Hot off the presses, we have breaking news on The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover selling out, the inside story of Trader Vic’s in Emeryville facing a noise crackdown, plus the release of open editions of Tiki Farm’s 15th anniversary mugs. You can find holiday Tiki gift ideas, plus previews of seasonal events in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Huntington Beach and Atlanta. Quick hits include news on Ìxtahuele, B.G. Reynolds Syrups and several crowd-funding projects. Regular features spotlight surrealist artist Scott “Flounder” Scheidly; surf guitarist Laramie Dean; Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room; and the Vintage Roadside website. The Rum of the Week, Koloa Gold, is featured in the Unisphere cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events
All Tiki Tower Takeover tickets are taken, 5th bartender announced
One of the most anticipated Tiki cocktail events of 2016 is already sold out, a little over a month after tickets went on sale and more than six months before The Hukilau celebrates its 15th anniversary with a five-day celebration in Fort Lauderdale. The second annual Tiki Tower Takeover will be held on June 9 in the revolving 17th floor ballroom atop the historic Pier 66 hotel and will feature five of the country’s top Tiki barmen mixing up signature cocktails.
The first Tiki Tower Takeover, held in June 2015, was spearheaded by award-winning author and Tiki bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29 in New Orleans). Berry and his three brethren return in 2016: Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake in Chicago), and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City).
The Hukilau’s producer and organizer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, has also revealed a fifth top bartender who will be joining the event and setting up shop next to last year’s fab four: St. John Frizell, owner-operator of Fort Defiance in Brooklyn and host of The Sunken Harbor Club, the bar’s monthly celebration of Polynesian food and drinks. In October, Frizell beat out an all-star lineup of Big Apple mixologists to win The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage, photos] White will also soon announce the Tiki bar that will be serving the “welcome drink” to guests as they board a private elevator and head up to the exclusive skylounge. In addition to the six cocktails, attendees of the two-hour event (5 to 7 p.m.) will enjoy food and live entertainment while the lounge rotates once every 66 minutes.
Coming soon: A full preview of the second Tiki Tower Takeover
* The Atomic Grog’s recap of the 2015 Tiki Tower Takeover | Photo gallery
The other special event that went on sale in late October is also likely to sell out soon. Shag’s SkyLounge, a swank “Martini meet and mingle” in the Pier Top Ballroom hosted by acclaimed artist Josh Agle, will follow the Tiki Tower Takeover on June 9, running from 10 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are available now exclusively for weekend passholders for $49, which includes a Martini, live entertainment and the one-of-a-kind experience of being in live Shag painting. Four-day, three-day and two-day passes are available at 2015 prices until early January. Five-day passes are sold out. The full entertainment lineup, more rum and cocktail events, a Beachbum Berry symposium, and more will be announced in early January.
More on The Atomic Grog
* All five-day tickets sold out | Tiki Tower bartenders return, Marina to perform
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary in 2016
Trader Vic’s in Emeryville faces noise crackdown
The flagship Trader Vic’s restaurant in Emeryville, Calif., is embroiled in a dispute with nearby residents, who want to force the venerable Tiki establishment to obtain an annual cabaret license in order to host live music at private events. According to restaurant officials, a proposed amendment to city ordinances “could significantly affect Trader Vic’s by curtailing our ability to have live or amplified music.”
The changes were due for a vote on Dec. 1, but action was postponed until Feb. 16 to give the city council more time to review the issue. They reportedly plan to personally attend events and monitor sound levels. News of the vote spurred an outpouring of support from the Tiki community amid fears that shutting down music at the restaurant would have serious long-term effects. “Losing the ability to have music at Trader Vic’s would be a blow to the business, and to the community,” Humuhumu wrote in a Critiki News story.
Trader Vic Bergeron (1902-1984) is a landmark figure in the history of Polynesian-themed dining, drinks and entertainment. He opened his first establishment (Hinky Dinks) in 1934 in Oakland, not far from the current Emeryville location. He launched the tropical-themed Trader Vic’s in 1937, invented the Mai Tai, and led an empire that peaked during Tiki’s heyday but still numbers 20 locations across the world today. Trader Vic’s Emeryville is especially significant because it’s still owned by Bergeron’s family, not a franchisee or partnership like the other restaurants.
