Sippin’ Santa comes to town: Exclusive Beachbum Berry interview, plus festive cocktail recipes

A famous jolly old man with a white beard is gearing up for his annual appearance to spread good tidings and cheer this week. However, there’s another distinguished gentleman with a white beard and colorful garb who has already created enough spirited revelry to last well into 2020.

He sees you when you're drinking. The patron saint of Tiki cocktails, aka Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, is the spirit behind the dozens of Sippin' Santa pop-up bars across the country.
He sees you when you’re drinking. The patron saint of Tiki cocktails, aka Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, is the spirit behind the dozens of Sippin’ Santa pop-up bars across the country.

Of course, we’re taking about Tiki historian, author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and his festive Sippin’ Santa surf shacks, an offshoot of the popular Miracle holiday pop-ups. Our previous story explored the story behind both concepts, including info on the 28 Sippin’ Santa locations in the United States and Canada. Miracle has exploded like Christmas tinsel to 108 locations worldwide.

Launching the week of Thanksgiving, both of these over-the-top, kitschy concepts have become a seasonal ritual and show no signs of slowing. The bars are fully immersive and can be enjoyed on many levels, from the snobbiest cocktail enthusiast to newbies just looking for seasonal fun, food and frivolity.

Bonus recipes below
* Tribute to Christmas Eve of Destruction (Sippin’ Santa)
* Nutty Old Fashioned (Atomic Grog original)

The signature Sippin' Santa cocktail, as served at Flight 19 in Fort Lauderdale in November. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The signature Sippin’ Santa cocktail, as served at Flight 19 in Fort Lauderdale in November. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The drinks are definitely not frivolous. Miracle and Sippin’ Santa are owned and run by the successful Cocktail Kingdom, which also produces Berry’s top-of-the-line barware and published his two latest books, Sippin’ Safari and Potions of the Caribbean.

We caught up with “The Bum” during a break from his busy schedule making personal appearances and overseeing the Sippin’ Santa empire. His flagship bar, Latitude 29 in New Orleans, is in good hands under the leadership of “Mrs. Bum,” Annene Kaye, along with head bartender and GM Brad Smith, who did most of the heavy lifting in creating the latest Sippin’ Santa menu.

5 QUESTIONS WITH JEFF ‘BEACHBUM’ BERRY

There seems to be an insatiable demand for holiday-themed bars nowadays. Why do you think this has become a trend?

The Shaka Kalikimaka cocktail and Beachbum Berry Bora Bora Bum mug, which is available for purchase at Sippin' Santa locations. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)
The Shaka Kalikimaka cocktail and Beachbum Berry Bora Bora Bum mug, which is available for purchase at Sippin’ Santa locations. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)

Tiki bars give you a tropical mini-vacation, and when you pile Christmas vacation on top of your tropical vacation you get two holidays in one: twice the atmosphere, twice the flavors, and hence twice the fun.

How do you think Sippin’ Santa differs from Miracle?

Miracle is strictly a Christmas pop-up, while Sippin’ is just as Christmasy but with an added Tiki overlay.

How much input do you have on the drinks, and how much is Brad?

It varies year to year. Last year the drinks were some mine and some Brad’s, but this year the recipes are all Brad’s. I did some tasting and some tweaking, but in most cases Brad’s “first draft” was the one we went with. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Continue reading “Sippin’ Santa comes to town: Exclusive Beachbum Berry interview, plus festive cocktail recipes”

UPDATE: The Hukilau returns to historic hotel for 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7, 2020

The Hukilau hits the road to spread aloha, benefit closed Tiki bars
NEW: The Hukilau hits the road to benefit closed Tiki bars
The tour will include The Mai-Kai, other stops across U.S., plus The Hukilau London in October.
More: The Tiki Times: Exclusive 2020 events guide

On April 20, The Hukilau announced that its 19th annual Tiki weekender scheduled for June 3-7 in Fort Laduerdale was being postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. In its place will be a series of events across the country aimed at raising money for Tiki bars devastated by shutdowns. Click the link above for more info.

