One recent Saturday night, Joel MacD gathered his wife, Ruby, and son, Jacob, to help me “research” a new tiki bar he had heard of called Last Rites in San Francisco. Walking through the front door, I immediately found myself inside the metal interior of an old cargo plane. I noticed bar stools and lounge chairs made out of repurposed airplane seats. The deployed parachutes hanging from the ceiling completed the illusion that my plane had crashed and I was now in the deep jungle where the tree canopy was so dense the sky was not visible.
The dim “torch” light flickered revealing large sinister skulls watching the crowd.
The smaller human skulls seen around the room were a warning that there would be no survivors.
I was finally starting to understand what a Reddit user meant when telling me Last Rites preferred to be known as an “adventure bar,” not a tiki bar.
There were no colorful lights, thatched roofs or ukulele strumming.Think of ending up on the tv series Lost when you were heading for Gilligan’s Island.
Last Rites may not evoke the happy go lucky feeling of “going to a luau at the beach” (Ruby’s apt description of a tiki bar), yet it still honors the genre by offering a different form of escapism, one that does not require the cultural appropriation tiki bars have been coming under fire for recently. The other tribute to tiki bar culture is the constant flow of rum drinks which means it isn’t all doom and gloom here. As a matter of fact, the brightly lit bar is a beacon leading us weary survivors to a bounty of beautiful and inventive tropical cocktails that will be our salvation.
Tiki bar mainstays like the Scorpion Bowl and Mai Tai can be found on the menu; however, we opted to try the more unique offerings.
How could we pass up drinks with tongue in cheek names like the Rabid Chinchilla (a refreshing rum fruit punch) and the Zombie Killer (the bar’s version of a Painkiller)? As a huge Indiana Jones fan, I ordered the Kali Ma’s Doom for its toasted marshmallow garnish, not for its reference to the Temple of Doom (which I didn’t even realize was a thing until after the fact.). The Jock Dorsey cocktail is another homage to the Indy movies.
Many drinks were brought to life with vividly colored flowers.
While others, like this Aviation Evolution, were whimsical fruit creations.
Even though Last Rites does not have all the traditional trappings of a tiki bar, it expands the genre in a way that I think any aficionado of the genre can appreciate. The adventurous rum based cocktails still share common roots with its classic tiki cousins. The dramatic decor is so complete in its detail that it leads to a suspension of disbelief thereby enabling us to easily buy into the idea that we are indeed castaways stranded on a remote and mysterious island. As result, Last Rites provides the same good old fashioned fun and escapism you would expect from a tiki bar.
I would love to hear from you about any adventure bars you may have come across.