There’s no such thing as summer doldrums in the world of Tiki with plenty of major events spanning coast to coast this summer. We take a look back at July’s Tiki Kon and Tales of the Cocktail and preview August’s Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop in Ohio, plus the Surf Guitar 101 Convention and Tiki Oasis in Southern California. Also upcoming are the Trader Vic’s Portland anniversary party, Tiki Monday With Miller in New York City, and the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau at Disneyland. Our regular features spotlight the artwork of Ken Ruzic; the fuzzed-out sounds of Davie Allan and the Arrows; the Grass Skirt Tiki Room in Columbus, Ohio; and the Dionysus Records Empire website. The rum of the week, Denizen Merchant’s Reserve, is featured in an original creation, the Merchant’s Mai Tai.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events
EVENT RECAPS: Tiki Kon, Tales of the Cocktail
The summer event season got into high gear in July with the 13th annual Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, themed to mid-century air travel. “Tiki Kon Air” was held July 10-12 at the Red Lion Hotel in Vancouver, Wash., and included a tour of commercial and home bars in nearby Portland, Ore. Festivities included eclectic live music and entertainment, symposiums, art and vendors plus the action-packed Iron Tikitender contest. Emerging as the new champion was Sierra Kirk from Hale Pele in Portland. Beginning Friday, Aug. 1, Tiki Kon merchandise will be available in the online store for those who weren’t able to attend. Tiki Kon has already announced plans for the 2016 event, which will return July 8-10 to the Red Lion with a World War II theme. Follow the Facebook page for updates.
* Inside the magical world of Tiki Kon (Punch)
While Martin Cate’s Smuggler’s Cove (Best American Cocktail Bar nominee) and Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (Best New American Cocktail Bar nominee) did not take home Spirited Awards, the 13th annual Tales of the Cocktail held July 13-19 in New Orleans certainly did not disappoint. The gathering of 20,000 bar professionals, industry reps and enthusiasts offered a little something for everyone with hundreds of events and seminars, many touching on Tiki and rum topics. Miami Beach’s tropical-themed craft cocktail oasis, The Broken Shaker in the Freehand Miami hotel, was honored with the Spirited Award for Best American Hotel Bar. Bar partners Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, who recently opened a second Broken Shaker in the Freehand Chicago, accepted the award to “thunderous applause,” according to press reports. They had been nominated for the award in the past, but this was their first victory. See all the winners on a special Pintrest page.
* More on The Broken Shaker’s win: Miami New Times | Sun-Sentinel
* Tales of the Cocktail press coverage: New Orleans Times-Picayune
Wall Street Journal | The Daily Beast
* Blog coverage: A Mountain of Crushed Ice | Cocktail Wonk
EVENT PREVIEWS: Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop, Surf Guitar 101 Convention, Tiki Oasis
One of the lesser known events on the Tiki calendar rolls into Austin on Aug 2-9, which has been declared Texas Tiki Week. Now in its fourth year, the event is geared toward bar professionals across the state and is organized by members of the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Many events, such as educational classes and a bus tour, are for USBG members and industry trade only. But others, including a Lost Lake pop-up bar and other cocktail events, are open to the public. Check the schedule for more info. Sponsors include a host of rums and spirits, including Appleton, El Dorado, Flor de Caña, Mount Gay, Plantation, Zacapa, and B.G. Reynolds. Get updates on the Facebook page.
The Midwest’s biggest summer Tiki weekender, Hot Rod Hula Hop, is revving up for its seventh annual bash Aug. 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio. Presented by the Kahiki and Kon-Tiki chapters of the Fraternal Order Of Moai, the event features two days and nights of live music, hot rods, a luau dinner, and a burlesque show. Friday’s “Feast of the Tiki Gods” luau will be held at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room, this week’s Tiki bar of the week. Saturday’s festivities and climatic “rock ‘n’ bowl show” headlined by Unknown Hinson will be held at Sequoia Pro Bowl, a 32-lane bowling center. Other performers include an assortment of regional surf and country rockers, including The Revomatics (Wisconsin), the Hellroys (Arkansas), Hypnotide (Ohio), The Whiskey Daredevils (Ohio), and The Digs (Ohio). A portion of the proceeds will benefit Cure CMD. Click here for ticket info and get updates on the Facebook page.