The original story remains below for posterity …

*******************************************************

Updated Feb. 8, 2020

Rooms at the B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach are filling up fast following the late December announcement that The Hukilau would be returning to the former Yankee Clipper property for its 19th annual Tiki weekender in June.

NEW: Passes and tickets for The Hukilau: 10 things you need to know
Passes and tickets for The Hukilau: 10 things you need to know

In four months, hundreds of Tikiphiles will swarm the historic Mai-Kai restaurant and beachside B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau. But first, they need to score tickets and passes for the whirlwind weekend of retro-themed festivities. The event space is more intimate than last year, so it would not be a bad idea to jump on tickets now.
>>>> What you need to know about The Hukilau 2020

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 more than a dozen 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 NEW
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
For a taste of what you can expect during this year’s whirlwind Tiki weekender, take a look back at last year’s festivities with dozens of photos and 10 memorable moments.

Reservations must be made via the link on TheHukilau.com and not directly through the hotel to receive a special rate and placement in the event’s room block. Tickets and passes are scheduled to go on sale Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Look for further announcements on the blog regarding the entertainment lineup.

The B Ocean Resort, a 63-year-old historic property formerly known as the Yankee Clipper, will host The Hukilau for the fifth time in 2020
The B Ocean Resort, a 63-year-old historic property formerly known as the Yankee Clipper, will host The Hukilau for the fifth time in 2020. (TheHukilau.com)

The Hukilau promises most of the same core features from years past. The five-day party will include the Tiki Treasures Bazaar, informative symposiums, the Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy, guest pop-up bars, pool parties, the Friday night High Tide Party at the hotel, plus the Saturday night main event at The Mai-Kai. While there will be no Tiki Tower Takeover event without the towering Pier Sixty-Six venue, the website hints at a possible beach party.

The Hukilau’s villagers were kept in suspense since the closing of the iconic Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina for renovations immediately following the 2019 event last June. By the time the announcement was made on Dec. 23, pent-up demand at the appeal of the historic beachfront location caused a flurry of bookings.

The Hukilau’s room block is almost completely filled and some dates are unavailable, but more rooms should be coming into the system soon, according to Richard Oneslager, now in his fourth year as the event’s lead organizer as well as owner. When more rooms are added, there will be an official announcement.

This was the first venue change for Oneslager, whose memorable goal was “don’t f*** it up” when he took over ownership of The Hukilau in 2014.

To keep that promise, the search was obviously not taken lightly. The Hukilau’s many fans of vintage Tiki and mid-century history should be pleased with the return to the hotel that hosted The Hukilau four times before (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013), and in recent years served as the “overflow” locale when Pier Sixty-Six filled up. With a much larger room inventory and refreshed appearance, the B Ocean is poised to host a full house of revelers this year.

Underwater mermaid swimshows in The Wreck Bar have been a staple at The Hukilau and the Yankee Clipper, now known as the B Ocean Resort, since 2007
Underwater mermaid swimshows in The Wreck Bar have been a staple at The Hukilau and the Yankee Clipper, now known as the B Ocean Resort, since 2007. (TheHukilau.com)

In addition to its Hukilau history, the popularity of the B Ocean Resort is tied intrinsically to Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, who has become a retro culture fixture over the past decade after reviving the hotel’s underwater swimshows in the vintage Wreck Bar, with its porthole views of the swimming pool.

The distinctive lobby bar has long been a pop-culture phenomenon in its own right, appearing as a set piece in Hollywood movies from to Where the Boys Are (1960) to Analyze This (1999). Even as the host hotel revolved, The Wreck Bar performances by Marina and her pod of aquaticats remained a key part of The Hukilau schedule non-stop since 2007.
Previous story: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges and their mysterious mermaids

The hotel traces its roots back to 1956 (five months before The Mai-Kai opened 8 miles to the northwest) as a revolutionary resort designed to look like a steam ship. After dozens of refurbishments, large and small, that same basic exterior design remains along with the nautically themed Wreck Bar.

