As expected, the Miami Rum Festival dominated the news this week, but an unlikely story about giant Easter Island-style moai being sunk off the coast of South Florida certainly piqued our interest. Also worth noting is the return of the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, plus the upcoming release of a limited-edition print by Shag that pays tribute to The Twilight Zone. Weekly features spotlight artist Dawn Frasier, the Bahama Bob’s Rumstyles blog, the exotica and hapa haole sounds of Kinky Waikiki, and Miami Beach cocktail bar The Broken Shaker. To enhance your reading enjoyment, try some Pusser’s British Navy rum in the classic Painkiller.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events
Rum aficionados gather for 7th annual Miami festival
Thousands of enthusiasts, experts and VIPs congregated in Miami last week for the seventh annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. The Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center was ground zero for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday grand tastings, with hundreds of rums exhibited, tasted and judged.
Many new rums were on display in what seemed like a transition year for the both the industry and the festival. Bigger producers were absent, but smaller labels filled the gap with some serious innovation and commitment to quality. Also, the festival itself seemed to take itself more seriously, with a concerted effort to cut back on the party atmosphere of some past events.
Not that the rum fest was not a blast, as usual. In addition to the many rum company booths on the 50,000-square-foot convention floor, there were entertaining and educational seminars daily, plus live entertainment and merchandise vendors. There were also evening events throughout the week marking the second annual Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week, ranging from Tuesday’s Tiki Night at The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale to Thursday at The Broken Shaker in Miami Beach.
A big part of the festival remains the RumXP Competition, the annual awards determined by a panel of rum experts from around the world. Sequestered for three days of judging 127 rums in 14 categories, the experts faced a wide array of new rums in addition to old standbys. There were 35 rums making their U.S. debut in Miami, with another 28 appearing at the festival for the first time.
Of those new rums, 18 took home awards: Four for “Best in Class” and 14 runner-up gold awards. With 56 total awards given, the newcomers accounted for 32 percent of the total. The new rums awarded Best in Class were: Skotlander (white rum), Fwaygo (premium white), Opthimus 25 (aged rum 18-25 years), and Siesta Key (spiced). Opthimus from the Dominican Republic made a splash with five total awards, second only to Plantation (eight) and Trois Rivieres (seven).
It was the second straight year that Plantation, a boutique label owned by French spirits powerhouse Cognac Ferrand, grabbed a festival-best eight medals. Half of those were Best in Class: Plantation Original Dark (aged), Plantation Jamaica 2001 (aged – special cask), Plantation Pineapple (flavored rum), and Plantation Overproof Original Dark (overproof). Trois Rivieres from Martinique dominated the two rhum agricole categories, winning seven of the eight medals.
The other rum to win multiple Best in Class awards was Cartavio from Peru for its XO (premium aged rum) and 5-year-old (aged rum 5-8 years). In addition, Cartavio XO was the winner of the first Best in Class award from the Consumer Rum Jury, a group of 20 rum collectors and experienced consumers.
Whether you’re an expert, enthusiast or newbie, it’s not too early to start planning for next year. Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is scheduled to return on April 15-17, 2016.
Easter Island themed dive site coming soon to Deerfield Beach
It’s a long way from the remote island in the South Pacific, but South Florida’s sleepy Deerfield Beach will soon be the home of an under-sea attraction that pays homage to Easter Island’s famous moai. The Rapa Nui Reef, scheduled to be sunk on June 7, will include 15 giant statues of cast concrete standing up to 22 feet from the ocean floor in 75 feet of water, according to a story in Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel.
While a far cry from Easter Island’s famous collection of 887 monuments, the planned South Florida reef is nonetheless impressive. The project is the brainchild of Boca Raton philanthropist Margaret Blume, who ponied up a cool $500,000. “I had a dream,” Blume told the Sun-Sentinel. “People will learn about history, become enchanted with the art and be surrounded by nature.”
The moai heads are being sculpted in Stuart by Dennis MacDonald of Pompano Beach, who has created sculptures for theme parks, museums and attractions. The sculptures range from 6 to 22 feet, will weigh a total of about 300 tons and cover 50 yards of ocean floor. Marine biologists gave McDonald input on the size of the nooks and crannies in the sculptures to best attract flora and fauna, according to the Sun-Sentinel article.
After 2 1/2 months of construction, the sculptures were unveiled by Blume for about 50 supporters on Tuesday, April 21. An ocean barge will transport them from Stuart soon after June 1.
Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island) and its mysterious moai were first discovered by Europeans on Easter, 293 years ago this month. They’re believed to have been erected between 1250 and 1500 to honor dead ancestors. For an in-depth look at the fascinating history and continuing influence of Rapa Nui, check out the book Big Stone Head: Easter Island and Pop Culture by James Teitelbaum. The electronic version is half-price (just $1.99) all month. Use the code TFA during check-out.
