It was a year of both sadness and elation, when some legends were lost but the world of Tiki made great strides. As we mourned the deaths in 2015 of musicians Robert Drasnin and Ernie Menehune, plus artist The Pizz, we were bolstered by the fact that a new generation of artists and musicians are taking inspiration from the past and creating an incredible new body of work. And Tiki culture was embraced and celebrated across the country at sold-out events and a whole new wave of bars. After our first year of The Week in Tiki updates, The Atomic Grog takes a look back at the memorable news of 2015.
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See below: Month-by-month recap | The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards
The year 2015 marked a turning point in the 21st century Tiki scene. If there was ever a time to declare that the “revival” had become a full-blown renaissance, it’s now. It’s been building for some years now, but last year seemed to be the tipping point. Just look at the evidence in our favorite topics: Events, music, art, cocktails, and culture. Then, take a chronological look back at the biggest news of the year, month by month. Finally, find out our selections for the top artist, band, bar, website, rum, and cocktail of 2015 in our first Year in Tiki Awards.
****************** EVENTS ******************
Long gone are the days when you spent the entire year planning for Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau. Smaller events, such as Tiki Kon and Tiki Caliente, have risen up to challenge the trend-setters. And the Fraternal Order Of Moai has filled a gap by providing a plethora of regional events from Ohana: Luau At The Lake to the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, and more. All of the above were wildly successful in 2015, with many events selling out in advance.
The top dogs continue to raise their game: The Hukilau moved to the iconic Pier 66 Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach and attracted some of Tiki’s biggest names, most notably the gathering of four of the world’s top bartenders for the Tiki Tower Takeover. Tiki Oasis keeps getting bigger, breaking its own attendance records, while newer events such as Mod-Palm Springs and Ohana: Luau by the Sea have carved out their own niche. Rum and cocktail events – such as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Tales of the Cocktail – have refined their successful formulas, spreading their message to an even wider audience.
****************** MUSIC ******************
As we said goodbye the legendary Robert Drasnin, who passed away in May, a new generation of exotica bands continued to shine in 2015. Scene trendsetters The Tikiyaki Orchestra released Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures, their first new album in four years, continuing to push the envelope with new sounds and fresh arrangements. Tampa’s Stolen Idols gained accolades for their long-awaited album, Moonlight Offerings, released in 2014. Meanwhile, Alika Lyman Group resurrected a classic style of exotica and jazz, performing for an appreciative crowd at The Hukilau. And independent-minded bands such as The Hula Girls and Gold Dust Lounge took a no-barriers approach, combining styles with creative abandon.
Some of the biggest names in surf rock, such as Man or Astro-man? and Los Straitjackets, made appearances at Tiki events across the country. Meanwhile, it was a banner year for new surf bands and releases, showcased on online radio and podcasts such as Surf Rock Radio and Southern Surf Stomp. The exotica and lounge music scenes were also bolstered by many informative and entertaining podcasts and streaming radio stations, from Koop Kooper’s Cocktail Nation to Luxuria Music to The Quiet Village to Exotic Tiki Island. And indie labels such as Double Crown Records and Dionysus Records released the records we not only want, but desperately need.
****************** ART ******************
While saddened by the loss of The Pizz in late August, the Tiki art community had much to celebrate. A second Shag the Store opened in California, capping another successful year for Tiki’s most recognized artist. The venerable Tiki Farm marked its 15th anniversary with a massive exhibit in Los Angeles, showcasing more than 700 mugs from a multitude of artists. Tiki Diablo had a prolific year, capped by a ground-breaking relationship that saw his work featured at Home Depot stores across the western U.S.
Multi-talented craftsmen such as Bamboo Ben, Bosko and Crazy Al Evans were busy building out new Tiki bars and releasing their own distinctive pieces. In Tampa, Jeff Chouinard, aka Surf Soul Tiki, took a guerrilla approach to Tiki carving by surreptitiously creating works of art in public places throughout the bay area.
****************** COCKTAILS ******************
If you’re looking for a true indicator of the state of 21st century Tiki culture, just look at the bars and restaurants that burst onto the scene in 2015. Fueled by the craft cocktail movement, we’re in the midst of what could become the most prolific period for new Tiki bars since the mid-20th century. Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, which opened in New Orleans in late 2014, seems to have launched the explosion of new watering holes. We may have missed a few, but here are the major openings we noted throughout 2015:
New Tiki bars in 2015
* January: Lost Lake in Chicago.
* March: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando.
* April: Saturn Room in Tulsa, Okla.
* May: Tai Tiki Polynesian Bar & Grill in Columbus, Ohio.
* August: The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas.
* October: North Shore Lagoon in Bothell, near Seattle.
* November: The SOS Tiki Bar in Decatur, Ga., and The Shameful Tiki Room in Toronto.
* December: Rum Rok in Sacramento, Calif.
That’s not to say there weren’t a few bits of bad news. There were some closings: Oakland’s Conga Lounge in February, Montreal’s Jardin Tiki in March, Milwaukee’s Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room in October, Charlotte’s Tiki Hideaway in November. But they were outweighed by the new arrivals. There were a few scares that bear watching, including potential zoning issues at California mainstays Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach and Trader Vic’s in Emeryville. But the proliferation of new establishments is expected to continue in 2016, with at least six new bars already in the works across the U.S. (see preview). Perhaps even more significant than the boom in business was the flurry of awards and nominations bestowed upon the top-tier bars such as Smuggler’s Cove, Latitude 29 and Lost Lake, among others. Meanwhile, the owners contined to garner praise and accolades, fueling more projects. Smuggler’s Cove owner Martin Cate prepared a much-awaited book project while also opening a well-received gin den, Whitechapel. Lost Lake’s Paul McGee contiuned to have the midas touch with his latest speakeasy concept, Milk Room. And the godfather of modern Tiki cocktails, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, continued his relationship with Cocktail Kingdom, releasing a steady stream of inspired barware. And while not a true Tiki bar, The Broken Shaker in Miami Beach also continued to rake in the praise (including the Spirited Award for Best American Hotel Bar at Tales of the Cocktail) while opening a sister location in Chicago in June.