A vintage photo of the Yankee Clipper, reimagined in 2017 as the B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale
A vintage photo of the Yankee Clipper, reimagined in 2017 as the B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale. (TheHukilau.com)

The concept of a “V”-shaped hotel that looked like an ocean liner was conceived by the Yankee Clipper’s original owner, South Florida hotelier and tourism pioneer Bob Gill, and executed by Miami architect M. Tony Sherman, who around the same time was also designing the original Tropicana resort in Las Vegas.

The $1.5 million Yankee Clipper debuted in July 1956 and was among the first hotels on the beach to remain open year-round and feature air conditioning. Among its many famous guests was another “Yankee Clipper,” baseball great Joe DiMaggio, along with his wife Marilyn Monroe. During the ’50s and ’60s, the hotel was the home of the New York Yankees during spring training.

The Yankee Clipper originally featured fine dining in the 300-seat Polynesian Room along with a stage show that pre-dated The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue. Over the years, both shows often shared performers before the Polynesian Room closed in 1972.

Continue reading “UPDATE: The Hukilau returns to historic hotel for 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7, 2020”

VIDEO & PHOTOS: Skinny Jimmy Stingray talks classic surf, performs at The Mai-Kai

Updated March 14, 2020

South Florida’s Skinny Jimmy Stingray and his band rocked The Molokai bar during a special Retro Rekindled monthly community gathering at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 15. The live set followed a presentation with The Atomic Grog’s Hurricane Hayward about the guitarist’s musical journey from punk to instrumental surf.

Skinny Jimmy Stingray performs in The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai during the Retro Rekindled event on Dec. 15, 2019
Atomic Grog photo

UPDATE: Below you’ll find a video of the entire presenation, followed by four multi-camera videos of songs performed by Jimmy and his band. Mahalo to Sergio Figuera of Prime Photo & Video for the great job with the videography.

During the 34-minute talk, Skinny Jimmy spoke about his early days in Michigan playing in rock ‘n’ roll cover bands, his introduction to punk rock, and his eventual move to Florida. After many years in punk bands, he reinvented himself as a surf guitarist.

Jimmy recalls this transformation, along with meeting his idol and legend Dick Dale. He talks about other surf icons he’s shared the stage with, including The Surfaris and Los Straitjackets. We learn about his influences, his introduction to The Hukilau and the global surf scene, plus many fun anecdotes.

Check out the video below and on the new Skinny Jimmy Stingray YouTube channel

Following the interview, Skinny Jimmy and his band – Frenchy on bass and Kevin on drums – played a full set for an appreciative Retro Rekindled audience. Four of the songs have been released on YouTube, the first proper videos featuring the current band lineup.

The first song released was an original that has been part of Skinny Jimmy’s repertoire for years …

Espionage by Skinny Jimmy Stingray

Next up was a cover of a Link Wray classic …

The Black Widow by Skinny Jimmy Stingray

Continue reading “VIDEO & PHOTOS: Skinny Jimmy Stingray talks classic surf, performs at The Mai-Kai”

Another holiday Miracle: Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Santa locations double, expand to Florida

Another holiday Miracle: Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Santa locations double, expand to Florida

Updated Dec. 23

The explosion of festive Christmas pop-up bars continues this season with the always popular Miracle concept now topping 100 locations across the United States, Canada and six other countries. Meanwhile, Tiki enthusiasts have even more holiday cheer in store for them as Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Santa, a sister concept to Miracle helmed by the esteemed tropical cocktail guru, has quickly doubled its nationwide reach.

Cocktail historian and author Jeff "Beachbum" Berry has created a tikified winter wonderland for his holiday pop-up bar, Sippin' Santa. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)
Cocktail historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry has created a tikified winter wonderland for his holiday pop-up bar, Sippin’ Santa. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)

Beachbum Berry Presents Sippin’ Santa, which started in 2015 as a Tiki companion to Miracle in New York City, has now spread to 28 venues across North America, including Berry’s bar and restaurant, Latitude 29 in New Orleans.

Miracle and Sippin’ Santa locations are opening in late November and running through New Year’s Eve. Individual locations may have different start and end dates, as well as daily and weekly hours. Check with the bars in your area for details.

