Scorpion bowl at Shanghai Village
Chinese restaurants have a long history of preserving the tiki tradition. Still, Shanghai Village in Bethesda doesn’t exactly scream tropical fun. It’s a nice little family-friendly hole-in-the-wall eatery, and hey, it’s in downtown Bethesda, perhaps the most Un-Dude, least tiki place in the D.C. area. But open the menu and feast your eyes on a range of tiki classics: The Scorpion bowl (a mix of brandy and rums sized for four) arrives in a ceramic vessel covered with painted hula girls and with long straws, allowing tipplers to sip from across the table. When I tasted it, I may have rolled my eyes: It was all sweetness and froth, kid’s stuff—a lot of fruit juice, a tiny trace of almondy orgeat. “This is not boozy at all,” I sighed to my friends, a few sips before I ceased feeling my face. -- M. Carrie Allan
4929 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda. 301-654-7788. $13.95.
The Pineapple of Hospitality at Archipelago
There is probably nothing that says "tiki" more than using hot-pink foot-long straws to slurp a ridiculously potent mix of rum and fruit juice from a hollowed-out pineapple. Even on a patio at the corner of 13th and U streets NW, listening to buses rumble by, slurping down this drink makes it easy to picture yourself in the islands – if only you could shut your ears as well as your eyes. "Rum" and "Secrets" are the only ingredients listed on Archipelago's cocktail menu, but really, what more do you need to know about this drink, which is designed for a couple to share. The cored pineapple is filled with ice and a lot of rum, and is topped by the flaming shell of a lime. With two people sucking away on their straws, the cocktail tends to disappear much faster than you expect. Take the advice of my colleague Carrie Allan and use your straws to scrape some rum-soaked flesh off the walls of the pineapple after you've finished the drink. -- Fritz Hahn
1201 U St. NW. 202-627-0794. archipelagobardc.com. $25.
Suffering Bastard at the Columbia Room
A stereotypical tiki drink consists of rum and some assortment of tropical fruit juices in an elaborate ceramic mug with an umbrella or other garnish. But the Columbia Room puts a slightly different spin on a tiki classic. Derek Brown's cocktail den typically serves the Suffering Bastard in a highball glass, with Bulleit bourbon, Green Hat gin, Boker’s bitters, rich simple syrup and a refreshing splash of lime juice and house-made ginger-vanilla soda. The result delivers an earthy flavor with a little bit of spice for those who enjoy the taste of ginger. It’s topped off with lemon, lime and a full mint sprig. -- Macy Freeman
124 Blagden Alley NW. 202-316-9396. columbiaroomdc.com. $14. -- Macy Freeman
The Zombie at Copycat Co.
The Zombie is listed on Copycat Co.'s menu as "the world's most potent potion." And, true to its name, it will go straight to your
braaaaiiiiiinnnssss head. Made of a blend of rums, grapefruit juice, lime, and a "zombie mix" that includes falernum, grenadine and cinnamon, among other ingredients, the drink is served in a warrior-shaped tiki mug with a garnish of mint. Since its invention in 1934, the drink has long been renowned for its deceptively fruity taste, masking the amount of alcohol it contains. Copycat Co. is on the second floor, so be careful on those stairs after you've had one or two of these. -- Maura Judkis
1110 H St. NE. 202-241-1952. copycatcompany.com. $12.
Zombie Circa 1934 at Farmers Fishers Bakers
Even with its flower hat, the glowering mug warns that you’re on dangerous terrain. Of course, if you know any tiki history, you’ll know that already: Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber), the Zombie’s inventor, limited customers to two each. Even two seems like a recipe for madness here. In spite of all the crushed ice, the Zombie Circa 1934 is a booze bomb, with a punch of bittering absinthe powering through the tang of the citrus, the spice of falernum and the funk of multiple rums. A faint tease of grenadine tries to make you relax and feel safe, but don’t be fooled. You may be lounging near the Georgetown Waterfront, but a couple of these and you’ll be ready to jump into an active volcano. -- M. Carrie Allan
3000 K St. NW. 202-298-8783. farmersfishersbakers.com. $15.
Pusser's Painkiller at Pusser's Caribbean Grille
Most of the trappings of a tiki bar suggest Hawaii and the South Pacific, but there's no escaping that most of the ingredients in the most famous tropical drinks, and sometimes the recipes themselves, come from the Caribbean. A prime example is the Painkiller, a relatively young cocktail invented at a beachside bar in the British Virgin Islands in the 1970s. It's nothing more than a pina colada sweetened with orange juice and topped with shaved nutmeg. But made with Pusser's rum, which uses the old British Navy recipe, it's a well-balanced drink that hides the alcohol well, making it an acceptable addition to the tiki canon. The textbook example of a Painkiller in these parts is in Annapolis, where the dockside bar at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel is a franchised restaurant called Pusser's Caribbean Grille. The menu is heavy on strong, sweet punches and vodka drinks (not very tiki of them), but the centerpiece is a choice between Painkiller #2 ($7), Painkiller #3 ($8) and Painkiller #4 ($9). The only difference is how strong you want it to be, or how much you want to avoid falling in the water. -- Fritz Hahn
80 Compromise St., Annapolis. 410-626-0004. pussersusa.com. $7-$9.
Molokai Mule at Bar Charley
Whipping up a standard tiki drink might involve a bartender measuring and mixing two or three spirits and an equal number of juices and syrups, not to mention the bitters, fruit slices and colorful garnishes. At a busy happy hour, elaborate preparations can gridlock a bar in the blink of an eye. That's why Bar Charley's team decided early on to put several tiki drinks on tap, which makes them faster to serve when the crowds stack up at the narrow bar. The best is the Molokai Mule, which is half booze (equal parts sweet rum, dark rum, and brandy) and half juice (orange and lime juices), plus orgeat and plenty of bitters. The strong dose of citrus gives the cocktail a richer body, and does very well hiding all the booze – there's some tang and warmth in the finish, but that’s about it. Served in a ceramic hula girl glass, a Molokai Mule can be one of the cheapest tiki drinks in town: It costs $5 between 5 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and $5 all night on Monday. -- Fritz Hahn
1825 18th St. NW. 202-627-2183. barcharley.com. $8.95.
Coco Face at Jack Rose
Hot peppers aren't a common taste in classic tiki drinks, but Ancho Reyes ancho chili liqueur, a key component in mezcal and tequila cocktails, is the secret weapon in Jack Rose's original Coco Face. The rest of the drink is similar to a pina colada, with pineapple and coconut, but there are significant tweaks: The use of Demerara rum to provide molasses notes; a cinnamon-chili honey syrup spice; and the Ancho Reyes, which sidles up to the rum and provides a pleasing amount of heat without overwhelming the essential tiki flavors. The tiki bar, on the rear of the building's rooftop deck, is only open Thursdays through Saturdays. -- Fritz Hahn
2007 18th St. NW. 202-588-7388. jackrosediningsaloon.com. $13.