Updated Feb. 8, 2018
The Hukilau gave its loyal fans a New Year’s treat by announcing an expanded lineup for the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event, giving its regular “villagers” early access and discounts on tickets. The general public can now join the party at the 17th annual mash-up of Polynesian Pop and cocktail culture.
The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
Quick links: Tickets | Book hotel | Schedule | Bands, bars, VIPs
Previous story: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend
See below: Bonus cocktail recipes
* Three Dots and a Dash from Three Dots and a Dash
* Nu Nui Nui from Daniele Dalla Pola of the Nu Lounge
Here are the highlights of the announcement, sent via email and posted on the official website. I also spoke directly with the event’s owner and co-organizer, Richard Oneslager, to get all the scoop on 2018. NEW: As of Feb. 8, this preview is now updated with the late January announcement.
Party like it’s 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)
PREVIEW: The Hukilau 2018 highlights
* MUSIC: More headlining bands. The 2018 event will include some of the world’s top surf and exotica bands, including Los Straitjackets, The Madeira, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet and The Martian Denny Orchestra. Villagers will also be thrilled to see the return of The Intoxicators, who missed 2017 after 12 straight appearances. Other performers include The Exotics, Black Flamingos, Czarna Wolgastar, The Royal Pacifics, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, and The Hukilau’s one and only emcee during its previous 16 years, the ubiquitous King Kukulele. Look for more bands to be announced, along with special guest DJs. Bands will perform on all five days in various venues. [More details below]
* BARS: 12 Tiki pop-ups. Seven of last year’s 10 acclaimed bar teams are returning, joined by five new Tiki-themed pop-ups from around the world setting up shop all over Pier 66 at special events, tastings, and classes. Due to popular demand, a second afternoon pool party with complimentary cocktails has been added to the schedule. Back for more more rum and cocktails are bartenders from Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), and S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta). Coming on board for 2018 are Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Foundation Bar (Milwaukee), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), and Trailer Happiness (London). [More details below]
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He’ll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer).
* INDUSTRY VIPS: Cocktail influencer makes debut. Boston’s Brother Cleve will bring his vast knowledge of cocktails and music to The Hukilau for the first time. This prime mover of the craft cocktail scene in the 1990s and former member of the groundbreaking band Combustible Edison will present a symposium, make a special DJ appearance, and also have his own bar in the Tiki Tower Takeover event. In addition, rum ambassador Ian Burrell returns from London for a second straight year to host a symposium, two cocktail classes and a special rum tasting. [More details below]
* TIKI TOWER TAKEOVER: Signature cocktail party expands, returns for Round 4. Held on Thursday night in the hotel’s revolving Pier Top Lounge, the fourth edition of one of Tiki’s most exclusive events is likely to sell out just as fast as the previous three. Tickets are limited to passholders, so act now. The lineup will grow from four to five pop-ups (featuring six different bar teams), including returning participants Three Dots and a Dash and Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar. Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick also returns, teaming up with Pagan Idol for a special two-bar mash-up. The final two pop-ups will feature the craft cocktail stylings of Brother Cleve and the crew from the U.K.’s Trailer Happiness. [More details below]
* MERCHANDISE: Works of top Tiki artists on display. The official artists for The Hukilau 2018 are Joe Vitale and Donella Vitale, whose work can already been seen on the website and promo artwork. The couple is based in Orlando, where they both work for Disney in addition to being among the most recognizable artists of the Tiki revival. Fun fact: The Vitales are among a select few who have attended The Hukilau all 16 years, along with emcee King Kukulele and co-founder Tim “Swanky” Glazner. Villagers will get first shot at the event merchandise, including the 17th annual mug produced by Eekum Bookum. There will also be special items for some villagers, including a South Seas passholder pendant by Crazy Al Evans.
* ENHANCEMENTS: Feedback from villagers. The Hukilau listened to its attendees and will implement quite a few changes: Extended hours and a second pool party on Saturday (in addition to Friday) including live music, more bars and bands (see above), a “Villager’s Lounge” tent to “meet and hang with old friends and new,” a party featuring all exotica music, and more food trucks.
* MORE SPECIAL EVENTS: Symposiums, Medusirena Marina swimshows. Symposiums, craft workshops, Okole Maluna cocktail classes, hula lessons, plus more new additions were announced in late January. These include three swimshows featuring Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in her home at the nearby Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort, plus symposiums on Disney’s Trader Sam’s Tiki bar concept and the heyday of Tiki on television. Craft workshops will feature a trio of noted Tiki artists, while cocktail classes will include bartenders and experts from across the country.
UPDATE: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV
“There will be no shortage of liquor, music and things to do,” Oneslager said. If you’re as excited as I am about this lineup, along with the prospects of the nearby Rum Renaissance Festival the same weekend, then you’ll want to buy your tickets and passes and make your reservations posthaste:
THE HUKILAU ONLINE ORDERING
PASSES & TICKETS: Weekend passes along with tickets to Thursday’s Tiki Tower Takeover and late-night LuXotica Lounge are on sale now. Buy tickets now
* More details on tickets below
HOTEL: Reserve your room now
MAI-KAI: Reserve your seats now
MERCHANDISE: Buy 2017 merch now (2018 coming soon)
The view looking west from the observation deck on the 17th floor Pier Top Ballroom at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina during The Hukilau 2017. Downtown Fort Lauderdale can be seen in the distance. (Atomic Grog photo)
THE HOTEL: Pier 66 remains a mid-century classic
Towering over the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach in its mid-century splendor, the iconic Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina has become the most popular host venue in The Hukilau’s history. The villagers recently voted it “the best hotel,” and in 2018 it will become the first single venue to serve as host for four consecutive years. The 61-year-old property features nearly 400 rooms, 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space for special events, lush tropical grounds, and a 17-story tower topped by a space-age rotating ballroom.
With its 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and Fort Lauderdale’s inland waterways, the 3,000-square-foot Pier Top Ballroom hosts The Hukilau’s signature event, the Tiki Tower Takeover. It’s also the perfect setting for the other special event on June 7, the late-night LuXotica Lounge. Tickets for both special events are on sale now.
On the bottom floor of the tower building, which also contains the lobby and main entrance, villagers will find The Hukilau’s check-in area in the Crystal Atrium. Throughout the weekend in the atrium, you’ll also find pop-up bars and rum sponsors offering free samples and a chance to meet their brand representatives.
Beyond the scenic atrium is the 7,500-square-foot Crystal Ballroom, the hotel’s grand event space and home of the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, which will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Dozens of vendors will offer their Tiki-themed goods for sale, from vintage items to fine art. Admission is free with all multi-day passes. The bazaar will also host bands and performers, book signings and meet-and-greets, plus a “rum shack” for sponsors to showcase their wares. In the lower level of the tower building are more meeting rooms used for Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes and rum tastings.
A short walk from the main tower is the 5,800-square-foot Panorama Ballroom, which overlooks the famous 127-slip marina and Intracoastal Waterway. Here you’ll find the many educational and entertaining symposiums during the day, plus Friday night’s High Tide Party. Conveniently located between both ballrooms is the main pool, home of the Rum Island Pool Party (now expanded to both Friday and Saturday). The property also includes two restaurants, two bars, three pools, a spa, boat rentals, and more. Pier 66 is also dog-friendly.
The hotel is within 5 miles of Fort Lauderdale International Airport and the cruise ships at Port Everglades. In addition, the Rum Renaissance Festival has relocated from Miami to the Broward County Convention Center, roughly a mile away, for its June 9-10 festivities.
