Updated Feb. 17
What city best exemplifies the recent explosive growth of Tiki bars and Polynesian Pop culture? A strong argument could be made for Atlanta, which has been blessed with at least three new exotic cocktail destinations since 2015. Now, in just its second year, the Tiki weekender known as Inuhele has greatly expanded to include three days of bar-hopping, panels, vendors, bands, demos and more geared to the area’s burgeoning scene.
Feb. 15-17 – Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend
See below: Bonus cocktail recipe – Makani Pahili
* Previous story: Iron TikiTender goes on tour at Inuhele
* Facebook event | Get tickets
The Tiki Times: See all the upcoming events
Tiki in Atlanta
The vibrant multicultural city has long had a connection with modern Tiki and its surrounding subcultures. After all, the Atlanta Hilton hosts the country’s longest operating Trader Vic’s location, circa 1976. The Hukilau started there in 2002 before moving to Fort Lauderdale the next year. Atlanta is home to talented lowbrow artists such as Derek Yaniger and Jonathan M. Chaffin of Horror in Clay. And there’s a longtime instrumental surf scene celebrated at the annual Southern Surf StompFest, along with a history of events (such as the late, great Drive Invasion) spotlighting other retro music styles.
But things really got interesting when the Tiki and craft cocktail revivals merged, creating a hot trend among bartenders and owners worldwide. Atlanta caught the bug, resulting in the opening of The S.O.S. in Decatur, just northeast of Atlanta, in 2015. In 2018, the Virginia Highland neighborhood of Atlanta saw the opening of Tiki Iniki, the first stateside franchise location of the concept created by Todd and Michele Rundgren in Hawaii. And while not truly traditional, Match Bamboo Lounge offers spirited aloha in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the city’s Tiki underground organized on Facebook in The Atlanta Tiki Revival Society group. And the area’s home bars (such as the Enchanted Treehouse High on the Hooch, Mon-a’ Roa Lanai, and The Kingfish Lounge) received high ratings and worldwide recognition on the Critiki website.
Just in time for Inuhele 2019, the city will get its newest full-blown exotic cocktail locale when the ambitious, three-story Tiki Tango opens in the former Lava Lounge space in Midtown (grand opening set for Friday, Feb. 15). The opening will indeed be grand. As part of the festivities, there will be an attempt to set a record for the world’s largest Mai Tai with a 55-gallon cocktail.
Press coverage: Say ‘aloha’ to Tiki Tango, Midtown’s new three-story Tiki bar
* First Look: Tiki Tango brings Tiki drinks and food to Midtown
* Atlanta Eats: Polynesian vibes and specialty cocktails
About Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend
All this activity spurred Horror in Clay’s Jonathan and Allison Chaffin to organize the first Atlanta Tiki Homebar Tour, dubbed Inuhele (for “cocktail journey”) on Feb. 24, 2018. It was a small affair with 50+ people taking a bus tour of local home bars for a day, then concluding the night at Trader Vic’s.
* See photos from 2018
For 2019, the Chaffins are taking Inuhele to the next level as a full-blown weekender on the same scale as other mid-sized Tiki events such as the pioneering Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, which also started as a home bar tour nearly two decades ago. The Marriott Century Center has been secured as the host hotel, and the Chaffins promise “a weekend of bar hopping, panels, bands, demos, sharing of ideas, and most importantly community building.”
The community definitely came together to help make such an ambitious undertaking possible. Among the more than a dozen sponsors are:
* Tiki Tango, host of the “Tiki Hop-on Hop off Shuttle” and Friday night party.
* Spiribam rum specialists, presenting sponsor of the home bar bus.
* BG Reynolds, the premium bar syrups purveyor and man behind the “Iron TikiTender On Tour” event that will take place on Saturday at the Marriott.
* Royer Corp., the popular swizzle stick manufacturer known for its cutting-edge designs.
>>> See all the sponsors here
Friday kickoff and bar crawl: Events at the Marriott Century Center include classes and meet-ups, the trading post, a DJ dance party with Brother Cleve, plus more. Meanwhile, a bus will shuttle guests to Trader Vic’s, Tiki Tango, and Tiki Iniki all evening.
Saturday main event: The Marriott will come alive with a full slate of symposiums, the trading post and bazaar. In the evening, it’s the Iron TikiTender on Tour bartending competition, and live music from The Mystery Men and Kinky Waikiki.
Iron TikiTender Southeast: An eclectic group of bartenders from Georgia and Florida will compete for a chance to move on the Iron TikiTender finals at Tiki Kon in July. [See previous story] Recipes were submitted last month and the four finalists selected for their creative takes on the classic Hurricane using BG Reynolds Syrups. Competing on Feb. 16 will be Ryan Smith (barsmith and consultant at Macon MGMT Design in Georgia), Mickey Wellmon (bartender at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World in Orlando), Jim Stacy (Emmy-award winning TV host and bartender/chef/owner of the upcoming Sea Witch concept in Georgia), and Mitchell Patmagrian (bartender at Jack Dusty in The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla.). The Feb. 16 competition will include three challenges: Speedy Classics to Spec, Garish Garnish, and Mystery Ingredient.