One of the longest-running and most respected gatherings of instrumental music enthusiasts, the Surf Guitar 101 Convention moves to a new location in 2015 at the Garden Grove Elks Lodge in Garden Grove, Calif. The reverb-drenched guitars start blasting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8, with the “member jam,” followed by the Jim Messina and the Jesters Tribute (11 a.m.), Paul Johnson and friends (11:30), Moonbase (noon), Boss Fink (1 p.m.), The TomorrowMen (2 p.m.), The Volcanics (3 p.m.), The Longboards (4 p.m.), Els A Phonics (5 p.m.), The Eliminators (6 p.m.), and headliners Davie Allan and the Arrows (7 p.m.). The Elks Lodge is an all-ages, family friendly venue that will have food and beverages available all day. In addition to the music, there will be vendors selling surf music and related items, plus raffle items provided by sponsors including guitars and gear. In addition to the main event, there are numerous satellite shows before and after the convention from Aug. 1 through Aug. 13 throughout Southern California, including a convention after-party Aug. 8 and a Huntington Beach pier show Aug. 9. See the full schedule. Now in its eighth year, the convention grew out of the SurfGuitar101.com website and forums (est. 2006), where musicians and fans from around the world gather to talk about instrumental surf music.
Tiki Oasis, the largest and longest-running Tiki festival of them all, blasts off for its 15th annual bash Aug. 13-16 in San Diego. The sheer size and scope of this year’s event is a tikiphile’s dream, with literally something for every niche Tiki interest. Wrapped around the Tiki-meets-Tomorrowland theme of “Yesterday’s Future Today,” organizers Otto and Baby Doe von Stroheim have assembled an out-of-this-world lineup of live music, burlesque and DJs along with a massive festival marketplace, dozens of educational symposiums, plus much more. The more than 20 bands include acclaimed surf, exotica and retro-themed acts Man or Astroman?, Tikiyaki Orchestra, The Phenomenauts, The Phantom Surfers, and Clouseaux. There are also more than 20 DJs, more than 20 burlesque stars, the Miss Tiki Oasis pageant, book signings, a vintage car show, an art show, rum tastings, room parties, and the first San Diego Tiki Bartenders Challenge. Symposium presenters include Charles Phoenix, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove; plus authors Sven Kirsten, Jeff Chenault, and Domenic Priore. The marketplace features more than 100 vendors selling hand-crafted Tiki art, vintage clothing, collectibles, and more. The marketplace is free and open to the public on Friday and Saturday. Check the schedule for all the latest happenings. Thursday night’s Meet & Mingle takes place at the historic Bali Hai Restaurant, while all the Friday, Saturday and Sunday events are centered around the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
* Facebook group | Twitter | Instagram
* Interviews with Otto von Stroheim: The Rum Lab | The Atomic Grog
Quick hits: Trader Vic’s Portland anniversary, Tiki Monday With Miller, Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau
The Trader Vic’s outpost in Portland celebrates its fourth anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 1. The celebration begins at 11 a.m. with a new lunch menu (and classic Mai Tais, of course). There will be extended happy hours, and artist Paul Nielsen of Munktiki, who designed a new limited edition Trader Vic’s Tiki mug, will be on hand from 4 to 7 p.m. selling and signing mugs. There will be a new happy hour menu, and be sure to check out the extensive list of 80 classic and craft cocktails. Pair your drinks with delicious small plates or a Polynesian-style dinner. Click here for more info. The Portland location of the venerable 78-year-old restaurant chain founded by Vic Bergeron is riding the Tiki and craft cocktail wave to much acclaim, a rare stateside success for the brand. It’s become a go-to spot in the trend-setting city for tikphiles and discerning hipsters alike.
* Trader Vic’s Portland website | Facebook page | Twitter
Prepare for the onslaught of Tiki Mondays with Miller: Summer Solstice Edition, which takes over Pouring Ribbons in New York City on Aug. 3 for another round of craft Tiki cocktails from Brian Miller and his crew of scallywags. According to the award-winning barman, “There ain’t no better way to beat the heat than a room full of sarong-wearing pirates and an ice cold Tiki drink.”
* Tiki Mondays with Miller Facebook page
In honor of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is hosting the sold-out Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau on Aug. 10-11 on the Magic Kingdom Lawn at the Disneyland Hotel. Disney and Tiki fans who were fast enough to snag the $150 tickets will enjoy the Tahitian Terrace Tribute Show with Tahitian dancers, a historical overview by Imagineers, and tastes from the original Tahitian Terrace menu. Attendees will also receive two drink tickets, a commemorative lei, a special edition Tiki glass and swizzle stick, a Tahitian Terrace print on parchment, and more. Drinks include the classic Tahitian Terrace Punch – available alcohol-free or a new boozy version. From 1962 to 1993, the Tahitian Terrace restaurant was a fixture in Adventureland, adjacent to the Enchanted Tiki Room. It featured Polynesian-style dishes and dancers, taking guests to a fantasy South Seas paradise .
