Monday, September 24, 2012

Tiki Classics: Port Light

The Port Light is one of the few tiki drinks made with bourbon rather than rum. It was developed by Sandro Conti for the Kahiki in Columbus, Ohio in the early 1960s. The Kahiki was one of the last major tiki temples, a multi-building complex topped with a three-story tall fireplace in the shape of a moai.

Port Light
1.5 oz bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz passionfruit syrup (B.G. Reynolds)
0.25 oz grenadine (or raspberry syrup)

Combine all ingredients with a handful of crushed ice, blend for 5 seconds, then pour unstrained into a chilled rocks glass with more crushed ice.

The nose is relatively weak, but the bourbon manages to assert itself through all the ice. The sip opens with bourbon barrel notes, which transition into a fruity melange of passionfruit and raspberry, which continue through to the finish while a bit of lemon bite pokes out.

With the right amount of crushed ice, this is basically a bourbon/fruit slushy. What's not to love? The passionfruit/raspberry syrup combo works really well keeping the drink from becoming insipid, with just about everything providing some snap. Overall a very tasty drink and a good way to ease whiskey-drinking friends into the world of tiki.


  1. As a bourbon guy who also likes tiki drinks, this is a real winner. The grenadine should be upped to 1/2 oz to better balance the drink. And the color in the picture is much redder than what I ended up mixing. I used
    Weller 107 but I can't imagine this missing whatever bourbon you choose.

    Thanks for the drink and the website. I'm having a great time working through your rum drinks.


    1. Thanks, Mike. The color is likely because I used homemade raspberry syrup rather than grenadine. It's pretty intense stuff, hence why I kept it down to 1/4 oz.

      Weller is definitely tasty stuff. I think I made this one with Bulleit, which also worked well. But I think you're right that it'll be good no matter what you use.

    2. Jordan, have you come across this grenadine:

      I picked up a couple of bottles in Providence, RI and love it. Different than the standard pomegranate variety but equally tasty and versatile.

  2. Thanks, three years late, for posting this. I always considered the Kahiki my second favorite Columbus restaurant (next to The Wine Cellar). It was a beautiful attempt to recreate Polynesia in Ohio, and the interior was exotic with waterfalls and fish swimming along the walls. I always said that if they turned up the always dim lights (to make it feel like a rain forest) it would probably look pretty tacky. Nonetheless, the Port Light was my favorite drink, and I always ordered it after first discovering it. But I ever after wondered what was in it. Thanks again for sharing its secret.