Due to ongoing repairs and renovations after damage caused by Hurricane Irma, rooms in the tower building are currently out of inventory for The Hukilau. However, according to Oneslager: “We still have as many rooms as we ever had,” dedicated exclusively to the event. Guests can book marina and pool view rooms for $139 per night. You must click here to book at The Hukilau’s special rate.
Established in 1956 (the same year The Mai-Kai opened 6 miles away) on 22 acres by Phillips Petroleum (known for its Phillips 66 service stations), Pier 66 was originally a gas station, dock and marina for yachts. A two-story hotel, restaurant and lounge were added in 1959, followed by the tower building in 1965.
The 17th-floor cocktail lounge was designed to rotate once every 66 minutes and includes 66 space-age spires. In its heyday, it featured musical acts including exotica bands, so this year’s LuXotica Lounge party will be an appropriate throwback. The penthouse is now used exclusively for special events and is one of the most sought-after venues in Fort Lauderdale for weddings and special gatherings.
* More Pier 66 history, photos
Phillips Petroleum was forced to sell Pier 66 in 1985. It has had multiple owners, including South Florida billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, all of whom luckily kept the distinctive Pier 66 name and stylings. Though modernized over the years, the hotel still seems like a homage to another era in this age of cookie-cutter chains and uber-hip boutique hotels.
In December 2016, Pier 66 was acquired by its latest owners, an Orlando-based real estate development group. The $165 million deal was said to be based on the group’s plans to renovate and possibly redevelop the property. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts was kept on temporarily to continue to operate the hotel under its corporate branding, which continued through The Hukilau 2017 in June.
The development group, Tavistock, has since decided to transform the resort into a “higher end” hotel to be more competitive and attract more meetings and other special events, the company’s president, Jim Zboril, told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel in October.
The tower building was damaged during Hurricane Irma in September, forcing the resort to close for more than a month. The roof was “peeled up by the wind,” allowing rain to enter and damage around 70 rooms, Zboril said. The damaged rooms are in the process of being renovated, according to Zboril, and a complete renovation of all the rooms is also in the plans.
When the property reopened in October, the Hyatt branding was removed and the resort was renamed Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina. For sentimental and historical reasons, we’ll likely always call it simply Pier 66 (just as the nearby B Ocean Resort will always be the Yankee Clipper).
The sale included development entitlements to build 58 residential units in two 11-story buildings with 30,000 square feet of retail and office space, the Sun Sentinel reported. Seven months after buying Pier 66, Tavistock bought the adjacent 8-acre property containing The Sails Hotel Marina & Shops, on the other side of the 17th Street Causeway.
It’s believed that most of the future development will occur there, and at least initially it doesn’t appear that Tavistock plans to radically change the classic aspects of the Pier 66 hotel. Tavistock wants to “establish this iconic hotel and marina as one of Fort Lauderdale’s defining destinations,” Zboril told the Sun Sentinel after the sale. “We are very excited for what the future holds with this next chapter of Pier Sixty-Six.”
Tavistock is in discussions with the city on a master redevelopment plan to incorporate both sites, Zboril told the Sun Sentinel. The hotel and marina side is tentatively being called Pier 66 North, and the new acquisition Pier 66 South, he said. “We want to create a mixed-use environment there, where there is going to be residential [and] additional retail and additional restaurants.”
How this all affects The Hukilau in the future is unclear, but for now not much has changed. Interstate Hotels & Resorts continues to manage the hotel and marina complex, and there has been seemingly little turnover in staff.
“Everything seems to be fine,” Oneslager said. “The same crew is still there, from the bellhops to the bartenders.”
The Hukilau host hotels on Fort Lauderdale Beach
2018 – Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina
2017 – Hyatt Regency Pier 66
2016 – Hyatt Regency Pier 66
2015 – Hyatt Regency Pier 66
2014 – Bahia Mar Beach Resort
2013 – Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (Yankee Clipper)
2012 – Best Western Oceanside Inn, Bahia Cabana Beach Resort
2011 – Bahia Mar, Bahia Cabana
2010 – Bahia Mar, Bahia Cabana
2009 – Bahia Cabana
2008 – Yankee Clipper, Bahia Cabana
2007 – Yankee Clipper, Bahia Cabana
2006 – Yankee Clipper
2005 – Bahia Mar
2004 – Bahia Mar, Bahia Cabana
2003 – Holiday Inn
The Mai-Kai’s outdoor garden offers a tropical paradise framed by giant Tikis, including a new carving by South Florida artist Will Anders and installed in December 2016. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)
THE MAI-KAI: Tiki’s grand Polynesian palace
The Mai-Kai will host multiple events during The Hukilau, including Wednesday night’s pre-party and Sunday’s finale, both held in The Molokai lounge. Only passholders are guaranteed entry when the lounge reaches capacity, so it’s a good idea to buy tickets now. As usual, The Hukilau will offer complimentary round-trip transportation to passholders for all events at The Mai-Kai.
During Saturday night’s main event, the entire restaurant reaches capacity during the two dinner shows, a spectacle that has to be seen to be appreciated. Hundreds of villagers dressed in their vintage aloha wear give The Mai-Kai an even more vintage atmosphere than usual. The June 9 event will also feature bands performing in both the lounge and one of the back dining rooms, adding to the festive atmosphere. Seats in the showroom will sell out, so it’s best to reserve your spot sooner than later.
Make your main event dinner reservations now
If it weren’t for The Mai-Kai, The Hukilau would likely not exist in its current form. Co-founders Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and Tim “Swanky” Glazner moved the event to Fort Lauderdale in 2003 after one year in Atlanta at the prospect of celebrating this historic restaurant, the last fully operational mid-century Polynesian supper club.
“The Mai-Kai recognized that our event would promote them and embraced us from the beginning,” Glazner recently wrote on Facebook. “They continue to be very involved with The Hukilau and The Hukilau continues to work to shine a bright spotlight on them and get them more fans and exposure through our Tiki celebration.”
Members of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, perform in February 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)
The Mai-Kai opened in 1956 in the then-sleepy town of Fort Lauderdale, and it’s recognized as one of the most dazzling restaurants of any kind during the 1950s and 1960s boom of Polynesian Pop culture. The sprawling property’s architectural and stylistic significance was recognized in 2014, when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Also on The Atomic Grog: The Mai-Kai is here to stay: 10 reasons why we love the historic South Florida restaurant
On top of its historical importance, the impact of The Mai-Kai on the Tiki revival that began in the 1990s cannot be understated. The Mai-Kai has lost none of its luster despite of (or perhaps because of) the recent explosion of new Tiki bars opening across the country. In 2015, when the long-running and authoritative Critiki.com website launched its annual list of “Top 10 Tiki bars in the World” based on its user ratings, The Mai-Kai topped the list for two straight years.
In announcing The Mai-Kai’s slip to No. 2 last year, Critiki founder and Tiki bar expert Humuhumu noted that the rating “doesn’t change that what The Mai-Kai offers isn’t offered anywhere else: A living history example of the pinnacle of mid-century Polynesian restaurant grandeur. Polynesian dancers and musicians, multiple themed dining rooms, landscaped gardens, the full fine dining experience. It’s truly without compare and stands on its own. Nothing could ever truly beat The Mai-Kai.”