Tiki also continued to thrive and gain new followers across the country at one-off and regular events, such as Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City. Tropical mixology gained mainstream exposure thanks to “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown,” which debuted at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Febuary, then expanded to the New York City Wine & Food Festival in October. The craft of Tiki cocktails also spurred the success of independent purveyors of specialized ingredients, including Portland’s B.G. Reynolds and Brooklyn’s Orgeat Works. Meanwhile, all this cocktail action was documented online by a growing number of highly informative Tiki and rum blogs and podcasts, led by such crucial resources as A Mountain of Crushed Ice, 5 Minutes of Rum, The Floating Rum Shack, Inu a Kena, and Cocktail Wonk.
****************** CULTURE ******************
As Tiki culture continues to grow and gain new adherents (and we become more and more removed from its mid-20th century origins), there’s always a quite justified concern from purists. In a nutshell: Do the newbies truly “get it,” or are they just jumping on the latest trend. Or worse, will they ruin and bastardize our cherished (albeit fake) culture. Luckily, there were many longtime devotees who made it a personal mission to educate the masses. Topping the list is Humuhumu, creator of the essential Critiki website (est. 2002), an early proponent of authentic Polynesian Pop who in recent years stepped back a bit to start a family. But she came back in a big way in 2015, re-launching her Tiki blog as Critiki News to cover not only bars but the vast “Tiki lifestyle.” Humuhumu also educates craft bartenders and other members of the hospitality industry with symposiums on Tiki history (catch her at The Hukilau in June). The Tiki Central message board (est. 2000) remained an essential resource and repository of expert advice, even as its audience seem to be splintered by Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
The best way to raise your Tiki IQ was to attend symposiums at the many events across the country, particularly The Hukilau (Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, and many more) and Tiki Oasis (Sven Kirsten, Charles Phoenix, et al.). Also helping keeping mid-century culture alive in its vintage glory were distinctive entertainers such as Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, and iconic establishments such as The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, which was named to the National Register of Historic Places. Another famous restaurant that’s no longer with us was honored with an insightful book, The Kahiki: Crown Jewel of Polynesian Supper Clubs. For many, Disney is the gateway to Tiki culture via the Enchanted Tiki Room and other iconic pop culture touchstones. In 2015, the Disney World resort welcomed its first authentic Tiki bar, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, as part of a massive refurbishment of the Polynesian Village Resort (est. 1971). Fans kept up with all the news and shared photos on Tikiman’s Polynesian Village Resort Pages.
MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP: A look back at 2015
The Atomic Grog launched The Week in Tiki in January 2015, documenting all the major news and happenings from around the world of modern Polynesian Pop, concentrating on our home base of the U.S. East Coast. Click here to see all 35 of our blogs, which were initially posted weekly and later became bi-weekly. You can also check our archive page, which includes a full list of all the artists, bands and music, bars, websites, rums, and cocktails that were featured as our picks of the week. Scroll below to see the The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards, our picks for our favorites who had the biggest impact in 2015. But first, here’s a chronological breakdown of what was indeed a memorable year in Tiki.
****************** JANUARY ******************
Paul McGee, who gained fame with Three Dots and a Dash (Best New American Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail), opens his second Tiki bar in Chicago, the intimate Lost Lake. … Sales begin at Disney’s Polynesian Village for the Bora Bora Bungalows and deluxe studio rooms, part of an ongoing massive expansion at the 44-year-old Orlando resort. … Tickets for The Hukilau Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale in June go on sale, including symposiums by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, plus Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Brian Miller. … The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival begins offering tickets and hotel rooms for its April event. … The Fraternal Order of Moai announces the return of the Chicago Area Tiki Tour in April. … Disney World celebrates the 40th anniversary of the original Space Mountain, along with the 1975 installation of the Carousel of Progress (a historic 1964-65 World’s Fair attraction) in Tomorrowland. … Tiki Caliente announces general room and wristband sales for the May 14-17 event in Palm Springs. … January events include Revenge of the Tiki lV at Kreepy Tiki Lounge in Fort Lauderdale; and Planet of the Lost Tikis on Florida’s Space Coast.
* See the full blogs: Jan. 1-11 | Jan. 12-18 | Jan. 19-25 | Jan. 26-Feb. 1
* The Hukilau announces six historic symposiums, ticket sales for June event (Jan. 13)
****************** FEBRUARY ******************
The Hukilau puts tickets on sale for the Tiki Tower Takeover at Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale featuring four of the country’s top barmen – Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays with Miller, New York City). Also available: The “Three Hour Tour” Cruise on Fort Lauderdale’s inland waterways with Dawn Wells from Gilligan’s Island. … Event tickets go on sale for Ohana: Luau at the Lake, set for June 25-28 at The Tiki Resort in Lake George, N.Y., and featuring Los Straitjackets. … Florida’s secretary of state announces several new additions to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, including The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. “The restaurant survived beyond the waning popularity of Polynesian-Pop in the late 1970s and is now experiencing a resurgent interest,” the announcement said.
Modernism Week envelopes Palm Springs, Calif., on Feb. 12-22, with a celebration of art, fashion and culture featuring more than 200 events. Nearby at Shag the Store, artist Josh Agle hosts a release party for a new print featuring music by The Martini Kings. … Oakland’s Conga Lounge, one of the pioneering Tiki revival bars in the Bay Area, closes its doors after 12 years. … Emeril Lagasse hosts The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, featuring judges Beachbum Berry and Martin Cate. Brian Miller earns the Judge’s Choice award, while Miami Beach’s The Broken Shaker takes home the People’s Choice award. … Also in South Beach, Massachusetts bartender Ran Duan wins the U.S. finals of the United States Bartenders Guild’s Legacy National Cocktail Competition, sponsored by Bacardi. … An animatronic Tiki Room bird from Disneyland (circa 1970s) fetches $153,400 at an auction of Disney artifacts at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, Calif. … Other February events include the Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai party hosted by the Gumbo Limbo chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai; the 12th annual Polynesian Cultural Festival in Oakland Park, Fla.; and Festival RumBahamas in Nassau.
