The Mai-Kai’s annual festively frightening Hulaween party lands on Halloween night

For the first time since launching one of the most intimate and authentic Halloween parties in South Florida in 2009, The Mai-Kai will host this year’s bash on the night of All Hallows’ Eve. Fort Lauderdale’s legendary Polynesian restaurant will be crawling with Tiki-fied ghouls and zombies on Halloween night during its sixth annual Hulaween in The Molokai bar.

*** Friday, Oct. 31 – Hulaween 2014 featuring Slip and the Spinouts at The Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. (954) 563-3272. Free admission. Happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. Live music and costume contest in The Molokai bar, 7 p.m.-midnight.
* Facebook event | Past coverage, photos on The Atomic Grog

Hulaween 2014 at The Mai-Kai

Until this year, the festive event never landed on Halloween night itself. Will The Mai-Kai’s ancient Tiki gods be pleased or annoyed? You’ll have to attend the party to find out. The eerie event, sponsored by Appleton Rum, starts at 5 p.m. and features live music by South Florida roots rockers Slip and the Spinouts, a costume contest, deadly drink specials and retro Halloween tunes during happy hour.

The haunted happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m., with most of the bar’s dangerous tropical drinks, such as the Shrunken Skull and Shark Bite, priced at 50 percent off. Also half-priced are the tasty Polynesian appetizers such as the Pupu Platter, ribs, chicken, shrimp and salads. Check The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide for other deadly treats.

Also during happy hour and until Slip Mahoney and his band of costumed characters take the stage, The Atomic Grog will be programming more than 2 hours of retro Halloween-themed tunes, from early blues and exotica to jazz, rockabilly and surf. This will be the band’s fourth Hulaween appearance, a testament to its popularity and staying power as torch-bearers of the South Florida rockabilly scene. Slip and the Spinouts is The Mai-Kai’s go-to party band that always knocks ‘em dead.

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Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto design, merchandise revealed during Mahaloween event at Disneyland

Fans of the much-anticipated Tiki bar coming soon to the Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World were treated to a sneak preview during the inaugural Mahaloween Luau at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Disney Imagineers showed off a logo T-shirt and several mug prototypes, along with some insight on the design and theming of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

See below: Tikiman’s Mahaloween recap, photos | Polynesian Village Resort updates
Bonus cocktail recipe: A tribute to the Uh Oa! from Trader Sam’s
Past coverage: Say aloha to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village
See all our updates on the Polynesian refurbishment

A T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam's Grog Grotto logo was displayed at Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29

A T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto logo was displayed at Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29. (Photo by EPCOT Explorer)

The event on Monday, Sept. 29, was a seasonal-themed party that included food and drinks, live music, exclusive merchandise, and a presentation by Walt Disney Imagineering on the past, present and future of Tiki at the Disney parks. Among those in attendance was Steve “Tikiman” Seifert, who keeps fans of the Polynesian Village Resort updated on all the recent changes and refurbishments with his authoritative website and Facebook page. Seifert kept an eye out for news on the Polynesian and the Grog Grotto, and he gave us a full report after the event. Check out his photos and more insights on Mahaloween below. Thanks also to EPCOT Explorer for his photos.

Amid all the construction and re-imagining of the Polynesian, Disney has released very little info about its new Trader Sam’s outpost in Orlando since a big announcement and release of concept art on May 2 [See The Atomic Grog's story and photos]. And while Imagineers Brandon Kleyla and Kyle Barnes didn’t drop any bombshells, they did provide a few visual and informational treats. Kleyla, in fact, was wearing an orange T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto logo that will likely soon become a merchandise item. A blue shirt was also shown during the presentation. Kleyla, who grew up in Florida and frequented Disney World in his youth, was the Imagineering set decorator for Trader Sam’s in Anaheim, bringing to life an immersive environment that borrows heavily from classic Disney attractions such at the Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room and Adventurer’s Club [See interview].

Veteran Imagineer Kyle Barnes, who had a lead role in the Disneyland Hotel bar’s design, took the mic to talk about the concept behind Disney’s second lounge “owned” by Trader Sam, the infamous “head salesman” on the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland and Disney World. Barnes said that while the Disneyland location celebrates the Jungle Cruise and a 1930s African Queen aesthetic, the Disney World bar will synch up with the Magic Kingdom and feature more of a “technicolor” look and feel.

One of the new mug designs for the Polynesian Village Resort, as seen at Mahaloween Luau at Disneyland

One of the new mug designs for the Polynesian Village Resort, as seen at Mahaloween Luau at Disneyland. (Photo by EPCOT Explorer)

Barnes also confirmed suspicions that have made the rounds since the concept art was released showing a giant squid tentacle behind the bar [See photo]. The Grog Grotto will celebrate the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, “with various props from that attraction,” he said.