At left, the last remaining giant Tiki at The Mai-Kai created by legendary carver Barney West and installed in the early 1960s greets guests arrving from the north on Federal Highway. At right, West’s iconic moai carving that stood 20 feet tall on the south end of of the property sadly fell victim to Hurricane Irma in September 2017. There are plans to erect a replacement, according to The Mai-Kai’s owners. (Photos by Sven Kirsten, December 2016)
Nearly every major figure in the modern revival – including authors, historians and bar owners such as Sven Kirsten, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Martin Cate – consider The Mai-Kai to be the most epic of all Tiki experiences. Each devoted entire chapters in their books to the restaurant.
“In the history of Tiki Pop there are those places that transcend all of the other Tiki palaces, large or small,” wrote Kirsten, considered to be the godfather of the modern Tiki renaissance, in his 2014 opus, Tiki Pop (Taschen). The Mai-Kai “is a virtual Taj Mahal of Tiki and stands today in its original form – which makes it the last grand Tiki temple still in existence.” Kirsten has presented Tiki history symposiums at The Mai-Kai and The Hukilau for decades.
Wrote cocktail guru Berry in the seminal Sippin’ Safari in 2007: “Aside from the Tiki-Ti, 3,000 miles west, The Mai-Kai is the last place on Earth where you can still sample a Don the Beachcomber drink more or less as it was prepared 70 years ago.” Berry broke ground with 10 straight years of cocktail symposiums at The Hukilau and participated in the first two Tiki Tower Takeover events after launching his own acclaimed bar, Latitude 29 in New Orleans. Look for an expanded 10th anniversary edition of Sippin’ Safari, coming soon.
In the James Beard award winning book, Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki (2016, Ten Speed Press), world-class barman Martin Cate calls The Mai-Kai “a beautifully preserved time capsule of the absolute pinnacle of High Tiki design.” Cate and wife/co-author Rebecca make regular pilgrimages to The Mai-Kai, where “you can still stand at the entrance, or during the show, and look at the faces of first-time visitors as their eyes widen, mouths agape at the spectacle.” Cate has also made several memorable appearances at The Hukilau over the years, including special symposiums plus the first two Tiki Tower Takeover events. The Cates also had their first book release signing at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau 2016. The Molokai lounge, “with its heavy emphasis on the nautical while remaining true to Tiki tradition, was an inspirational cornerstone” for Smuggler’s Cove, Cate’s San Francisco bar that has been rated among the best in the world, Tiki or otherwise.
“Before the era of theme parks, this place showed the way,” Glazner wrote in Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant (2016, Schiffer), the ultimate book on the people who created the experience we all know and love. “It weaves its magic, if you let it. It is a place out of time: ancient, mysterious, lush, and relaxing.”
Created by two brothers from Chicago, Bob and Jack Thornton, The Mai-Kai was originally a 225-seat, open-air restaurant with a small bar. It became wildly successful immediately, attracting rich and famous clientele including Johnny Carson, who featured The Mai-Kai’s sarong-clad “mystery girl” several times on The Tonight Show.
The Thorntons lured key staff away from the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Chicago, the first location opened by the Tiki bar pioneer outside of California. Bartender Mariano Licudine, known as the “Houdini of the liquids,” brought his cocktail knowledge and 15 years of experience with Don’s original recipes. Over the next 23 years as head mixolgist, he elevated and perfected those still-secret recipes, adding his own signature drinks to create what remains to this day one of the world’s most treasured Tiki bar programs. The cocktails are “maintained to taste the same as last time you were there, whether that was last week or last decade,” Glazner wrote in his book.
The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide
Reviews, recipes and history of all the drinks, past and present
Over the years, The Mai-Kai expanded well beyond its original small footprint. Today it’s a massive enterprise encompassing a dizzying array of activity on a busy night. After entering past a trio of carved Tikis and a wooden slat bridge that simulates the sound of a thunderstorm, you are whisked into The Molokai. The simulated rainfall on the windows completes the experience in the 150-capacity bar designed to look like a South Seas seaport saloon in the 1800s. The bar includes many props from the 1962 MGM movie Mutiny on the Bounty, which starred Marlon Brando.
A 1971 expansion that added The Molokai was designed by noted architects George Nakashima and Florian Gabriel. As revealed by historian Mike Skinner in his “Nautical Tiki” symposium at The Hukilau 2017, the designers purchased most of the nautical elements used in The Molokai and elsewhere in the restaurant from MGM when it closed its prop department in 1970 and auctioned off the historic items. They hired a Hollywood-based set decorator who specialized in nautical decor to come to The Mai-Kai and install the Mutiny on the Bounty elements and rigging, ensuring it was done correctly. The model ships displayed throughout The Mai-Kai also came from the MGM prop warehouse, Skinner said.
The dining areas are vast: Nearly 500 people can be accommodated in eight dining rooms, each with its own theme and named for a South Seas island. The main showroom is jaw-dropping, the giant A-frame creating a traditional look and feel that perfectly frames the Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. The nightly shows always play to a full house, a rite of passage for generations of South Floridians and new waves of Tikiphiles.
The lavish, outdoor gardens are the icing in the cake. The tropical jungle filled with looming Tikis and waterfalls allows diners a place to enjoy the South Florida weather and wax romantic. Like the rest of The Mai-Kai, the winding paths appear to have been created by Disney or Hollywood, and the area is a favorite site for special events such as weddings and anniversaries.
More on The Atomic Grog
* New giant carved Tiki added to The Mai-Kai’s outdoor garden
* ‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai
Amid all the grandeur, the food does not get the short shrift. Executive chef Mark Rivera has breathed new life into the menu since taking over the kitchen in 2016, modernizing and tweaking many dishes but keeping all the traditional elements that have made the faux Polynesian style of Asian fusion popular since it was first served by Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s.
Tradition is paramount at The Mai-Kai. Bob Thornton took sole control in 1970, passing the restaurant on to his family after his death in 1989. His widow, Mireille, has served as show choreographer and costume designer of the Polynesian Islander Revue since 1963.
She operates The Mai-Kai with her children, Kulani Gelardi and Dave Levy, the managing owner who deserves credit for sticking to the traditions of his stepfather and forging head-first into the 21st century with unprecedented success. Kern Mattei is a second-generation general manager, occupying the same office as his father, Kern Mattei Sr. Some employees spent a half-century at The Mai-Kai, making the restaurant their entire life’s work.
Still basking in the glow from a highly successful 60th anniversary year in 2017, The Mai-Kai shows no signs of become passe at age 61.
* MaiKai.com | Facebook page | Instagram
* Friends of The Mai-Kai Facebook group
* Google Maps: Explore The Mai-Kai in 3-D
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
You can catch live music, DJs and other entertainers all five days of The Hukilau, including:
* Wednesday’s pre-party at The Mai-Kai.
* Thursday’s Kickoff Party at the Tiki Treasures Bazaar and LuXotica Lounge in the Pier Top Ballroom at Pier 66.
* Friday’s Rum Island Pool Party, Tiki Treasures Bazaar, and High Tide Party at Pier 66.
* Saturday’s Rum Island Pool Party at Pier 66 and main event at The Mai-Kai.
* Sunday’s Finale at The Mai-Kai.
Check the latest schedule
An effort was made to give fans of exotica a special experience, separate from the surf bands, Oneslager said. It was a common request in villager feedback, he said. The result is Thursday night’s LuXotica Lounge featuring Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet and The Martian Denny Orchestra. The villagers enjoyed the format of last year’s Friday night High Tide Party, which featured two stages and nearly non-stop music. The same set-up will be employed this year, with The Intoxicators assuming the role of “house band,” sharing one stage with burlesque performers. Meanwhile, Los Straitjackets will headline the other stage with support from The Madeira, The Exotics, and Black Flamingos. The lineup for other events has yet to be determined, but you can check the online schedule periodically for updates (along with this blog).
