July’s event schedule features two of the most distinctive gatherings of the year, Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest and Tales of Cocktail in New Orleans. We have previews of both, plus news on acclaimed artist Tiki Diablo’s new merchandise deal with Home Depot. Quick hits include news on Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, a special Wicked Dolphin rum, a new Trader Vic’s seminar, and the release online of the Plastic Paradise documentary. Regular features spotlight the artwork of VanTiki; SoCal “hulabilly” band The Hula Girls; the Don the Beachcomber restaurant/bar in Huntington Beach, Calif.; and the B.G. Reynolds website. The rum of the week, El Dorado 8, is featured in the Demerara 80 Swizzle.
Note: Updates are now being published twice a month, but don’t worry. We won’t miss any of the latest news.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events
Tiki Kon takes off for 13th annual Northwest flight
While the larger Tiki events such as Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau tend to get more attention, Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, which will hold its 13th annual gathering on July 10-12, can claim to be just as influential and respected. And, more importantly, just as much fun. Held in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., the event features an eclectic lineup of live music and entertainment, cocktail and history symposiums, art and vendors, plus the signature Iron Tikitender contest.
The theme for 2015 is Tiki Kon Air Flight #13, a salute to the Jet Age of the 1950s and ’60s, and includes a special event mug by artist of the week VanTiki. Presented by Hale Pele and B.G. Reynolds (see website of the week below), the Iron Tikitender is not only an over-the-top bartending contest that takes over the main stage on Saturday night, it also includes informative seminars for both novices and bar professionals. Competing in this year’s showdown are Mike Treffehn from the Rum Club in Portland, Sierra Kirk from Hale Pele in Portland, and Justin Wojslaw from The Diller Room in Seattle. The winner earns a $1,000 cash prize after three rounds of competitions including making the most Mai Tais, and “garish garnish.”
The Friday Night Kickoff Show features live music, a DJ, cocktails, and dancing under the stars on the Columbia River at the host hotel, the Red Lion at the Quay in Vancouver. The historic hotel is minutes from downtown Portland, home to a vibrant cocktail and Tiki scene. Bands performing Friday are Don and the Quixotes, Rat City Brass, and The Satin Chaps. There will also be burlesque and a vintage fashion show.
Saturday will see the opening of the Island Marketplace featuring vendors from around the world selling their vintage wares. A pool party, TikiTender classes and a “First Person Tiki” symposium by Humuhumu, creator of the Critiki website, will be held throughout the day. The hotel’s Quay Restaurant will host the banquet dinner and show, featuring The Ukadelics. The evening is capped off by the Iron Tikitender Showdown and Saturday Night Gala on the hotel’s river deck featuring live music, dancing, a DJ, and more. Entertainment includes Paradise, Johnny Astro, and a taiko drumming and fire exhibition by Roy and Marina Anderson. You may know Ms. Anderson as Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.
Tiki Kon concludes Sunday with brunch and all-day bar tour of some of the area’s best home and commercial Tiki establishments. Tour stops include Hale Pele, brunch at Trader Vic’s, plus four home bars. The Finale Party is hosted by the Bamboo Craftsman Co., a studio and nursery in North Portland, and features live music by Lagoon Squad.
Follow Tiki Kon: Official site | Facebook | Twitter
* Press coverage: Tiki Kon Air takes flight this weekend (The Oregonian)
Tip your hat to the Tiki gods at Iron TikiTender (Seattle Weekly)
New Orleans hosts the world’s best and biggest cocktail party
The movers and shakers of the cocktail industry are throwing a party for 20,000 of their friends on July 13-19 in New Orleans, a bacchanalia better known as Tales of the Cocktail. There’s also a serious side to the 13th annual gathering, which includes hundreds of events at bars and venues throughout the Big Easy. The learning opportunities are endless at seminars, tastings, product launches, competitions, networking events and more.
It also could be a watershed year for Tiki, which seems to gain respect every year. A highlight of Tales is the annual Spirited Awards, held on Saturday, July 18. Honoring the world’s top bars and bar professionals, the awards are the equivalent of the Grammys or Oscars for the booze business. This year’s finalists include two of the biggest names in the Tiki cocktail world. Martin Cate’s Smuggler’s Cove is vying for Best American Cocktail Bar while Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Latitude 29 is a finalist for Best New American Cocktail Bar. Berry was a winner last year for his sixth book, the hardcover epic Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them (Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book). Smuggler’s Cove is a perennial winner of many best bar awards, but has never won at Tales. In addition, Berry and his wife, Annene Kaye (also general manager of Latitude 29), have been named this year’s official cocktail ambassadors.