* See the full blogs: Feb. 2-8 | Feb. 9-15 | Feb. 16-23 | Feb. 24-March 1
* The Hukilau welcomes Tiki’s top bartenders, Dawn Wells of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ (Feb. 9)
* Emeril brings Tiki to South Beach during cocktail showdown (Feb. 19)
* Three ‘secret cocktails’ drop in for a night of flights at The Mai-Kai (Feb. 21)
****************** MARCH ******************
South Florida Tiki artist Robert Jimenez appears at the opening of the new Wonderground Gallery at Downtown Disney in Orlando. … Tonga Hut , which opened in 1958 in Los Angeles, celebrates the 10th anniversary of its “rebirth” in 2005. … Tickets go on sale for the July 10-12 Tiki Kon, the premiere event in the Pacific Northwest. … A new event is announced: Vintage Tiki Weekend at the historic Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, N.J. Set for May 15-17, the gathering organized by Retro Roadmap’s Mod Betty sells out in just 10 days. … Also sold out: the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, the April 24-26 bus tour of the Windy City’s best Tiki bars. … In Adventureland at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Aloha Isle (and its iconic Dole Whip) swaps locations with Sunshine Tree Terrace, making way for a new restaurant later in the year (see December). … Disney and Tiki fans line up five hours in advance March 28 to be among the first to enter Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian Village Resort. The soft opening of Disney World’s version of the acclaimed Disneyland Hotel bar comes after a week of VIP and cast member previews. … The second annual Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week is announced for April 14-19, preceding the weekend gathering of rum experts from around the world. … Montreal’s venerable Jardin Tiki closes after 30 years to make way for new development. … Other March events include Dapper Day at Disneyland and Disney World.
* See the full blogs: March 2-8 | March 9-15 | March 16-22 | March 23-29
* Disney World rushes to finish Polynesian Village Resort renovations (March 9)
****************** APRIL ******************
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows holds its grand opening on April 1, making the official debut of hundreds of new deluxe rooms at the 39-acre resort’s 11 existing longhouses, plus 20 lavish bungalows built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon with scenic views of the Magic Kingdom. … Polynesian singer and performer Ernie Menehune dies in his adopted home of Tucson at age 92 . … Ohana: Luau at the Lake, set for June 25-28 in upstate New York, is officially sold out. … Thousands of enthusiasts, experts and VIPs congregate in Miami on April 17-19 for the seventh annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, the ultimate rum festival and trade expo. Hundreds of rums are exhibited, tasted and judged at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. There are also educational seminars, plus live entertainment and merchandise vendors. Leading up to the weekend is the second annual Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week, which features themed nights at top area bars such as The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale and The Broken Shaker in Miami Beach.
Plans are announced to sink 14 giant Easter Island-themed statues of cast concrete on the ocean floor off Deerfield Beach in South Florida to function as an artificial reef. The Rapa Nui Reef is scheduled to be sunk June 7. … Revelers gather at the Windy City’s top Tiki bars April 24-26 for the Chicago Area Tiki Tour. Organized by the Red Palms Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai, the event includes stops at Chef Shangri-la, Hala Kahiki, Lost Lake, Three Dots and a Dash, and The Tiki Terrace. … Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto marks its “official” opening at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort on April 27 with the launch of its own custom mugs, including the distinctive Nautilus, themed after the famous 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine. … Rum and Tiki expert Paul Senft kicks off his ongoing series of seminars at Trader Vic’s in Atlanta. … Other April events include Mojave Oasis in California, and the New England Tequila & Rum Festival in Lincoln, R.I.
* See the full blogs: March 30-April 12 | April 13-19 | April 20-26 | April 27-May 3
* Miami Rum Festival spotlights explosion of new brands (April 13)
****************** MAY ******************
Robert Drasnin, one of the last greats of the mid-century exotica music scene and a prolific composer of TV scores, passes away at age 87. Drasnin is perhaps best known for his seminal Voodoo albums released nearly 50 years apart. … The Fraternal Order of Moai announces that the Hot Rod Hula Hop is coming back to Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 7-8 for its seventh year. … The three finalists are announced for the July 11 Iron Tikitender competition as part of Tiki Kon in Vancouver, Wash. … Cocktail Kingdom launches a new line of Beachbum Berry Tiki barware: The Swizzle Cup, Pearl Diver Glass, and Skull Bar Spoon. … The seventh Tiki Caliente features the Martini Kings, The Ding Dong Devils, Tiki Joe’s Ocean, art shows, room parties, and much more. The highlight of the May 14-17 celebration is the installation of vintage carved signs created by artist Bosko Hrnjak for the 50-year-old Caliente Tropics hotel in Palm Springs.
A week later, Shag the Store celebrates its fifth anniversary in Palm Springs with a party and debut of 15 original hand-painted masks, plus Shag’s “The Girl from Coachella” print. … The Hukilau announces that its signature event for 2015, the Tiki Tower Takeover, is sold out. The June 10-14 gathering in Fort Lauderdale also sells out its top-tier tickets and the first dinner show at The Mai-Kai. … The first Vintage Tiki Weekend, held May 15-17 at the Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, N.J., is a smashing success. … Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 in New Orleans, open just seven months, is named to Esquire magazine’s 10th annual list of the Best Bars in America. … Tai Tiki Polynesian Bar & Grill opens in Columbus, Ohio, with former employees of The Kahiki, along with some old drink recipes from the late Polynesian palace (1961-2000). … Other May events include Instro Summit in Chapel Hill, N.C.; and RhumFest Paris in France.
