The Atomic Grog celebrated its fifth anniversary on Saturday, April 30, with a special cocktail party in The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale featuring live instrumental surf music from Skinny Jimmy Stingray, drink specials, giveaways, and more.
See below: Photo gallery from the party
The party officially ran from 6 until after 10 p.m., but many showed up early to enjoy The Mai-Kai’s famous happy hour, which began at 4:30 and ran until 7. Skinny Jimmy played three solo sets of nearly an hour each starting at around 6:30. In between sets, Hurricane Hayward played artists featured as Band/Music of the Week on The Atomic Grog over the past 16 months. There was also a preview of The Hukilau 2016 with music from the bands performing at the June 8-12 event at The Mai-Kai and Pier 66 hotel.
The event marked the debut of Deerfield Beach-based Skinny Jimmy playing solo at The Mai-Kai. His all-instrumental band is typically a power trio with a bassist and drummer, but he’s been working on special material designed to be performed in a more intimate lounge setting. He was his usual bombastic self on electric guitar, but the role of the rhythm section was played by carefully curated, pre-recorded backing tracks.
Skinny Jimmy jammed out on an eclectic mix of some of his favorite surf, rock ‘n’ roll and exotica songs, featuring everything from Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser to Herb Alpert’s The Lonely Bull to Blue Hawaii as performed by The Makaha Sons. Highlights of the more than 50 classic tunes featured throughout the night: Pipeline, Sukiyaki, Runaway, Tiny Bubbles, Perfidia, Sleepwalk, Diamond Head, Kon Tiki, Music to Watch Girls By, Walk Don’t Run, Apache, Hernando’s Hideaway, Caravan, Girl From Ipanema, Secret Agent Man, Harlem Nocturne, Hawaii Five O, Taste of Honey, Route 66, and Geronimo.
Touted by SouthFlorida.com as a “boozy, retro culture blog,” The Atomic Grog made sure to also put the spotlight on The Mai-Kai’s renowned cocktails. For one night only, the Yeoman’s Grog, a distinctive Tiki classic with its trademark ice cone, was half-price all night. The regular nightly special saw the K.O. Cooler and Tahitian Breeze also 50 percent off.
And as a bonus for fans of The Atomic Grog’s Okole Maluna Society, a special “lost cocktail” was available exclusively between 6 and 7 p.m. The Demerara Float appeared on the original 1956 menu but was removed in the 1990s. It was the first time we tasted this cocktail with the new Hamilton rums from Guyana, including a floater of 151. The punchy rums from the banks of the Demerara River give the drink a bolder body than the smoother Lemon Hart.
Perhaps the most crowd-pleasing part of the evening were the giveaways, awarded to guests who answered trivia questions about The Mai-Kai and The Hukilau. Two lucky winners received four-day Aloha Passes for The Hukilau. Other prizes were a bottle of Santeria Rum, a Mai-Kai Club membership, and an Atomic Grog T-shirt.
There was also plenty of tasty food available with the recent addition of a special new small plates menu (steamed buns, tacos, sushi, et al.) in addition to the traditional pupu platter and appetizer menu that’s half-price during happy hour. The Mai-Kai’s new chef has given the kitchen a creative boost. We enjoyed the fish tacos, pork belly buns and several different sushi dishes. All were outstanding and a nice change of pace from the old-school apps.
We also got a sneak peek at the special Rhum Barbancourt cocktail that will be served during the opening-night party at The Hukilau on June 8. If you attend that party, be sure to check out the Spicy Hula Girl featuring Rhum Barbancourt 3 Star, pineapple and lime juice, plus a unique cracked black pepper syrup. The latter is the handiwork of manager Kern Mattei. As always, a big mahalo to Kern, owner Dave Levy, and marketing director Pia Dahlquist for their hospitality in hosting the party.
A Fifth of Grog photo gallery
(Photos by The Atomic Grog)
The event was the first Atomic Grog anniversary party since our first birthday back in 2012, when Skinny Jimmy and his old band also performed.
The blog has come a long way since those early days, and I’d like to thank everyone for their support and kind words over the years. Our very first post (on April 25, 2011) was also a preview of an event at The Mai-Kai (Miami Rum Festival’s Zombie Jamboree). That event remains a career highlight, allowing me the privilege of competing against some of the world’s top mixologists on my home turf (see the full story).
It’s been an action-packed five years, with the blog logging 334 posts and 361 comments. Here are the Top 5 things that have made The Atomic Grog what it is today:
1. The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide (aka the Okole Maluna Society), which continues to be the blog’s most popular feature and attracts readers from around the globe. Little did I know that a simple ranking of my favorite drinks would evolve into a constantly evolving resource and cocktail recipe archive (we just posted recipe No. 99). Mahalo and okole maluna to everyone who enjoys my tribute recipes in their home bars, particularly the loyalists on Tiki Central. I promise lots more updates and special features to come.
2. Our ongoing coverage of The Hukilau, which actually pre-dates the blog (see this 2010 recap of the first Master Mixologist Cocktail Challenge, featuring guest judge Shag). My introduction to The Hukilau in 2008 opened the door to the fascinating world of Tiki culture, and The Atomic Grog would probably not exist if it weren’t for this incredible event and the efforts of co-founder/organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White. It’s been a great pleasure to be the event’s official blog and to be involved in so many fun events over this past eight years, from the Master Mixologist Rum Barrel Challenge to this year’s upcoming Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium. I’ve made friendships at The Hukilau that will probably last a lifetime. I proposed to my wife, Susan, at The Hukilau in 2009. The first week in June is always a special time.
3. The people I’ve met, interviewed, drank with, laughed with, and who helped create lasting memories: From Jeff “Beachbum” Berry to Martin Cate to Otto von Stroheim to Sven Kirsten to many more too numerous to mention. I’ve had the pleasure of documented the work of some of the top creative forces in Tiki and I’m grateful for the access and respect they’ve given me.
4. All the talented artists, musicians and other creative individuals who form the backbone and nerve center of the modern Tiki revival. Because of their hard work and vision, I have been overwhelmed with news to feature in The Week in Tiki, which is drawing many new visitors to the blog from thriving Tiki communities and local scenes across the country. Through the blog and related events, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chronicling the work of many legends and leaders of this movement, including Shag, Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily, Tiki Diablo, Crazy Al Evans, Los Straitjackets, and Dick Dale. We’ve sadly lost a some elder statesmen, such as Robert Drasnin and Wayne Coombs, but many more have stepped up to create a whole new treasure trove of art and music that will perhaps be remembered even longer than the works from Tiki’s heyday.
5. The wonderful staff at The Mai-Kai, who make every visit to this historic landmark seem like my first all over again. And a special mahalo to owner Dave Levy, marketing director Pia Dahlquist, and manager Kern Mattei for always treating me like a special guest and not the snoopy journalist I am. It’s been a blast working with them on the annual Hulaween party every October, and rewarding watching the restaurant continue to evolve while keeping the spirit of the past alive. It’s a true family operation, and it shows.
If I didn’t see you on April 30, a heartfelt mahalo!
More on The Mai-Kai
* MaiKai.com | Facebook page | Instagram
On The Atomic Grog
* New Mai-Kai mugs released, history book coming in July
* New Tikis to rise at The Mai-Kai in June
* Heeeeeeere’s the rich history and lost stories of The Mai-Kai
* Tour of The Mai-Kai’s mysterious bars and kitchen (with photos)