The Miracle concept is the brainchild of Greg Boehm of Cocktail Kingdom (at the suggestion of his mother) and dates back to the “Miracle on Ninth Street” pop-up at his Mace bar in New York City in 2014. Miracle expanded to four bars in 2015, then went worldwide in 2016 under the leadership of general manager Joann Spiegel. Last year there were more than 80, a surge from around 50 the year before.

Berry is a longtime collaborator with Boehm, who published the author’s last two books as well as a nifty line of Tiki barware. Named one of Imbibe magazine’s 25 most influential cocktail personalities of the past century, Berry joined forces with his Latitude 29 general manager and head bartender Brad Smith to create a menu of holiday-themed Tiki cocktails that will be the star of the show all Sippin’ Santa locations.

NEW: Sippin’ Santa comes to town: Exclusive Beachbum Berry interview, plus festive cocktail recipes Sippin' Santa comes to town: Exclusive Beachbum Berry interview, plus festive cocktail recipes We caught up with Tiki historian, author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry to ask him about his festive Sippin’ Santa surf shacks and what makes holiday pop-up bars so popular.
Bonus recipes: Tribute to Christmas Eve of Destruction | Nutty Old Fashioned

Many of our favorites are back on this year’s Miracle menu: Bad Santa, Christmas Carol Barrel, Christmopolitan, and Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! Be aware that most of the cocktails have seen updates, large and small, by Miracle mixologist Nico de Soto. The Barrel is now a tequila drink featuring Mexican spices and liqueurs including coffee, orange and cognac. One new cocktail has been added: SanTaRex featuring rye whiskey and served in a nifty Tyrannosaurus Rex mug. There’s also a new shot, Mistletoe, featuring rye and gingerbread spices.

But we’re even more excited to get our first taste of the nine exclusive Sippin’ Santa cocktails, created by Berry and Smith. Who doesn’t want to try these soon-to-be Tiki holiday classics?

The signature Sippin' Santa cocktail and mug. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)
The signature Sippin’ Santa cocktail and mug. (SippinSantaPopUp.com)

Christmas Eve of Destruction (overproof dark rum, lime juice, nutmeg syrup, Bénédictine, Angostura bitters)
Don & Victor (Martinique & Jamaican rums, Italian bitter aperitif, sweet vermouth, D&V Batter, nutmeg)
Festivus Flip (bourbon, Demerara rum, ginger-infused amaro, pomegranate, egg)
Jingle Bowl (Jamaican & Demerara rums, apple brandy, amaro, lemon juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, maple & cinnamon syrups, Angostura bitters)
Kris Kringle Colada (dark Jamaican rum, amaro, allspice dram, lime juice, pineapple juice, cream of coconut)
Papa Noel (blanco tequila, apricot brandy, lime juice, pineapple juice, orgeat, cardamom bitters)
Rudolph Shoots the Curl (herbal mint liqueur, amaro, dark chocolate liqueur)
Shaka Kalikimaka (London dry gin, allspice dram, orange & cognac liqueur, lime juice, falernum, cranberry syrup, Herbsaint)
Sippin’ Santa (aged Demerara rum, amaro, lemon juice, orange juice, gingerbread mix)
* Download sample menu (PDF)

Continue reading “Another holiday Miracle: Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Santa locations double, expand to Florida”

Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019

Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019

We knew him as the “King of the Surf Guitar,” the 1960s rocker whose version of Miserlou in the film Pulp Fiction revived both his career and the entire instrumental surf genre in the 1990s. But he was so much more than that.

He was an American music icon, the originator of a style and sound that has endured for more than a half-century, and a true hero for fighting medical hardships that kept him on stage and performing into his eighth decade on Earth. Dick Dale left this world on March 16, 2019, at age 81.
More below: Dick Dale in South Florida
* Check out our tribute featuring South Florida remembrances and photos

Related story on The Atomic Grog
Dick Dale, Skinny Jimmy Stingray at Churchill's in Miami in 2012
Skinny Jimmy’s Picks: The all-time top 5 Dick Dale songs

Dick was still performing right up until his death, though the circumstances were less than ideal due to extensive medical bills. His website still lists the dates he would have played had he not succumbed to the diseases that wrecked his seemingly indestructible body. The final show that was posted would have been just this month (Nov. 9), ironically in one of the world’s surfing capitals: Malibu, Calif.

Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, June 13, 2011.
Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, June 13, 2011. (Atomic Grog photo)

He had survived several bouts with cancer and related diseases, including a near-fatal incident in the 1960s that inspired Jimi Hendrix to pen the lyric “we’ll never hear surf music again” in Third Stone from the Sun (1968). But Dick’s final battle was not one he could win.

Heart and kidney failure finally did him in after a lifetime of battling – and overcoming – every physical obstacle that came before him.

Born Richard Monsour in Boston on May 4, 1937, he first learned the ukulele and absorbed the traditions of his Lebanese father and Eastern European mother. He has said that he also learned the trumpet, banjo, piano, organ, harpsichord, trombone, saxophone, harmonica, xylophone and accordion. But once he heard big-band drummer Gene Krupa, it was all over and his course was set. Not on drums, an instrument he also mastered, but as a guitar pioneer.

When his family moved to Los Angeles in the 1954, he dove head-first into Hollywood. His first on-screen role was an uncredited bit as an Elvis Presley impersonator in the Marilyn Monroe movie Let’s Make Love. He started in the music biz in 1955 as a DJ, then played alongside Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry on a country music TV show. The stage name Dick Dale was reportedly given to him by radio/TV host Texas Tiny Cherry.

Dick Dale performs at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013
Dick Dale performs at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013. (Atomic Grog photo)

But surf music became Dick Dale’s claim to fame, a sound he invented to emulate the surge of the ocean. He developed a guitar style featuring melodies that crisscrossed the beat like a surfer on a wave. His intense staccato picking style, combined with Eastern scales from his childhood influences, made for a sonic experience like no other.

“I don’t call myself a guitar player,” Dick told The Atomic Grog in a 2013 interview. “I’m a manipulator of an instrument. I just make a guitar scream with pain or pleasure.”

To match his sonic fury, he needed equipment that didn’t even exist at the time. Electric guitar pioneer Leo Fender joined forces with Dick to build a new instrument – dubbed “the Beast” – that could withstand the onslaught. To complete the package, they developed the first 100-watt amplifier, loud enough to fill any venue Dick Dale played.

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones rode the wave of instrumental rock to the top of the charts. In 1963, he performed Misirlou, an adaptation of a traditional Arabic song, on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the most influential TV variety shows of the day. He was the first rock guitarist invited to perform on that national stage, though he was later eclipsed by The Beatles, who famously made their U.S. debut on that same show.

Continue reading “Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019”

The living dead came to party at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween 2019 luau

Hulaween 2019: Luau of the Living Dead

After 10 years, we know what to expect from The Mai-Kai’s infamous Hulaween party: A night of kooky costumes, rockin’ tunes and many cocktails consumed in the legendary Polynesian restaurant’s Molokai bar. The 2019 bash, held Oct. 25, lived up to those standards.

Slip Mahoney cranks out the rockin' tunes.
Slip Mahoney cranks out the rockin’ tunes.

PHOTOS: Jump to the gallery below

The 11th annual Hulaween, themed “Luau of the Living Dead,” featured South Florida’s favorite roots rock band, Slip and the Spinouts, playing three raucous sets. The dance floor was hoppin’ all night as guitarist/vocalist Slip Mahoney led his three-piece band through classic covers and his own original tunes.

The evening kicked off with The Molokai’s always popular happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. as the 100+ seats filled up fast. Many Shrunken Skulls, Shark Bites and other ominous tropical concoctions were enjoyed by the costumed celebrants.

The bar was decked out in creepy cobwebs and other decor while the signature Molokai Girls got into the spirit while keeping the food and drinks flowing. Halloween tunes got everyone warmed up for the first set by the Spinouts, which also included bassist Noah Hall and drummer Tony Tomei. It was the band’s ninth Hulaween appearance.

Axl and Slash are in the house. Now the party can really start.
Axl and Slash are in the house. Now the party can really start.

