Back in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Tiki restaurants were a popular national phenomenon and one of the best known of the genre was Don the Beachcomber. The chain's Palm Springs location opened in March 1953 on the corner of Via Lola and North Palm Canyon in what's now the city's Uptown Design District.
In 2014, the restaurant's former location was remodeled and now houses multiple businesses including Bootlegger Tiki. "Don the Beachcomber was notorious as a bootlegger during prohibition and so as a nod to Don we named our bar Bootlegger Tiki," says Jaime Kowal, one of the owners.
For first-time visitors, Kowal suggests they try the Acid Drop, one of Bootlegger Tiki's original signature cocktails created by their Lead Bartender Chad Austin. "[It's] our riff on the infamous tiki cocktail the Mai Tai," says Kowal. "It’s inspired by tiki culture but you won’t find these flavors anywhere else!"
The drink is a rum blend with cane shrub, falernum, absinthe, citric acid, and bitters. To complement the complex flavors of their cocktails, Kowal recommends you try one of their salt and spice snacks such as banana chips, chili lemon peanuts, or sea salt and vinegar almonds. "We also make our own tasty Sriracha coconut popcorn which is always a crowd pleaser," she adds.
And a visit to Bootlegger Tiki truly is a blast from the past. "The space is inspired by tiki and so we wrapped the entire room in grasscloth, hung sailor’s rope and lanterns from the ceiling, sourced a few very popular and well-loved blowfish as lanterns, found some incredible brass dolphin door handles that we shipped from Indonesia, and created custom tabletops featuring postcards from around the world," says Kowal. "It’s truly a unique, eclectic, and intimate space.
Bootlegger Tiki, 1101 North Palm Canyon Drive, 760-318-4154
Captions (top to bottom): The authentic, tiki-inspired interior; an Acid Drop cocktail.
Photography by Jaime Kowal