Chicago Area Tiki Tour in full swing this week
By the time you read this, the lucky revelers participating in this week’s sold-out Chicago Area Tiki Tour are likely the the midst of three days of celebrating a robust revival in the Windy City. The Friday through Sunday (April 24-26 ) event includes a bus tour of the area’s best Tiki establishments, new and old.
The Organized by the Red Palms Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai, the event will include stops at Chef Shangri-la, Hala Kahiki, Lost Lake, Three Dots and a Dash, and The Tiki Terrace. Surf band the Cocktail Preachers will rock the kick-off party at the host hotel.
The first Chicago Area Tiki Tour was held in 2011, but the event took a three-year hiatus. In the meantime, Chicago’s Tiki scene was re-awakened by mixologist Paul McGee and his latest creations, Lost Lake and Three Dots and a Dash. With perhaps the strongest lineup of Tiki bars east of the Mississippi, the area was ripe for a return of the “CATT” in 2015. Follow along with the fun on the Facebook page.
Special ‘Twilight Zone’ print by Shag to be released
Dark Hall Mansion, a purveyor of specialty prints by noted artists, has announced a new release by Shag as part of its officially licensed The Twilight Zone subscription series. The exclusive, signed, screen-printed, and very limited edition print will be available on Wednesday, April 29.
Shag’s distinctive take on the classic TV series created by Rod Serling will be available first to subscribers of Dark Hall Mansion’s 10-print Twilight Zone subscription series, which launched in August. Shag’s print, available in several different variations, is the first guest-artist release in the series. For the general public, quantities will be limited to what’s left after subscribers have purchased their respective Shag editions.
The print measures 22 by 39 inches and will be available in a standard ($325, 150 prints), variant ($450, 50 prints), and for the first time ever for Shag collectors, a signed foil edition ($575, 15 prints). Every print from all editions will be personally signed and numbered by Shag, aka Josh Agle. As usual, the artist had lots of fun with his subject, incorporating many elements from the iconic show. Look for references to the opening theme as well as specific episodes, such as “Eye of the Beholder” and Nick of Time” (with William Shatner).
* Dark Hall Mansion store | Facebook page | More on the Shag print (Blurppy.com)
* Past Shag coverage: Artist of the Week | Volcano bowl released | 50 years of Tiki Room
***** Links of the week*****
* San Francisco rum hot shot Martin Cate sets his sights on gin (Eater)
* Kreepy Tiki Lounge makes Condé Nast list of best Tiki bars in U.S. (New Times)
* A rum tale about the navy’s favourite drink (The Guardian)
* 3 inspiring ways to make the quintessential Tiki syrup orgeat (Liquor.com)
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Dawn Frasier
Working out of her mid-century modern home in Seattle, Dawn Frasier (aka Sophista-tiki) has been at the forefront of the Tiki art scene for 25 years. She established her reputation with paintings that combine primitive and mid-century flair, and she appeared in an early Tiki art show alongside Bosko and Shag. Her paintings have been shown in galleries from New York to Tokyo to Paris, including Sven Kirsten’s recent Tiki Pop exhibit and companion book. Dawn is gaining a new worldwide following with her line of vintage inspired Hawaiian print fabrics, Sophista-tiki Togs. Her hand-crafted items include aloha shirts, ties, handbags, and pillows.
* Visit Sophista-tiki: Facebook | Etsy | Pintrest | Tiki Central
* See past artists of the week
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK:
Bahama Bob’s Rumstyles
Bob Leonard, better known as Bahama Bob, is one of the most recognizable figures in the South Florida and Caribbean rum and cocktail scene. He’s a member of RumXP: The International Rum Expert Panel and a regular judge at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. To many, he’s best known as a colorful Key West bartender and rum ambassador, currently plying his trade at The Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn on historic Duval Street. Bob is also a prolific writer, documenting his many adventures on his RumStyles blog. Leonard, who studied journalism back in the day, is a renaissance man who knows his rum and writes with authority. There aren’t many people in this day and age who truly lead an authentic, swashbuckling rum lifestyle, but Bahama Bob is one of them.
* Bahama Bob’s blog | Facebook | Google+
* See past websites of the week
BAND/MUSIC OF THE WEEK:
Athens, Ga., has a legendary alternative music scene that has spawned iconic bands such as R.E.M. and the B-52s. But there’s perhaps nothing more “alternative” than a steel-guitar based instrumental group that combines exotica, hapa haole, lounge and surf into a relaxing tropical concoction with a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility that’s perfect for today’s eclectic Tiki scene. Kinky Waikiki released a self-titled 10-song album in June, featuring such standout tracks as Ellas’ Hawaiian Lullaby, Mai Tai Castaway, and Surfin Sullivan. Besides the outstanding originals, the band also performs its own unique take on Hawaiian standards, Santo and Johnny, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, and more. Kinky Waikiki is taking a respite from live shows, but they’ll return to the stage in June for their second straight appearance at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale.
