Set of Tiki Glasses


After World War II, many newly affluent Americans had the means and desire to travel. They flocked to the tropics, visiting Pacific islands, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, as well as warm places closer to home, including Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Florida. People developed a taste for casual living and the distinctive local foods and drink. An introduction to the stateside versions of casual living was often afforded by new restaurant and bar empires, such as Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber, featuring the food, drink, and atmosphere of the much longed-for, though highly mythologized tropical paradise.

Smaller, individualized places, known as tiki bars, created the same environment, but on a cheaper, less grand scale than the big well-known chains. Spaces for drinking and eating were decorated in various references to beaches and to vaguely Polynesian structures. Palm trees and leaves predominated throughout the area of the restaurant.

All establishments served modified or even copied versions of the pan-Asian, “Polynesian” food popularized by Trader Vic’s restaurants. Menu items such as teriyaki beef, spicy chicken wings, Crab Rangoon, chicken livers wrapped in bacon around a water chestnut, egg rolls, various meats grilled on a bamboo stick often on a tabletop hibachi were common. Often, foods might be perched atop a volcano, of course, spewing ceramic lava down its sides. Drinks served in the tiki bar’s unique “glasses” included liquors associated with tropical island life, filled with rum and “exotic” liqueurs such as Curacao and, of course, tropical fruit juices such as coconut, mango, papaya, guava, and pineapple.

Typical of tiki bar serving ware were these ceramic mugs (eight in the entire set), commonly picturing stereotyped Easter Island-like or “Polynesian” statues as “faces” rather than as the statues they imitated. Typical tiki serving ware for drinks included things that parodied a Pacific Island or tropical fruit or plant, such as ceramic coconut shells or clam shells, halved and often huge so that multiple drinkers could drink from the same bowl. Much original tiki serving ware of the 1950s and early 1960s, often associated with a particular bar or restaurant, came to be collector’s items. Some were popularly reproduced during the many tiki bar revivals between the sixties and today.

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Food CultureDrinking


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Food, FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2012.0062.01Accession Number: 2012.0062Catalog Number: 2012.0062.01

Object Name: glasses, set of

Physical Description: ceramic (overall material)Measurements: overall: 6 1/2 in x 2 3/4 in; 16.51 cm x 6.985 cm


Record Id: nmah_1424151

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.