The original Trader Vic’s moved to its waterfront spot in Emeryville in 1972. Condos sprung up nearby two years later. Complaints about music heard coming from the restaurant are at the heart of the long-running dispute, which spurred Trader Vic’s to ask for help from its supporters. The restaurant maintains that a law used primarily to regulate nightclubs should not apply, and that enforcing a ban would be an “an extreme measure that specifically singles out Trader Vic’s. It targets our family-owned restaurant in a heavy-handed attempt to prohibit us from having live or amplified music. (Even for private events like weddings and retirement parties.)”
Even so, “our music is a cornerstone of the Trader Vic’s experience,” the letter says while asking locals to lobby city officials. A local blog, The E’ville Eye, posted an in-depth story on the issue, arguing for a compromise solution. It’s a sticky political situation due to the fact that the large condominum accounts for up to 25% of the city’s population, including at least one council memeber. There are other circumstances discussed in the story that also need to be considered. According to the blog, both sides seem willing to compromise, so hopefully a solution can be found.
* Trader Vic’s Emeryville: Official site | Facebook | Twitter
Open editions of Tiki Farm 15th anniversary mugs released
In the wake last month’s monumental exhibit of more than 600 mugs at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, Tiki Farm has released the open editions of the four mugs that were featured in limited edition during the Mondo Tiki show.
The exhibit ran through Nov. 29, including a memorable Nov. 28 closing party featuring discussion by artists Big Toe and Ken Ruzic, plus Tiki Farm founder Holden Westland. An excellent 40-page, full-color compendium is still available from the gallery. or from Tiki Farm.
All of the limited edition mugs are sold out, but you can still order the Rub for Rum Easter Island Tiki Decanter by Michelle Bickford, which was also part of the show. In addition to the massive display of mugs and limited releases, the show included original paintings by the artists.
More on the Mondo Tiki exhibit
* Kevin Upthegrove’s photos on Flickr
* The Tiki Chick’s blog
* Tiki Central discussion, photos, more
In related news, Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas will be selling its limited edition seventh anniversary mugs, designed by Crazy Al Evans, at the bar’s birthday bash on Saturday, Dec. 5. All remaining mugs will be available at the bar and on the FrankiesTikiRoom.com website beginning Dec. 7, until they’re are gone. Expect these highly detailed and very cool mugs that pay tribute to the goddess of the sea to sell fast. Only 300 were produced, 100 each in siren sea blue, deep sea green, and shipwreck red.
Hapa holidays: Gift ideas and upcoming events
Humuhumu at Critiki News has come to rescue of all those folks outside the Tiki community who consider their Tiki friends impossible to find gifts for. The Critiki Gift Guide contains an exhaustive list of essential items, broken down by interest (Tiki bartenders, Tiki bar builders, Tiki jetsetters, budding musicians). Thank you Humuhumu, for sparing us yet another gift of a generic “Tiki bar” sign. And to wrap that gift for your Tiki loved one, there’s nothing like Tiki Wrapping Paper by Sophista-tiki (aka Dawn Frasier, a previous Artist of the Week). And if you’re looking for the perfect holiday cards to reflect your enthusiasm for Tiki and mid-century culture, you need to check out The Retro Christmas Card Company. The are many styles to choose from, from Tiki Bar to “Space Age Santa.” Some let you design your own custom-printed card.
The Tiki holiday event season kicks off Sunday, Dec. 6, with Tiki Wonderland X at Tonga Hut in Los Angeles. The 10th annual parking lot sale and art show begins at 2 p.m. with holiday tunes by DJ Big Tiki Dude (the man behind the annual Surf Guitar 101 convention). The action then moves inside at 6 p.m., when High Tide will perform The Ventures’ classic Christmas album. There will also be food and the Tonga Hut’s great selection of classic and modern Tiki cocktails.
* Facebook event | Tiki Central discussion
* Tonga Hut official site
The International Tiki Market Place returns to Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif., for a special holiday marketplace on Saturday, Dec. 12, with more than 40 vendors, live Polynesian entertainment, food and drinks, plus more. The all-ages event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with free admission. Vendors and artists include Bamboo Ben, Big Toe, Doug Horne, Johnnie Velour Ceramics, Lake Tiki, Little Lost Tiki (Ken Ruzic), Poly Hai, Retro Ruthie, Spike from The Hula Girls, Thor, Tiki Diablo, Tiki Tony, Trader Pup’s Outpost, Vintage Surf, and many more. We hear Santa may even make an appearance.