****************** JUNE ******************
Tales of the Cocktail announces the nominees for the ninth annual Spirited Awards, including Best American Cocktail Bar (Smuggler’s Cove), and Best New American Cocktail Bar (both Latitude 29 and Lost Lake). … The sinking of the Rapa Nui Reef in Deefield Beach on goes horribly wrong June 7, when the Easter Island statues slide off their barge and are crushed as they tumble to the ocean floor. Organizers pledge to not give up on the $500,000 project. … Tiki Oasis announces Man or Astro-man? as the headliner of the Aug. 13-16 event in San Diego.
Close to a thousand fans of Tiki and mid-century culture from around the world gather June 10-14 for five days of unforgettable experiences in Fort Lauderdale at The Hukilau. Among the many highlights at the Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant: The Tiki Tower Takeover featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee and Brian Miller; the Three-Hour Tour Cruise with Dawn Wells of Gilligan Islands fame; musical performances by Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Quiet Villagers, King Kukulele, and Crazy Al Evans; Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s exclusive swim shows at The Wreck Bar; symposiums by Beachbum Berry and Brian Miller, Arthur Dong, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Domenic Priore, Jeff Chenault, plus Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener; the many vendors in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, along with the “Big Eye Spectacular” exhibit from The Harold Golen Gallery featuring a new painting by Shag.
Fraternal Order of Moai members and friends from across the country gather at The Tiki Resort in Lake George, N.Y., for the seventh annual Ohana: Luau at the Lake. The June 25-28 charity event features music (the Neanderthals, 9th Wave, The Outta Sites, Los Straitjackets, Waitiki), art, vendors, room parties, a cocktail contest, mini-golf, an authentic luau, and more. … Tickets go on sale for the newest FOM event, Ohana: Luau by the Sea, scheduled for Oct. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale. … Also announced for the fall: the third Mod-Palm Springs on Oct. 8-11 at the historic Caliente Tropics resort, hosted by Shag and Tiki Caliente’s Rory Snyder. … Other June events include the Surfer Joe Summer Festival in Italy, and Tiki Pop Fever in Saint-Tropez, France.
* See the full blogs: June 1-14 | June 15-28
* The Hukilau keeps 20th century Tiki culture alive and thriving (June 6)
The Hukilau day-by-day recaps and photos:
Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday/Sunday
****************** JULY ******************
The final phase of the conversion of hotel rooms into deluxe villas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is completed. … In a groundbreaking agreement, an new line of Tiki Diablo products – including Tikis, Tiki planters and a full Tiki bar – are distributed to around 600 Home Depot stores west of the Mississippi. The artwork by Danny Gallardo is part of the national retailer’s limited-time, seasonal “Hawaiian Days” promotion. … Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif., is saved from potential redevelopment after a groundswell of support persuades officials to unanimously reject a re-zoning request. … Tiki Kon takes off for its 13th annual Northwest flight July 10-12 in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash. Highlights include an eclectic lineup of live music and entertainment, cocktail and history symposiums, art and vendors, plus the signature Iron Tikitender contest (won by Sierra Kirk of Hale Pele in Portland). Headquartered at the historic Red Lion at the Quay hotel in Vancouver, the event also includes a taiko drumming and fire exhibition by Roy and Marina Anderson (aka Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid) and an all-day bar tour of some of the area’s best home and commercial Tiki establishments.
The 13th Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans attracts 20,000 bar professionals, industry reps and enthusiasts July 15-19, offering a little something for everyone with hundreds of events and seminars, many touching on Tiki and rum topics. Hosts and presenters include Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, Paul McGee of Lost Lake in Chicago, Robert A. Burr of the Miami Rum Festival, and many more. Berry and his wife, Annene Kaye (also general manager of their bar Latitude 29), are the event’s official cocktail ambassadors. The Broken Shaker in Miami Beach takes home the Spirited Award for Best American Hotel Bar. … As part of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration, Shag participates in an artist showcase at the WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney to mark the release of a new original painting, the Jungle Cruise tribute “A Perilous Adventure.” … The historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood hosts Cinematheque’s 11th annual Tiki Night on July 25, featuring a marketplace, live music, Polynesian dancers, fashion show, and the feature film South Seas Adventure (1958).
****************** AUGUST ******************
The fourth Texas Tiki Week is held Aug. 2-9, giving the state’s bar professionals and enthusiasts a chance to learn and socialize at events including, educational classes, a Mai Tai-themed bus tour, Tiki bowling tournament, a burlesque revue, a riverboat tour, and more. Among the many parties was a pop-up bar hosted by Paul McGee from Lost Lake in Chicago. …The Midwest’s biggest summer Tiki weekender, Hot Rod Hula Hop, revs 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 (Unknown Hinson, The Revomatics, the Hellroys, et al.), hot rods, a luau dinner at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room, and a burlesque show. … The Surf Guitar 101 Convention moves to a new location in Garden Grove, Calif., on Aug. 8 for its eighth annual instrumental music fest featuring headliners Davie Allan and the Arrows, plus Els A Phonics and The Longboards from Spain. There are also numerous satellite shows before and after the convention from Aug. 1 through Aug. 13 throughout Southern California. … In honor of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar hosts the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau on Aug. 10-11 on the Magic Kingdom Lawn at the Disneyland Hotel. Guests enjoy a Tahitian Terrace tribute show with Tahitian dancers, a historical overview by Imagineers, and tastes from the original menu at Tahitian Terrace, which operated in Adventureland from 1962 to 1993.