A nautical theme makes perfect sense considering a grotto is often a small cave near water. And it will be located just across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom and Adventureland, which includes Trader Sam’s home in the exotic rivers of the Jungle Cruise, as well as the animatronic tikis in the Enchanted Tiki Room. The T-shirt logo also includes a giant squid, so don’t be surprised if the Grog Grotto features a backstory about Sam’s adventures on and beneath the sea.

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Special event at The Mai-Kai takes guests on a flight back to classic ‘Potions of the Caribbean’

Updated on Sept. 22

Since its release last December, Beachbum Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them has set a new standard for cocktail history books. Chock full of vintage photos and artwork, detailed research and stories, not to mention 77 recipes, the 317-page hardcover opus was recognized in July as Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book at the annual Spirited Awards during Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

Drink Flight at The Mai-Kai featuring 'Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean'

While critics raved, fans devoured the cocktails along with the stories, creating a unique drinking and reading experience. At Fort Lauderdale’s famous Mai-Kai, which is featured in the the book, general manager Kern Mattei was so impressed with the classic recipes he decided to feature some of them during a one-night-only event on Saturday, Sept. 20.
See below: Virgin Island Kula recipe

From 6 to 8 p.m. in the restaurant’s Molokai bar, Mattei and his staff presented a flight of three cocktails straight from the pages of Potions of the Caribbean. It was the first time ever that these drinks were served in the nearly 58-year history of The Mai-Kai. And at just $12, it was a great bargain. The bar’s regular happy hour started at 5 and revelers stayed well past 8 as they enjoyed many of The Mai-Kai’s nearly 50 acclaimed tropical drinks. Tables were also filled with Pupu Platters and other small plates as a crowd of more than 50 filled the back section of the bar.

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Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Take a journey to the exotic Island of Martinique

This is the final review of the drinks that appeared on original 1956-57 era menus but were later retired.

See below: Ancestor recipe | Review
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | More “lost cocktails”

Of all the cocktails that disappeared from The Mai-Kai’s bar menu since the famed Polynesian restaurant opened in Fort Lauderdale in 1956, perhaps the most elusive has been the Martinique Cocktail. It lasted into the 1980s, but disappeared without a trace.

A menu from Don the Beachcomber's Chicago restaurant, circa 1963

A menu from Don the Beachcomber’s Chicago restaurant, circa 1963.

A 1979 menu described the drink as “a small, yet robust creation of Martinique Rum, fresh juices and harmonious syrups” (see image below). I was able to identify this drink as a descendant of a classic cocktail by tropical mixology’s founding father, Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber. Although I haven’t seen it on many Beachcomber menus, I was delighted to find the Martinique Cocktail listed as one of the “original rum drinks” at the Chicago location in 1963, seven years after The Mai-Kai opened.

It’s highly likely that this was the same drink, and not just because of the name. Mariano Licudine, The Mai-Kai’s original bar manager and mixologist, had a history of borrowing recipes from his days working at Don the Beachcomber, which began in 1939 in Hollywood. He was the No. 2 bartender at that very same Chicago location from 1940 until 1956, when he joined owners Bob and Jack Thornton at The Mai-Kai.

The Mai-Kai's 1956-57 menu

The Mai-Kai’s original 1956-57 menu includes 33 cocktails still served today, and 10 that are no longer offered, including the Martinique Cocktail.

However, finding a recipe was another matter entirely. I discovered many “Martinique Cocktail” recipes online, but none attributed to Donn Beach. But, of course, Tiki cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry once again came to the rescue with his most exhaustive research effort to date, the voluminous Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them, published in December by Cocktail Kingdom. The hardcover opus deservedly won the 2014 Spirited Award for Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book at Tales of the Cocktail in July.

Included in the chapter on the influence of the Caribbean on early Tiki cocktails is a recipe for Don the Beachcomber’s Island of Martinique Cocktail, along with the backstory. Like many Donn Beach drinks, there were multiple recipes over the years, including an early version based on the classic Caribbean drink the Ti Punch (aka Petit Punch), which dates back to the late 1800s in Martinique. It was a simple combination of rum, lime and sugar, what Berry calls the “holy trinity” of tropical mixology.

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10 reasons why you need Sven Kirsten’s new book, ‘Tiki Pop’

Pop culture phenomenons are routinely shunned by historians and academics. This is especially true in the case of 20th century Tiki culture, which has been typically dismissed as being kitschy and unauthentic to the native civilizations that inspired it. Of course, this critique entirely misses the point of the artistic movement that peaked in the 1950s and ’60s but has been the midst of a continuing revival during the past several decades.