* Tahitian Terrace history: Critiki | Yesterland | Daveland
* Related Atomic Grog coverage: Mahaloween at Disneyland | Enchanted Tiki Room 50th
***** Links of the week*****
* Review: Beachbum Berry’s Cocktail Kingdom Tiki barware (Good Spirits News)
* Tiki drinks add exotic touch to summer (Florida Today)
* Towering talents of tiki cocktails at The Hukilau (The Straw Hat Barmen)
* The Golden Tiki aims to remove you from reality (Las Vegas Weekly)
* Summer of the Daiquiri (Deep South Magazine)
* Minimalist Tiki: What you truly need to make the classics at home (Cocktail Wonk)
* Sarasota rum named best in U.S. and Caribbean (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)
* A new pineapple rum, with a nod to Dickens (The New York Times)
* Summer spirits: 8 rums you need to try now (Forbes)
* Bacardi buys super-premium Banks Rum (The Spirits Business)
* Bacardi introduce Single Cane Estate Rums (The Floating Rum Shack)
* Cuba – The Legend of Rum (Rum Connection)
* Disney legend behind Pirates and Haunted Mansion dies at 97 (Huffington Post)
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Ken Ruzic
Also known as Little Lost Tiki, colorful Southern California artist Ken Ruzic has long been a fixture on the Tiki scene. A native of Illinois, Ruzic followed his interests in cartoons and comic books into an art career that has spanned more than 25 years. His style is just as varied as his career, which has seen his paintings shown at solo shows and in galleries across the country, including the recent Atomic Tiki Terrors group show. Besides his quasi-psychedelic paintings that borrow from both classic and cartoon styles, he has created a variety of mugs for Tiki Farm and is also well known in the surf and skate scenes. Check out Ken’s blog for updates on all his activities, plus lots of sample artwork.
* Find Ken: KinnyRuzic.com | Facebook
* See past artists of the week
Don’t miss: Meet Ken at the Little Lost Tiki booth Aug. 14-16 in the Marketplace at Tiki Oasis in San Diego and pick up some of his paintings and drawings, hand-painted mugs, and other surprises.
BAND/MUSIC OF THE WEEK:
Davie Allan and the Arrows
The king of ’60s B-movie soundtracks, Davie Allan followed in the wake of the first wave of Southern California instrumental guitar bands (Dick Dale, the Ventures, et al.) with his own distinctive, fuzzed-out guitar sound that fit perfectly in the era’s exploitative teen and biker movies. Based in Los Angeles, Allan is known in guitar circles as one of the pioneers of the fuzzbox, which gives the instrument a distinctive buzzing, distorted sound. His first album with the Arrows, his revolving backing band, was Apache in 1965. But the big breakthrough came on the soundtrack to the trailblazing biker film The Wild Angels (1966), which starred Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern. The film’s opening song, Blue’s Theme, spent 17 weeks on the Billboard singles chart and led to work on dozens of other soundtracks with Roger Corman’s American International Pictures. Allen’s fame faded with the rest of the 1960s instrumental rock movement, but he continued to perform and experienced a career boost during the 1990s surf revival. More soundtracks and albums of new and old material followed, and Allen has been as prolific in the 2000s as he was in the 1960s. A new career retrospective album, King of the Fuzz Guitar, will be available in August.
* Davie Allan: Official website | Buy music (Amazon)
* All past bands/music of the week
Don’t miss: Davie Allan and the Arrows will be marking their 50th anniversary in August with a special headlining performance at the eighth annual Surf Guitar 101 Convention in Southern California. The Aug. 13 event features nine other bands from across the U.S. and Spain.
TIKI BAR OF THE WEEK:
Grass Skirt Tiki Room
Not even three years old, the Grass Skirt Tiki Room is already a fixture in the active Tiki scene in Ohio, site of two chapters of the Fraternal Order of Moai and home of the annual Hot Rod Hula Hop. The legacy of the Ohio scene can be traced back to the legendary Kahiki supper club (1961-2000), one of the most beloved Tiki establishments of all time. That tradition is on full display at the intimate and exotic Grass Skirt, which features inspiration and decor from The Kahiki, along with contributions from many area Tiki collectors and artists. Since opening in November 2012 in downtown Columbus, the bar/restaurant has been consistently dishing out tasty Asian fusion dishes, classic Tiki drinks in souvenir mugs, plus a healthy helping of aloha.
NOTE: The Grass Skirt closed in late summer of 2019.
