Mai Tai your way out of an endless summer


Labor Day, traditionally the final bell toll of summer, has come and gone. But there’s no need to surrender to the cult of pumpkin-spiced everything, when NYC weather can’t be held to the standards of the calendar date. On these 80- and 90-degree days of September, the best way to chase the spirit of endless summer is via Brooklyn’s tiki offerings. While cocktail enthusiasts may point out that true tiki culture is a rigid school of rum-based drinks and Polynesian-inspired kitsch, there are many more ways to fulfill your tropical urges as the leaves start to turn. Whether you wanna keep it classic with totem tumblers and pink umbrellas, or sip on something more original, we’ve compiled Brooklyn’s best tropical and tiki options to help remind you that you, too, live on an island—might as well embrace it.

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For a classic approach: Super Power

From logo to glassware, this Crown Heights spot delivers all the classic colorful decor, and rum-based staples we’ve come to associate with tiki culture, along with a wide selection of house cocktails. You’ve probably heard about their Painkiller, a creamy frozen standard, made with a blend of Navy strength rums, but if rum isn’t your poison, opt for the Mezcal Mai Tai which veers smokey rather than sweet. The kitchen stays open late, so you’ve got an opportunity to save yourself from an early wipeout. Added bonus: They’ve got a great Gilligan’s Island pinball machine, for when your date keeps you waiting, and you know you can’t trust yourself to resist the lure of the $5 Super Power shots. Super Power, 722 Nostrand Ave., Crown Heights

Local haunt with a tropical twist: Bearded Lady

When you want a neighborhood spot, but you’re still yearning for a bit of fruity, and potentially frozen options, the Bearded Lady delivers. They’ve got a John the Beachcomber that comes with a warning, along with a Painkiller on tap, both just as tasty as in their sister establishment, Super Power, alongside classics with a twist, like the brandy and rum-based Island Sazerac. Cubby-hole booths and a pool table in the backroom makes this a mellow date spot, offering light snacks, oysters, and a limited brunch menu on weekends when you prefer a Fe Rey (tequila, Aperol, prosecco and passion fruit) over a basic mimosa. Bearded Lady 686A Washington Ave, Prospect Heights

Outdoor kickback for the cocktail connoisseur: Diamond Reef 

This ‘Neo-Tropical’ hideout in Brooklyn, by way of Attaboy on the Lower East Side, makes for a great spot to imbibe frozen offerings like the Spicy Canary, whose kick could clear up your early autumn sniffles. Their expansive backyard is equipped with a dedicated food truck serving grilled skewers and Steve’s Key Lime Pie, and is heated to help keep those summer dreams going long past the equinox, whether you choose to sip on the fresh ginger-forward Mosquito #2 or opt for an Old Fashioned. And while toddlers seem to be a staple at most beer gardens and outdoor bars these days, Diamond Reef has a strict no kids past 7pm rule. Diamond Reef, 1057 Atlantic Avenue, Bed-Stuy

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Ready for a party with no pretense and a taste for Tex-Mex: El Cortez

For those times you feel like enjoying a chimichanga in a bar with classic 70s vibes, but also want to sip a Zombie out of a totem head, El Cortez will cover all your niche desires. Fill up on Tex-Mex along with true tiki classics like the Singapore Sling, and then keep the party going when you head upstairs for live bands and dance parties on the weekends. Turning up on a Tuesday? Karaoke night will put all that liquid courage to good use. El Cortez, 17 Ingraham St, Bushwick

Dance music enthusiasts with vegetarian leanings: Black Flamingo

This plant-based taqueria, whose vegan offerings could seduce even the staunchest carnivore, is decked out with low-key Miami vibes, and serves up fresh and inventive cocktails like the Dazed and Daiquiri’d, which takes a modern turn with basil and matcha, or the Ginger Caipirinha, when you’d rather invoke Brazil over Bora Bora. Weekend nights are packed, thanks to the lure of their downstairs discotheque and its enviable sound system, which caters to a rotating roster of sought-after DJs and the dance crowds that love them. Black Flamingo, 168 Borinquen Place, Williamsburg

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Because the sea is a harsh mistress: Sea Witch

This nautically themed haunt, decked with a fish tank and a mermaid mural indoors, and a sparse but lush backyard, reminds us that the journey to gather all those pineapples and passion fruits flavoring most mixed drinks can take some dark turns. Boasting cocktails with a bit more bite, like the Cynar on the Beach, or the Strawberry Habanero Daiquiri, the vibe here is less island-vibrant, and more sunken treasure. Fully stocked with an extensive collection of options, whether you’re thirsty for mezcal, bourbon or even Aquavit, along with full dinner and brunch menus, Sea Witch could satisfy even the moodiest of mariners. Sea Witch, 703 5th Avenue, South Slope

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For daily breakfast cocktails and the weekly tropical escape: Fort Defiance

Open most days 10am to midnight, this full-service restaurant strives for locally and responsibly sourced ingredients, but respects that sometimes a Breuckelen Corpse Reviver is the only reasonable choice to start your day. Known for a lengthy list of cocktails available daily, their Thursday night Sunken Harbor Night goes full tiki, pulling forgotten classics like the Between the Sheets (rum, cognac, and curacao), along with house creations that helped earn them the 2015 Food Network’s title “Kings of Tiki.” Fort Defiance, 365 Van Brunt St, Red Hook

Because Japan is an island nation: The Hidden Pearl

Taking tropical flavors and turning them on their heads with a punch of umami, The Hidden Pearl, the newest bar from the Donna team, ensures that you remember that island culture is not a singular vision of leis and palm trees. Unexpected ingredients, like miso-infused bourbon, are blended with rum and banana to create The Windrush Generation, while the Kariyushi Club Cocktail takes traditional tiki mixers like passionfruit and coconut and pairs them with Japanese whisky and yuzu for a unique flavor profile. Hidden in the back of Wanpaku Ramen, this tiny space boasts a seafood-heavy Japanese small plates menu and seats about 20, keeping true to its name. The Hidden Pearl,  621 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint. Walk-ins welcome, but reservations are recommended. 

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Because sometimes you wanna go where you had your first tiki drink in Brooklyn: Zombie Hut

Zombie Hut opened in 2005 and still pours an unfussy tiki drink that you can sip in their laid-back backyard. When the weather cools, bring a group and go for the Scorpion Bowl that serves four. You’ll be drunk enough to pretend the fireplace is a distant volcano before you know it. Zombie Hut, 273 Smith St., Carroll Gardens

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