By the time the band launched the closing number of their first set, Two Worn Out Boots, the dance floor was packed and the party was already in high gear. Other stand-out originals included 13 Miles and Seven Nights to Rock. These and other songs can be downloaded as mp3 singles from the band’s website. You can also buy CDs and T-shirts from the official Slip and the Spinouts store.

After the band’s second set, it was time for the always creative costume contest, with $600 in cash and prizes to the winners. The Mai-Kai’s manager, Kern Mattei, and marketing director, Pia Dahlquist, presided over the creepy chaos of the costume parade.

Hulaween was once again sponsored by Appleton Estate Rum, the venerable Jamaican brand that not only provided prizes to the winners, but also rewarded attendees with many rounds of free Mai Tais (featuring the signature 12-year-old Rare Blend).

Manager Kern Mattei awards the costume contest grand price to the  clear-cut winners, Mr. and Mrs. Scissorhands.
Manager Kern Mattei awards the costume contest grand price to the clear-cut winners, Mr. and Mrs. Scissorhands.

After careful consideration, the judges narrowed down the costumes to the top three prize winners, plus a fourth runner-up:

* First: Edward and Mrs. Scissorhands ($300 in cash, a bottle of Appleton Estate 21 rum signed by master blender Joy Spence, and a Hulaween 2019 poster signed by artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli).

* Second: Axl and Slash ($200 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster).

* Third: Caveman ($100 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster).

Continue reading “The living dead came to party at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween 2019 luau”

Tiki zombies will feast at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween 2019: Luau of the Living Dead

Hulaween 2018 at The Mai-Kai

The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween, one of the highlights of South Florida’s Halloween party season, will feature a festive feast for the living and dead on Friday, Oct. 25. The 11th annual bash is titled “Luau of the Living Dead,” a theme befitting the historic Polynesian restaurant that will celebrate its 63rd anniversary at year’s end.

NEW: Hulaween 2019 recap & photos
The living dead came to party at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween 2019 luau

Hulaween 2019: Luau of the Living Dead - artwork by Pooch Artwork by Mike Pucciarelli (aka Pooch)

*** Friday, Oct. 25 – Hulaween 2019: Luau of the Living Dead featuring Slip and the Spinouts at The Mai-Kai. Sponsored by Appleton Rum. Free admission. Happy hour 5 to 7 p.m., plus drink specials all night. Live music and costume contest in The Molokai bar, 7 p.m.-midnight.
The Atomic Grog: Past Hulaween coverage | The Tiki Times events calendar
Hulaween 2018: See recap and photo gallery below

The baroque bacchanal begins with a full two hours of happy hour prices on food and drinks, plus retro Halloween tunes in The Molokai lounge. Once the spirits are satiated, roots rockers Slip and the Spinouts take the stage, turn up the volume and put the party into overdrive.

Slip and the Spinouts get into a groove as Hulaween 2018 kicks into high gear.
Slip and the Spinouts get into a groove as Hulaween 2018 kicks into high gear.

The band – led by guitarist/vocalist Slip Mahoney – will unearth its deadly mix of rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly classics, with lethal original tunes liberally sprinkled throughout three sets. The Atomic Grog will also provide special Halloween music during happy hour and between sets. Doors open at 5, so get there early to get a good seat for the musical mayhem and one of the most creative costume contests in the area.

Participants always come up with wild and wacky costumes, often themed to Tiki and The Mai-Kai but also paying tribute to classic movie characters and Halloween archetypes. The contest takes place around 10 p.m. This year’s prizes are:
* First: $300 in cash, a bottle of Appleton Estate 21 rum signed by master blender Joy Spence, and a Hulaween 2019 poster signed by artist Mike Pucciarelli.
* Second: $200 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster.
* Third: $100 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster.

Appleton Rum is a perennial sponsor, providing not only prizes but also cocktail samples during the party. Spence, a legend in the rum world, signed a bottle of her 21-year-old rum that will be one of the first-place prizes during her August tasting and Appleton Estate presentation at The Mai-Kai. Click here to see full coverage and photos from this special event.

The Molokai Maidens welcome Hulaween 2018 guests.
The Molokai Maidens welcome Hulaween 2018 guests.

