Lately, it seems as though a new tiki bar pops up in California every other week. Most of the time, they have been springing up in the big cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego) so we were happy when Tiki-Ko opened up shop in a new location - Bakersfield. Since our good friend, Linda (@thebucketlisttraveler), lives in Bakersfield, this gave my friend Tamar (@tamthyme) and me a great excuse to visit her & to expand our tiki horizons. Want to know more? Take a step inside with us!
Tiki-Ko is located in Downtown Bakersfield and features a bright neon sign as well as a Tiki Tony mural on the exterior. Otherwise, the building itself is fairly unassuming.
Inside, Tiki-Ko is fairly small & intimate (probably about the size of the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood). It features classic tiki pendant lights, a great collection of mugs on display, retro styled seating, and some carvings & artwork by some of the big tiki artists, including Tiki Diablo. The bar is nicely designed and gets points for being windowless since I love the escapism that tiki bars with no views to the outside world provide. It's worth noting that it isn't themed as heavily as some of the other newbies on the scene (notably False Idol in San Diego and Pacific Seas in Downtown LA). Still, it's nice to see that Bakersfield's only tiki bar has some great pieces of tiki craftsmanship on display and features a solid retro-tropical atmosphere.
The booth we sat in featured some vintage memorabilia that had been collected by the owner. The items were both tiki and Bakersfield related.
Beyond the design of the bar itself, we have to give this place bonus points for having great bathroom wallpaper. Tiki bar bathroom selfie warranted & achieved.
The drink menu features many tiki classics and a few options unique to Tiki-Ko. This bar places an emphasis on fresh squeezed juices and homemade syrups (as any great destination for tiki drinks should) so we definitely appreciated that. We ended up making quite a dent in the list below, which made me quite happy. Hoping to go back in the future to try the rest & any other new items that might appear as time goes on!
A La Playa: "With its perfect mix of sour, sweet, and smoky flavors, this Mezcal masterpiece will transport you to your own private beach."
This drink is great for someone who likes the smokiness of Mezcal and is looking for something that's not too sweet. I will say out of all of the Mezcal cocktails I've tried (admittedly there haven't been too many since I'm mostly a rum gal), this one was smokier than most. Still, I enjoyed it, especially as something a little different from a typical tiki drink.
Painkiller: "Pineapple and orange juices mix with coconut cream and Jamaican rum to create this delightfully creamy concoction."
This one was one of the tiki standards we tried. My friend Linda ordered it and it was her favorite drink of the night. It wasn't the best Painkiller I've ever had but it was a solid item on the menu.
Beaux Rosa Bar: "If you like Pina Coladas...then you'll absolutely love this tasty blend of La Rosa ice cream bars and rum."
We liked how this cocktail featured locally made ice cream bars making it unique to Bakersfield and Tiki-Ko. It's almost like an adult milkshake with its creaminess and subtle rum flavoring.
Moana Ahi: "This mighty mixture of fruit juices, Demerara sugar syrup, and rums from Puerto Rico and Jamaica is great for sharing with friends."
We decided we had to try the big bowl drink on the menu because they're always fun and who doesn't like a little fire & cinnamon with their drinks? This one came with a chant, which was a cool surprise that we weren't expecting. Overall, the Moana Ahi is smooth, fruity, and easy to drink but I wanted it to have just a little more complexity. It probably needs just a touch of a syrup or two and then it would be perfect.
Classic Mai Tai (left): "The original Trader Vic's recipe features premium Martinique and Jamaican rums. For the tiki connoisseur."
I don't typically order Mai Tais but I decided to give this one a whirl. It was the right color and the right flavor profile and quite good. It ended up being one of my favorite drinks of the night as it was well balanced and very flavorful.
661 Daiquiri (right): "A classic sour made with fresh lime juice, simple syrup, Torani Amer, and light rum. For the sophisticated sipper."
This was another menu item that I liked a lot. I am a big fan of Daiquiris with their subtle simplicity and this one was delicious especially with the addition of the Torani Amer. It reminded me a little of the Lani-Honi from the Grog Log, which features Benedictine.
Saturn: "A classic tiki drink that combines gin, fresh citrus, orgeat and falernum into an out of this world cocktail."
I think this one ended up being my favorite of the night even though the flavors didn't match the Saturns I've made at home. Still, this drink was interesting and tasty - another well-balanced and more unique option on the menu.
Jungle Bird (not pictured): "A delicious mix of dark Jamaican rum, Campari and fruit juices. More than two of these and you'll be seeing toucans!"
We got to try the Jungle Bird courtesy of Corie, one of the bartenders who was off duty for the night and brought these drinks over to us (thanks!). This one is great for someone who likes a more bitter cocktail, which can be a nice break from some of the sweeter drinks on the menu.
We're happy that we were able to sample so many of the drinks at Tiki-Ko. I can't wait to see how the drink menu evolves over time and I look forward to trying more of these cocktails the next time I visit Linda in Bakersfield.
We got to Tiki-Ko shortly after opening on a Friday and the bar wasn't crowded. It didn't take long for it to fill up and a line did form outside the door later in the evening. Since this spot is fairly small, the door is controlled when it gets too crowded; which, to be honest, is actually quite nice. For a Friday night it was busy inside but not uncomfortably packed.
The crowd seemed to primarily be locals and Tiki-Ko had a much more of a small town atmosphere than some of the other tiki bars I've been to. I took this as a welcome change because I grew up in a small town and it's easy to miss that vibe in a big city like LA. Everyone was super friendly & social. The staff was hospitable and we made some new friends while we were there.
As mentioned above, Corie (@classiccorinna) and her friend, Nina, introduced themselves to us and we got a bit more background on the bar while they hung out with us. Corie helped develop the cocktail menu and was able to give us some of the history behind Tiki-Ko's design & conception.
We had a fun night sampling the drinks at this new spot and we were happy that we could include a visit in our weekend plans. It's exciting to see that Tiki-Ko opened in a city where it's the first bar of its kind because I love when new people get exposed to the tiki scene. I can't wait to see how it grows and evolves over the years.
Since this bar is out of the way for most of you, it's probably worth adding it as a stop along the way as part of a larger road trip. We paired our visit with a trip to Sequoia National Park the next day. It's located just two hours north of Bakersfield and hiking around the forest is not a bad way to burn off some calories following a night of indulgence!
Have any of you visited Tiki-Ko yet? What are your thoughts & your favorite drinks that you tried? Let us know in the Comments section below!