* Meet Tales of the Cocktail 2015 ambassador, Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry (NOLA.com)
Among the special events of interest to Tiki and rum aficionados are:
* “Rare & Heritage Rums of Demerara,” seminar featuring Shaun Caleb, master distiller at Demerara Distillers (Wednesday, July 15).
* “Don Pancho: The Godfather of Rum,” seminar featuring master distiller Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez (Wednesday, July 15).
* Rhum Barbancourt Tiki Takeover,” tasting event featuring rum and cocktails (Wednesday, July 15).
* “Tiki Tocky – The Past & Future of Tiki Cocktails,” dining and drinking event featuring Rums of Puerto Rico. (Wednesday, July 15).
* “Rum: A taste of 10 rare single casks,” seminar featuring Robert A. Burr of the Miami Rum Festival (Thursday, July 16).
* “Tremendous Trinity Tackles Tiki Titans!,” dining and drinking event featuring Martin Cate, Nick Detrich and Paul McGee (Thursday, July 16).
* “Tapping Rum’s Past for Rum’s Future,” seminar featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, and Paul Clarke from Imbibe magazine (Friday, July 17).
* “Kirk & Sweeney Rum Takes you to the Caribbean,” dining and drinking event. (Friday, July 17).
* “Clairin – Authentic Rhums of Rural Haiti,” seminar featuring Robert A. Burr of the Miami Rum Festival (Saturday, July 18).
* “Plantation Pineapple Rum Rides Into Town,” tasting event featuring spirits author and historian David Wondrich (Saturday, July 18).
* “Old New Orleans Rum Distillery Day,” open house with the distillers (Sunday, July 19).
Live coverage: Follow blogger Helena Tiare Olsen on A Mountain of Crushed Ice
Proceeds from Tales of the Cocktail are invested back into the industry via scholarships, tuition reimbursements, training programs, and financial aid.
Tales of the Cocktail: Official site | See the full list of events | Ticket info
Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
Tiki Diablo products now available at Home Depot
Authentic Tiki art is edging into the mainstream this summer with a groundbreaking relationship between Southern California artist Tiki Diablo, aka Danny Gallardo, and national retailer Home Depot. An entire line of Tiki Diablo products – including Tikis, Tiki planters and a full Tiki bar – are now available in stores west of the Mississippi.
Items in the Tiki Diablo Signature Series are:
* Four 4-foot Tikis molded in fireclay from original designs by Gallardo (retailing for around $100 each). Two of the Tikis are traditional Marquesan and Maori styles, while one is California Ku style and the fourth is a Pacific Northwest bear.
* Three 10-inch planters molded in fireclay from original designs (around $30). They are in the California Ku, Maori and Marquesan styles.
* A full-sized bar (just under 4 feet) designed by Gallardo and made of bamboo ($199). The Tiki on the front is in the Cook Island tradition. (Danny did not design the bar stools.)
The products should be available in some 600 Home Depot stores west of the Mississippi, according to a story by Retro Renovation. Smaller stores may not carry everything, but store-to-store transfers should be possible in the western region. Note that stores may not be fully stocked until the middle of the month, according to the Retro Renovation website. Stores east of the Mississippi are not featuring the annual “Hawaiian Days” promotion, unfortunately.
This is a limited-time, seasonal promotion that will last about a month. So be sure to grab your Tiki Diablo products while supplies last. If sales are good, the promotion may be extended east of the Mississippi next year, Retro Renovation reports. It also doesn’t hurt to call, write or e-mail Home Depot and let them know there’s a demand for authentic Tiki products. Check out this Tiki Central thread, for discussion plus info on stores confirmed to be carrying the Tiki Diablo Signature Series.
* Retro Renovation: Full story, interview with Danny Gallardo
* Tiki Diablo: Official site | Facebook
Quick hits: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort update, special Wicked Dolphin rum, new Trader Vic’s seminar, Plastic Paradise now streaming
The final phase of the conversion of hotel rooms into deluxe villas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was completed on July 1. The first phase, which included the opening of 20 bungalows built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon with views of the Magic Kingdom, was completed April 1. [See story, photos] In addition to the bungalows, there are now 360 converted rooms in two of the 44-year-old iconic resort’s 11 longhouse buildings. All of the new accommodations are part of the arrival of Disney Vacation Club, the company’s timeshare program, at the resort. The rooms and bungalows can also be rented by non-DVC members when available. The massive renovation is still not completed, however, with work scheduled to begin soon on the resort’s second pool. In the spring, other major projects were completed, including the opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto in the resort’s Great Ceremonial House, plus the refurbishment of the main pool area.