See below: Bonus cocktail recipe – Skipper Mickey’s Makani Pahili
Sunday home bar tour: Inuhele’s core event has limited capacity and was the first to sell out.
VIP speakers: Groundbreaking musician/DJ/bartender Brother Cleve (“Tiki : The Rise, the Fall, the Resurrection, the Redemption”) and Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant author Tim “Swanky” Glasner (“History of the Mystery Drink”) will inform and entertain.
>>> More speakers, panelists and classes
Contemporary Tiki artists: Derek Yaniger, Kymm Bang, Pat Vassar, Eekum Bookum and many more will have art and insights to share.
Southern Twist: By nature of Inuhele’s location, you’ll find many participants you won’t see at other events. These include Nashville author Darren Long (“Omni Hut: A Remembrance”) plus a slew of Atlanta-based experts presenting on a range of topics: Rum expert and blogger Paul Senft (“Destination Rum! Spirited Travel in the Caribbean & Americas”), surf music authority James Honeycutt (“Surf Music 101”), chef Stella Dillard (“Modern Tiki Food: Beyond the Pupu Platter”), mixologist Pat Weikle (“Tiki Cocktails for Beginners”), and blogger Jeremy Cash Dollar (“Tiki Time with Cash”). Chaffin will also host a meet-and-greet to build support for the Southeast Tiki community.
MORE RESOURCES ONLINE
Horror in Clay
When not producing Inuhele, Jonathan M. Chaffin creates horror-themed Tiki mugs, barware, art and accessories. His wife Allison also designs and runs MugCrate, a quarterly Tiki mug subscription box.
* Official website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
BONUS COCKTAIL RECIPE
(By Skipper Mickey of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World for the Southeast Iron TikiTender competition)
* 2 ounces fresh lemon juice
* 1 ounce passion fruit puree
* 1 ounce BG Reynolds Red Fassionola
* 1/2 ounce BG Reynolds Paradise Blend (aka Donn’s Mix)
* 1/2 ounce BG Reynolds Orange Honey Blossom Mix
* 1 ounce Gosling’s Black Seal rum
* 1/2 ounce Gosling’s 151 rum
* 1 ounce Bulleit rye whiskey
* 5 drops Pernod
* 5 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake with crushed ice, pour unstrained into your favorite glass, top with crushed ice (if needed), garnish with an orchid and pineapple leaf, and if you’re really crazy, some fresh grated cinnamon.
Makani pahili is Hawaiian for hurricane, and this flavor-packed version doesn’t pull any punches. It tastes very much like a Grog Grotto cocktail, but better than almost all of them due to it’s complex array of ingredients. It’s tart, sweet and rich with the familiar Gosling’s rum flavors cutting through. It’s the rye and Pernod, however, that bring it to another level. Well balanced and true in spirit to the Hurricane.
* Passion fruit puree is usually available in the frozen foods department of many groceries. There are also bottled versions online. Or just substitute a fresh passion fruit syrup, either bottled or homemade.
* I’d recommend trying all the BG Reynolds Syrups. They’re used by bartenders around the world, including both the Grog Grotto and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland. If for some reason you can’t get ahold of these specific syrups, you could use other brands or your own homemade mixes. There are a few other fassionolas on the market that are comparable to the BG Reynolds version. Honey mix is simple to make at home using 1.5 to 2 parts honey to 1 part water. Donn’s Mix is the formerly secret ingredient invented by Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber and revealed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. It’s simply 2 parts white grapefuit juice to 1 part cinnamon infused simple syrup. Multiple purveyors make cinnamon syrup, or you could follow the recipe in Beachbum Berry’s books and app.
* The Gosling’s rums are crucial to get the correct flavor. In his Iron TikiTender entry, Skipper Mickey said Gosling’s “gives a great bold richness to the flavor and mouthfeel.” He also notes that the proportions of the 80 and 151-proof rums can be adjusted if you’re seeking a stronger (or weaker) cocktail.
* I would recommend seeking out the 90-proof Bulleit rye, a high-quality whiskey aged 4-6 years that’s perfect for cocktails. Also, there’s no substitute for the Angostura bitters and Pernod (an anise-flavored pastis apéritif), both classic Tiki cocktail ingredients on their own and (especially) in tandem.
More on the Iron TikiTender
Launched at Tiki Kon 2014 in Portland, Iron TikiTender is produced by Blair Reynolds, creator of BG Reynolds Syrups. The reigning champion is Jeanie Grant of Pagan Idol in San Francisco. Click here to see her winning recipe, Jamaican Bad Decisions.
* Official sites: IronTikiTender.com | Facebook | Instagram
* BGReynolds.com | Facebook: Page and group | Instagram | Twitter