New symposium at The Hukilau 2020: ‘How The Mai-Kai Perfected the Modern Tiki Cocktail’

Updated Feb. 25, 2020

Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber, famously came up with the idea of a lavish and immersive lounge featuring South Pacific themes and Caribbean cocktails in the 1930s. But it took two upstart restaurateurs and one of Beach’s top bartenders to take the Tiki concept to a whole new level when they opened The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale in 1956.

The Mai-Kai's owners, Bob Thornton (left) and Jack Thornton (right), with master mixologist Mariano Licudine
The Mai-Kai’s owners, Bob Thornton (left) and Jack Thornton (right), with master mixologist Mariano Licudine. (Credit: Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant)

At The Hukilau, set for June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale, find out how the combination of the insightful ownership of Bob and Jack Thornton along with the mixology skills of former Don the Beachcomber bartender Mariano Licudine set a standard of tropical cocktail excellence that has stood the test of time for more than 60 years.

A vintage Mai-Kai photo of cocktails in The Molokai bar
A vintage Mai-Kai photo of cocktails in The Molokai bar. (Mai-Kai photo)

Sticking closely to Beach’s groundbreaking secret recipes, but putting their own more modern and accessible spin on them, the brothers and their head bartender envisioned a menu of some 50 elaborate libations that endure and are beloved to this day under the continued ownership of Bob Thornton’s family.

Founding co-owner Bob Thornton shows off the award-winning Derby Daiquiri
Founding co-owner Bob Thornton shows off the award-winning Derby Daiquiri. (Photos courtesy of Tim Glazner, SwankPad.org)

Learn how The Mai-Kai still follows Don the Beachcomber’s procedures and standards that were created nearly 90 years ago to maintain the mystery and allure of the modern tropical cocktail in the restaurant’s secret back bars.

Donn Beach (1930s), Mariano Licudine (1960s), and a current Mai-Kai bartender (2019)
Donn Beach (1930s), Mariano Licudine (1960s), and a current Mai-Kai bartender (2019). (Photos from newspaper archives and The Atomic Grog)

Join Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog and some very special guests for an exploration of the passing of the torch from Donn Beach to the Thornton brothers, and the key role of Licudine in keeping these historic cocktails alive and thriving.

From Beach to Licudine to the Thorntons: How The Mai-Kai Perfected the Modern Tiki Cocktail will be presented on Friday, June 5, at the B Ocean Resort during The Hukilau 2020 in Fort Lauderdale. Admission includes never-before-seen information and surprises, exclusive Mai-Kai cocktails, door prizes and giveaways, plus more!

The Surfrajettes, Eddie Angel, The Hi-Risers to headline The Hukilau 2020
Passes and tickets for The Hukilau: 10 things you need to know

Passes and tickets for The Hukilau 2020 are selling briskly after last week’s announcement of the full entertainment lineup for the 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7 at the B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
>>>> Full list of bands, symposium presenters, guest pop-up bars and more

The special symposium will run from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in one of the large conference rooms at the B Ocean Resort during Friday’s festivities of the annual Tiki weekender. It will be included in the curriculum of the Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy, and participating students will receive credit and special benefits. Symposium and cocktail academy tickets are sold a la carte and are available at the link above. Also on sale now: Weekend passes that give you access to the full festivities at The Hukilau, including 20 pop-up bars from around the country, the Friday night High Tide Party featuring some of the world’s top instrumental surf bands, an extensive Tiki marketplace, plus additional events at The Mai-Kai.

TheHukilau.com: Click here to get your tickets now before they sell out!

Jim "Hurricane" Hayward, blogger at TheAtomicGrog.com and Mai-Kai cocktail expert
Jim “Hurricane” Hayward, blogger at TheAtomicGrog.com and Mai-Kai cocktail expert. (Atomic Grog photo)

This presentation promises to be The Atomic Grog’s largest and most ambitious to date. Stay tuned for additional details and information on special guests and possible related activities at The Mai-Kai.