Attendance tops 4,000 as the grand daddy of all Tiki events, Tiki Oasis, soars to new heights in San Diego on Aug. 13-16 with its 15th annual bash at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and historic Bali Hai Restaurant featuring more than 20 bands music, 20 burlesque stars, 20 DJs, a 100-vendor marketplace, 35 educational symposiums, plus much more. Themed “Yesterday’s Future Today,” the event also includes 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 (won by Anthony Schmidt of Fairweather in San Diego). Special guests include bands Man or Astroman?, The Tikiyaki Orchestra, The Chocolate Watchband, The Phenomenauts, The Phantom Surfers, Project: Pimento, and Clouseaux; symposium presenters Charles Phoenix, Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), authors Sven Kirsten and Jeff Chenault, artist Eric October, Don Preston (Mothers of Invention), and Rod Roddenberry (Star Trek). Voodoo III, the final album by exotica music legend Robert Drasnin, makes its debut at a Tiki Oasis listening party. The album, which Drasnin left unfinished when he died in May, was completed by exotica/jazz producer and composer Skip Heller and released by Dionysus Records. Also at Tiki Oasis, The Tikiyaki Orchestra releases its first new album since 2011, Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures.
Disney thrills its fans with an onslaught of blockbuster announcements on its upcoming movies and theme park attractions at the D23 Expo, which draws 65,000 to Anaheim on Aug. 14-16. Fans of Tiki and classic Adventureland are also pleased with news on a Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant coming to Orlando’s Magic Kingdom and Disney’s first Polynesian princess (starring in the upcoming animated film Moana). After D23, news leaks on a rumored movie adaption of the Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. … Justin Park, co-owner of The Manifest in Honolulu, wins the cocktail showdown at the seventh annual Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival on Aug. 15 at the Royal Kona Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. … Booking begins for the Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise, scheduled for Nov. 15-22 aboard Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas and including stops at distilleries in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Croix, and San Juan. … The Hukilau announces “a celebration of epic proportions” for its 15th anniversary (and 60th anniversary of The Mai-Kai) in June 2016 with special guest Shag, who will design event merchandise and participate in several events at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Shag’s SkyLounge will take guests to the 17th floor rotating Pier Top Lounge, where they will become immersed in a live Shag painting in the mid-century-styled penthouse. Organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White also announces the return of the Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail event, one of the highlights of 2015.
The Golden Tiki holds its grand opening Aug. 22 in the Chinatown section of Las Vegas. The 4,000-square-foot bar includes authentic design and decor (by Tiki Diablo, Bosko, and others), an animatronic talking Golden Tiki, a waterfall, plus DJs and live entertainment. … The Shameful Tiki Room in Vancouver announces that a second location will open in Toronto by the end of the year. … Tiki Kon announces a 2016 venue change due to the upcoming closing of the 42-year-old Red Lion Hotel in Vancouver, Wash. … The month ends on a sad note with the death of lowbrow art legend The Pizz on Aug. 30 at age 57. The Pizz is considered to be one of the pioneering creators of “cartoon expressionism,” and his influence is felt by an entire generation of artists.
* See the full blogs: July 27-Aug. 9 | Aug. 10-23 | Aug. 24-Sept. 6
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary, The Mai-Kai’s 60th in 2016 (Aug. 20)
****************** SEPTEMBER ******************
The Denver Modernism Show celebrates its 10th anniversary Sept. 11-13 with dozens of vendors from around the U.S. selling a wide variety of vintage and contemporary furniture, artwork and objects. Special guest Charles Phoenix serves up food from his kitchen, presents a retro slideshow, and hosts a bus tour. …Chef Shangri-La in North Riverside, Ill., hosts Fong Fest, an outdoor music event at the 39-year-old vintage restaurant on Sept. 12. Entertainment includes surf, lounge, rockabilly, and exotica music plus charity raffles, a vintage marketplace and more. … Fall Dapper Day events include the annual two-day expo Sept. 18-19 at the Disneyland resort featuring a retro slideshow by Charles Phoenix. … Makahiki: A Night of Tiki returns to Indianapolis on Sept. 19, featuring live music by The Cocktail Preachers and many more bands. It’s presented by the Pukapuka Chapter of the Fraternal Order Of Moai and held at the Time Out Lounge. … Friends and admirers of The Pizz, the legendary California lowbrow and Tiki artist who died Aug. 30, gather at a memorial event Sept. 19 at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach. … News arrives that The Art of Tiki cocktail competition is returning to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in 2016 on Feb. 26 with a new host (Guy Fieri) and venue (the Surfcomber Hotel). … The Tonga Room in San Francisco, the world’s longest-running Tiki bar and restaurant, celebrates its 70th anniversary on Sept. 23. … An all-star panel of experts (including Jeff “Beachbum” Berry) assembles for “History of the Cocktail: Tiki & Exotic Drinks,” a Sept. 26 seminar at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. … Other September events include the inaugural California Rum Fest in San Francisco; the first Southern Surf StompFest near Atlanta; Thee Hot Rod Luau (featuring Agent Orange and The Hula Girls) at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif.; Rome Rumfest in Italy; and the fourth annual Tiki Day at Disneyland.
****************** OCTOBER ******************
The inaugural Ohana: Luau by the Sea sets sail in Fort Lauderdale, featuring live music and entertainment (including 9th Wave, the Stolen Idols, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, Cutback Surfband, and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid), DJs, symposiums, contests, rum tastings, vendors, auctions, prizes, food and the legendary dinner show at The Mai-Kai restaurant. The Oct. 1-3 event, presented by the Fraternal Order of Moai, is based at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel and also includes a kick-off party at Kreepy Tiki Lounge. Proceeds benefit the Easter Island Foundation. … Mod Palm Springs returns for its third annual event Oct. 8-11 at the Caliente Tropics resort, featuring master of ceremonies Shag, who also designed the official event mug. Entertainment includes live bands (Martini Kings, Marty Lush and Brassiere ’66, Fono 66, the Jimmy Psycho Experiment, The Outta Sites, et al.), DJs, room parties, and seminars. There are also special experiences with Shag at his Palm Springs home and a “Cocktail Climb” aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. … Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel hosts the second MahaloWeen on Oct. 12-13 featuring themed merchandise and entertainment, food and drinks. … Thousands of rum enthusiasts from around the world gather Oct. 17-18 in London for the ninth annual UK RumFest for tastings, seminars, classes and workshops by some of the top professionals in their respective fields. Also on tap are live on-stage demos showcasing rum pairings, cocktail competitions and more. RumFest coincides with the first Rum Experience Week (Oct. 12-18), featuring additional rum-centric events all over London.