* Facebook event | Tiki Central discussion
* Don the Beachcomber official site
Saturday, Dec. 12, is Mele Kalikimaka Day at Disneyland, an informal gathering of Tiki-loving Disneyphiles in Anaheim. Guests are encouraged to wear their finest holiday-themed Hawaiian shirts and dresses for the event, which includes a group photo, a gathering (and merry sing along) in the Enchanted Tiki Room, a group ride through It’s a Small World Holiday, and more. One would assume that Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar will also be included in the merriment.
* Facebook event
Also on Dec. 12, the annual Southern Surf Stomp holiday show rings in the season in Atlanta with Chad Shivers & the Silent Knights performing the Christmas albums from both The Ventures and The Beach Boys. The One and Only Bill Davis from Nashville will also perform holiday hits, including selections from his An Omnichord X-mas album. Opening the festivities are The Home Alones, who exclusively play songs about the classic Christmas movie. The event at Kavarna in Decatur is open to all ages and costs just $8 at the door.
* Facebook event | Southern Surf Stomp official site
Quick Hits: New Ìxtahuele tunes, B.G. Reynolds goes brick-and-mortar, crowd-funding for new film and CD
Exotica music fans rejoice: Ìxtahuele has announced that they are working on a new album, the follow-up to the acclaimed Pagan Rites (2013). The Swedish quintet posted the following missive on Facebook recently: “It’s finally happening!! In the dark and rainy town of Gothenburg, The Exotic Sounds of Ìxtahuele are in the making of a new album, containing music for the mind to travel to faraway destinations … It will be available summer 2016 … Staying tuned.” Ìxtahuele (founded in 2011) exploded onto the worldwide Tiki scene, wowing audiences at The Hukilau and Tiki Oasis. Pagan Rites also drew new fans to the classic mid-century exotica sound pioneered by Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, and others. The Ìxtahuele sound is both retro and modern, taking listeners on a journey to unimagined lands. If you don’t have Pagan Rites yet, get it now.
* Amazon: Buy Pagan Rites (vinyl, CD, MP3)
* Official band website | Facebook page
B.G. Reynolds Syrups is launching a new retail space and tasting room in Portland on Sunday, Dec. 6., with a soft opening party from noon to 6 p.m. [Facebook event] Punch and snacks will be served while you check out the Tiki bar products lovingly created by Blair Reynolds, who also owns the acclaimed Hale Pele in Portland. Reynolds creates his syrups (orgeat, falernum, cinnamon, passion fruit, and many more) for both home enthusiasts and industry professionals. Like many, he started out as the former. The tasting room will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and noon to 6 p .m. on weekends, offering samples, swizzles, gifts, tropical treats, and more.
* Get updates on the Facebook page
* Previous coverage: Website of the week
A Kickstarter campaign to raise $60,000 to produce a Tiki-inspired independent short film called The Witchdoctor is more than half way toward its goal with less than two weeks remaining. The experimental film features imaginative use of stop-motion animation and puppetry by the filmmakers, Screen Novelties. They envision “a magical realm of dense jungles, fiery volcanoes, and iridescent lagoons” where The Witchdoctor rules as an “overzealous protector of this mysterious archipelago. He’s ready for action with his shiny cauldron, potent elixirs, and shrunken heads. There’s only one problem … The Witchdoctor stinks at magic. When he mixes a potion or casts a spell, watch out!” Check out the Kickstarter pitch for a video presentation. One of the rewards is an exclusive Witchdoctor Tiki mug, created by Tiki Diablo. For a pledge of $15 or more, you get a download of the finished film.
Another worthy crowdfunding project is the second volume in the This is Vintage Now series of mid-century lounge and exotica music. Participants include veteran artists as well as current bands putting a modern spin on classic styles. The GoFundMe page is a long way from its goal, so go check it out and consider pre-ordering the album. Producer David Gasten recently announced the addition of Hulabulu from the upcoming Voodoo III album from late exotica pioneer Robert Drasnin. This is Vintage Now Vol. 2: Happiness is a Way of Life is compiled but needs funding for production, mastering, and promotion. The original 10-song volume was released in 2011 (download from Amazon). More volumes are already being planned.
