Around the World in 60 Cocktails: Lei and Hei

One of the most evocative symbols of the South Pacific Islands is the lovely flower crowns and necklaces. Today, leis (necklaces) and heis (crowns) are as much used for decoration and beauty as anything else, but their origins go back much farther. Floral necklaces and crowns have been used for centuries to distinguish rank and royalty, with the most ornate versions constructed not only of flowers but also leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers, and even bone and teeth of various animals. 

Though typically identified with Hawaii, leis and heis were first the symbol of French Polynesia. Polynesians from as far away as the Marquesas Islands (2,000 miles away) arrived on what is now the state of Hawaii, in as early as 400 C.E. With them they brought useful plants for food, medicine and construction, as well as the custom of honoring their gods by showing their rank with fragrant flowers.

As travelers to the South Pacific, most visitors are greeted with a lei. While this no longer used as a means of identification, it is used as a gesture of welcome and friendship, and proof of the big hearts that are waiting for you on the island. And travelers take note! Leis should never be thrown away, as that would be considered incredibly disrespectful.

Regardless of whether you’re in Tahiti or Hawaii, just remember to “lei” back and relax…


  • 1 bsp. Agave nectar          
  • 1 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Fresh watermelon juice
  • ½ oz. Crème de cacao          
  • 1 ½ oz. Hennessy VS     

How to prepare:

  1. Prepare an edible flower garnish        
  2. Chill a coupe and put to one side
  3. Collect a cocktail shaker & add all of the ingredients
  4. Top with cubed ice & shake for 10 seconds
  5. Open & dip taste  
  6. Remove ice from coupe glass        
  7. Fine strain  
  8. Garnish