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Embrace all things Tiki with popup bar Junior’s latest incarnation, Pacifica

More tropical drinks than you can shake a swizzle stick at.

At drinks wizards Proof & Company’s pop-up bar concept Junior, the theme changes every 6 months or so. They started with with a mezcal-and-tequila focused concept called Norma, and have moved through to the Americas, through New Orleans (dubbed Magnolia) to land in the Pacifics. The latest incarnation is the Tiki-inspired Pacifica, a heady exploration of the Polynesian-themed bars that proliferated in America during the 1930’s and 90’s.

While Tiki bars had in the 90’s meant sugary tropical flavours and neon coloured maraschino cherries, Pacifica does a more contemporary take on theme. The cocktails are still served extremely potent, and in exotic novelty mugs, but the flavours are more contemporary — the drinks are less sweet, more complex, and made with a wider range of better ingredients.

The menu’s divided into a few sections: there are a few cocktails dedicated to Tiki classics that have been invented through the years, including the Zombie —made with three different rums, falernum, grapefruit, lime, grenadine, and a secret spice mix — which was said to have been invented by one of the original Tiki bars, Don the Beachcomber’s, in the 1930s.

  • Mai Tai from Pacifica
    Pacifica's take on the Mai Tai comes with tapioca pearls

Cocktail Twists

For each classic, Pacifica also does their own spin. The Zombie’s Asian counter part is Return of the Jiang Shi (a Chinese hopping vampire), a sours-style tipple prepared with black mushroom rye whisky, cognac, earthy beetroot, passionfruit, Chinese five-spice, and smoky mezcal. In true Tiki fashion, the drink comes in a ceramic skull with a flaming “talisman” stuck on its forehead.

There are more spirit-forward, serious options too. The Pakele is particularly compelling, with aged Jamaican rum, a blend of sherries, apple brandy, and spices that all translates to a great sipping drink.

There’s food too. Tiki bars traditionally, for some reason, serve Americanised Chinese food, so you’ll find a variation on that at Pacifica: crab rangoon wrapped with delicate popiah skin with homemade sweet chilli-mint sauce; fried chicken thigh pieces covered in a ponzu glaze; and pork belly slices in a pineapple-gochujang glaze wedged between fried and steamed mantous.

While Tiki bars have historically been places for boisterous shenanigans made possibly by a combination of kitsch and extremely potent drinks disguised with lots of fruit juices and spices, Pacifica feels like a more quiet, respectful homage to the heydays of paper umbrellas and flaming drinks. It’s still good fun though. Some time in the night, as you’re sipping the aromatic, fortifying Apostle’s Appraisal (London dry, pineapple rum, campari, Italian vermouth, peach), beachside anthem Kokomo might come on. And even if you might be squeezed into a tiny bar hidden in a back alley, you might catch a whiff of salt air or feel the grit of sand between your toes in a rum-induced haze.

43 Tanjong Pagar Road. Tel: 8121-1462