Before they moved from Florida to New Mexico, Dave and Valerie were the tiki masters among our friends. We were the ones with a boat, they were the ones with the tiki bar, and who could say which was more essential? But we do know which is more accessible. When you’re looking for a home base for summertime social gatherings that’s easy and relatively inexpensive to buy or build, the tiki bar is it.
The bar itself–which can be as simple as a ready made all-in-one piece of themed furniture or as elaborate as a built-in bamboo gazebo with a thatched roof and outdoor kitchen appliances–is more than a prop. It provides a space for cocktail preparation, a surface to put your drink while you’re talking, a serving station for snacks–it’s the touchstone for the whole party. And because it looks like an island artifact, it puts everyone in the mood for a good time.
If you’re serious about building a tiki bar that will last as a fixture in your back yard, here are a few thoughts about materials and construction worth considering:
1. Once you’ve chosen a plan, construct your tiki bar with bamboo or eucalyptus poles, which are fast-growing hardwoods and therefore more sustainable than other woods.
2. Rolled bamboo is beautiful for the front of the bar. Bamboo slats also make a nice trim. These are harvested from the outer skin and wall of large diameter bamboo and then sanded to make a flattened surface. You can find these materials and others on the amaZulu website.
3. Don’t forget the thatched roof. Once you construct a frame, you can attached pre-woven thatch panels, which are much less expensive than hiring a specialist to weave it for you. If a roof structure is more than you want to take on, there are some gorgeous, well-made thatch umbrellas on the market. Thatch umbrellas don’t trap hot air like typical fabric market umbrellas do, they they create cooler shade.
A backyard tiki bar will inspire you and your friends to cultivate a repertoire of refreshing summer cocktails. Since they moved, we still toast to Dave and Valerie with the fresh strawberry daiquiris and genuine Mai Tais they got us hooked on. There’s no shortage of new cocktail recipes coming out (some of my favorites can be found in Amy Stewart’s book The Drunken Botanist). Do you have a favorite summer cocktail we should all be mixing behind our tiki bars? Share in the comments!