I unabashedly love Adrift, the Tiki bar at 218 South Broadway. A primer for those who have never been to a Tiki bar: based around a too-good-to-be-true Polynesian or more generic ‘island’ theme, these places were most popular in the 1930s and 40s. They developed their own culture and cocktails during their heyday. As the style of bar went out of vogue, the remaining places became kitschy, forced, and a generally fucking sad state of affairs before many closed. Adrift is bringing back all the glamour and fun of the Tiki bar from ye Good Ole Days without any of the unfortunate bits. You should go there tonight, and here’s eight good reasons:
1. The Cocktails
While many bars can offer you a pretty decent gin and tonic, only Adrift can make a Jet Pilot (a powerful blend of 3 different rums, different fruit juices, garnished with ground cinnamon), a Zombie (high-proof rum, fruit juices, crushed ice garnished with mint), or a real Mai Tai. Or any of a dozen other true-blue Tiki cocktails. And they do it so, so well. I’ve had more than a fair share of the menu and have yet to be disappointed. Sure, maybe it takes a minute to get your drink. Put on your Grown Up pants and just wait. I promise your patience will be well rewarded.
2. The Bartenders
I sort of want to marry these guys because of how good their cocktails are. Hand-cut orchid flowesr for a garnish? Check. Fresh ground nutmeg for a Painkiller? Double check. These dudes put some serious love and attention into making your cocktail as great and true to the original recipe as they can. Plus, your bartenders are also really well versed in the history of the cocktails and the Tiki motif in general which makes for some interesting conversation. I don’t know about you, but I love learning about booze.
3. Old Movies
Every night of the week, they play awesome old movies on a projection screen in the main bar area. The antics of James Bond, Humphrey Bogart, and dozens of silver screen stars from the first half of the 20th century make for some pretty stellar ambiance. The movies are played without sound, so you can still enjoy a conversation while your eyes feast on the gorgeous, classy visuals.
4. Real Bamboo
The structure of the bar and the indoor, overhanging Tiki awning are made from real bamboo. That is fucking awesome. If the owners had gone with something like pre-molded plastic, or faux wood of some kind, Adrift would have had a really forced atmosphere. Instead, the warmth and authenticity of the bamboo makes the place feel genuine, comfortable, and just plain cool.
5. Real Tiki masks/figurines
True to the Tiki bars of yesteryear, Adrift is decorated with Tiki masks and figurines. What’s more, these decorations are not just plastic, painted-to-look-hand-carved bullshit. They’re real, wooden, painted carvings. What would a Tiki bar be without the masks? I like to sip my Zombie and imagine that the masks are benevolent Tiki gods of good booze, smiling down on me.
Yes. Plural. Adrift has one smoker’s patio along the front of the restaurant that looks out over busy Broadway where you can watch the world go by. Then there’s a second, quieter, patio in the rear of the building with a fire pit year round. Over this winter, one of my favorite things to do was go and hang out by the fire pit, drink my delicious fruity cocktail, and dream of summer.
7. Pufferfish light fixtures
If Westword’s “Best Of” had a ‘Best Light Fixtures’ section, Adrift would win hands down. Hanging close to the ceiling are real pufferfish that are illuminated gently and emit a soft light. The fishies are a really nice touch that add to the atmosphere of ‘Tiki’, without being creepy.
8. Delicious Food
While the star of the show at Adrift is certainly the cocktails, the food is actually pretty awesome too. In particular, I love the Confit chicken wings, which are super succulent and full of delicious. While I haven’t tried them yet, they have two Spam dishes which are true to Hawaiian and other Island culinary traditions. Plus massive bonus points for authenticity!
Basically, you should make plans to go there tonight or this weekend (at the latest). Adrift offers a fun and relaxing atmosphere that is fueled by world-class cocktails, an excellent environment, and stellar bartenders. Pray to the Tiki gods over the bar with your selection of good booze, good food, and fun times.