At the Hukilau 2019, The Atomic Grog presented two special events: The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Classic Tiki Template, a sold-out cocktail academy class featuring rum collector Stephen Remsberg; and The Rums of The Mai-Kai: From the Back Bar to Your Glass, a presentation, discussion and back-bar tour at The Mai-Kai featuring author and rum expert Matt Pietrek.

Previous classes and presentations at The Hukilau by Hurricane Hayward include Demerara Rum – The Mai-Kai’s Secret Weapon in January 2019 at a Retro Rekindled event at The Mai-Kai; How to Mix Like The Mai-Kai, a sold-out Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy class at The Hukilau 2018; and The Menus of The Mai-Kai: 60 Years of Tiki Cocktail History at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau 2017.

The Rums of The Mai-Kai symposium on Inside the Desert Oasis Room
The Rums of The Mai-Kai, presented by The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2019
Hear the special presentation featuring Hurricane Hayward and Matt Pietrek of Cocktail Wonk live on stage at The Mai-Kai during the closing festivities of The Hukilau 2019.

About Hurricane Hayward
A longtime journalist and blogger best known as creator of The Atomic Grog, Jim “Hurricane” Hayward covers The Hukilau and the Tiki revival in depth. As a symposium presenter and Okole Maluna Society Cocktail Academy instructor, his speciality is The Mai-Kai and its historic cocktails. He shares his experiences and recipes on his blog, with some of his drinks served in Tiki bars around the world.
* JimHayward.com | The Atomic Grog bio

The Atomic Grog on Marooned: A Texas Tiki Podcast
The Atomic Grog on Marooned: A Texas Tiki Podcast
Listen to Hurricane Hayward and host David Phantomatic in the Samoa Room at The Mai-Kai as they discuss (what else) the historic tropical drinks and influence of South Florida’s Polynesian palace.

More on The Atomic Grog
* The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide: Okole Maluna Society reviews and reatings
* All 100+ Mai-Kai cocktail recipes | All 200+ Atomic Grog recipes
* Rums of The Mai-Kai include potent, funky flavors from Guyana and Jamaica
* The Mai-Kai updates bar menu, adds classic ‘lost’ cocktail
* Heeeeeeere’s the rich history and lost stories of The Mai-Kai
* Tour of The Mai-Kai’s mysterious bars and kitchen (with photos)

About The Hukilau
The Hukilau, held every June at The Mai-Kai and a Fort Lauderdale Beach area resort hotel, is the East Coast’s largest and longest running gathering of Polynesian Pop and Tiki culture enthusiasts. Founded in 2002, it will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2021.

2020 Preview: The Hukilau returns to historic hotel for 19th annual Tiki weekender
The wait is over! The Hukilau 2020 dates and host hotel revealed

The Hukilau 2020 will be held June 3-7 at the B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring live music and retro-themed performances, educational symposiums, vendor marketplace, rum and Tiki cocktail classes, plus 20 top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at last year’s festivities with dozens of photos and 10 memorable moments from the five days of fun.

The Hukilau past coverage
* 2019: Photos and video from social media
* 2018 social media recap | More highlights
* 2017 daily recaps, news, photos and video | More highlights
* More recaps: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2002-2008

The Mai-Kai audio walking tour
The Mai-Kai Walking Tour on Marooned: A Texas Tiki Podcast Marooned: A Texas Tiki Podcast host David Phantomatic is guided by Hurricane Hayward, carver Will Anders and manager Kern Mattei through the restaurant’s extensive grounds and dining rooms.
* Related: New giant carved Tiki added to outdoor garden
‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai

The Mai-Kai
* Official site | Trading Post | Twitter
* Facebook: Official page | Friends of The Mai-Kai group
* Instagram: Restaurant | The Molokai bar | Trading Post
* Mai-Kai history: Book and official website | Facebook page

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