The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown takes on a Big Apple flavor Oct. 17 at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, including frigid temperatures at a rooftop venue. St. John Frizell, owner-operator of Fort Defiance in Brooklyn, takes the top prize, edging out NYC bartenders Garret Richard of The Happiest Hour and Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons. Judges include host Emeril Lagasse, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Brian Miller (who won the South Beach showdown in February). While in Gotham, Berry joins Miller for the mayhem at the final Tiki Mondays with Miller event of the year at Pouring Ribbons on Oct. 19. … The world’s 50 best bars list from Drinks International magazine includes The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach, No. 14) and Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco, No. 31). … Demolition begins Oct. 21 on the former Palm Beach Hawaiian Ocean Inn, a historic beachfront property in South Palm Beach that was featured in Sven Kirsten’s Tiki Pop book and exhibit. The hotel opened in 1964 but fell into decline in recent decades, closing in September 2014. It’s scheduled to be replaced in 2017 by a 14-story “ultra-modern” condo building.
Whitechapel, an immersive gin bar and restaurant, opens Oct. 26 in San Francisco. Featuring a menu of 350 gins and 115 cocktails, Whitechapel is the latest project from Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, created in partnership with his former bar manager, Alex Smith. … Weekend passes for The Hukilau 2016 go on sale Oct. 27 at 2015 prices, allowing early-bird buyers to get exclusive tickets to the Tiki Tower Takeover and Shag’s SkyLounge events. Also announced for the June 8-12 event: Special Pier 66 hotel rates; and symposiums featuring Shag, Sven Kirsten and Humuhumu. … Philadelphia artist Brian Potash appears at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 27-28 for the release of his authorized, limited-edition eight-color serigraph honoring one of the historic restaurant’s iconic Tikis created by legendary carver Barney West.
The living dead come out in full force Oct. 30 at The Mai-Kai, filling The Molokai bar with creative costumes and partying to the rockabilly sounds of Slip and the Spinouts for the seventh annual Hulaween. The “Night of the Zombie” theme is celebrated by the undead revelers, who also enjoy a special Appleton Zombie cocktail. … Halloween events are held across the country, including Forbidden Island in Alameda, Calif.; Trader Vic’s in Emeryville, Calif; Longitude in Oakland; Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif.; The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas; and Trader Vic’s in Portland. … Unfortunately, the Spook-Tiki-Ular party Oct. 30 was also the farewell bash for Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room in Milwaukee, which earlier announced its closing. … On Halloween night, The Tikiyaki Orchestra plays the vintage Mayflower Club in North Hollywood, headlining the “Idols and Monsters” party that also features a costume contest, artists and vendors, Tiki cocktails, three premiere DJs, and more. … Organizers of Tiki Kon announce a new host hotel for the July 8-10, 2016, event: The Red Lion on the River in Portland, just across the Columbia River from the Red Lion at the Quay, the former host hotel that closed over the Halloween weekend.
* See the full blogs: Oct. 5-18 | Oct. 19-Nov. 1
* Zombies invade The Mai-Kai for seventh annual Hulaween party (Oct. 13)
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices (Oct. 26)
* Photos: The undead get lively at The Mai-Kai’s seventh annual Hulaween party (Nov. 3)
****************** NOVEMBER ******************
The SOS Tiki Bar opens Nov. 6 in Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta, featuring vintage decor including a few traditional Tiki design touches (dim lighting, carved Tikis, hula girls, mugs). It takes the place of the midcentury-modern-themed craft cocktail bar Paper Plane and features the same owners as the adjoining Victory Sandwich Bar. … A Nov. 6 opening reception kicks off the Mondo Tiki art show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, celebrating the 15th anniversary of pioneering manufacturer Tiki Farm. The exhibit includes a display of more than 700 mugs featuring the work of the biggest names in the Tiki revival, including five who created special limited-edition mugs for the reception: Tom Laura (Big Toe), Scott Scheidly (Flounder), Doug Horne, Ken Ruzic, and Michelle Bickford. The exhibit runs through Nov. 29. … Shag the Store opens its second brick-and-mortar location in Southern California on Nov. 7. The grand opening of the new West Hollywood store features gifts, giveaways, complimentary beverages and more. Hundreds of fans line up down the street for a first look at the space and debut of Shag’s newest print, “995 Skyline Drive” (his largest print to date). … News breaks about the flagship Trader Vic’s restaurant in Emeryville, Calif., which is embroiled in a noise dispute with neighbors. Restaurant officials say a proposed amendment to city ordinances could curtail live music, threatening the venue’s bottom line. Action on the proposal is postponed until Feb. 1.
The Hukilau announces several sellouts, a little over a month after tickets went on sale and more than six months before the 15th anniversary celebration in 2016. First, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announces the return of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in a possibly expanded Wreck Bar. After that, all five-day tickets sell out for the June 8-12 event at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Then, all Tiki Tower Takeover tickets are taken after the announcement that all four bartenders from June’s inaugural cocktail event will return in 2016. White also announces that Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee and Brian Miller will be joined by St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance in Brooklyn, who in October won The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival. … Tickets go on sale for the 2016 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, scheduled for April 15-17 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Meanwhile, rum fest organizers Robert A. Burr and Robert V. Burr host the 2015 Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise, sailing Nov. 15-22.