More bands could be added to the lineup before June, Oneslager said. In the meantime, here’s a rundown based on the recent announcement:
Los Straitjackets at The Hukilau 2009:
Los Straitjackets: Returning to The Hukilau for the first time since 2009, the mysterious masked marvels of instrumental rock will headline Friday’s High Tide Party. Formed 20 years ago in Nashville, the Grammy-nominated band released What’s So Funny About Peace Love And … in 2017, its 14th studio album since 1994. [Official website]
Related: Atomic Grog profile | Review of Jet Set | The Hukilau 2009 audio slideshow
The Martian Denny Orchestra at The Hukilau 2012:
The Martian Denny Orchestra: This revved-up exotica supergroup features guitarist Eddie Angel (Los Straitjackets, the Planet Rockers), guitarist Bob Irwin (Pluto Walkers, reissue label Sundazed Music), bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp, et al.), and drummer Jimmy Lester (Webb Wilder, ex-Los Straitjackets). Based in Nashville, the group has been unleashing their dazzling atomic instrumentals on the unsuspecting public for the past five years, including The Hukilau 2012. Performing at Thursday’s LuXotica party in the Pier Top Lounge, plus more to be announced.
* Facebook page | Atomic Grog profile
Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet: Led by visionary percussionist Brian O’Neill, this Boston-based ensemble will perform exclusively at Thursday’s LuXotica party in the Pier Top Lounge. Melding jazz and chamber music into adaptations of mid-century exotica, the quintet will present O’Neill’s original compositions along with unique adaptions of Bach, Gershwin, Shostakovich and John Adams “into cinematic, layered music for armchair travelers ready to journey off road.”
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
Czarna Wolgastar, O’Neill’s surf music band, will also perform at The Hukilau, including Thursday’s kickoff party in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar.
The Madeira: Founded in 2004 by guitarist Ivan Pongracic of 1990s surf music icons the Space Cossacks, this Indianapolis-based band continues to push the boundaries of instrumental rock. Their 2015 album, Ancient Winds, was hailed as a seamless blend of traditional surf and modern progressive rock. Performing at Thursday’s kickoff party in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, plus Friday’s High Tide Party in their first appearance at The Hukilau.
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
The Intoxicators at The Hukilau 2009:
The Intoxicators: They’re baaaaaaaack! After a one-year respite, the boys from Tallahassee return to rock our socks off for the 13th time since 2005, performing at Friday’s High Tide Party, plus more to be announced. The ultra-tight trio of Gary Evans (guitar), Brian Crum (drums), and Adam Watson (bass) meld classic surf, rockabilly, and pure guitar-driven instrumental rock into a rousing sound all their own.
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
Also, don’t be surprised if the primitive alter ego of The Intoxicators (aka The Disasternauts) also make an appearance.
The Exotics at The Hukilau 2011:
The Exotics: The Hukilau welcomes back Milwaukee’s long-running and acclaimed surf band for the first time since 2011. Formed in 1994, the band has been releasing albums and playing special events across the country for more than 20 years. They’re also the house band at Foundation Bar in Milwaukee, where drummer Don Nelson is manager and co-owner. Catch them at Friday’s High Tide Party.
* Facebook page | Atomic Grog profile
Black Flamingos: This New Jersey instrumental trio has been busy bringing their combination of surf, spy and spaghetti western to the masses since forming in 2014. Their debut full-length album, Neon Boneyard (2017, Hi-Tide Recordings) was followed by tours of the United States and Europe. High profile gigs have included the Surfer Joe Summer Festival in Italy, a support slot on the Messer Chups tour, and the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival with Dick Dale and Los Straitjackets in August. Drummer Vincent Minervino and wife Magdalena O’Connell co-founded what has become the East Coast’s premiere surf music festival in 2014 and also run Hi-Tide. The band’s debut at The Hukilau will be at Friday’s High Tide Party. A spin-off band, The Royal Pacifics, will bring their “instrumental surf hits and summer classics” to Thursday’s kickoff party in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar.
* Official website
Skinny Jimmy Stingray: South Florida’s own king of the surf guitar will return for a sixth straight year to rock The Mai-Kai. In addition to his instrumental trio playing surf classics and originals, Stingray now plays around the area with a totally different lineup specializing in spaghetti western and rockabilly.
* Facebook page | Atomic Grog profile
King Kukule: The Hukilau’s emcee since day one, the Southern California comedian, actor and ukuleleist otherwise known as Denny Moynahan can always be counted on to keep the show running smoothly with many laughs thrown in for good measure. “The King” is not only a fixture at Tiki events across the country, he’s been a regular performer at Hollywood premieres, Disneyland, Universal Studios and more. You can find the King performing every day at multiple events, from Thursday’s kickoff party in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, to Friday night’s High Tide Party, to Saturday’s main event at The Mai-Kai.
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid: MeduSirena has been a fixture at The Hukilau since she began her acclaimed swimshows and helped revive The Wreck Bar at the Yankee Clipper in 2006. The retro-aquatic performer and fire dancer will assemble her pod of aquaticats at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort once again for several exclusive shows for The Hukilau. On Wednesday, there will be another late-night burlesque-style performance, while afternoon shows are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
* Official website | Facebook
* The Hukilau 2016 photos: Glamour Girl Swimshow | Savage Jungle Swimshow
* Atomic Grog feature: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges and their mysterious mermaids
Angie Pontani: The Italian Stallionette from Brooklyn is back for the third year in a row to provide her modern take on burlesque and prove why she’s one of the top performers in the business, known for her high standards of style. Look for her at Friday’s High Tide Party. Pontani will also teach a “go-go aerobics” class, based on her popular DVD series.
* Official website
A lineup of DJs will also be added, including South Florida’s James Brown’s Sweat, making his fourth straight appearance at The Hukilau.
BARS & BARTENDERS
Pop-up bars can be found at Pier 66 on Thursday through Saturday, including: the Tiki Tower Takeover, the Friday and Saturday Rum Island pool parties, the High Tide Party, plus pop-ups to be announced in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar. Several bars will also host Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes. This year’s expanded lineup includes three bars from Europe, two from Florida, four from the eastern half of the United States, plus three from the western states. Friday night’s High Tide offers a rare opportunity to sample all 12.
Check the latest schedule
Death Or Glory: A new craft cocktail concept just up the road in Delray Beach, this eclectic bar and restaurant opened in April 2017 in a historic house built in 1925. The cocktail program is led by Ayme Harrison, formerly of Fort Lauderdale’s Kreepy Tiki Lounge. Death Or Glory was recently named one of the country’s “Best New Bars of 2017” by the website Supercall. The bar’s debut at The Hukilau will include the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party. Harrison will also teach the cocktail class “Evolution of Tiki Drinks” on Friday.
* Official website
* Related: ‘Miracle’ continues at Death Or Glory, one of the country’s best new bars
Dirty Dick: Owner and acclaimed barman Scotty Schuder returns for a second year to the Tiki Tower Takeover, this time partnering with Pagan Idol for the event’s first mash-up (“Dirty Idol”?). Schuder, an American by birth, criss-crossed the states last year with stops at some notable Tiki bars for similar pop-ups. You can also find Dirty Dick at the Rum Island Pool Party and Friday’s High Tide Party. And Schuder will also return to the cocktail academy to teach the class “Rum + Lime + Sugar” on Friday and Saturday.