The book's cover is a colorized version of a vintage photo from Tiki Gardens on Florida's Gulf Coast

The book’s cover is a colorized version of a vintage photo from Tiki Gardens on Florida’s Gulf Coast. © Sven Kirsten/Taschen

Luckily for fans of Polynesian Pop history and the current renaissance, we have Sven Kirsten. The contributions by this German-born, longtime Los Angeles film professional and self-proclaimed Tiki urban archaeologist are inestimable. His third hardcover book puts many pop culture historians to shame, exploring in rich and colorful detail the uniquely American phenomenon that permeated fashion, music, eating, drinking, and architecture for decades.

Tiki Pop: America Imagines Its Own Polynesian Paradise, published by Taschen (English and French). Available via Amazon and at retail outlets.
* Official Facebook page

Published in connection with an elaborate exhibit at a museum in Paris, Tiki Pop traces the development of Tiki as romantic vision and cultural appropriation. It takes readers on a journey from James Cook’s first expeditions in the Pacific, through Gauguin’s exotic paintings, to Hollywood’s big-screen fantasies, to the modern “temples” (bars, restaurants, hotels, apartments) built to celebrate Tiki as the god of recreation.

If you’re not sold yet, here are 10 good reasons why everyone with an interest in Polynesian Pop and mid-century culture needs to waste no time in picking up Kirsten’s latest hardcover opus:

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Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond

After coming precariously close to saying aloha and goodbye to The Hukilau, the long-running Tiki event she has organized since 2002, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White is sure glad things turned out differently. “For me, it was the best event in the history of The Hukilau,” she said of the five-day festival in June that not only marked the 13th annual gathering of vintage culture devotees from around the world, but also a new beginning.

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night's Main Event at The Mai-Kai.

The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night’s Main Event at The Mai-Kai.

Just months before she planned to close the books on The Hukilau for good, White was approached by two fans of the event who also happened to be experienced businessmen and event organizers who were eager to strike up a partnership. “I consider myself a very lucky person,” she said of the serendipity of the happenstance that led to The Hukilau not only surviving to see 2015, but becoming poised to thrive and reach new audiences across the country.

I sat down with Tiki Kiliki recently at The Mai-Kai, the beloved 57-year-old Polynesian restaurant that serves as the inspiration for the event, to get the lowdown on what she and her new partners, Richard Oneslager and Mike Zielinski, have in the works for The Hukilau and how their mutually beneficial partnership came about. But first, a look back at that memorable event in June that was expanded to five days in anticipation of a last hurrah. Instead, it turned into a celebration of what’s to come.

The Hukilau 2014 was held June 11-15 at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
See below: Gallery of 62 photos from The Atomic Grog. Click on bold links below for galleries by the official photographers at Go11 Media.
Related: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges
The Hukilau 2015 will be held June 10-14. Get updates at and Facebook.

In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff "Beachbum" Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.

In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.

“This is going to sound really strange, but sort of like Disney, it was kind of like magic this year,” Tiki Kiliki told me. “You can’t really explain it, but everything just fell into place in a magical way. We talked about it afterwards. We don’t really know what the magic formula was, it just happened.”

The magic started on Wednesday, June 11, when what was formerly an informal night at The Mai-Kai became the Unofficial Official Pre-Party. South Florida roots/rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts jammed in the sold-out Molokai bar while other attendees enjoyed many of the bar’s 47 classic Tiki cocktails and the restaurant’s extensive appetizer and dinner menu in the more sedate dining rooms. Logistical problems at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper forced the cancellation of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s scheduled midnight swim show, but that just gave some attendees the opportunity to begin their room parties early. Disappointed guests were heartened by the fact that there was much more Marina to come.

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Take 5: Otto von Stroheim, pioneering event promoter and Tiki tastemaker

One cannot imagine what the modern Tiki revival would be like without Otto von Stroheim. A much less festive place, that’s for sure. Since 2001, the Los Angeles native has produced, along with his wife Baby Doe, the first and largest Tiki event of its kind in the world, Tiki Oasis in San Diego. Before that, he was among a small group of devotees that is credited with igniting interest in mid-century Polynesian culture that continues to thrive and grow more than 25 years later.

Tiki Oasis

Tiki Oasis: Aug. 14-17, 2014, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Bali Hai restaurant in San Diego. Includes live music and entertainment, symposiums, vendors, car show, and more. Go to or Facebook for more info.

In addition to Tiki Oasis, Otto was the creator of several influential touchstones in Tiki’s modern history, including Tiki News magazine, and a series of curated art exhibits and books (Tiki Art Now). Otto can also be found at Forbidden Island in Alameda doing a regular monthly DJ gig.

I cornered Otto at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale during Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April and asked him five burning questions:

1. You’ve been at ground zero of the Tiki revival since the very beginning. What do you miss about the early days, and what’s better now?

