In an ironic twist of fate, the man who built a career on his image as a carefree bum is now one of the busiest people in the cocktail world. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who will be making appearances Thursday through Saturday at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, is simultaneously promoting his sixth book, a new cocktail app, and an ingenious bar tool … all while planning the opening of his first bar this fall in New Orleans.
Berry will also be a whirlwind of activity this week at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, where he’ll be making his ninth appearance at the annual Polynesian Pop extravaganza. His symposiums on cocktails and culture are always the hottest ticket at the event, and this year’s presentation (“Tiki’s Dark Ages: From Fern Bars To Rebirth”) was sold out months in advance.
The Hukilau: Wednesday through Sunday, June 11-15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets and info at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.
* Atomic Grog preview | Full coverage
If you’re lucky enough to score a ticket for the Thursday afternoon event at The Mai-Kai, you’ll be treated to a presentation that promises to be the culmination of Berry’s decades of research. We all know about the Tiki rebirth over the past several decades, but many folks aren’t aware of just how bad it got in the years between Tiki’s mid-century peak and the current revival. I’m sure Berry will remind us, torturing us with tales of Disco-themed fern bars and misguided cocktails. Attendees are encouraged to wear their cheesiest 1970s attire.
Of course, Berry was at ground zero of both the Tiki and cocktail revivals (his first book, Grog Log, was released in 1998), and he’ll likely share some interesting insights on the rebirth and growth. “I wandered alone in the pre-Internet ’90s but eventually found the ‘ohana’ of other Tikiphiles that I didn’t know existed,” he replied to a recent email asking about the topics he hoped to cover.
The climax of the event will be a sneak peek at Berry’s much-anticipated new bar, Latitude 29 in New Orleans. Everyone will receive a souvenir cocktail glass filled with a new drink from the upcoming menu, and Berry will introduce his head bartender and co-general manager, Steve Yamada.
Latitude 29 is the brainchild of Berry and his wife and partner, Annene Kaye. The bar and restaurant is due for a fall opening in the French Quarter’s Bienville House Hotel. Named for the latitude where New Orleans is located, it will also feature the talents of barman Yamada, a veteran of the New Orleans cocktail scene who has been featured in publications such as GQ and New Orleans Magazine. Executive chef Chris Shortall plans to put a modern spin on Asian-inspired cuisine in the Latitude 29 kitchen.
The venue’s design is in the capable hands of Bosko Hrnjak, who like Berry was one of the movers and shakers of the Tiki revival in the early 1990s. He was among the first artists to revive the lost art of Tiki-carving and mug-making, and he’s had a hand in the build-out of Tiki bars and restaurants around the world.
POTIONS OF THE CARIBBEAN: An epic adventure through cocktail history
If you miss out on the symposium, you can still catch Berry at several book-signings in The Hukilau’s Tiki Treasures Bazaar at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort. He’s scheduled to make appearances Thursday (6:30-8 p.m.), Friday (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.) and Saturday (1:30 p.m.-3 p.m.) at the Cocktail Kingdom vendor booth. The schedule is subject to change, so check here for updates or follow the event on Facebook.
It’s a great chance to meet and talk to the author and have your book (or ice cone mold) signed. Heck, he’d probably sign the app if he could. Berry is one of the friendlist guys you’ll meet at The Hukilau, and very approachable. You can buy Potions of the Caribbean and the Navy Grog Ice Cone Kit at the booth, which will also be stocked with Cocktail Kingdom bar equipment. Berry said he considers the tools the “best stuff in the world,” and he uses them exclusively at home.
Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them is easily Berry’s most ambitious and lavish book to date. This 317-page hardcover tome is filled with five centuries of West Indian history served up in the author’s trademark style. He weaves tales of revolution and social upheaval with some of the history’s most iconic cocktail recipes (77 in all). You’ll find out why Tiki would not have been possible without Caribbean cocktails, and meet some of history’s most colorful characters.
Potions of the Caribbean ranks right up there with any current book on craft cocktail (not just Tiki) history. It should be considered a must-read for anyone seeking to go back to the roots and learn the foundation of what’s going on today. We’ll have a full review and detailed interview with Berry coming soon.
