Tiki culture is a 20th-century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic, being an American kitsch form and not a Polynesian fine art form.
The Mai tai is considered to be the quintessential tiki cocktail. A protracted feud between Donn Beach and Trader Vic erupted when both claimed to have invented the mai tai.
Most tiki-themed establishments served at least some of their cocktails in ceramic mugs depicting tikis; also known as tiki mugs. The styles and sizes varied widely. Most restaurants offered their signature drink in a tiki mug that the patron was able to take home. This led to a large number of tiki mugs surviving as souvenirs. Today, the tiki mug is a highly prized find and is considered to be as much a symbol of the Tiki culture as a tiki itself.
Today, Trader Vic's is the only major restaurant chain still in operation. However, a new Don the Beachcomber was opened in Huntington Beach, California in 2009—having taken over Sam's Seafood Restaurant/Kona. Sam's was also a long lived tiki-themed restaurant that dated back to the 1940s. It was sold in 2007 and the name was changed to Kona for a short period before the current owner of the Don the Beachcomber corporate name took it over.
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