* Facebook page
Flask & Cannon: Bringing a touch of Tiki (and lots of rum) to Jacksonville Beach, this tropical outpost is influeced by the best exotic locales, from Honolulu to Havana. For a second straight year, this top-notch bar team will participate in the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party.
* Official website
Foundation Bar: Back after a one-year absence, Milwaukee’s hidden gem returns for the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party. Regularly rated among the best Tiki bars in the world, Foundation dates back to 1995 and was originally a punk and surf bar. But under the guidance of co-owner Don Nelson (also a member of The Exotics), the underground space has become a hidden paradise featuring authentic Tiki art, cocktails and aloha. They even have their own Tiki-themed AirBnb directly above the bar.
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
Frankie’s Tiki Room: Bringing Tiki back to Las Vegas in a big way, Frankie’s made its debut in 2008 and is still going strong as one of the early trendsetters of the modern revival. Created by Vegas bar impresario P Moss, the country’s only 24-7 Tiki bar is filled with pieces from a who’s who of contemporary artists along with a dash of Las Vegas kitsch. The Frankie’s crew will participate in the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party in their first appearance at The Hukilau.
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
Hidden Harbor: Bursting onto the Pittsburgh cocktail scene in January 2016, this neo-Tiki bar put a modern spin on classic cocktails and broke new ground by putting molecular mixology in a tropical setting. The bar team led by Adam Henry made their debut at The Hukilau in 2017, participating in both the pool party and Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes. They’ll be back at the pool party, plus Friday’s High Tide Party and will host a new workshop, “Birth of the Tiki Drink,” on Friday and Saturday.
* Official website
Nu Lounge Bar: Italy’s Daniele Dalla Pola returns for a second year to participate in the Tiki Tower Takeover. Dalla Pola is an award-winning mixologist and flamboyant showman behind his bar in Bologna. Dalla Pola and Nu Lounge will also present their modern tropical flair in the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party. He’ll also teach his second cocktail academy class, “Aloha Friday.”
* Facebook page
See below: Nu Nui Nui recipe from the 2017 Tiki Tower Takeover
Pagan Idol: Moving up to the Tiki Tower Takeover in their second year at The Hukilau, beverage director Daniel “Doc” Parks and his crew from San Francisco will team up with Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick for the event’s first two-bar mashup. Open less than two years, this Bay Area hotspot is already attracting a loyal following of Tikiphiles, rum aficionados and cocktail fans to its highly immersive space. Pagan Idol is also scheduled for the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party.
* Official website
S.O.S. Tiki Bar: In just over two years, this off-the-beaten-path oasis in Decatur, Ga., has risen up the ranks of Tiki’s new wave of traditional yet inventive bars. Led by bar manager Josh Martin, this intimate lounge hits all the right notes with its quality cocktails and retro decor. The bar team from the Atlanta area is back for a second year at the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party.
* Official website
Three Dots and a Dash: Beverage director Kevin Beary and company are back a second straight Tiki Tower Takeover appearance. Open since 2013, the busy downtown space has garnered numerous honors, including Best New American Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail and a slot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Three Dots and a Dash will also be serving drinks at the Rum Island Pool Party and Friday’s High Tide Party, plus Beary will again host a cocktail academy class (“The Tiki Pantry”) on Friday and Saturday.
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
See below: Three Dots and a Dash recipe from the 2017 Tiki Tower Takeover
Tonga Hut: The oldest Tiki bar in Los Angeles has been though a lot since 1958. It’s still a good old neighborhood dive bar that survived Tiki’s fall from grace in the 1980s. But it has emerged with much of the original decor and a newfound appreciation from Tiki and cocktails fans. A new ownership team revived the bar in 2005, and today it’s known for its many special events, live music, a rum club, and a special menu of cocktails from Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log that challenges completists to join The Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard. Bar manager Marie King and her team will participate in the Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party.
* Official website | Atomic Grog profile
Trailer Happiness: Paul McFadyen and crew are making the trans-Atlantic voyage from Tiki-crazy London for their first appearance at The Hukilau. This rum-centric bar in Notting Hill (est. 2003) was named Best International High Volume Cocktail Bar at the 2017 Spirited Awards during Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in June. Co-owner McFadyen is also brand manager for Plantation Rum in the United Kingdom and helped develop the acclaimed O.F.T.D. Overproof rum along Dirty Dick’s Scotty Schuder and other rum and cocktail luminaries (Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, David Wondrich, Alexandre Gabriel). You’ll find Trailer Happiness in the Tiki Tower Takeover, Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party.
* Official website
* Atomic Grog feature: Paul McFadyen at Miami Rum Festival 2013
The Hukilau team and special guests: Putting on an event this epic demands an expert crew. The Hukilau’s bar staff has always been top-notch, producing cocktails just as good as the bars they support. You’ll taste their handiwork at the many symposiums and special events that don’t include the pop-up bars. Tip your hat to:
* Dean Hurst is a Florida bar industry veteran now in his fourth year as The Hukilau’s spirits coordinator. His work in Tampa includes bar management roles at the legendary Bern’s Steak House, plus SideBern’s and the Epicurean Hotel.
* The Straw Hat Barmen (aka cocktail coordinator George Jenkins, Christina Jordan, and Jimi Gonzalez) are longtime key members of the behind-the-scenes crew at The Hukilau. Back home in their Brevard County, Fla., stomping grounds, they have single-handedly elevated the local cocktail scene. Jordan will also teach the cocktail class “Stocking Your Home Tiki Bar” on Saturday.
* Lucky Munro of Maggie’s Farm Rum and Cane & Grog in Pittsburgh returns to work the back bars during The Hukilau’s special events and lend a hand whenever he’s needed.
In addition to the pop-up bars and cocktail classes, Oneslager said he hopes to also pair up the bars with rum sponsors in an effort to showcase Florida and smaller craft rum companies inside and outside the Tiki Treasures Bazaar. Potential sponsors are encouraged to contact The Hukilau for more information on opportunities to promote their brands.
While not much was announced regarding collaborations with the Rum Renaissance Festival, Oneslager said there is the possibility of some smaller events that cater to both audiences as well as come discounts on tickets for those who attend both festivals. Regardless, “If our villagers are interested in the rum fest, it’s not far away,” he said. And vice versa. Organizers of borth events have embraced an attitude of “the more the merrier” when it comes to rum and Tiki.
Previous coverage: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend
PHOTOS: 2017 Tiki Tower Takeover highlights
Perhaps the only thing better than happy hour at The Mai-Kai is happy hour at the Tiki Tower Takeover. Here are some photos from last year to give you an idea of what you can expect at this exclusive cocktail party in the sky. The featured bars and bartenders were Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley (New York City), Kevin Beary and Julian Cox of Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick (Paris), and Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar (Bologna, Italy). All but Slowly Shirley are returning this year, along with some new additions. Note: The drink reviews and ratings are based on my sketchy notes jotted down live while I sipped.
Espiritu de Caracas from Scotty Schuder (right) of Dirty Dick featured white rum, chartreuse, cinnamon, falernum, lemon, lime and muddled cucumber. (Atomic Grog photo)
Atomic Grog rating: 4 out of 5 – A refreshing blend of cucumber and sour juices with a distinctive flavor combination and just a slight rum kick.
Three Dots and a Dash from Kevin Beary and Three Dots and a Dash featured Rhum JM Paille Gold, El Dorado 5 rum, Angostura bitters, falernum, allspice syrup, honey syrup, plus fresh lime and orange juices. (Atomic Grog photo)
Atomic Grog rating: 3.5 out of 5 – The distinctive agricole rhum boosts the flavor of this rich and sweet but perfectly balanced classic.