* Official website | Kinky Waikiki Facebook page
* Buy Kinky Waikiki: Amazon | CD Baby
* See past bands/music of the week
TIKI BAR OF THE WEEK:
The Broken Shaker
While this Miami Beach craft cocktail hotspot is not “Tiki” in the classic sense, it features all the hallmarks of a great tropical bar with drinks elevated to world-class standards (it was a James Beard Award semi-finalist in 2013). The bar staff is also very adept at tropical mixology, both classic and avant-garde. Mixologists Randy Perez and Gui Jaroschy took home the People’s Choice award at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in February, beating out many of the country’s top Tiki bars. The bar itself is tiny but is a visual feast, tucked into a back corner of the Freehand Miami hotel in a historic 1930s art deco building on South Beach. Bar Lab founders Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi started The Broken Shaker as a pop-up bar, then moved into the Freehand permanently in late 2012. Herbs and fruits are grown on site for both the bar and adjoining restaurant, and the menu changes often. Relax in the quiet, tropical outdoor gardens, sipping wildly creative drinks and food. It may not be Tiki, but it’s about as exotic as it gets.
* The Broken Shaker on Facebook | Freehand Miami website
* See past Tiki bars of the week
RUM OF THE WEEK: Pusser’s British Navy
“Pusser” is 18th century British Naval slang for purser, the ship’s officer responsible for distributing the daily ration of rum to seamen. That fine tradition sadly ended in 1970 (commemorated every July 31 on Black Tot Day). Pusser’s Navy Rum launched in 1980, using the same blend of five West Indian rums that was used by the British Navy for hundreds of years. The aged “blue label” rum (84 proof in the U.S.) is the brand’s standard-bearer, winning a Miami Rum Festival gold medal for two years in a row. It’s spicy and forcefully flavorful, with toffee and caramel plus other sweet spices tempering the classic Navy rum fire.
* See all past rums of the week
COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK: Painkiller
(Based on the official Pusser’s Rum recipe)
* 2 1/2 ounces Pusser’s Navy Rum
* 4 ounces fresh pineapple juice
* 1 ounces fresh orange juice
* 1 ounces cream of coconut
Shake with a heaping cup of crushed ice. Pour into a tall glass, goblet or Tiki mug. Dust with cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg. Garnish with pineapple, orange and cinnamon stick.
The Painkiller was famously invented in the early 1970s at the Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands. While originally made with different rums, Pusser’s quickly became the standard pour, and the company later trademarked the name.
The pungent Navy rum cuts through the sweet (but not cloying) and creamy base to create a distinctive and potent classic. The orange and pineapple keep everything in balance, while the nutmeg and cinnamon add nice aromatics. Pusser’s suggests using 2, 3 and 4 ounces of rum for increasingly powerful Painkillers. I found that 2 1/2 ounces, suggested by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry in Remixed, is perhaps the best balance. I also took some of Berry’s ideas for preparation and garnish. Your best options for coconut cream are Coco Lopez and Coco Real.
* Related cocktails: Atomic Painkiller | Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum | Good Head
* Past coverage: Rum and the British Navy
* See past cocktails of the week
SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events
***** In Florida *****
* June 10-14 – The Hukilau at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant, Fort Lauderdale. The world’s most authentic Tiki event. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Oct. 1-3 – Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Fort Lauderdale. A weekend of ohana in sunny South Florida.
***** On the Eastern Seaboard *****
* May 2 – New England Tequila & Rum Festival, Lincoln, R.I.
* May 15-17 – Vintage Tiki Weekend at the Caribbean Motel, Wildwood, N.J.
* May 15-17 – Instro Summit, Chapel Hill, N.C.
* June 25-28 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y.
* July 15-19 – Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, La.
***** Across the U.S. *****
* May 14-17 – Tiki Caliente, Palm Springs, Calif.
* July 10-12 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.
* Aug. 8 – Surf Guitar 101 Convention, Los Alamitos, Calif.
* Aug. 13-16 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif.
* Sept. 12 – California Rum Fest, San Francisco.
* Dec. 4 – Midwest Rum Fest, Louisville, Ky.
***** Worldwide *****
* May 23-25 – RhumFest Paris, Paris, France.
* June 18-21 – Surfer Joe Summer Festival, Livorno, Italy.
* Oct. 3-4 – German Rum Festival,, Berlin
* Oct. 17-18 – The RumFest: London, United Kingdom
Keep us informed: If you have news or events to report, simply e-mail email@example.com and let us know what’s happening, along with any appropriate links. Feel free to send photos and flyers. You can also send a message via the Facebook page. If you post news or updates on a regular basis, let us know how to follow you (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)