Tiki Talk

Interview with Sebastian De La Cruz

April issue ‘Cocktails’, 2023 

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Tropic City’s Sebastian De La Cruz talks about the roots of tiki cocktails, his love for them, and how his bar pays homage to the culture while carving out its own unique identity.

Where to get the best tiki cocktails in Bangkok other than at the award-winning Tropic City on Charoenkrung? Bartending owners Sebastian De La Cruz and Philip Stefanescu have created a uniquely tropical and vibrant drinking oasis in a city that sometimes gets too caught up in its own urbanisation. Gastronomer Lifestyle has a chat with Sebastian about all things tiki and Tropic.


As you are known for them, please tell us all about tiki cocktails.

To keep it short and simple, tiki drinks are an American invention created by more or less Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the late 1930s, after Prohibition. They’re cocktails made with rum, fruit juices, and spiced syrups, served in tiki mugs or funky glassware. Tiki bars are also normally decked out in Polynesian artefacts and wooden or bamboo structures, evoking a sense of escape from the everyday. Unfortunately, tiki culture and tiki bars nearly went extinct in the late ’60s and early ’70s with the rise of Disco. However, tiki saw a revival in the early 2000s with enthusiasts and bartenders seeking to uncover the mysteries and secrets of the craft.

What’s your personal relationship with tiki cocktails and how did that lead to Tropic City?

Sweden is where Philip and I both discovered and found a passion for tiki cocktails and the culture behind them. We feel that it is one of the most complex and distinct cocktail genres out there and even harder to master. Very few can balance all the components that complete a tiki drink and make it taste good. It also makes you feel like you are in paradise for a moment, and who doesn’t love that? It’s an experience we wanted to share with our customers.

Is it accurate to call Tropic City a tiki bar? We notice that you refer to yourselves as a tropical bar. What is the difference?

Tropic City is not a tiki bar. We do not have the usual trademarks of a tiki bar, such as the maximalist Polynesian-style design elements. Many classic tiki bars are also in a den-like setting, underground, with exotica-type music and no windows.

At Tropic City, we take inspiration and influences from around the world, mixing and matching them all together to create our own unique style. We call ourselves a tropical cocktail bar, where we pay respects to tiki cocktails in combination with twists and techniques done our way.

What makes a good tiki cocktail?

The ultimate tiki cocktail is a boozy concoction with the perfect balance of spirits, fresh juices, spices, and sweetness.

What’s the best tiki bar you’ve ever been to?

Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco for sure.

What are a few must-try tiki cocktails at Tropic City?

Our Tropic City classics: Welcome To The Jungle and the Chronic Iced Tea.

The Midas Touch.

In our new issue, we’re taking a deep dive into the tantalising world of cocktails, with none other than the legendary Philip Bischoff gracing our cover.
Discover the secrets behind his incredible ‘Midas touch’ and learn how to create delicious concoctions like a pro. But that’s not all – we’ve rounded up a diverse group of Bangkok’s finest bartenders to share their mixology wisdom and insider tips.

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