Appleton, a venerable brand from Jamaica, is a key rum in many of the acclaimed cocktails at The Mai-Kai. You can find it in more than a dozen drinks, including the classic Mai Tai and deliciously deadly Shark Bite. The latter (plus the high-octane Jet Pilot) will be available at half price all night long as part of the bar’s nightly drink specials.

The Molokai, which was designed as a turn-of-the-century seaport saloon featuring actual set pieces from the classic 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty, boasts 51 specialty drinks and extensive menu of small and large plates. Pair your potent rum drink with a pupu platter and other vintage apps, sushi and sashimi, elaborate salads, and modern tapas including beef sliders and fish tacos. If you so desire, you can also adjourn to The Mai-Kai’s secluded dining rooms or take in the acclaimed Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.

Continue reading “Tiki zombies will feast at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween 2019: Luau of the Living Dead”

What we learned at Appleton master blender Joy Spence’s rum tasting at The Mai-Kai

What we learned at Appleton master blender Joy Spence’s rum tasting at The Mai-Kai

Updated Aug. 27, 2019

What could possibly be better than an Appleton Estate rum tasting at The Mai-Kai? How about the first-ever such event at the historic Polynesian palace hosted by Joy Spence, the longtime master blender for the venerable Jamaican brand synonymous with pure premium rum.

Quick links below
* 5 things you might not know about Joy Spence
* 12 things we learned about how Appleton rum is made
* How Joy Spence wants you to experience Appleton Estate rums
Recipe: Joy Spence’s favorite rum cocktail
* Event preview, Joy Spence biography and Appleton rum overview

Appleton Estate master blender Joy Spence speaks to an enthusiastic group of rum enthusiasts at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 14, 2019
Appleton Estate master blender Joy Spence speaks to an enthusiastic group of rum enthusiasts at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 14, 2019. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The 50 or so enthusiasts who were lucky enough to score a ticket to the sold-out presentation on Aug. 14 were in for a treat. In addition to four delicious Appleton rums, we enjoyed a complimentary Mai Tai and happy-hour prices on The Mai-Kai’s extensive cocktail and pupu menus.

But the most valuable take-away was undoubtedly the fascinating first-hand information provided by the world’s first female master blender. Her articulate and straightforward delivery, sprinkled with entertaining and whimsical anecdotes, made the rum-tasting experience a true Joy.

Here are some of the many insights we learned from Spence during her hour-long appearance in the Fort Lauderdale restaurant’s Tahiti dining room:

5 things you might not know about Joy Spence

* In her youth, she went to an all-girls catholic school and originally wanted to become a nun. “But I’m an only child, and when I told my mother I wanted to become a nun she marched down to the school and told the principal that she needs grandchildren.” Luckily for Appleton Estate and Jamaican rum devotees worldwide, she never joined the convent.

Joy Spence talks about and her early career and her 38 years at Appleton Estate during a special rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Aug. 14, 2019
Joy Spence talks about and her early career and her 38 years at Appleton Estate during a special rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Aug. 14, 2019. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Spence went to college to become a doctor, but she ended up concentrating on her passion for chemistry. When it came time to get some industry experience, she joined Tia Maria as a research chemist. At this time, the company that makes the dark Jamaican liqueur was located right next to J. Wray & Nephew, which makes Appleton Rum.

* She was bored at Tia Maria and always noticed the action at the “happening place” across the road, so in 1981 she sent a resume and set up an interview. “They told me right up front that there were no vacancies,” she said, but two weeks later they offered her a new position as chief chemist because they were so impressed with her resume. Despite the salary being less than her current job, she left Tia Maria and the rest is rum history.

* As chief chemist, Spence worked closely with the master blender, Owen Tulloch. “I became very fascinated with what he was doing in his private room,” she said, and her curiosity led her to knock on his door and find out. Spence recalled: “He started to test me and said ‘you have amazing sensory skills. You’ll become an excellent blender one day.’ So he took me under his wing and I studied with him for 17 years. When he retired, my bosses took a very bold move to appoint me as the master blender. No other woman had ever been given that position in the entire spirits industry. They actually got a lot of flack for it, but they knew what they were doing. My whole life changed after that.”