The Shameful Tiki Room opens its eastern outpost in Toronto on Nov. 19. A three-day celebration includes live music from The Hang-Ten Hangmen, rum tastings, and more. … The first annual Makahiki Orlando, a festival and luau in the area surrounding Tiki bar Aku Aku, lights its torches on Nov. 21. The event includes live music from The Intoxicators and The Disasternauts, live Tiki carving by Jeff Chouinard of Surf Soul Tiki, hula and fire dancers, a pig roast, a mechanical surfboard, artists and vendors, plus more. … The latest seminar hosted by Paul Senft of the RumJourney.com blog at Trader Vic’s in Atlanta focuses on The Art of Tiki with special guest Derek Yaniger on Nov. 21. … Cocoa Beach honors a hometown legend Nov. 27 with the dedication of Wayne Coombs Way, a street behind the Mai Tiki Market area where the late icon carved his famous Tikis until his death in 2012. … The evening torch-lighting returns to Disney’s Polynesian Village after being on hiatus for more than a year due to the ongoing construction and re-imagination of the resort. The traditional ceremony, performed by entertainers from the resort’s Spirit of Aloha dinner show, is held Tuesday through Saturday at 6 p.m. behind the Great Ceremonial House. Meanwhile, construction continues on the second pool and surrounding buildings near the new Disney Vacation Club villas that opened earlier in the year.
****************** DECEMBER ******************
The Tiki holiday event season kicks off Dec. 6 with Tiki Wonderland X at Tonga Hut in Los Angeles, the historic bar’s 10th annual parking lot sale and art show. Other festive seasonal happenings include: A special holiday edition of The International Tiki Market Place at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif.; Mele Kalikimaka Day at Disneyland; the annual Southern Surf Stomp holiday show in Atlanta; an array of events at Forbidden Island in Alameda; the Caliente Christmas party at the Tonga Hut in Palm Springs; and the Tropical Holiday edition of Tour De Tiki at King Tai Bar in Brooklyn. … After releasing a custom Tiki cocktail pick earlier in the fall, Cocktail Kingdom and Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 announce a collaboration on a custom coconut mug for the acclaimed New Orleans Tiki bar. … Shag the Store releases a special limited edition “Chimp” Aloha shirt and halter dress designed by Shag. Two special release parties are held at the Shag stores in West Hollywood and Palm Springs.
B.G. Reynolds Syrups launches a new retail space and tasting room in Portland on Dec. 6. … A new craft Tiki bar, Rum Rok, opens in Sacramento on Dec. 9 near the California governor’s mansion. The drinks feature exotic ingredients (nutmeg, cinnamon syrup, absinthe) while the decor includes cushioned bamboo bar seats and Tikis designed by Oceanic Arts. … After struggling with a serious staph infection that led to 24 surgeries, Los Angeles-based surf guitarist Laramie Dean makes a triumphant return to the stage Dec. 11 to debut his new EP and short film (Laramie Dean Plays Guitar from Outer Space and Surf 9 From Outer Space) with Dick Dale’s son, Jimmy, on drums. The event at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood also features a screening of the B-movie classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. … The Fraternal Order Of Moai announces a donation of $11,500 to the Easter Island Foundation as the result of money raised during Ohana: Luau at the Lake in Lake George, N.Y., and Ohana: Luau by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year.
The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen officially opens to guests at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on Dec. 16 after a soft opening and cast member previews started Dec. 13. The Adventureland restaurant, themed after the iconic Jungle Cruise attraction, features elaborate decor and a storyline that involves servers playing the same punny role as the attraction’s playful “skippers.” The eclectic lunch and dinner menu features dishes from Asia, South America and Africa. … A group of voyagers on a balsa wood raft dubbed Kon-Tiki-2 arrives in Easter Island on Dec. 19, nearly two months after setting sail from Peru in an attempt to re-create the 1947 journey of famed Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. … The rum and cocktail world is caught up in controversy after reports that link Nicaragua’s leading rum producer, Flor de Caña, to a skyrocketing death rate among workers in the sugarcane fields that supply the distillery.
As the year winds to an end, news filters out about new Tiki bars coming in 2016. In Pittsburgh, Hidden Harbor is set to debut in January with custom decor (including a giant Tiki by Crazy Al Evans) and authentic cocktails. In Maine, Rhum is scheduled to open this winter in downtown Portland with “a refined take on Tiki” including craft cocktails and custom mugs. In downtown Los Angeles at the recently reopened classic restaurant Clifton’s, Bamboo Ben Bassham will be working on a Polynesian-themed Tiki bar called the Pacific Seas in honor of the original 1931 Clifton’s location. Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove fame is joining forces with a restaurant group in San Diego to launch False Idol, a “hidden Tiki bar” inside the revamped Craft & Commerce restaurant. Rumors are circulating about an unnamed Tiki-themed bar opening in the spring inside or adjacent to Rickhouse in San Francisco. And in Seattle, a “Tiki-based cocktail spot” to be called Navy Strength is scheduled to open in the summer at an undisclosed location.
The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale gives back to its loyal fans and followers Dec. 28 with its annual Mahalopreciation Party, honoring the historic Polynesian restaurant’s 59th anniversary with 59 percent off most drinks and appetizers all night in The Molokai bar. In related news, longtime Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner announces details on his upcoming book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of The Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Danny Gallardo (aka Tiki Diablo) shows off a new sculpt for a a mug based on one of The Mai-Kai’s iconic Tikis. Gallardo said he expects to have the mug in production next month. And The Hukilau announces that the first dinner show at The Mai-Kai during the June 11 main event is officially sold out. You can still reserve seats at the second or third shows of the evening. Shag’s SkyLounge is very close to selling out, and hotel rooms at Pier 66 are also getting scarce, Tiki Kiliki reports.