* Press coverage: WESH-TV (Video)
* Latest update from Tikiman’s Unofficial Polynesian Village Resort site
Past coverage on The Atomic Grog
* Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto now officially open
* Disney World celebrates grand opening of reimagined Polynesian Village
* See all our coverage of the Polynesian Village Resort
Wicked Dolphin sold out all 200 signature bottles of its special Sunken Barrel USS Mohawk CGC Reserve rum that went on sale July 2 at the distillery in Cape Coral, Fla. Profits from the rum, which was made using a unique underwater aging process, benefit Lee Reefs and Special Operations Bionic Warriors. The distillers were also available to sign bottles. Used oak barrels filled with water were sunk for two days in the Gulf of Mexico amid the USS Mohawk, a World War II warship turned into an artificial reef. The pressure of being 90 feet under water pushed on the wood, releasing rum that was trapped inside. The distillers extracted the woody alcohol, which also contained a bit of sea salt. After blending and aging for months, they achieved the finished product. The 3-year-old veteran’s memorial reef is a premier dive destination in Florida. The Bionic Warriors foundation aids wounded, injured or ill U.S. Special Operations veterans and athletes. The family-run Wicked Dolphin, established in 2012, makes hand-crafted rum in small batches using an American copper pot still and 100 percent Florida sugar and local ingredients.
* Press coverage: WINK-TV (video) | BevNET.com
* Past Rums of the Week: Wicked Dolphin Florida Spiced | Wicked Dolphin Silver
The latest seminar at Trader Vic’s in Atlanta by Paul Senft of the Rum Journey website is titled “The Art of Tiki and Trader Vic’s.” Guests at the Saturday, July 18, event will learn about the art and artists who have influenced the Tiki world, including many pieces on display at the vintage Atlanta location of Trader Vic’s (est. 1976). Topics will include paintings, carvings, statues, bowls, mugs, and jewelry. Trader Vic’s mugs and bowls will be available for purchase. The seminar starts at 5 p.m. and costs $20, which includes a signature cocktail and food. Seating is limited, so call Trader Vic’s at (404) 221-6339 to make a reservation.
* Click here for more info | Facebook event
The PBS documentary Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, which traces the history of America’s love affair with Tiki style and includes interviews with many veterans of today’s scene, is now streaming free online. Produced by award-winning Miami filmmakers Common Machine, the documentary was broadcast on PBS stations across the country beginning in Sept. 2013. It was filmed at Tiki events, bars and restaurants across the country, including The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. It made its premiere at The Hukilau in June 2013.
Watch the video now | Plastic Paradise official site
* Atomic Grog past coverage: PBS stations say aloha to documentary on Tiki culture
***** Links of the week*****
* Tiki tourism: Just add rum (GoNOLA.com)
* Video: Get your ‘Tiki’ on at Latitude 29 (WGNO)
* The craziest Tiki drinks in the United States (Liquor.com)
* The best American rums — 2015 (Caribbean Journal)
* Unveiling Cuban rum in the USA: The private sessions (The Rum Collective)
* Sipping rums are in the spotlight (Chilled)
* The 7 sipping rums that will take your summer experience to another level (VinePair)
* Why you should seek out rhum agricole (plus 4 essential bottles to try) (Serious Eats)
* The business of rum (The Financial Times)
* A comprehensive beginner’s guide to rum (Eater)
* Midcentury homes entice fans of styles from 1950s and ’60s (Houston Chronicle)
* Capturing JFK’s space-age TWA terminal before it’s revamped (Curbed)
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: VanTiki
Inspired by Polynesian Pop, adventure, exploration, and South Seas mystery, former Hollywood artists Henrik and Denise Van Ryzin have been creating wildly creative “faux artifacts” under the VanTiki name since 2001. Based in Kailua, Hawaii, the couple is best known for their exotic designs and non-traditional Tiki mugs created by hand in their Hawaii studio. VanTiki has crafted the official event mug for Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest for two years running. The Happy Traveler joins last year’s Mysteries of the Deep mug as limited-edition classics. Other recent ultra limited ceramics include the Fisherman’s Falernum Flask and Spooky Stone Sippy Cup. The Van Ryzins will be selling their wares in Tiki Kon’s Island Marketplace this weekend (July 10-12), offering limited-edition mugs, pendants, hand-pressed tiles, and more.