The book recently received the acclaim it deserves when it was named one of the four finalists for Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book in the annual Spirited Awards at the Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans. Winners in all 23 categories will be announced during the July 16-20 event.
BEACHBUM BERRY’S TOTAL TIKI: An exotic cocktail arsenal at your fingertips
On top of his handiwork creating one of the best classic cocktail books in recent memory, Berry has become a renaissance man of Tiki drink gadgets, both new school and old school. From app to ice cone mold, he has your retro-modern cocktail needs covered.
The new Total Tiki app replaces the long-running Tiki+ and easily ranks among the top interactive cocktail applications, especially if you’re interested in classic tropical drink recipes. Tiki+ was already one of the most consistently highly-rated apps in Apple’s App Store, but Total Tiki ups the ante with 70 new recipes (there are nearly 250 total).
But this is not just a recipe repository. The all-new app was designed by tech wizard and classic cocktail authority Martin Doudoroff to provide many bells and whistles (see video below). Among the nifty features are the ability to find drinks you can make with ingredients you have, and show you the ingredients you may want to acquire next. It lets you mark and annotate your favorites, and it has a sophisticated yet easy-to-use interface meant for frequent use.
NAVY GROG ICE CONE KIT: A retro gadget for modern mixologists
It won’t go down in history as a tool on par with the cocktail shaker or the jigger, but the release of Beachbum Berry’s Navy Grog Ice Cone Kit last year elevated an obscure niche of Tiki mixology to a status not far from those essentials.
Available on CocktailKingdom.com right alongside those other crucial bar tools, the Navy Grog Ice Cone Kit was inspired by the iconic tropical drink and its unique straw-encased-in-ice feature.
The Navy Grog ice cone, naturally, came into being along with the Navy Grog cocktail, a potent mix of lime juice, grapefruit juice and multiple rums. In the mid-century heyday of Polynesian restaurants and exotic drinks, the Navy Grog was one of the most iconic (and deadly) concoctions, ranking right up with the Mai Tai and Zombie in popularity.
Both the Navy Grog and the ice cone were created by Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber, aka Donn Beach, early in his career that began with his first Hollywood watering hole in 1934 after the repeal of Prohibition. Berry published that original recipe in Grog Log, and it’s now emblazoned on the box of the Ice Cone Kit.
But even more fascinating than the recipe – a delicious blend of lime juice, grapefruit juice, honey, three rums and club soda – were the instructions on how to create an ice cone. It involved packing a pilsner glass with ice, running a hole through the center with a chopstick to create a passage for the straw, then freezing it.
There had to be a better way. The Mai-Kai used some sort of metal mold to make its perfectly formed ice cones, so Berry knew it could be done. He partnered with the innovative Cocktail Kingdom team to create a unique tool for home mixologists. The Navy Grog Cone Kit was released at The Hukilau in June 2013 and has been embraced by the Tiki and craft cocktail communities.
With Berry now focusing his full attention on Latitude 29, and with the team he has in place, expectations are high for the next ground-breaking Tiki cocktail experience. What else do you expect from a carefree Bum?
Recent online coverage
* Atlanta Retro: Beachbum Berry takes us through the past, present, and future of Tiki
* Florida Today: Cheers! Cocktail books, app aimed to help home bartender
* NOLA.com: Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry will open Latitude 29 in Iris space in New Orleans
* Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry’s tiki bar to open in Bienville House hotel in the French Quarter
Audio: Interview with Beachbum Berry on Latitude 29, Tiki and European bartending
The Atomic Grog on Beachbum Berry
* Navy Grog ice cone: Lost art is revived by cocktail enthusiasts, handy gadget
* ‘Potions of the Caribbean’ cruises back to the birthplace of Tiki cocktails
* A Tiki Top 10: Photos and memories from The Hukilau 2013
* Take 5: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Tiki cocktail author and historian extraordinaire
* Zombie alert: 5 crucial things you need to know about the deadly cocktail
* Audio slideshow: Hukilau 2011 cocktail contest was a Barrel of fun
* Beachbum Berry digs deep to unearth vintage Zombies
* Rum Rat Pack starts a revolution at Hukilau 2011
* The Hukilau crowns a Rum Barrel Master Mixologist
* We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai
* All posts on Beachbum Berry