Finally, Tiki hotspots around the country ring in 2016 with celebrations large and small, from The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale to Trader Vic’s in Atlanta to Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago to Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in Minneapolis. Among the most interesting: The back-to-back parties in San Francisco at Martin Cate’s Whitechapel and Smuggler’s Cove; the “Welcome to the Jungle” party at the new Shameful Tiki Room in Toronto featuring go-go dancers, a DJ and live rockabilly; and the New Years Eve Rockin’ Luau Party at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach headlined by Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, James Intveld, and The Hula Girls.
******************Links of the year ******************
* Walt Disney’s Enchanted Creepy Room (Long-Forgotten)
* From top-shelf sipper to no thanks: The fall of Zaya rum (The Rum Collective)
* Tiki’s Hollywood origins and the woman behind it all (Serious Eats)
* Here’s a ‘beach bum’ who’s serious about one thing: Tiki cocktails (Washington Post)
* This guy says he can make 20-year-old rum in 6 days (Wired)
* Q&A: Beachbum Berry, the man behind the Tiki-cocktail resurgence (Boston Globe)
* Southern Surf Stomp channels the past, present, future of surf scene (Creative Loafing)
* Tiki drinking culture has always been a fantasy, but not an easy one (Munchies)
* Inside Walt Disney’s ambitious, failed plan to build the city of tomorrow (Esquire)
* Talking rum and sugar with Richard Seale (The Floating Rum Shack)
* Capturing JFK’s space-age TWA terminal before it’s revamped (Curbed)
* Minimalist Tiki: What you truly need to make the classics at home (Cocktail Wonk)
* Surf-rock legend Dick Dale plays through the pain (Pittsburgh City Paper)
* The inspiring story of Fort Defiance’s triumph (Tales of the Cocktail) oct 23
* Six signs your “tiki bar” is not a Tiki Bar (Critiki News)
GROGGY AWARDS: The Year in Tiki 2015
Below are our picks for the most successful/significant/newsworthy of our weekly selections throughout 2015. [Click here to see the full list] You could call these the first annual “Groggy Awards.” They’re highly subjective, but we tried to award those who had the biggest impact on Tiki or were most active during the year. Look for more bi-weekly selections throughout 2016.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Shag
It was banner year for the artist otherwise known as Josh Agle. A new Shag the Store opened in Hollywood (joining the original in Palm Springs), he hosted another memorable Mod-Palm Springs, he released numerous special prints and merchandise, and his distinctive artwork appeared in exhibits across the country.
Don’t miss: In June 2016, catch Shag’s SkyLounge at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale.
BAND/MUSIC OF THE YEAR: The Tikiyaki Orchestra
After a lengthy hiatus, the California-based modern exotica band roared back in 2015 with a long-awaited fourth album, Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures. Keeping things fresh, band leader Jim Bacchi introduced a brand new lineup and revamped sound during a rousing performance at Tiki Oasis.
Honorable mention: Alika Lyman Group | The Hula Girls
* See all the past bands/music of the week
BAR OF THE YEAR: Latitude 29 and Smuggler’s Cove (tie)
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate are the modern day equivalent of Tiki legends Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic. While today’s economy and popular tastes may prevent them from operating chains of Polynesian Palaces across the country, they’ve lived up to their legend by creating perhaps the two most acclaimed Tiki bars of the 21st century (so far). Berry opened Latitude 29 in New Orleans in late 2014, making a seamless transition from award-winning cocktail author to award-winning barkeep. Cate continues to push the envelope at Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco since its 2009 debut, redefining what a rum-centric craft cocktail bar could be and earning Tiki worldwide mainstream respect.
Don’t miss: Berry and Cate will both be mixing up signature cocktails at the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale in June.
WEBSITE OF THE YEAR: Critiki
This venerable database of Tiki bars, restaurants and establishments across the world (both living and dead) now boasts more than 800 entries, many containing dozens of photos, ratings and reviews by Critiki’s many loyal users. In 2015, Tiki expert and historian Humuhumu relaunched her accompanying blog as Critiki News, covering all the latest bar openings. She also leveraged her considerable expertise in a series of informative and insightful blog posts on Tiki culture and history.
Don’t miss: Humuhumu will present a special symposium, “First Person Tiki,” at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale in June. Click here for ticket info.
RUM OF THE YEAR:
Hamilton 86 and 151 (Guyana)
When Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum, a crucial and allegedly irreplaceable rum in classic Tiki cocktails, disappeared from the U.S. market in 2014, tropical mixologists were in a tizzy. But Ed Hamilton wasn’t phased. The noted expert and importer, known for his Ministry of Rum website and line of highly regarded craft rums, took matters into his own hands. He contracted with Demerara Distillers in Guyana in 2015 to bring to market Hamilton 86 and 151. The rums were quickly adopted by the top Tiki bars – including Latitude 29, Smuggler’s Cove, and The Mai-Kai – and home enthusiasts across the country, making Lemon Hart a distant memory.
COCKTAIL OF THE YEAR: Lost Lake
The January 2015 opening of the Chicago craft Tiki bar and introduction of its namesake cocktail could be seen as a turning point in modern mixology. It was now acceptable in the mainstream cocktail world to tout a full-blown menu of classic tropical cocktails, and Lost Lake quickly became a critical success. The bar capped a memorable first year by being named Cocktail Bar of the Year by Imbibe magazine. Lost Lake’s guiding light, Paul McGee, came to Tiki later in his bartending career, but he’s making up for lost time with new classics such as Lost Lake. This distinctive drink – which combines elements of McGee’s classic cocktail roots (maraschino liqueur, Campari) with some of Don the Beachcomber’s favorite ingredients (Jamaican rum, passion fruit syrup) – is the future of Tiki in a glass.
Don’t miss: McGee is returning to The Hukilau in June, joining fellow Tiki cocktail masters Beachbum Berry and Martin Cate at the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover at the historic Pier 66 hotel.
Okole maluna and mahalo to everyone for another memorable year in 2016!
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