Popular Hawaiian Luau Cocktails

Row of tropical Hawaiian luau cocktails.

Popular Hawaiian Luau Cocktails

by Mark L., March 8, 2019

Most luaus offer a selection of delicious tropical cocktails
Most luaus offer a selection of delicious tropical cocktails

A luau is an evening of festivities marked by great food, terrific company, and unforgettable entertainment. Many people would also add “tasty adult beverages” to the list, and who are we to disagree?

As you’re filling up on kalua pig and poi, enjoying the breathtaking sights and sounds of a fire knife dance, and chatting with the other guests, you just might want to keep one of these finely crafted cocktails nearby.

While these are intended for adults, some of them are available in non-alcoholic versions. All you have to do is ask!


Mai Tai

Mai Tai, the most popular Hawaiian Luau cocktail
Classic Hawaiian Luau Mai Tai

The Mai tai didn’t originate in Hawaii, nevertheless, it has become one of the most popular luau cocktails. It’s refreshing, fruity, and everything you could want in a tropical drink.

A classic Mai tai is made from rum and Triple Sec or orange Curacao, which gives it a fruity touch. It usually includes orgeat syrup (made from almonds and rose water) and is topped off with a squirt of lime.

There are different varieties of Mai tai out there, though. Many local bars and restaurants have their twist on the classic cocktail. Meanwhile, at many Hawaiian luaus, Mai tais are often made with orange and pineapple juice and served with a dark rum floater, like the picture on the left.


Blue Hawaii

Frozen version of a Blue Hawaii
Blue Hawaii

Not only is the Blue Hawaii delicious and refreshing, but the blueish-green color is unusual and oddly intriguing.

The Blue Hawaii has its roots in Hawaii circa 1957. As the story goes, a sales representative of Bols, a Netherlands-based distiller approached Harry Yee, the legendary bartender at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.  The sales rep asked Yee to create a new drink using his company’s Blue Curacao liqueur.

Yee went to work and after much experimentation came back with a blue drink made with Blue Curacao, rum, pineapple juice, and sweet and sour mix. He named his creation Blue Hawaii after the 1930s song of the same name. 

Today, luaus make Blue Hawaiis with rum or vodka, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice, and sour mix. Although bars originally served it over ice, today bartenders often blend and serve it in a hurricane glass. People often confuse the Blue Hawaii with the Blue Hawaiian. The Blue Hawaiian has a similar appearance and flavor with the addition of Cream of Coconut. 


Piña Colada

Pina colada with a rainbow umbrella
Piña Colada

The Piña Colada is not exactly Hawaiian, it originated in Puerto Rico. However, it is tropical and delicious, and a popular choice with visitors and locals alike.

Piña Colada means “strained pineapple” in Spanish, referring to the juicing process of this pineapple juice-based drink. Like most tropical drinks, the Piña Colada is on the sweet side of the cocktail scale.

If you like rum, pineapple, and coconut (well, who doesn’t?), you’ll go crazy over this cocktail. The light-colored cocktail is a simple blended mixture with a lot of flavor. It’s refreshing and is exactly the kind of drink you can picture yourself sipping as you enjoy the tropical warmth of the islands.

And Piña Coladas without the rum make for a delicious non-alcoholic option too!


Lava Flow

Lava flow cocktail
Lava Flow

Who can pass up a drink with a clever name? This clever cocktail is credited to Victor Bergeron, also known as “Trader Vic,” who invented it at his restaurant in Oakland, California in the 1940s.

To make a Lava Flow, blend rum with bananas, strawberries, pineapple juice, and coconut milk. The name comes from how it’s served, as the strawberries are blended first and the rest of the ingredients are poured over the red liquid. The way the two colors swirl together gives it the appearance of a flow of lava. Well, kind of. 

Regardless of appearance, the Lava Flow is refreshing and delicious.

There isn’t one set-in-stone recipe for a lava flow that you have to stick to, and people love to tinker with the base ingredients. Feel free to experiment to see which combination you like best!


Lesser Known Hawaiian Luau Cocktails


Tropical Itch

The name may not sound very pleasant, but the cocktail certainly is. Remember bartender Henry Yee? Well, he isn’t only known for the Blue Hawaii. More than 60 years ago, Harry was crafting a whole bunch of other tropical creations. To scratch that tropical itch, he took 151-proof rum and bourbon and mixed it with lilikoi (or passionfruit) puree. An additional shot of dark rum tops it off, giving it a smooth—and potent—flavor.



Don’t confuse this cocktail with the traditional Hawaiian dessert made from coconut milk, the haupia cocktail is a drink that goes well with dessert. Heck, it practically is dessert! Start with white creme de cacao as the base alcohol. Then mix in coconut rum, and top with Coconut cream to add a layer of richness. Blend the ingredients with ice, and you have a delicious alcoholic smoothie!


Can I Order These Cocktails at Any Luau?

Not every luau bar offers blended cocktails, but many do and will have the ingredients on hand to create any of these flavorful drinks. Although many luaus come with complimentary drinks, they may charge to “upgrade” to some of these drinks. Some luaus like KaMoana and Diamond Head and others served these drinks in fresh pineapples. You can find Mai Tais at nearly* every luau.  And luaus usually include them in the complimentary category. In addition, luaus sometimes even give them away at the entrance as a welcome cocktail! No matter which cocktail you wind up getting, they’re all perfect for your Hawaiian luau and pair nicely with the sumptuous spread of food. 

(*The Polynesian Cultural Center is the exception, as it is completely alcohol-free)

A group of pink tropical drinks in hurricane glasses.

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