If the idea of a cross-country road trip to five Tiki bars in five different states seems daunting, The Hukilau will make it easy for you during the 15th annual gathering of Polynesian Pop enthusiasts June 8-12 in Fort Lauderdale. During the event’s Friday afternoon festivities, guests will have the opportunity to sip cocktails and chat up the bar staff from five current and upcoming Tiki establishments spread across the Southeast, East and Midwest.
More below: New sponsor rums | Shag glassware, more merch
The Tiki Road Trip Pool Party will include cocktails from four well-known tropical drink destinations: Porco Lounge & Tiki Room (Cleveland), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), Aku Aku (Orlando), plus The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley (New York City). Also joining the party will be Cooking Channel star Jim Stacy, who will be offering up a sneak preview of his upcoming Tiki bar in Atlanta, the Barnacled Mermaid.
Also on hand will be James Teitelbaum, whose seminal 2003 book, Tiki Road Trip, inspired the party (as well as many actual trips). The book chronicled Teitelbaum’s travels to Tiki bars across the world while he was a touring musician in the early days of the Tiki revival. Updated in 2007, the book also documents many legendary establishments from the past. Teitelbaum will be signing copies of both Tiki Road Trip and his latest book, Destination: Cocktails: The Traveler’s Guide to Superior Libations (2012), at a time to be announced in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar.
The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* Buy tickets, passes | Book hotel | Schedule | Locations
* Recent Atomic Grog coverage: Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium, new sponsors, Pier 66 hotel news
Tickets for the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party are available now for just $20 for weekend passholders, $49 for non-passholders. It will run from noon to 4 p.m. in the courtyard surrounding the main pool at the host hotel, the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. It’s a good idea to snag a weekend pass before they sell out. The Aloha Pass ($155) includes Thursday through Sunday, while the Luau Pass ($135) covers Friday through Sunday.
The Hukilau’s co-founder/organizer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, said a pool party has been a top guest request since the event moved to Pier 66 last year. The waterfront hotel includes what it calls a “three-pool tropical oasis” in its center courtyard, and White plans to put it to good use with what she’s calling an “epic pool party” featuring “five bars serving the best in exotic cocktails from around the U.S.”
The lineup of bars for the party includes three who competed Feb. 26 at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, including People’s Choice award winner Porco. [See event recap, photos]
Here’s a rundown of the participants:
Porco Lounge & Tiki Room: Cleveland’s first authentic Polynesian cocktail bar since the closing of the Kon Tiki in 1976 is quickly making a name for itself since opening in October 2013. Inspired by what he saw at The Hukilau and the Tiki revival across the country, owner Stefan Was made sure every detail was covered: The decor (including artifacts from the Kon Tiki), the music, the drinks (featuring homemade syrups, fresh-squeezed juices, and top-shelf rums), and the well-versed staff. The bar shut down so the entire crew could travel to Miami Beach for The Art of Tiki in February, and the move paid off. Not only did they take home the People’s Choice award, they made the rounds of their South Florida competitors, soaking up the
ambience (and cocktails) at The Mai-Kai and elsewhere. They returned to Cleveland as local bartending heroes, eager to continue to perfect their craft. Was will return the favor in June when he will again close Porco so the staff can travel to The Hukilau. For that weekend, Cleveland’s loss is The Hukilau’s gain.
* Official website | Facebook | Twitter
* On The Atomic Grog: Bar of the Week (November 2015)
Foundation Tiki Bar: The oldest of all the bars participating in the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party, this Milwaukee mainstay is still a spry youngster in historic Tiki terms. It opened in 1995 as a punk-rock dive, but slowly evolved into a world-class Tiki bar as the revival took hold and manager Don Nelson deeply immersed himself in the culture. Nelson is no stranger to The Hukilau, having participated numerous years as a member of long-running instrumental surf band The Exotics and hapa-haole band The Bikini Beachcombers. Nelson’s vision and hard work paid off: Foundation recently landed at No. 8 on the list of Ten Best Tiki Bars in the World, rated by members of the Critiki website. “The fully-encrusted Tiki haven serves up stellar drinks in a beautiful environment with enchanting music to match,” wrote Critiki’s Humuhumu. Nelson and mixologist Michael Kotke represented Foundation on Feb. 26 at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, serving up a classy cocktail to match their bar’s modern classic status.