* Find VanTiki: VantTiki.com | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter
* See past artists of the week
BAND/MUSIC OF THE WEEK:
The Hula Girls
The self-proclaimed kings of “hulabilly” mash up rockabilly, Hawaiian, swing, jazz and instrumental surf music into a tasty, up-tempo Tiki concoction that harkens back to the carefree sounds of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Costa Mesa, Calif., band includes upright bass, drums, multiple vintage and steel guitars, plus three “hula-a-go-go” dancers. The Hula Girls have opened for such national acts as Big Sandy, The Ventures, Duane Eddie, X, Southern Culture on the Skids, Los Straitjackets, Dick Dale, and Wayne Hancock. The band plays all over Southern California and is a fixture on the Tiki event circuit. You can catch them early (11 a.m.) this Sunday, July 12, at a special show on the north side of the Huntington Beach Pier to benefit the International Surfing Museum. Guitarist/vocalist Matt “Spike” Marble and The Hula Girls have also been instrumental in the effort to Save Don the Beachcomber, the historic Huntington Beach restaurant that was formerly home of Sam’s Seafood. Update: The band has just released two new songs (Hula! Hula! Bang! Bang! and Rock Around the Island) on CD Baby that are slated for an upcoming vinyl 45. There’s also a new YouTube video.
* The Hula Girls: Official site | Facebook page | Reverb Nation | Buy merchandise
* Buy on Amazon: The Curse of the Tiki album, downloads
* All past bands/music of the week
TIKI BAR OF THE WEEK:
Don the Beachcomber
While not directly related to the influential Tiki pioneer who started the tropical drink craze in the 1930s, this Huntington Beach restaurant and bar that opened in 2009 carries on the name and traditions (plus many tasty cocktails) of Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, aka Donn Beach. The restaurant’s Dagger Bar is named in honor of Beach’s old hobby and even features one of the famous daggers that he collected. The menu includes some of Beach’s original “rum rhapsodies,” including the Vicious Virgin, Three Dots & A Dash, Navy Grog, Missionary’s Downfall, and Zombie (circa 1934). The bar and restaurant also feature a full calendar of events and bands. The beachside restaurant is open seven days a week, as early as 11 a.m. on weekends, and features three dining rooms that sweep you away to a Polynesian paradise. The 2009 refurbishment included work by Bamboo Ben and a redecorated entrance that pays tribute to the entrance to the original Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood. The location was originally home of the Tiki-themed Sam’s Seafood, which operated from 1923 until 2007. The building recently faced threats from potential development, but a groundswell of support and a large turnout of residents at a city council meeting persuaded officials to vote unanimously to reject the request for re-zoning. Backers are now intent on protecting the site by having it designated as a city landmark.
* Save Don the Beachcomber Facebook page
* Official website | Facebook page | Twitter
* Critiki profile, photos | Tiki Central discussion
* See past Tiki bars of the week
NOTE: Don the Beachcomber closed in April 2018. The owners announced that a new location was being sought.
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK:
To say Blair Reynolds is totally immersed in Tiki would be the understatement of the year. The Portland-based master mixologist owns his own acclaimed bar, Hale Pele, and has shared his knowledge for years though blogs and a column in Tiki Magazine & More. Reynolds also helps run the Iron Tikitender competition and cocktail/bartending classes at Tiki Kon, the Pacific Northwest’s long-running Tiki weekender happening this week (July 10-12). But perhaps he’s best known around the world for his handcrafted syrups, bitters, and the recently introduced cocktail mixers bottled under the B.G. Reynolds name. Novice and professional bartenders alike need not worry about wasting endless hours crafting exotic ingredients like falernum, orgeat and passion fruit syrup with Reynolds and his team around. He started in 2009 (originally known as Trader Tiki) with just a few bottled syrups, but the operation has grown exponentially over the years, now counting among its clients such high-profile bars as the Trader Sam’s locations in both Disneyland and Disney World. You can purchase the products through the recently revamped website, browse a collection of classic and new cocktail recipes, and read Reynolds’ journal.
* Official site: BGReynolds.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
* Local Proof: B.G. Reynolds brings Tiki home (Sip Northwest Magazine)
* See past websites of the week
RUM OF THE WEEK: El Dorado 8
Guyana’s Demerara Distillers is famous for both its combination of historic and modern stills, and the distinctive rums they produce. The distillery’s own El Dorado label produces a line of “luxury cask aged” products that are among the world’s best sipping rums. Lesser known are the “fine cask aged” products, a white and two gold rums. The top of the line in this group is El Dorado 8, an 80-proof medium-bodied amber rum that’s full of classic Demerara rum flavor notes (vanilla, toffee, fruit, wood and spice) and perfectly balanced. It positions itself as a gateway between the more utilitarian 5-year-old rum and the more sophisticated El Dorado 12. It’s better suited as a mixing rum than the 12-year-old, but it’s smooth and can easily be sipped on its own.
