It’s safe to say that tiki is deeply ingrained in the on-trade. From floral Hawaiian shirts to tiki mugs, Piña Coladas to bartender’s pineapple tattoos, it’s a taste, spirit and sense of warmth that we never seem to tire of.
Persuing this love affair is Georgi Radev, who after manning the bar at tiki-mothership Mahiki for over a decade and co-founding London’s Spirit of Tiki event, is now opening his own ‘tropical escape’, Laki Kane.
Travelling the world as a consultant for Mahiki and with different rum brands, Rasdev fell in love with the beauty and easy, laid-back lifestyle befitting many tropical islands, and knew he wanted to bring that lifestyle to London. With the help of financier friend Sam Robson and life-long Islington resident and businessman Steve Kyprianou, that dream is becoming a reality.
The name Laki Kane itself derives from the Polynesian ‘lucky person’, and Rasdev hopes to transport guests to farway tropical destinations, with of course, lots of rum, a spirit that has always captured his imagination.
‘Last year I was speaking with my friend Steve Kyprianou at Spirit of Tiki, he absolutely loved the happiness of the tropical escape we [with co-founder Roger Barnes]created there,’ began Radev on the push to finally open his own drinking den. ‘At the event he told me that the only thing that he didn’t like about Spirit of Tiki is that it had to finish at the end of the weekend. I told him, that it doesn’t have to and a few days later we were looking for a venue to create our own permanent tropical escape. The rest is history!’
Unlike Spirit of Tiki, Laki Kane won’t have a finishing date, with two unique floors set to open and a lot of unique rums to be drunk. Downstairs will provide a tropical escape, immersing customers in the laid-back lifestyle of the Polynesian, Indonesian and Caribbean Islands, from interiors to furniture, even down to scent. Curated by Radev the cocktails will all be served in bespoke vessels – think elaborate tiki mugs, with a focus on adding theatre to the serve.
‘A visit to Laki Kane will be like being on a tropical five-star holiday,’ insists Radev. ‘You have beautiful, exotic nature around you, accompanied with exceptional service and great products. We have created a bar where we would love to go every day; our own tropical escape and we want to welcome everyone to have some fun with us.
‘I want to unite all the tropical island cultures in one ultimate tropical escape. Regarding the décor, Laki Kane is separated to tropical island locations, representing Polynesian, Indonesian, Thai and Caribbean. Each table is named after a different island and has unique decorative features around it, that will remind you of the island you’re on,’ he reveals. ‘Laki Kane will remind you of all the tropical destinations that you have been to or always wanted to go to. Today you could be drinking Caribbean-inspired cocktails in Barbados and tomorrow savouring Thai flavours on a swinging chair in Ko Samui.’
If you’re looking for more than a bit of fun, upstairs are where things get a bit more serious, and it’s a floor rum aficionados are sure to hold close to their heart. The Spiced Dry Rum Club will not only produce its own rums, re-distilled on site, but will offer guests the opportunity to create and flavour their own spiced rums, using real pot stills.
Guiding guests through the process will be a collective of London’s foremost bartenders and rum experts, hosting masterclasses for those looking to delve deeper into the process of making the beloved spirit. For the price of a ticket, visitors to the Spiced Dry Rum Club will be able to create and walk away with their own personalised bottle of rum, to enjoy at home and spread the rum love. ‘After you finish our three-and-a-half-hour masterclass you will be a true rum master,’ jokes Radev.
While we’re partial to the odd neat rum or two, it’s the cocktails that are whetting our whistle. Radev reveals the offering will take inspiration from the mixology of tiki-maestro Don the Beachcomber, using blends of rums, fresh fruits, home-made ingredients and theatrical serving styles, and are a collaboration between fellow Mahiki alumnus Timmy Falson, Oriole’s Luca Cinalli and Radev.
‘We’re using unique tropical fruits to make our cocktails, fruits that most people have never tried or even heard of,’ boasts Radev on the quality of the Laki Kane offering. ‘Fruits like soursop, cupuassu, cashew nut fruit, jack fruit, snake fruit, ones that you can find only in exotic destinations. The ultimate tropical escape is in every little detail.
‘I want to continue his work and invite the modern mixology techniques to create new style of amazing tropical drinks,’ continues Radev on the ideas behind the Laki Kane beverage programme. ‘We have our own micro distillery where we will be re-distilling our own rums. We will also be flavouring and ageing rums too. We have a laboratory where we will be making our own tropical syrups, bitters, liqueurs and vermouths which form the basis of our products.’
Of course, it comes to no surprise that the spirit Laki Kane will be championing is, you guessed it, rum. And the spirit holds a special place in the heart of Radev and the team; ‘I love rum! Rum is the most versatile spirit in the world and is perfect ingredient for cocktails,’ Radev gushes.
‘Rum is not just a strong part that you are adding to a cocktail, rum itself is an ingredient that adds different flavours. You will almost never see blends of whiskeys, gins or tequilas in a cocktail, and you definitely wouldn’t do a blend of vodkas. Rum is so versatile and so different in flavours, that very often is used blend of different rums to suit the flavours of the cocktail. This makes rum the best spirit for cocktails.’
While Laki Kane won’t have the biggest rum collection in London, per se, Radev insists it will be the best, being constantly refreshed and updated all the time. ‘There is no point of having 500 rums and you use only 30-40% of them. We will have a lot of unique and rare rums from my personal collection,’ he says.
Embracing consumer’s changing habits, and the move towards more health-conscious drinking, Laki Kane will be one of the first bars in the world to not use refined sugar in its cocktails. ‘We are using only the sweetness of the fresh fruits, sugar cane juice and natural raw sweeteners such as honey, agave, maple syrup, monk fruit etc. to add that sweetness to our cocktails,’ tells Radev.
Tiki has had a rich history in defining cocktail culture and the bartending industry as a whole, but it’s future success is still bright, according to Radev. ‘Tiki truly is the most unique concept for bars,’ he insists. ‘Tiki changed the history of bars, but like anything successful it needs to evolve and adapt over time.
‘At Laki Kane we are being very careful with the adaptation and evolution of tiki, because in the past it has fallen prey to not developing in the right direction and has nearly died,’ he continues. ‘Tiki was very popular in the late 70’s, but in the 80’s tiki become “taki”.
‘Tiki drinks were mistaken for disco drinks and the beautiful tiki cocktail like Cobra’s Fang, Polynesian Pearl Diver and Tropical Itch turned into the Sex on the Beach, Alabama Slammer and Long Island Ice Tea. This is why I am opening Laki Kane – to right that wrong and define Modern Tiki!’
Well, we’re sure a bar filled with rum, love, great hospitality, and cocktails, can’t go wrong. And Radev is set on spreading the message of tiki to even more people. ‘I am very positive person with a big smile and always ready to have fun,’ he concludes on gearing up for the June opening. ‘I believe that positivity is contagious and Laki Kane is the best way to spread happiness. Laki Kane is the only way to go on an exotic holiday without buying a plane ticket.’