* Facebook page | Twitter
* Critiki profile, photos | Tiki Central discussion
* See past Tiki bars of the week
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK:
Dionysus Records Empire
Founded by Lee Joseph in 1983, Dionysus Records is essentially an old-school independent record label catering to artists and fans of garage, rockabilly, exotica, surf, and other fringe genres. When the label was in its infancy, Joseph moved to Southern California and established his vast online store (originally a mail order catalog). The Dionysus store contains a wealth of historic and vintage music from the mid 20th century to today, from roots/rockabilly/country to soul/funk to “mischevious musical mayhem.” Joseph sells music from around the world in addition to bands on his Dionysus and Bacchus Archives labels. He’s first and foremost a fan and collector, and Dionysus is clearly a labor of love. Joseph also established his own respected publicity company (Reverberations Media) and gained a following as a popular club and event DJ. Against the music business odds, Dionysus has persevered, releasing more than 500 titles. It’s been a struggle keeping distribution afloat, as Joseph details on his label’s history page, which makes it even more important that collectors and fans of retro and roots music continue to support Dionysus and the bands it champions. The Dig That Crazy Dionysus Beat sampler, released at Tiki Oasis 2014 (and still available as a free download), provides a great overview of the wide range of bands released or distributed through the label. Just released in July are records by Jesika von Rabbit and Voodoo Organist. Coming soon: A vinyl version of the acclaimed Leis of Jazz, Vol. 2 by the Alika Lyman Group.
* Official site: DionysusRecords.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
* See past websites of the week
Don’t miss: If you’re at Tiki Oasis in San Diego, be sure to stop by the Dionysus booth in the Marketplace on Aug. 14-16 and check out the wide assortment of vinyl and CDs, plus a limited stock of portable battery operated phonographs. Many Tiki Oasis performers will be selling their merchandise at the Dionysus booth. You can also catch Lee Joseph spinning some wax as one of many guest DJs.
RUM OF THE WEEK: Denizen Merchant’s Reserve
Created as a homage to the Jamaican rum that Trader Vic reportedly used in his original 1944 Mai Tai, the award-winning Denizen Merchant’s Reserve succeeds spectacularly. This 86-proof blend of 8-year-old Jamaican pot-still rums with a rare molasses-based rum from Martinique yields one of the most surprising and memorable new rums on the market. This unique combination results in an elegant yet funky rum full of fantastic molasses, caramel, and spice flavors. Like Denizen’s aged white rum, it’s blended by experts in Amsterdam in another nod to history. In centuries past, merchants from Amsterdam were known for their blended aged rums, the result of experimenting with the various barrels brought back from the Caribbean. By the mid-20th century, these blended rums became de rigueur at the finest Tiki bars around the world. Denizen’s modern take on this classic style is smooth enough to be sipped, but it’s most at home in classic tropical cocktails, especially the Mai Tai. Unfortunately, it takes time for new products to reach all markets, so check Denizen’s website for online stores and info on retailers near you.
* Official sites: DenizenRum.com| Facebook | Twitter
* Related rum of the week: Denizen aged white
* See all past rums of the week
COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK:
Merchant’s Mai Tai
(By Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)
* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
* 1/4 ounce orgeat
* 1/4 ounce simple syrup
* 1/4 ounce honey mix
* 1/8 ounce Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters
* 3/4 ounce Denizen aged white rum
* 1 1/2 ounces Denizen Merchant’s Reserve rum
Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for 5-7 seconds. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with mint.
This is a twist on the traditional Mai Tai using both Denizen rums, the addition of lemon juice and a touch of honey, plus blood orange bitters instead of orange liqueur. It’s reminiscent of the classic but a different drink entirely, featuring complex sour and sweet notes and a unique bitter balance. On top of it all, the big bold taste of the Jamaican rum shines through yet remains in perfect balance.
Ingredient notes: A high-quality (or homemade) orgeat is essential. My current favorite is the outstanding Orgeat Works from Brooklyn. Honey mix is simply equal parts honey and water, combined into a syrup. Stirrings Blood Orange bitters is a unique non-alcoholic product, much milder than other orange bitters on the market (hence the 1/8 ounce dose and not just a few dashes). It’s recommended you track down a bottle and not substitute a standard orange bitters, which could overwhelm the drink. This cocktail was designed around the Denizen rums and doesn’t necessarily work with all dark Jamaican rums. The aged white rum should provide body while the dark rum adds flavor and punch. Some premium dark Jamaican rums (such as Appleton) are too smooth while Smith & Cross is too bold in this proportion. I had my best luck with a middle-of-the-road dark Jamaican rum such as Coruba or Myers’s. But if you have the means, do seek out Denizen. You won’t be disappointed. To make Trader Vic’s original Mai Tai with Denizen Merchant’s Reserve replacing the defunct 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew rum, check out Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s recipe.
* Related cocktails of the week: Plantation Mai Tai | El Dorado Mai Tai
Rebel With a Cause featuring Denizen aged white rum
* See all past cocktails of the week
SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events
***** On the Eastern Seaboard *****
* Oct. 17 – The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival.
* June 23-26, 2016 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y.
***** Across the U.S. *****
* Aug. 2-9 – Texas Tiki Week, Austin.
* 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.
* Sept. 19 – Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Indianapolis, Ind.
* Oct. 8-11 – Mod-Palm Springs, Palm Springs, Calif.
* Dec. 4 – Midwest Rum Fest, Louisville, Ky.
* July 8-10, 2016 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.
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