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Bars where Pete has had a Drink (4,028 bars; 1,673 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:


Bars where Pete has had a drink

Thursday, May 21, 2020

#2696 - Tiki-Ti, Los Angeles, CA - 1/29/2015

The Tiki-Ti, Los Angeles, CA
TL:DR - A must visit in LA, confirm they are open and get there early (e.g. 4:00 Thursday), bring cash, order a Ray's Mistake, then an Uga Booga, then a Blood and Sand, and eventually an Uber home.


An immigrant from the Philippines, Ray Buhen established the Tiki-Ti in 1961 in a former violin repair shop owned by his father-in-law, where his son and grandsons run the bar to this day. Buhen had been part of the very founding of tiki culture in the U.S., one of the original bartenders at the seminal Don The Beachcomber's in Hollywood. Buhen had arrived in the U.S. in the last few years of prohibition, worked as a hotel bellhop and elevator man, then trained as a bartender before joining the new Don the Beachcomber's in 1934.

The Tiki-Ti, Los Angeles, CA
Part of a substantial group of Filipino bartenders who created much of the "tiki" menu and culture, Buhen would go on to work at several more Hollywood grog shops, including The Dresden Room, the Seven Seas, Palms in the Jungle, China Trader, Sugie's Tropics, Ching Hau, The Luau, and the Clark Gable funded Christian’s Hut. (The drink making was interrupted by a stint in the Long Beach shipyards during WWII.) And as this was Hollywood and thereabouts, Buhen's customers included Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Howard Hughes, Burt Reynolds, Jack Palance, Marlon Brando, Jack Palance, and Tyrone Power (the inspiration for the "Blood and Sand").

Ray worked the bar until he was 88, and passed away shortly after, in 1999. Since then his son Mike and grandson Mike Jr., have run the place, taking a moment every Wednesday to ring a bell five times, whereupon the entire bar makes a toast to the revered founder. Further details on Ray's life may be seen on the bar's web site here.

Virtually everyone agrees that Tiki-Ti is "a classic," but a classic what exactly, is a bit more complicated. Most critically, the huge cocktail selection, 96 choices at last check, and full of secret recipes that Ray took with him from Don the Beachcomber's as well as inventing along the way (and no beer and wine available), is top notch. The house favorite is "Ray's Mistake," a white rum, gin,  passionfruit, pineapple juice, bitters, falernum, and dark rum float concoction of some sort that resulted from an error in constructing an Anting Anting in 1968, and the rest is history. (The recipe is officially a secret but googling reveals any number of attempts to reconstruct it.) The most fun drinks to order, on the other hand, are those that inspire the assembled regulars to chant throughout the preparation. These are the aforementioned "Blood and Sand" (to chants of "Toro, toro, toro!"), perhaps served in a new custom mug designed by Doug Horne, and the Uga Booga, accompanied by chants of the drink's name.

Ray Buhen working at the Dresden Room, late 1960s
(photo via Tiki-Ti Facebook page)
The size and decor are as much those of a cozy dive bar as the more famous tiki establishments, and while purists may not have chosen the pop music over exotica, or the kitschy bric-a-brac over a more deliberately fashioned polynesian decor, it remains one of the most beloved tiki bars in the country. Given its tiny size (12 bar stools and about 30 people max), customers may face lines if they go on a popular day, and/or during popular hours (again, try being there at opening time, currently 4pm, at midweek). The bar is closed Sundays through Tuesdays, which repeatedly frustrated this eager would-be patron, as those seemed to be the only days I had available in LA. But I finally made it in 2015, and am much looking forward to future and longer visits.

Mug designed for Tiki-Ti by Doug Horne,
inspired by the "Blood and Sand" cocktail
(photo from the Tiki-Ti Facebook page)


4427 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 - (323) 669-9381
Est. Apr 28, 1961
Web site: tiki-ti.com - facebook
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