Exclusive: See recipe below
Nu Nui Nui from Daniele Dalla Pola of the Nu Lounge featured Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star rhum, Plantation Guyana rum, Plantation O.F.T.D. rum, Nu Spice #7, Coco Real, Angostura bitters, plus fresh lime, orange and pineapple juices. (Left photo provided by Daniele Dalla Pola, right photo by The Atomic Grog)
Atomic Grog rating: 4 out of 5 – A classic Tiki concoction with a modern twist. Potent rums, bold spices and tart juices meld perfectly.
Exclusive: See recipe below
Pacific Ocean Blue from Garret Richard (left) of Slowly Shirley featured Plantation 3 Stars rum, vodka, Galliano, blue curacao, lime cordial, coconut mix, Demerara syrup, plus pineapple and lemon juices. (Atomic Grog photo)
Atomic Grog rating: 3.5 out of 5 – A rich and luxurious blend of exotic flavors. The Galliano, curacao and coconut combine for a unique taste and presentation.
VIP villagers in attendance include (from left) Robert A. Burr of the Rum Renaissance Festival and Scott French (aka The Rum Trader), plus a crew from The Mai-Kai: John Gelardi, owner Dave Levy, manager Kern Mattei, Drew Daley, and marketing director Pia Dahlquist. (Atomic Grog photo)
A spirited group of villagers enjoy their Tiki Tower Takeover cocktails. (Atomic Grog photo)
Past Tiki Tower Takeover coverage
* 2016: Latitude 29, Smuggler’s Cove, Lost Lake, Tiki Mondays With Miller, Fort Defiance
* 2015: Latitude 29, Smuggler’s Cove, Lost Lake, Tiki Mondays With Miller
All four cocktails at the third Tiki Tower Takeover were outstanding. The two featured below stood out for their complexity and reverance to the tradition of Don the Beachcomber. In fact, both are modern riffs on drinks created by Donn Beach in the 1930s and ’40s. While exact recipes were not shared, the ingredients were touted at the bar stations so I took the liberty of re-interpreting these signature drinks from Three Dots and a Dash and Nu Lounge Bar. Okole maluna!
Three Dots and a Dash from the Tiki Tower Takeover is re-created in The Atomic Grog, January 2018. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Official 2017 glassware by Tiki Tony [Buy now]
THREE DOTS AND A DASH
(From Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, as served at the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2017. Re-created by Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog.)
* 1 ounce rhum agricole
* 1 ounce Demerara rum
* 3 dashes Angostura bitters
* 1/2 ounce falernum
* 1/2 ounce allspice syrup
* 1/2 ounce honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part water, mixed and chilled)
* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 3/4 ounce fresh orange juice
Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for 5-7 seconds. Pour unstrained into a small snifter or double old-fashioned glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a pineapple spear and three brandied cherries.
A well-balanced cavalcade of flavors, not too bitter as some versions of this classic can be. The syrups balance the agricole rhum and allspice nicely, and the heavy dose of bitters tempers the sweetness. A great example of modernizing this classic in the tradition of The Mai-Kai’s S.O.S.
Beverage director Kevin Beary told me that this current take on the bar’s namesake drink is a slight variation of the version created by Paul McGee when the Chicago hotspot opened in 2013. A recipe for that drink was published by Punch and was featured as one of our cocktails of the week. The Don the Beachcomber original, created during World War II as a tribute to the troops and the Morse code for “V for Victory”, was revealed in Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari in 2007. It contains all of the same ingredients, just in different proportions.
* Ingredient notes: The main change from McGee’s version is the removal of dry curacao in favor of orange juice, the same as Donn Beach’s original. In a change from both versions, it features a house-made allspice syrup instead of allspice dram. You can find recipes online for syrups made with dried allspice berries as well as ground allspice. Another option would be to use Don’s Spices #2, a 50/50 blend of allspice dram and vanilla syrup. It’s easy to make your own, or pick up a bottle from B.G. Reynolds (now branded as “Tiki Spices”).
* Recommended rums: The version served at the Tiki Tower Takeover calls for Rhum JM Paille (a 100-proof gold rum from Martinique) and El Dorado 5 from Guyana. I couldn’t get my hands on that particular agricole rhum, so I went with Rhum J.M. V.O. instead. Any quality gold rum from Martinque should work, just try to stick with one that’s not too bold so it doesn’t overpower the drink. El Dorado 5, also used in the 2013 version, is a wise choice. It adds some hints of smoky Demerara rum flavor while maintaining a background role. El Dorado 8 and Hamilton 86 would also work well.
Related recipes on The Atomic Grog
* Three Dots and a Dash (Paul McGee)
* Three Dots and a Dash (Don the Beachcomber)
* Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s S.O.S. (The Atomic Grog)
See also: Three Dots and a Dash, The Atomic Grog’s Tiki Bar of the Week
At right, Daniele Dalla Pola and Hurricane Hayward meet at the Tiki Tower Takeover in June 2017 at The Hukilau. At left, Dalla Pola’s Nu Nui Nui is re-created in The Atomic Grog, January 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)
Official 2017 glassware by Tiki Tony [Buy now]
NU NUI NUI
(By Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar in Bologna, Italy; as served at the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2017. Re-created by Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog.)
* 1 ounce Rhum Barbancourt
* 1 ounce Demerara rum
* 1/2 ounce Plantation O.F.T.D.
* 1/2 ounce Nu Spice #7 (see below)
* 1/2 ounce cream of coconut
* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce orange juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh pineapple juice
* 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
Pulse blend everything except the bitters for 6-8 seconds in a spindle blender with 1 1/2 ounces of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a specialty glass, add crushed ice to fill and top with the bitters. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig, plus orange and pineapple wedges.
I found this to be a savory and spicy cocktail with many layers of flavor. It’s a modern version of Don the Beachcomber’s Nui Nui that will appeal to the masses and tropical cocktail devotees alike. The addition of coconut cream and pineapple juice give it the feel of a Painkiller on steroids, but it still shares many similarities of the original recipe (first published by Beachbum Berry in Sippin’ Safari (2007). According to Berry, Donn Beach created the Nui Nui in Hollywood in the mid-1930s, when it was first known as Pupule. Interestingly, Berry’s Nui Nui recipe, which became a favorite of Tiki cocktail bloggers a decade ago, is also the first appearance of Don’s Spices #2, mentioned above in the Three Dots and a Dash recipe. You can find the original Pupule recipe in Berry’s latest book, Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them (2014, Cocktail Kingdom).
* Ingredient notes: Plantation Rum was a sponsor of the Tiki Tower Takeover, so the Nu Nui Nui recipe shared by Dalla Pola calls for 1 1/2 ounces of Plantation Guyana. But feel free to use any quality 80-proof Demerara mixing rum, such as El Dorado 5, El Dorado 8 or Hamilton 86. We spotted Plantation O.F.T.D. bottles being used to pour the drinks, so we surmised that this outstanding 138-proof rum from Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados was also in the mix and adjusted the recipe. The drink seemed to feature that distinctive overproof kick and rich flavor. You can use either Rhum Barbancourt 3 Star or Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star, depending on your budget. Dalla Pola represents Coco Real, so he recommends that brand’s Cream of Coconut. I can’t disagree, though it’s fine to use Coco Lopez or a homemade version. I spotted Dalla Pola dashing the bitters right before garnishing, so I did the same. It balances the sweetness nicely.