Hurricane Hayward interviews Otto von Stroheim

Hurricane Hayward interviews Otto von Stroheim at The Mai-Kai in April 2014. (Photo by Susan Hayward)

Back then, there were fewer eyes watching you, less pressure, less people to answer to. And, you know, there was less knowledge so if you got something wrong or it was yet to be proven, or if you got a fact wrong, or if you told a story and left out a fact, or if you had a recipe and didn’t get the ingredients right, nobody was there to say whether that was right or wrong. You were moving the peg forward either way. Now there’s so much knowledge and so many people involved, and the knowledge can be dispersed very quickly, if you make a statement or you’re interviewed in a newspaper or a blog, or you write a book or post something or publish something, there’s going to be somebody out there who knows a little more, or knows that you left something out, and they’re going to call you on it. It’s kind of funny because in the old days, people were like, “Oh, that’s great, cool. The recipe for the Mai Tai. Awesome. You know that, alright.” It was a little more relaxed in that way. A little bit less pressure, which would allow you to kind of have more fun in a way.

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Rum and the British Navy: When men were men, and sailors drank Daiquiris

Pusser’s Navy Rum

Pusser’s Navy Rum was featured at the Miami Rum Festival in April 2014. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

No other spirit has as deep and rich a legacy as rum, best exemplified by the fascinating story of the 300-year history of the daily ration given to members of the British Royal Navy.

It’s a tasty tale that involves much more than the stereotypical swashbuckling pirates and drunken sailors who prowled the Caribbean. These intrepid seamen were arguably the first rum connoisseurs, creating blends centuries before Scotch and other sipping spirits. They also created the Grog, arguably the world’s first cocktail.

See below: Recipe for the Atomic Painkiller, an Atomic Grog take on the classic
Related: Summer of rum: South Florida hotspots give cool spirit a chance to shine

There’s no better person to share this story than rum expert Paul McFadyen, co-owner of the Trailer Happiness bar in London and brand manager for Plantation Rum in the United Kingdom. McFadyen presented his Navy Rum seminar in April 2013 at the annual Miami Rum Festival, which had another successful run in 2014 and will return for its seventh year in 2015.

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Spice up your tequila cocktails with fiery gourmet syrups

A great margarita or tequila drink never goes out of style. Long a staple at the ever-growing legion of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, tequila has also been embraced and elevated by the craft cocktail movement, with great results. One tasty sub-genre is the spicy cocktail, typically infused with hot peppers and myriad spices.

Spicy tequila cocktail recipes below: Habanero Lime Margarita | The Ghost Host

The simple ingredients for a spicy tequila cocktail party

The simple ingredients for a spicy tequila cocktail party. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, July 2014)

Indeed, spicy tequila drinks are among my favorites at area craft cocktail bars. I love the flavor, heat and inventiveness of the Spicy Lover at Kapow! in Boca Raton, the Mexican Cockfight at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach, and The Hutchins at Hullabaloo in West Palm Beach. But especially, I love the heat.

Not every bar can pull this off, however. On a recent visit to an acclaimed pizza palace, I was sorely disappointed by an attempt at a spicy tequila drink that was mixed with cheap tequila and bottled juices, then topped with a sprinkling of crushed red pepper. Ugh. But it’s possible to whip up some quality, heat-packed tequila drinks quickly without an elaborate array of peppers and spices.

The secret is to use some of the spiced syrups that have appeared on the market in recent years. Of course, there’s nothing better than fresh ingredients. But making your own syrups and infusions, or even chopping and muddling peppers, can be time-consuming and unwieldy. And unless you’re experienced with these ingredients, you also run the risk of making wildly erratic drinks. These gourmet syrups ensure consistency, quality and ease of use that will make mixing up a spicy tequila drink a whole lot easier.

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Tales of the Cocktail’s signature drink packs a wallop, but can it tame a Hurricane inspired by The Mai-Kai?

Tales of the Cocktail

Nobody can accuse the organizers of Tales of the Cocktail, arguably the world’s premiere festival for bartenders and spirits professionals, of being elitist snobs. The “official cocktail” of 12th annual festival, expected to attract more than 20,000 people to New Orleans this week, is not some highbrow cult classic or trendy new concoction. It’s the mighty yet maligned Hurricane.

Created in the French Quarter in the 1940s, this sweet and potent potation harkens back to other Tiki classics that devolved over the decades as they became a popular yet bastardized staple in bars around the world. But in 2014, as both the cocktail and Tiki revivals show no signs of slowing, why not celebrate both with a drink that screams Bourbon Street excess?

Reviews and recipes below: Hurricane Caesar vs. The Mai-Kai Hurricane

Tales of the Cocktail and New Orleans are the perfect venues for such a celebration. Spotlighting “what’s new and what’s next in bartending,” the festival proudly keeps its reverence for traditions intact, never overtly pandering to its sponsors and the spirits companies. It gives everyone from experienced professionals to fledgling bartenders to laymen a unique chance to mix and mingle with the biggest names and brightest minds in mixology for seminars, dinners, competitions, tasting rooms, and product launches.

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