I love Tiki culture, from its laidback feel to its delicious libations—potent yet often so easy to drink. While Tiki never went away, it’s presence is definitely on the rise with new high profile Tiki bars opening in all parts of town. And while the tried and true Tiki bars flourish, others look to make a name for themselves. A Tiki bar that has won over converts and stands tall in the Tiki game is North Hollywood’s Tiki No, which proudly carries the Tiki torch that bars like Trader Vic’s and Tiki Ti used to set the Tiki standard ablaze.
What I don’t like about Tiki, at least not good Tiki, are the cheap drinks made of high-fructose corn syrup juice added to alcohol. That’s just a hangover waiting to happen.
Tiki No pays homage to Tiki-era cocktails by delivering classic drinks the way they were originally intended, using top shelf spirits and liqueurs, not to mention fresh juices.
When I drink at Tiki No, I like to take the metro to the Universal City station (the bar is located on Lankershim between the Universal and North Hollywood stations—I think it’s a tad closer to Universal if you’re going to walk from the station) and then huff it to the bar on foot. Afterwards it a quick Lyft or Uber ride home.
As with most good Tiki bars, the interior feels like a vacation destination, and Tiki No is no exception. Definitely consider Tiki No an essential stop on any Tiki crawl. The cocktail menu features 14 drinks aimed to please any palette, from sweet to boozy.
A good friend of mine once told me that a Dark and Stormy is always a good way to start an evening and that mantra has stuck with me for years. And the Tiki No Dark and Stormy, made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Gosling’s Ginger Beer, is a nice and easy cocktail and a good way to start your boozy night.
A Tiki favorite is always the Painkiller and this mix of Pusser’s Rum, fresh pineapple and orange along with cream of coconut was a little too sweet and citrusy for me, yet it was pleasing.
If you like a good stiff drink like I do, the Suffering Bastard aptly lives up to its name. A blend of gin, cognac, falernum, ginger syrup and a dash of Angostura Bitters, this one packs a punch. I was disappointed that the bar doesn’t use Velvet Falernum as their falernum is just syrup with no alcohol added—that just seems like a cheap cheat as I could tell something was off from the get-go. Yet the mix of gin and cognac made sure this drink wasn’t weak. The story goes its original bartender was short on spirits and mixers, but not on demanding sailors.
It’s no secret in this town that I don’t like sweet cocktails and the Lychee Laua just wasn’t for me. A combination of gold rum, Aged Rum-St. Croix, Lychee Liqueur, falernum, fresh pineapple and lemon juice I found this drink all sugar with no balance. Likewise, with the Chief Lapu Lapu.
Now, I didn’t expect to like the frozen Piña Colada at all (come on!) but to my surprise I found it to be delicious. Dating back to 1954, this pre-batched frozen concoction blends aged rum St. Croix, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and fresh pineapple and the result is a lovely spiked smoothie. Unfortunately, I found the frozen Blue Hawaiian too sweet to drink. And the Happy Buddah was too guava-tasting for my liking.
But all was good with the Eastern Sour—a lovely and potent mix of bourbon of Kentucky, orgeat and fresh lemon juice. A simple cocktail, this is a boozy blend that just worked for me.
The classic Mai Tai, which in Tahitian means out of this world, is a Tiki staple. If you’re new to Tiki drinks, this one is a must as it’s a tried and true favorite. I was bummed that Tiki No’s Mai Tai, made with Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum, Sammy’s Cane Rum-Hawaii, Curacao, orgeat, fresh orange and lime juice tasted too licorice for me. The taste was just off. Bummer, as this is one the most popular of all Tiki drinks.
The Zombie is another must-have classic Tiki drink as it’s the strongest of Tiki libations, and this version is made with four rums and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. If you’re not careful you may end up feeling like the walking dead if you have too many of these bad boys as it goes down easy, tastes good and packs a wallop.
And last, but not least, we finished with the Toasted Marshmallow—described as marshmallow, spice and fire! Let me tell you, it is f’ing Baskin Robbins in a glass. While I do hate sweet drinks, balance is key and this drink so hit the spot. While I probably couldn’t drink a ton of these in a night, the mix of over proof rum, Fluffed Vodka, Licor 43, falernum, fresh apple and lemon juice, and cinnamon is definitely a favorite of mine and a great nightcap as well. It’s funny, when the bar makes one, a slew of orders soon follow as the presentation is impressive too.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s no way not to have fun drinking at Tiki No. Plan ahead and come full to help fight off an early buzz, and have a game plan to get home safe and sound, and slowly and surely work your way down their sensational menu and become a Tiki master yourself. Hawaiian t-shirts are optional, a fun disposition and love for killer cocktails is a must.
Tiki No is located at 4657 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood. Open daily 5pm to 2am. Call 818-766-0116.