Nu Spice #7
Dalla Pola’s recipe calls for 7 parts Chinese five-spice syrup to 3 parts pimento liqueur. A traditional five-spice powder is a mixture of five or more spices (star anise, cloves, cinnamon, et al.) used in Asian and Arabic cuisine, but also in cocktails. You can make your own syrup or find bottled versions online. In a pinch, you could substitute cinnamon syrup, but I’d make the effort to use the real deal. Mix the syrup in the 7/3 proportion with your favorite pimento liqueur, aka allspice dram. Be precise. If you go too heavy on the allspice, it will overpower the other flavors in the drink. There are now multiple allspice liqueurs available in various markets, including Dalla Pola’s own Alamea Pimento Rum Liqueur. It’s also a favorite homemade ingredient among hardcore Tiki cocktail enthusiasts, and you’ll find many recipes online.
VIPS & SPECIAL GUESTS
The Hukilau will host several industry heavyweights who bring a vast knowledge and expertise. But don’t let their status scare you. These are two of the most approachable and easygoing guys in the business. Villagers shouldn’t hesitate to say hello and chat them up if you see them anywhere at the event.
* Brother Cleve: A mainstay of the cocktail and music scenes for more than two decades, this Boston-based Renaissance man has an incredibly diverse resume. He toured with The Del Fuegos, was a member of Combustible Edison, and became a pioneer in the craft cocktail movement. He’s also known for his work as a DJ and musicologist, plus a vast expertise in Tiki history and cocktails. He works with liquor brands, presents symposiums around the world, and graces The Hukilau for the first time this year. Brother Cleve will have his own bar in Thursday’s Tiki Tower Takeover and will present a special symposium – “The Rise, The Fall, The Resurrection, The Redemption” – on Friday. Also look for a DJ set to be announced.
* Facebook | Twitter
* More on Brother Cleve: Imbibe Magazine | Tales of the Cocktail
* Listen: Brother Cleve on the Shift Drink Podcast
* Ian Burrell: The global rum ambassador and founder of the UK RumFest (est. 2007) will make his second straight appearance (and third overall) with a symposium (“Who’s Your Daddy? The Pina Colada Paternity Test” on Friday), two cocktail classes (“Blending Rum” on Friday and Saturday), and a high-end rum tasting on Saturday. A former singer and athlete, the charismatic Burrell is the enthusiastic spokesman for cane spirits, traveling the world on behalf of brands and events large and small. His event inspired rum festivals around the world, and his appearances have likely inspired millions to embrace rum for what it is: The world’s most diverse and delicious spirit.
* Twitter | Facebook | The Rum Experience
* Atomic Grog features: UK RumFest 2017 | Miami Rum Festival 2014
Good Head cocktail recipe | Take 5 interview | Miami Rum Festival 2013
Miami Rum Festival 2012 | “Rum Rat Pack” at The Hukilau 2011
SYMPOSIUMS, VENDORS & MORE
Symposiums, craft workshops, Okole Maluna cocktail classes, hula and ukulele lessons, mermaid shows, and some new additions were announced in late January.
* Medusirena Marina at The Wreck Bar: The Hukilau would not be complete without Fort Lauderdale’s greatest aquatic resource, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats. Three special swimshows will be held at The Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort, just a mile north of Pier 66 on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Wednesday’s 10:30 p.m. show will have a burlesque theme and is limited to ages 21 and older, while the 2 p.m. shows on Thursday and Friday will likely have a more traditional feel.
* Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy: After a popular inaugural year, the curriculum at these intimate classes hosted by visting bar experts is being tweaked for 2018, Oneslager said. “It’s all based on feedback from the villagers,” he said. “They wanted more hands-on classes.” The courses will be divided into “core classes” and “electives,” with “graduation” earned by the completion of a certain number to be determined. Noted artist Danny Gallardo (aka Tiki Diablo) will produce a series of special bar tools for participants, Oneslager said. These include a muddler, a bar spoon, and glassware. He will also craft a special Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy mug for graduates. Returning faculty from 2017 include mixolgoists from Three Dots and a Dash and Hidden Harbor, plus Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar and Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick. Coming on board for 2018 are Ayme Harrison of Death Or Glory and Christina Jordan of The Straw Hat Barmen. Last but not least, I’ll be hosting my first class, “How to Mix Like The Mai-Kai”, on Friday at 1 p.m.
* Symposiums: The Hukilau pioneered the concept of Tiki symposiums more than a decade ago, and continues to present the scene’s best experts on many fascinating topics. In addition to the symposiums by rum and cocktail VIPs Ian Burrell and Brother Cleve mentioned above, two new events will be give villagers an peek at Tiki’s impact on Disney and pop culture. Imagineer Kyle Barnes will present “Travel with Trader Sam” on Friday while film and video collector Ron Ferrell will present “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” on Saturday. In addition, look for Tiki historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner to present an all-new symposium to be announced and also host a Mai-Kai hospitality suite featuring ephemera, vintage video, veteran employees, and more.
South Florida artists Will Anders (left) and Tom Fowner led popular craft classes at The Hukilau 2017. (Left photo by Heather McKean, right photo by The Atomic Grog)
* Crafty carvers: Also returning in 2018 are Fort Lauderdale artists Tom Fowner and Will Anders, who for the third straight year will offer hands-on symposiums on Tiki art and craftsmanship. Joining them will be last year’s featured artist, Tiki Tony, with his own unique class.
* Eclectic classes: Tickets went on sale in late January for Go Go Aerobics hosted by modern burlesque queen Angie Pontani on Friday and “Mid Century Makeup: 3 Decades/3 Styles” with makeup artist Nicole Brauchler on Saturday. Returning from last year are the popular hula classes with dancers from The Mai-Kai. Also look for the return of ukulele lessons or a possible special event, Oneslager said.
* Tiki Treasures Bazaar: Located in the Pier 66 Crystal Ballroom and Atrium, The Hukilau’s signature marketplace opens Thursday night and will have day and night hours Friday and Saturday. Besides the dozens of vendors selling their wares, you’ll find rum brands and other sponsors touting their products, plus mixologists whipping up complimentary cocktails. And the music will be stepped up this year with an expanded lineup. Thursday’s kickoff party features Czarna Wolgastar, The Madeira, The Royal Pacifics, and King Kukulele. Admission to the bazaar is free with most single- and multi-day passes. Saturday is open to the general public at no cost. If you’re interested in particpating as a vendor, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You never know who will show up to jam at Wednesday’s pre-party in The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai. In 2016, Gary Evans of The Intoxicators jumped in with Russell Mofsky and Gold Dust Lounge. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
PASSES & TICKETS
When tickets and passes went on sale in late December, returning villagers were given a chance to order at 2017 prices using a special code. In general, Oneslager said, the prices of passes are going up about $20 for 2018, but the value has increased with the addition of more bars, more bands, an additional pool party, plus lower prices on many symposiums. The symposiums and classes went on sale in late January.
On sale now:
* Weekend passes: The South Seas Pass ($399) includes all five days, plus the Tiki Tower Takeover (early entry) and the late-night LuXotica party. South Seas passholders also receive an exclusive pendant designed by Crazy Al Evans. The Big Kahuna Pass ($205) includes everything except the two special events and pendant. For $195, an Aloha Pass is good for Thursday through Sunday. And the Luau Pass ($175) covers Friday through Sunday. The South Seas and Big Kahuna passes include Wednesday’s pre-party in The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai, which is likely to sell out. All passes include the Friday and Saturday Rum Island pool parties, access to the Tiki Treasures Bazaar and rum/cocktail tastings Thursday through Saturday, Friday night’s High Tide Party, plus entry to The Mai-Kai on Saturday and Sunday. Passholders also receive special prices on symposiums, workshops and special events.
