LA Tiki Fest is back this month with workshops, parties, a bus trip and more

There are cocktails—and there are tiki cocktails.

Usually turbocharged with multiple rums and spirits, fresh fruit juices and obscure mixers, this subset of drinks is known for double-digit ingredients and complex mixology. And that, say fans, is part of their enjoyment.

A passion for all things tiki drove Baton Rougean Jeff Shaw and a few friends to launch the Louisiana Tiki Fest for the first time last year. Shaw and his fellow fans had regularly traveled to tiki festivals in places like Portland, Houston, Atlanta and Austin. They figured Louisiana, a state with a history of sugar cane and rum production, needed a tiki festival, too.

“A lot of us had noticed that the tiki scene around the country and around town was blowing up,” says Shaw, an engineering project manager who also helped found the Rum Society of Louisiana. “We thought, ‘We have the interest here for a local festival.’”

Last year’s small inaugural festival was a sellout, prompting organizers to triple the number of available tickets to 150 and also add new events. Patrons can expect three days of intimate gatherings this year, including socials and tiki workshops at Mid City establishments Pelican to Mars and Soji: Modern Asian, and a chartered trip to Wildcat Brothers Distilling in Lafayette and Bayou Teche Brewing Company in Arnaudville.

Jeff Shaw, also known as Tiki Jeff, hosts the VIP party for LA Tiki Fest at the elaborate tiki bar he constructed in his backyard.

The cocktail part of tiki culture is scaffolded with festive attire, music and distinct barware, Shaw says. Expect to hear island tunes as you sip from a carved vessel accessorized with tropical fruit. A Hawaiian shirt or grass skirt is encouraged.

“So much of it is the atmosphere,” says Shaw, who also goes by the nickname Tiki Jeff.

A vendor show at Pelican to Mars on Saturday includes artists like tiki mug craftsman Omar Girona and others selling clothing and original art. Saturday also brings limited seating workshops on topics like how to use Louisiana rum in tiki drink recipes, how to build your own tiki bar and how to make lower-sugar tiki cocktails. Shaw also says the Mid City vintage shop Time Warp will sell a curated collection of tiki clothing during the festival weekend.

VIP tickets score patrons access to a Friday-night party at Shaw’s elaborate at-home, outdoor tiki bar. He says guests regularly ask him to name his favorite tiki drink.

“I say, ‘I have it narrowed down to about 50,’” he says, though he admits to an affinity for the Jet Pilot. The drink blends lime and grapefruit juices, three different rums, absinthe, cinnamon syrup, Angostura bitters and the syrup liqueur falernum.

“It comes out crazy good,” Shaw says. “If it’s done right, it’s all about balance. You taste all those ingredients at the same time.” latikifest.com 

LA Tiki Fest schedule

General admission tickets to Tiki Fest ($150) get tikiphiles entry to:

Friday, March 22

Kickoff & Welcome Party at Pelican to Mars

25% off all tiki drinks and food for purchase

Saturday, March 23

Sip & Shops + Panels at Pelican to Mars

11:15 – Creation of Tiki Mugs

12:15 – Building your own Tiki Bar

1:15 – Exploring Louisiana Tiki Rums

2:15 – Minimalist Tiki

3:15 – Low-carb Tiki Cocktails

Lotus Lounge + Soji Takeover

Three tiki cocktail tickets and buffet-style dining

Times and schedule are as of press time. Check with LA Tiki Fest for the latest.

This article was originally published in the March 2024 issue of 225 magazine.