***** Links of the week*****
* Fantasy Island… at home with Sven A. Kirsten (Glory Days)
* Six signs your “tiki bar” is not a Tiki Bar (Critiki News)
* New chef takes helm at Latitude 29 (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
* Lost Lake launches new “whisper menu” with 100+ Tiki drinks (Time Out Chicago)
* The Aged Rum Olympics (Food and Wine)
* Rum’s resurgence: Why you should be drinking this cane spirit tonight (Ask Men)
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Scott “Flounder” Scheidly
In the hands of Scott Scheidly, aka Flounder, surrealism takes a realistic twist in paintings that show off his talent for skeletal art and botanics. An Art Institute of Pittsburgh grad and longtime Orlando resident, Scheidly has also put his stamp on the Tiki scene over the past decade with his many distinctive mugs for Tiki Farm. Scheidly is truly a master of many styles. His surrealistic paintings (such as the “Pink” series), portray pop culture icons, from Abraham Lincoln to Herman Munster, in realistic yet bizarre settings. His work appears regularly in galleries across the world and at high-profile shows such as Art Basel in Miami.
* Find Scott: FlounderArt.com | Facebook | Instagram
* See past artists of the week
Latest Flounder art: As one of the featured artists at the Mondo Tiki art show and 15th anniversary celebration of Tiki Farm at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood in November, Scheidly contributed not only a special limited-edition mug, but also showed a series of 11 paintings depicting Polynesian goddesses and shrunken heads with pop culture twists. An open edition of the Nari Rani mug is now available on the Tiki Farm site (see story above).
BAND/MUSIC OF THE WEEK: Laramie Dean
The short film Surf 9 From Outer Space and EP Laramie Dean Plays Guitar from Outer Space are the culmination of a long journey for the Southern California-based surf guitarist who cut his teeth in the South Florida punk scene and toured the country opening for his mentor, Dick Dale. The four-song EP was released in July, along with a cool B-movie styled video for Surf 9, a slow and moody number that breaks new ground for the usually frenetic fretmaster. The video is one of four included in the film by Johnny Grew, which will make its premiere on Dec. 11 in Hollywood. Dean recorded 16 new original songs, including some with Jimmy Dale (Dick’s son) on drums, so look for plenty of new releases in the near future. The 10-song Surf Riot! album, recorded in South Florida and released in 2008, established Dean’s surf-punk credentials and earned him worldwide touring gigs with Agent Orange. With an impressive collection of new music, Dean is now poised to launch the next phase of his career into outer space.
* LaramieDean.com | Facebook page | Twitter
* YouTube: See the Surf 9 video
* Amazon downloads: Laramie Dean Plays Guitar from Outer Space
Split 7-inch with The Reigning Monarchs (2010) | Surf Riot! (10-song LP, 2008)
Past Atomic Grog coverage
Photos: Laramie Dean and Jimmy Dale in South Florida
Surf guitarst Laramie Dean, inspired by mentor Dick Dale, overcomes similar hurdles
Review: Laramie Dean with Dick Dale in June 2011
Dick Dale tour was 7 years in the making
* All past bands/music of the week
Catch ’em live: Laramie Dean and Jimmy Dale will perform after the world premiere of the Surf 9 From Outer Space movie on Friday, Dec. 11, at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. The sci-fi double feature will also include the B-movie classic Plan 9 From Outer Space.
* Tickets, map, directions
BAR OF THE WEEK:
Porco Lounge & Tiki Room
Cleveland joins the growing ranks of cities that have been recently graced with an impressive new Tiki bar. Billed as the city’s first authentic exotic bar experience since the closing of the Kon Tiki in 1976, Porco Lounge & Tiki Room opened in October 2013. It delivers the goods with acclaimed cocktails served in a dark and welcoming environment that even includes some old Kon Tiki decor. The drinks feature house-made syrups and fresh-squeezed juices, plus a wide variety of rums. You can find many classics (Mai Tai, Zombie, Painkiller, et al.) along with distinctive original concoctions such as the mammoth Tiki Bob’s Concussion. Owner Stefan Was took great care in creating the perfect space, even including his own swizzle sticks and Tiki mug collections.