* Thursday’s Tiki Tower Takeover: For just $75, you get cocktails from five of the world’s top Tiki bar teams plus a one-of-a-kind experience in the 17th floor rooftop ballroom at Pier 66 on Thursday, June 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. (Early entry for South Seas passholders.) This is a limited ticket for passholders only that includes admission, light snacks and open bar with six legendary bars and bartenders: Three Dots and a Dash; Daniele Dalla Pola and Italy’s Nu Lounge Bar; a mashup featuring Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick and Doc Parks of Pagan Idol; Tiki music and cocktail legend Brother Cleve; plus Trailer Happiness from London. [See more]
* Thursday’s LuXotica Lounge: A special event in the Pier Top Ballroom from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. featuring The Martian Denny Orchestra and the only opportunity to catch Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet. Tickets are $55 for passholders, $85 for non-passholders. Ticket includes admission and open bar. This is the new lounge event that follows the Tiki Tower Takeover, following in the footsteps of Shag’s SkyLounge in 2016 and The Rat Pack at The Saturn Lounge in 2017. [See more]
* Symposiums: Most of these special events in the Pier 66 Panorama Ballrooms are just $15 if you buy your weekend pass now. Prices will go up for non-passholders, but it’s possible they may sell out before then. This includes the symposuims by Brother Cleve, Ian Burrell and Disney’s Kyle Barnes on Friday, plus Ron Ferrell’s Tiki on TV symposium on Saturday. “The $1000 Rum Tasting” with Ian Burrell on Saturday is priced at $40, but it will include a sampling of four to six rums that sell at retail for a combined value in excess of $1,000. [See more]
* Cocktail Academy: There are nine different classes and a total of 13 sessions spread over Friday and Saturday for enrollees in the Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy. Classes are $49 each and include bar tools created exclusively for The Hukilau by Tiki Diablo. After completing a designated number of classes, graduates will receive the California artist’s new Okole Maluna Academy mug. [See more]
* Crafts and other classes: For just $15 each (including supplies), villagers can attend “Weave Your Own Palm Frond Hat” with Tom Fowner on Friday and “Carve Your Own Pendant” with Will Anders on Saturday. “Paint Your Own Black Velvet Masterpiece” with Tiki Tony on Saturday is $25. There are three hula classes on Friday for $10 each. Angie Pontani’s “go-go aerobics” class on Friday is $10, while the mid-century makeup class on Saturday is $15. [See more]
* Medusirena Marina swimshows: Tickets are available for three exclusive performances on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., plus Thursday and Friday at 2 p.m. The evening show is a burlesque-style, adults-only performance. All swimshows are $20 and include reserved seating and clear views. [See more]
* On sale in March: Single event tickets and day passes.
* Past merchandise for sale: While the 2018 mugs, glasses and other items have yet to be announced, you can now order past goodies via The Hukilau’s new online store, “Click Aloha.” Some very cool, limited-edition items are still available. My favorites include the 2017 official mug by Tiki Tony and Eekum Bookum, the 2017 pendant by Tiki Tony and Perry Drake, the 2016 mug by Eeekum Bookum’s John Mulder, and the 2015 mug by Tiki Diablo. Most are inspired by iconic images at The Mai-Kai. You can also order the glassware featured above with the Tiki Tower Takeover cocktails.
* Click here to join the mailing list to be notified of all upcoming news and ticket info.
Tim “Swanky” Glazner (right) presents a one-of-a-kind symposium featuring legends of The Mai-Kai at The Hukilau 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)
THE HUKILAU COMMUNITY
It’s difficult to find a Tiki event at which attendees feel such a personal connection and investment. This attitude was fostered for years by the original co-organizers, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and Tim “Swanky” Glazner, who started the event in 2002 in Atlanta. It moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2003, where it has found a home at The Mai-Kai.
Past performers, presenters and VIPs have included Robert Drasnin, Yma Sumac, Dawn Wells, Shag, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Charles Phoenix, Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily, Sven Kirsten, Bosko, Wayne Coombs, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Otto von Stroheim, Tikiyaki Orchestra, Martini Kings, Ìxtahuele, Alika Lyman Group, Sweet Hollywaiians, Left Arm of Buddha and many more.
Oneslager tries to carry on the tradition, but he’s also constantly making tweaks based on villager feedback.
Now in his third year as The Hukilau’s owner and CEO, the Colorado-based entrepreneur took on added organizational responsibilities as co-organizer last year when Tiki Kiliki – co-founder, producer and organizer since day one – stepped down. He’s ably assisted by a hard-working team of organizers who have been with The Hukilau for many years. They include co-organizer Sherill Anne Gross, production coordinator James McDonald, spirits coordinator Dean Hurst, cocktail coordinator George Jenkins, and many others.
“I feel really fortunate to have stumbled into this community and this event,” Oneslager said. “It’s a privilege to put on a party for everyone. It’s such a fun group of people.”
At The Hukilau 2017, bar team member Carlos Cuarta pours cocktails in the Pier Top Ballroom during Thursday’s Rat Pack event (Photo by Heather McKean). At Sunday’s finale at The Mai-Kai, co-organizer Sherill Anne Gross and production coordinator James McDonald are happy to be wrapping up another successful year. (Atomic Grog photo).
His first year as head honcho was a whirlwind. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he said, but it ended up exceeding his expectations considering the short time frame his team had to pull everything together. “I couldn’t have been more pleased,” he said. “The only thing I’m more excited about is what we have planned in 2018.”
According to Oneslager, the survey of last year’s attendees pinpointed four things he’s tried to improve for 2018: More food trucks, more music (including a separate exotica event), a second pool party on Saturday, and a gathering place to sit and talk with friends. The latter request has resulted in the Villager’s Lounge Tent, another new feature to look for at Pier 66. “We want to give people more options to participate in different things,” he said.
Also expect another “See Aloha” charity effort, which raised more than $5,000 last year for two South Florida charities. [See more]
Volunteers are always needed to keep The Hukilau running smoothly. If you’re interested in participating, you can earn free passes and other benefits. Click here for more info.
The Atomic Grog’s Hurricane Hayward (left) with The Hukilau’s Richard Oneslager (right) and the bar team from Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash at last year’s Rum Island Pool Party. (Atomic Grog photo)
* Updates on 2018 symposiums, additional activities
* More recaps of 2017 including official photos by Heather McKean
More from The Atomic Grog
The Hukilau 2017
* Daily recaps, news, photos and video
* Summer season heats up with The Hukilau
* The Atomic Grog explores 60 years of Tiki cocktail history
* Tiki Tower Takeover features Ian Burrell, international flair
The Hukilau 2016
Day 1: Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai, The Wreck Bar mermaid show
Day 2: Savage Jungle Swimshow, Tiki Tower Takeover, Kickoff Party and Tiki Treasures Bazaar, Shag’s SkyLounge, After Party at Kreepy Tiki
The Hukilau 2015
* Tiki’s top barmen take over the Pier 66 tower
* The Hukilau soars at mid-century marvel Pier 66 hotel
* Day-by-day recaps and photos: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday/Sunday
The Hukilau 2013
* A Tiki Top 10: Photos and memories from The Hukilau
The Hukilau 2012
* Hukilau rewind: A whirlwind weekend of tropical delights
The Hukilau 2010
* Opening party reached a new level of overindulgence
The Hukilau 2009
* Los Straitjackets highlight a rockin’ 2009 Hukilau