* Official website | Facebook | Instagram
* On The Atomic Grog: Bar of the Week (November 2015)
Aku Aku: It’s easy to overlook this modest little Tiki bar in the giant tourist mecca of Orlando, but that would be a mistake. Since opening in January 2014, Aku Aku has been building a following and gaining Tiki converts with its authentic, vintage decor and well-crafted tropical drinks served in Tiki mugs and period glassware. It shares a building with a sister bar, the mid-century-themed Stardust Lounge, both appealing to the same demographic looking for an immersive experience and quality drinks that harken back to another time. The names are also throwbacks, and closely associated. Aku Aku was a legendary bar and restaurant in the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas from 1960 until 1980. It’s also a signature drink on the Aku Aku menu, which contains many classics as well as original creations. The popular Tiger F**ker has garnered much local notoriety for Aku Aku and bartender Eric Solomon. Owner Todd Ulmer and his staff have carved out their own niche in the Orlando scene, continually popping up on lists such as Orlando Weekly‘s 20 best cocktail bars in Orlando.
* Official website | Facebook | Instagram
* On The Atomic Grog: Bar of the Week (February 2015)
The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley: While neither is a Tiki establishment per se, these New York City bars that share a multi-story space in Greenwich Village feature some of the Big Apple’s most talented tropical mixologists. Co-owner and head bartender Jim Kearns holds court in The Happiest Hour, which opened in the fall of 2014 with a mid-century modern meets tropical setting that harkens back to vintage coastal resorts. The bar program has gained praise from both cocktail fans and the tough NYC press. Kearns sets an example for his aloha-shirt-clad staff with original creations such as the Pineapple Express, a recent cocktail of the week. Meanwhile, in the sophisticated basement lounge Slowly Shirley, bartender Garret Richard brings his considerable Tiki talents to the old-school art deco space. Richard is no stranger to The Hukilau: He was Brian Miller’s wingman at last year’s Tiki Tower Takeover (see photos). His knowledge of historic tropical drinks and mixology belies his youth, landing him spots in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown in both the New York City and South Beach wine & food festivals. In Miami Beach, he pulled off one of the event’s best drinks by combining elements of Trader Vic’s Fogcutter, Don the Beachcomber’s Queen’s Road Cocktail, and The Mai-Kai’s Moonkist Coconut.
* Official websites: Slowly Shirley | The Happiest Hour
* Facebook pages: Slowly Shirley | The Happiest Hour
* On The Atomic Grog: Bar of the Week (February 2016)
Barnacled Mermaid: Atlanta chef and restaurateur Jim Stacy, best known for his Cooking Channel show Offbeat Eats, will offer an exclusive sneak preview of the bar in his upcoming new restaurant concept. “MoaKai will feature Polynesian, island and classic resort dishes made with Southern soul food ingredients,” Stacy told us. “For example, our lau-lau will use collards instead of taro leaves. We’ll have a poi made with sweet potato.” The house specialty will be a traditional Hawaiian barrel-smoked chicken, and there will be an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan menu items, he said. The bar menu will feature “traditional Tiki drinks as well as house recipes and an entire, to order, fresh juiced menu,” Stacy added. The Barnacled Mermaid will boast many ingredients grown and produced in Georgia, including ginger and sugar cane. Stacy is a longtime fan of The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai. He was hard to miss at last June’s event (see photos), and he featured the Fort Lauderdale restaurant on an episode of Offbeat Eats in January 2015 (see video). Stacy is a renaissance man whose extensive resume includes stints as a butcher, bartender, chef, touring rock ‘n’ roller and tattoo artist. He has had a lasting impact on the Atlanta scene in his past roles owning Star Community Bar and running the historic Starlight Drive-In Theatre. In February, he sold his most recent eatery, Pallookaville Fine Foods in Avondale Estates, but he remains involved as a consultant. His other TV credits include the award-winning Get Delicious in Atlanta as well as Deep Fried Masters on Discovery Channel’s Destination America, plus several guest appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
In addition to the drinks, there will be sandwiches, burgers and more available for purchase at the pool bar. DJ Mike “Jetsetter” Jones will keep the party hopping with an array of Tiki and retro tunes. And Tampa’s Jeff Chouinard of Surf Soul Tiki is scheduled to do a live Tiki carving.
The nearby Tiki Treasures Bazaar will also be open in the hotel’s Crystal Atrium & Ballroom from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a growing list of vendors selling a wide variety of goods (Tiki carvings, mugs, aloha wear, etc.) from all over the world. Tickets are also still available for a wide assortment of symposiums, including “I Learned My ABC’s in Waikik” with by Shag (noon), “The Mai-Kai: History, Mystery and Adventure” with Tim “Swanky” Glazner (2 p.m.), and “World War Tiki” with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (4 p.m.). Symposiums are expected to sell out, so don’t hesitate to buy tickets now.
