After buying a few great cocktail books and a trip to Hawaii earlier this year, I really started enjoying tiki drinks. Previously, I found most tiki cocktails to be way too sweet, but discovered some nicely balanced ones I really love. (The Bitter Mai Thai from Easy Tiki is among my favorites.) This has led me to try more tiki bars. I am always looking for ones that are innovating with modern ingredients and recipes. When I took a trip to the California desert in December 2021, I found an incredible tiki bar in Palm Springs that is doing both. I had been to some other tiki bars on my previous trip to Palm Springs that were decent, but this one blew me away.
Bootlegger Tiki opened in September 2014 and has been delighting guests ever since. I talked to a bunch of locals who had either recently discovered the bar or hadn’t been able to find it. While the address to the bar is on the main street, Palm Canyon Drive, its main entrance is off of West Via Lola. When you walk up you’ll see a patio with outdoor seating and this main door. The tiki torches on the roof (a partial one is visible in the photo above) came from a Palm Springs outpost of the legendary Don the Beachcomber bar. While that bar from the 1950s closed years ago, the love of tiki in Palm Springs lives on.
Bootlegger Tiki Decor
On my two visits to the bar, I couldn’t stop taking photos. The bar itself, not to mention the drinks, is full of great spirits and Polynesian decor. From the blowfish lamps to the lauhala matting on the walls and ceiling, you’ll feel transported. (The red lighting also plays a part in that.) In addition to the great drinks, the service was excellent. It’s a great spot to sit and meet both locals and tourists alike. The space is rather small with only five stools at the bar, along with a few booths and patio seating. Because they tend to fill up quickly, reservations are recommended. You can also get there when they open at 3pm for an almost guaranteed seat.
Drinks at the Best Tiki Bar in Palm Springs
Bootlegger Tiki serves a well-curated menu of drinks. There’s a little something for everyone and they change up their offerings every six months. From a punch bowl to a classic to a stirred and boozy tiki drink, you’ll definitely find something to love. And, like every good bar, they can also make you something on the fly–here it’s called “Dealer’s Choice.” If you’re new to tiki, it’s important to note that many drinks pack a fairly high ABV due to the multiple rums and spirits used. Definitely pace yourself and don’t forget to hydrate!
I paced myself by visiting this tiki bar in Palm Springs twice. On my first visit I enjoyed two original drinks, one shaken and one stirred. The first one I tried was Gilligan Ate the Skipper. It was the perfect drink made with Cynar, Montenegro, Paranubes Rum, Plantation Pineapple Rum, pineapple, grapefruit, lime and lemon juices, tiki and Peychaud’s bitters, grenadine, falernum, and passionfruit. Like many tiki drinks, it has SO many flavors that work well together for a balanced sip. I also loved it because I have all the ingredients at home so I can try to recreate it. The next drink I enjoyed was the Repo Man. It’s a stirred blend of St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin, Smith and Cross Jamaican rum, lemongrass, allspice, herbstura bitters, and a pinch of salt.
On my second visit, I had the drink at the top of this post and this delicious treat, the Man Overboard. Made with Altos Tequila, La Luna Mezcal, Suze, peach, passionfruit, grenadine, pineapple, grapefruit, orange, and lime juices. A great way to get your daily dose of Vitamin C! Plus, the fresh sugarcane sliced on the top sent the garnish to a whole new level. I love a great tiki cocktail garnish.
And there you have a quick, virtual tour of the best tiki bar in Palm Springs, California. I hope you get to visit soon! If you’re looking for more tropical vibes, check out other great bars in Palm Springs, my Hawaiian distillery guide or my bar guide for Oahu. Cheers!