* Official sites: Demerara Distillers| El Dorado | Facebook
* Related rum of the week: El Dorado 12
* See all past rums of the week
COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK:
Demerara 80 Swizzle
(Inspired by Beachbum Berry’s T.O.T.C. Swizzle)
* 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce simple syrup
* 1/4 ounce falernum
* 1/8 ounce cinnamon syrup
* 1 3/4 ounces El Dorado 8
* 2 drops Pernod
Shake with ice cubes and strain over crushed ice in a Swizzle Cup or double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
When Tiki cocktail author/historian and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry told me he was creating a new take on the classic 151 Swizzle using only 80-proof Demerara rum, I was skeptical. The occasion was the Tiki Tower Takeover, a special event in the 17th floor Pier Top Lounge at the iconic Pier 66 hotel during The Hukilau. On June 11, Berry and some of tropical mixology’s greatest minds (Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, Paul McGee of Lost Lake, and Brian Miller of “Tiki Mondays With Miller”) brought their best cocktails to the table for a one-of-a-kind happy hour during the 14th annual Tiki festival.
But I should have known better. The cocktail crafted by Berry and his head bartender, Steve Yamada, was not only the most popular drink of the event (judging by the line that wrapped around their bar throughout the the 2+ hours of tastings), it was also a spot-on facsimile of the 151 Swizzle, yet more accessible. It was perfectly balanced and easy to drink yet still powerfully sweet, spicy, smoky and distinctive. The T.O.T.C. Swizzle (named for Tales of the Cocktail) was just as tasty but not as bracing as its 151 cousin. Berry and Yamada employed a special secret mix of syrups and spices that they brought to the event, so their recipe will remain elusive. While that excellent cocktail is impossible to duplicate, I was inspired to create a similar drink with El Dorado’s 8-year-old rum, which I believe they also used. It was a great choice. El Dorado’s luxury cask aged rums are a bit too sweet for this application, and the workhorse 5-year-old mixing rum just a bit too basic. El Dorado 8 strikes the perfect balance, cutting through the sweetness and spice with a little bit of heat and adding just the right amount of Demerara funkiness. The other ingredients are all staples of the 151 Swizzle and can be used in different proportions, depending on your taste. Dial them back and increase the rum if you’d prefer a rummier drink, or add a splash of 151 to give it some extra kick. Also, be sure to pick up your own authentic Swizzle Cup from Beachbum Berry and Cocktail Kingdom.
* Recap, photos: The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover
* Related: Mai-Kai and classic 151 Swizzle recipes
* See all past cocktails of the week
Don’t miss: Berry and El Dorado will both be at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans during the July 15-19 festivities. On Wednesday, July 15, master distiller Shaun Caleb will present a seminar, “Rare & Heritage Rums of Demerara.” On Friday, July 17, Berry will join Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove and Paul Clarke from Imbibe magazine for the seminar “Tapping Rum’s Past for Rum’s Future.” Also on Friday, stop by the Daiquiri Time Out Happy Hour and check out the Orgeat Works booth, which will be featuring El Dorado rums in a series of Daiquiris along with their hand-crafted syrups.
SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events
***** In Florida *****
* Oct. 1-3 – Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Fort Lauderdale.
* April 15-17, 2016 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage]
***** On the Eastern Seaboard *****
* July 13-19 – Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, La.
* June 23-26, 2016 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y.
***** Across the U.S. *****
* July 10-12 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.
* Aug. 7-8 – Hot Rod Hula Hop, Columbus, Ohio.
* Aug. 8 – Surf Guitar 101 Convention, Garden Grove, Calif.
* Aug. 13-16 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif.
* Aug. 14-16 – D23 Expo, Anaheim, Calif.
* Sept. 12 – California Rum Fest, San Francisco.
* Oct. 8-11 – Mod-Palm Springs, Palm Springs, Calif.
* Oct. 17 – The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival.
* Dec. 4 – Midwest Rum Fest, Louisville, Ky.
***** Worldwide *****
* Sept. 26-28 – Rome Rumfest, Italy.
* Oct. 3-4 – German Rum Festival,, Berlin.
* Oct. 17-18 – UK RumFest, London.
* Nov. 6-7 – Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival, St. Maarten.
Keep us informed: If you have news or events to report, simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)