* Check the schedule to see all of Saturday’s activities
Just added to the Sunday schedule: A screening of Korla The Movie, a documentary film about eccentric and influential musician Korla Pandit (1921-1998), will be held during the finale at The Mai-Kai. The film has been making the rounds of festivals and special events since its release in 2014, drawing rave reviews. It’s a fascinating look at an enigmatic performer who modern audiences may know from his cameo appearance in the 1994 cult movie Ed Wood. The Korla Pandit story is truly unique and full of unexpected turns (I won’t spoil it here), including his role as perhaps the first modern exotica performer. His landmark television show, which began in 1949 and was a West Coast fixture in the 1950s, featured a mute and exotic Pandit gazing into the camera as he played romantic compositions on the Hammond organ and Steinway grand piano, often simultaneously. He also performed in what some consider the first music videos, and recorded more than two dozen albums.
* More on Korla Pandit: Official site | Facebook page | Quiet Village podcast
List of sponsor rums grows to eight
Several new sponsors have also joined the party at The Hukilau. Rhum Barbancourt, which is now atop the list of sponsors on TheHukilau.com, will again play a significant role in the event. Last year, the venerable brand from Haiti sponsored the Tiki Tower Takeover and served up stellar cocktails and rum samples all weekend in a massive bar outside the Tiki Treasures Bazaar (see photos). Rhum Barbancourt’s role at The Huiklau 2016 will be announced soon, Tiki Kiliki said.
Also returning is Gubba Rum, which is based in Massachusetts but crafted in Colorado. New to the lineup for this year are Rhum Clèment, a highly regarded agricole rhum from Martinique; and Florida Mermaid Rum, a new 100-proof gold rum from the Wild Buck Whiskey distillery in Weeki Wachee. Previously announced rum sponsors are Flor de Caña (Nicaragua), Sailor Jerry (Caribbean), Blue Chair Bay (Barbados), and Don Q (Puerto Rico).
Atomic Grog Rums of the Week:
Barbancourt | Flor de Caña | Don Q | Clément | Gubba
Sneak peek: Shag glassware, more merchandise in the works
Tiki Kiliki has been hard at work on a large assortment of exclusive event merchandise for attendees at The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary. Most of it ties back to The Mai-Kai’s 60th anniversary, and many items are being designed by Shag.
She shared some of the glassware designs on Facebook recently, showing off Shag’s homage to some of the distinctive tikis (and shrunken head) at The Mai-Kai. She later revealed that both Mai-Tai glasses and Zombie glasses are in the works featuring this colorful design.
Shag artwork will also appear on designer T-shirts as well as beach and bar towels, two new items that have never been offered before. Another special new item this year, courtesy of sponsor Royer, are custom swizzle sticks, also designed by Shag.
A distinctive pendant is always a signature item for guests of The Hukilau, and the 2016 design is even more special. Carved by Crazy Al Evans and produced by Perry Drake, the pendant “honors the giant Barney West moai carving still standing tall at The Mai-Kai,” Tiki Kiliki said in a Facebook post. “I’m sure this is going to be one of our best pendants yet.” The moai, which faces Federal Highway on the southeast corner of restaurant’s property, stands more than 20 feet tall and dates back to the early 1960s (see photo).
* Related: Porco Lounge & Tiki Room crew posing with the moai
The traditional item most coveted by collectors every year is probably the official drinking vessel, designed and crafted by some of the top mug designers. For 2016, there are two mugs in the works, both designed and produced by John Mulder and Eekum Bookum. The first, unfortunately, is already sold out. The Tower Barrel Mug is an exclusive perk for guests who bought five-day South Seas passes before they sold out in November. It features two icons in one mug: The Pier 66 tower and The Mai-Kai’s Barrel O’ Rum.
The official event mug, which will be made available to all guests for purchase, is also being designed by Mulder, Tiki Kiliki says, and it’s also inspired by everyone’s favorite Tiki temple. “It’s something you can find at The Mai-Kai,” she said, offering no other clues. A merchandise pre-sale will be announced soon, Tiki Kiliki said, so keep an eye out on the Facebook page for announcements.
The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Shag, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Brian Miller, St. John Frizell, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides, The Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Quiet Villagers, The Disasternauts, Otto von Stroheim, Paul Roe, Tim “Swanky” Glazner, Humuhumu, Tom Fowner, Will Anders, Jeff Chouinard, Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, Lila Starlet, plus more.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
* Leave a text or voicemail message: (754) 900-TIKI
The Hukilau 2016 on The Atomic Grog
* Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium, new sponsors, Pier 66 hotel news
* Entertainment, music and symposiums announced, full website launches
* First dinner show full, Shag event and hotel near sellout
* All Tiki Tower Takeover tickets are taken, 5th bartender announced
* The Hukilau: All five-day tickets are sold out
* Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders return, Marina to perform in expanded Wreck Bar
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices
* Passes, special event tickets and rooms available soon
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary