mad Men era to 1934. According to Men's Journal, it was one person's passion for Polynesian culture that sparked the tiki scene in the states. Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, later renamed Donn Beach, was known as Don the Beachcomber and is often considered the originator of tiki. After touring the South Pacific, Beach opened a bar in Los Angeles and decorated it with stuff he found on the beach, like driftwood and fishing nets. The bar, also called Don the Beachcomber, is considered the birthplace of tiki.

Of course, you need more than just a bamboo bar and some old nets to create the total tiki experience. Namely, you need drinks! A lot of drinks have been grouped under the paper umbrella of "tiki," but elements like fruit, rum, and a laid-back, island vibe seem to play a major part (via Washington Post).

Any cocktail worth its salt (or sugar) is shrouded in controversy, and the most popular tiki drink, the Mai Tai, is no different. According to Eater, Victor J. Bergeron, known as Trader Vic, claimed he created the drink for Tahitian friends who tried the new concoction and responded enthusiastically, "Maita'i roa a'e," meaning "out of this world!" Conversely, Beach claims Trader Vic's recipe was based on one of his own. Of course, we're happy to agree with either origin story, as long as it's accompanied with a round of sweet, fruity Mai Tais!