* The first rum she oversaw as master blender was the Appleton Estate 250th Anniversary release in 1999. She said her knees where shaking during the process. She wasn’t sure how it would be received, “but I got an excellent reaction” and “that gave me the strength and courage to continue and make the other blends that we now have in our portfolio.”

12 things we learned about how Appleton Estate rum is made

The full range of Appleton Estate rums were featured at a special rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Aug. 14, 2019
The full range of Appleton Estate rums were featured at a special rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Aug. 14, 2019. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Appleton Estate, est. 1749, is located in the lush and tropical Nassau Valley. “Believe it or not, it rains every day at 2 p.m., so we don’t have to worry about irrigation,” Spence said. This rainfall feeds the limestone springs beneath the ground, as well as the robust sugar cane crop.

* The estate grows 10 varieties of sugar cane year-round. The crop is harvested between January and May and crushed to yield juice. The juice is then boiled, resulting in crystals of sugar suspended in molasses. A massive centrifuge separates the two. The sugar is sold, and the leftover molasses is pumped over to the distillery, becoming the starting material for the rum.

* The limestone springs – which produce a distinctive turquoise blue water with “a nice soft, sweet taste” – are Spence’s favorite part of the estate. “When I’m feeling depressed and down, I take a glass of Appleton Estate Reserve, drive over to the water source, sit on a rock, and enjoy the beauty of the springs. I sip the Reserve, and by the time my glass is finished, all my troubles have been washed away and I’m ready to go back and face the problems of the distillery.” This unique spring water is added to the molasses.

Continue reading “What we learned at Appleton master blender Joy Spence’s rum tasting at The Mai-Kai”

The Hukilau 2019 rewind: Photos and video from social media

The Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2019

Updated Jan. 23, 2020

Like the daily thunderstorms that didn’t seem to dampen anybody’s spirits, The Hukilau careened through Fort Lauderdale last week for its 18th annual Tiki weekender with an exhaustive schedule of events at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel, B Ocean Resort and the historic Mai-Kai restaurant.

See below: The Atomic Grog’s social posts
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The Hukilau 2019 official artwork by Baï
The Hukilau 2019 official artwork by Baï.

The host Pier Sixty-Six shut down immediately after the event for several years of expansion and renovations, so it was a bittersweet party. But that didn’t stop The Hukilau’s villagers from throwing their cares to the wind while enjoying a seemingly limitless supply of Tiki cocktails, educational symposiums, mixology and craft classes, dozens of live music performances, vintage mermaid swimshows, all-day pool parties, dinner and shows at The Mai-Kai, plus a whole lot more.

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale NEW
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at the five days of festivities at Pier Sixty-Six and The Mai-Kai with dozens of photos and many memorable moments, plus two bonus cocktail recipes.

Look for more upcoming posts with photos and special reports on events including the Tiki Tower Takeover and our Rums of The Mai-Kai class and symposium. Here’s a look back at all the fun via social media posts …

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2019 rewind: Photos and video from social media”

The Hukilau 2019 latest news and updates

Updated Jan. 23, 2020

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale NEW
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at the five days of festivities at Pier Sixty-Six and The Mai-Kai with dozens of photos and many memorable moments, plus two bonus cocktail recipes.

The Hukilau 2019 rewind: Photos and video from social media
The Intoxicators play Friday night's High Tide party at Pier 66 during The Hukilau 2019. (Photo by Hukilau Mike)
>>>> SOCIAL POSTS FROM THE ATOMIC GROG AND VILLAGERS

The Hukilau 2019: Women of Tiki take over the tower
The Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2019
Thursday, June 6, was tropical cocktail heaven during the opening festivities of The Hukilau at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina in Fort Lauderdale. The signature Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party included eight of the world’s top female Tiki bartenders. Between sampling all the delicious drinks, hanging out with friends and enjoying the gorgeous views from the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge, we managed to snap a few photos. Coming soon, a blog recap featuring more photos plus cocktail reviews and ratings.
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MORE RECAPS COMING SOON

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2019 latest news and updates”