* PorcoLounge.com | Facebook | Twitter
* Critiki profile | Tiki Central discussion
* See past bars of the week
Don’t miss: Porco Lounge & Tiki Room and general manager/head bartender Shannon Smith will participate in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Feb. 26. Hosted by Food Network’s Guy Fieri, the event will feature nine of the country’s best Tiki bars competing for cash prizes. Guests can sample all the cocktails, plus tropical treats from some of South Florida’s top chefs. Tickets are on sale now.
* The Atomic Grog’s recap, photos from the 2015 showdown
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK:
Grab a seat in a classic 1950s convertible and take a spin back in time, where vintage attractions and eye-catching architecture ruled the road. A labor of love for mid-century historians Jeff and Kelly Kunkle, Vintage Roadside is an homage to an unfortunately rapidly vanishing landscape in America. The site is essentially an online gift shop featuring T-shirts and other items with authentic graphics from the ’30s through the ’60s, but there’s more. Check out the links page for some great vintage Americana resources, or browse the historic photos and stories about memorable attractions, diners, drive-ins, motor courts and motels, skating rinks, and bowling alleys. Jeff and Kelly have spent years gathering images and memorabilia during their travels, and their expertise is apparent (he’s also editor of Tiki Magazine & More). As a bonus, follow the Facebook page and enjoy a steady stream of photos of vintage locations and quirky images from roadsides across America.
* VintageRoadside.com | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Flickr | Etsy
* On The Atomic Grog: A deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges
* See past websites of the week
RUM OF THE WEEK:
While the Hawaiian distillery’s premium, single-batch coconutand dark rums tend to get more accolades and attention, the gold rum is no slouch. A gold medal winner at the 2014 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, where I first tasted it and quickly sought out a bottle, this smooth and sophisticated spirit makes a fine mixer in Tiki cocktails. It’s neither cloyingly sweet nor overtly harsh, striking a nice balance with hints of honey and citrus vying for your attention.
* Koloa Rum: Official site | Facebook
Twitter | Pintrest | Instagram
* Related rums of the week: Koloa Dark | Koloa Coconut
* See all past rums of the week
COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK: Unisphere
(From Playboy’s Host & Bar Book, 1971)
* 1 1/2 ounces golden rum
* 1 teaspoon grenadine
* 1/2 ounce lime juice (fresh squeezed)
* 1/2 teaspoon Benedictine
* 1/2 teaspoon Pernod
Shake well with ice. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.
Playboy has been in the news a lot lately, mainly for its decision to cover up its nude models. But, interestingly, the magazine that defined a distinctive mid-century style is also garnering attention for its classic 1971 bar guide by Thomas Mario (see links below). I’ve long been a fan of this somewhat dated but comprehensive (and kitschy) manual to late ’60s cocktail culture, which includes quite a few recipes that hold up well in today’s craft cocktail renaissance. One of these is the Unisphere, a simple yet potent small sipper featuring two bold, herbal liqueurs. The lime and grenadine are used in small doses to provide balance yet leave room for the rum to shine. The Unisphere requires a gold rum with distinct yet refined flavors so it makes itself known yet doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients. Koloa Gold does the trick nicely.
* Buy Playboy’s Host & Bar Book on Amazon
* Drink Police: Revisiting Playboy’s Host & Bar Book (Punch)
* I partied like a 1960s playboy (New York Magazine)
* See all past cocktails of the week
SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events
***** In Florida *****
* Dec. 28 – 59th Anniversary Customer Appreciation Party, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
* Feb. 26, 2016 – The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown, South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Miami Beach.
* April 15-17 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* June 8-12 – The Hukilau, Fort Lauderdale. [Atomic Grog coverage]
***** Across the U.S. *****
* Dec. 18 – Caliente Christmas, Tonga Hut, Palm Srrings, Calif.
* April 14-17, 2016 – Viva Las Vegas.
* April 21-24 – Mojave Oasis, Newberry Springs, Calif.
* April 30 – Midwest Rum Festival, Chicago, Ill.
* May 12-15 – Tiki Caliente, Palm Springs, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* July 8-10 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Aug. 18-21 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Sept. 17 – Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Indianapolis, Ind.
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.)