When I saw the Los Angeles Times piece about a hidden tiki bar at Coachella, I’ll admit, I winced. Then I saw that the crew is from New York, and my doubt deepened. (New York, I love you, your craft cocktail scene is unparallelled, but your track record with tiki is… oof. Which is weird because some of the most with-it tikiphiles I know are in New York.) A temporary tiki bar in Coachella by a New York bar honestly sounded like a nightmare scenario to me.
BUT, now I feel like an asshole, a happy asshole, because it sure sounds and looks like they nailed it. This is incredibly unexpected, and I’m thrilled!
The bar crew is from PDT, which was one of the very first bars that sparked the whole speakeasy trend—PDT stands for “please don’t tell.” In keeping with that, PDTiki is also hidden at Coachella, tucked in a hidden corner of a beer garden. Also in keeping with the “please don’t tell” tradition, my source for this article would like to remain anonymous.
Per my source, along with the folks at PDT, this project was the work of Goldenvoice, specifically food and beverage director Nic Adler and Lizzy Stadler, plus a big assist from the team at Oceanic Arts. My source, who is a tikiphile I know, says, “They did their research. Atmosphere is 👌🏽. I have to give it a big thumbs up. It’s a getaway into a completely different world. It’s great.” My source reports that even the music was spot-on: Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, exotica standards.
Now, it’s not a jaw-dropping, amazing, richly decorated tiki bar. Keep in mind, this is a tiny popup bar, set up in a temporary building in a remote desert, meant to last only a few days. But judging from these photos and my source’s description, there’s an understanding of the bigger picture of tiki—that it’s not just about the drinks, it’s an experience. They could have used a normal bar, thrown some clown garnish on randomly-flavored drinks, yelled “tiki as fuck!,” set it on fire, and called it a day. That’s what we’ve been seeing from some quarters. They didn’t, they’re aiming to deliver a true tiki bar escape despite the restrictive circumstances.
Folks will decry the horrible fate of tiki arriving at the ultimate sell-out, Coachella. There will be shark jumping references. Here’s my stance: we can’t stop the masses from loving tiki, and I wouldn’t want to. I love that more and more people are being introduced to tiki. Tiki is for everyone to enjoy. So as long as it’s going to happen, I am THRILLED when it’s done right. The real disaster is when the word “tiki” is stretched beyond the bounds of all reason, merely used as a label for a drink style, with all the rest of the universe cast aside, morphing “tiki” into a meaningless blob. This PDTiki setup is a sign that tiki is being carried forward by the next generation.
Please enjoy these photos from PDTiki. Mahalo, anonymous source, and mahalo to the folks who pulled this together!