The Maka Hiki Lounge by Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge isn’t a tongue twister designed to challenge your sobriety; it’s Hong Kong’s newest ode to rum drinks.
You could be forgiven for not knowing that tiki bars – you know, driftwood, little umbrellas, grass skirt figurines, and pirate puns – first came to popularity in the US in the 1950s when Ernest Gantt (aka Donn Beach) opened his Polynesian restaurant in California. The concept, controversial as it may be today, combined the suitably exotic persona of the South Pacific with cocktails laced with fresh juices and soul-soothing rum.
In a similar fashion, bartender Max Traverse was the pioneer of the contemporary tiki bar concept in Hong Kong, opening local cocktail icon Honi Honi Tiki Cocktail Lounge in 2012 and ensuring that the classic tiki recipes of old remained preserved and respected, while also fostering the city’s new-found passion for rum with annual festivals that introduced the city’s ‘drinkership’ to new spirits from far off and exotic locales.
It’s this passion that had led Max to create Maka Hiki Lounge, a new tiki pop-up at the Upper House. Open until May 31 at the hotel’s The Lawn space, the concept bar delivers a decidedly sophisticated take on the classic tiki bar – think of it as Tiki 2.0 – with an elegant, sun-kissed outdoor setting and an extensive menu of drinks – some new and some favourites from Hono Honi – all of which are inspired by the idyllic atolls and islets of the South Pacific and the Caribbean.
However, this is a new take on tiki; for example, Maka Hiki will be serving light breakfasts and daily specials from 8 am, including gourmet coffee, teas from homegrown brand Plantation by teakha and fresh “12 Noon” juices. By lunch, the pop up’s culinary team is serving poké miso cones, Cubano pulled pork sandwiches, codfish acras, Jamaican jerk chicken skewers, and mini BBQ pineapple beef burgers.
As the sun sets over our fair city, the libations flow, including classic tiki drinks like the Mai Tai, and original Maka Hiki concoctions like the tequila-laced Tik Tok Tiki, and The Dead Shaman, with baijiu and homemade falernum. There are also Hawaiian and local craft beers from Moonzen and Young Master, and a roster of intriguing events planned, ranging from cocktail workshops to cigar and rum pairing sessions.
Yes, tiki bars have been receiving quite a bit of flak of late, with some labelling them cultural appropriation and others calling for a rethink of the concept. However, Maka Hiki Lounge is an intriguing first step towards the reinvention of the classic tiki bar, one that substitutes kitsch with elegance while still letting lovers of classic tiki cocktails travel the exotic South Seas without having to leave Admiralty.
And for that, we say mahalo.
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