Mai-Kai updates: Cocktails and car show, Tiki marketplace announced

Mai-Kai updates: Cocktails and car show, Tiki marketplace announced

Updated March 29

For a restaurant that has been closed since October, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is sure a busy place these days. In advance of this Sunday’s parking lot car show, guests are picking up quarts and gallons of classic tropical drinks. Meanwhile, vendors are being sought for the historic Polynesian palace’s first-ever outdoor Tiki marketplace, scheduled for April 17.

Cruise-In at The Mai-Kai
The Mai-Kai’s second parking lot “cruise-in” will feature classic cars, food and signature cocktails.

Sponsored by the local Five Points Motor Club, the latest Mai-Kai Cruise-In Classic Car Show on March 28 follows a similar, successful event on Feb. 28. Pre-1974 vehicles will be on display from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., including a special Dubs & Tiki’s VW section.

The Mai-Kai’s DJ Mike will also be on hand spinning tunes at this socially distanced event. Unless seated with your party, guests are required to wear masks and/or practice physical distancing at all times. Feel free to bring chairs, hang out and enjoy the show.

The Mai-Kai's signature Mai Tai is one of several cocktails available during special events and periodic rounds of to-go opportunities. (Official Mai-Kai photo)
The Mai-Kai’s signature Mai Tai is one of several cocktails available during special events and periodic rounds of to-go opportunities. (Official Mai-Kai photo)

In preparation for the cruise-in, The Mai-Kai batched up an ample supply of four cocktails for pick-up this week, along with an exclusive rum. The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend, a special Barbados rum from the Foursquare Distillery, is available only during these limited take-out opportunities right before special events. Look for the next window to open in April.

Loyal guests placed orders for quarts and gallons of the Barrel O’ Rum, Mai Tai, Jet Pilot and Black Magic, the latter returning to the menu by popular demand.

The same four cocktails will be offered on Sunday in single servings or quarts, along with beer, wine and water. Guests can pair their drinks with gourmet street food from the M.C.K. Fusion food truck. The Mobile Culinary Kitchens truck features Colombian and Latin American fusion cuisine, including burgers, tacos, quesadillas and more.

It was great to be back at The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show on Sunday for the Cruise-In Classic Car Show. Cool…

Posted by The Atomic Grog on Monday, March 29, 2021

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The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend is available only via take-out from the restaurant.
The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend is available only via take-out from the restaurant. (Official Mai-Kai photo)

We’re now approaching five months since a catastrophic roof collapse over the kitchen shut down the 64-year-old historic landmark. But The Mai-Kai chose to turn lemons into lemonade, converting its vast parking lot into a gathering spot for fans at the Hulaween 2020 drive-in movie party on Oct. 30.

Following the 64th anniversary party on Dec. 28, fans received a bombshell when it was announced that the Thornton family was considering selling the 2.69-acre property. Possible partnerships are also on the table, but the consistent message from The Mai-Kai has been a desire to keep as much of the original property intact as possible.

This did not quell the overwhelming outpouring of concern and support from fans, who took to social media to console each other and seek ways to help the cause. The most high-profile effort is the “Save The Mai-Kai” petition on Change.org, which at press time has topped 10,750 signatures with no signs of slowing down.

Thousands of fans unite to show support for The Mai-Kai during closing
Thousands of fans unite to show support for The Mai-Kai during closing
Previous coverage: More than 10,000 have signed a petition and thousands are flooding social media channels as the historic restaurant plans events, take-home cocktails while potential partners/owners are sought.

Vendors sought for Tiki marketplace in April

The Mai-Kai Tiki Market Place

News of the next parking lot event was revealed when The Mai-Kai put out a call for vendors for an ambitious Tiki marketplace on April 17. While similar events have become popular regular happenings at Tiki bars around the country, this is believed to be the first time The Mai-Kai has hosted an outdoor Tiki marketplace in its long history.

The Mai-Kai’s director of public relations, Pia Dahlquist, is rounding up vendors to fill the restaurant’s 150-space parking lot. She said she’s aiming for around 25 to 30 booths with a “diversified” lineup. If you’d like to participate and need more information, contact Dahlquist via email or call (954) 646-8975. The cost is just $50 per booth.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai updates: Cocktails and car show, Tiki marketplace announced”

Cocktail recipe: Toast St. Patrick’s Day with Alloa Aloha

I’m sure they exist, but it’s rare to find an Irish-themed Tiki cocktail. While we all enjoy sipping fine Irish whiskeys and quaffing a pint of authentic (not green!) stout or ale on St. Patrick’s Day, there’s always room for a complex symphony of booze, juices, syrups and bitters. We hope this new creation hits all the right notes.

Alloa Aloha features a healthy dose of Irish whiskey with a splash of overproof rum. It also includes many staple tropical flavors that unite to form a taste-tempting treat greater than the sum of its parts. Blue curacao, not artificial coloring, gives it the perfect hue.

Alloa Aloha by The Atomic Grog, March 2021 (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Alloa Aloha by The Atomic Grog, March 2021 (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The name, like the drink, is an Irish-Polynesian mash-up. It pays tribute to John Jameson, the founder of the iconic whiskey brand, who was originally a lawyer from the town of Alloa in Scotland before he opened his first distillery in Dublin in 1780.

ALLOA ALOHA
(By Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)

* 2 ounces blended Irish whiskey (recommended: 1 ounce Jameson original, 1 ounce Jameson Black Barrel)
* 1/2 ounce overproof rum (recommended: Plantation O.F.T.D)
* 1/4 ounce blue curacao
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce white grapefruit juice
* 1 ounce coconut cream
* 1 teaspoon vanilla syrup
* 1 dash chocolate bitters
* 1 dash absinthe

Pulse blend with a heaping cup of crushed ice. Pour into a small snifter or specialty glass, adding more ice to fill. Garnish with mint and other green things.

Flavor profile: Rich, creamy and boozy with slight anise and bitter notes to create balance and complexity. Baileys Irish Cream meets Tiki.

Continue reading “Cocktail recipe: Toast St. Patrick’s Day with Alloa Aloha”

Thousands of fans unite to show support for The Mai-Kai during closing

Thousands of fans unite to show support for The Mai-Kai during closing

Updated Feb. 28, 2021

When the owners of The Mai-Kai announced in December 2020 that the historic restaurant and the several acres of land the mid-century marvel has occupied since 1956 were possibly for sale, the first reaction from most longtime customers was shock and fear.

Cruise-In with the Five Points Motor Club at The Mai-Kai
While The Mai-Kai is closed, events continue to be held in the parking lot.

Shock that the seemingly indestructible Tiki temple had been taken down, not by the coronavirus pandemic or hurricane-force winds, but by a vicious rainstorm that caused irrecoverable damage to the kitchen that was beyond the capacity of the family-run operation to fix. And fear that the announcement that the owners were seeking partners (or buyers) meant the end of the world’s most well-preserved example of a Polynesian supper club on the grandest of scales.

They flooded social media channels to commiserate, but those emotions did not lead to resignation or despair. Rather, it lit a fire under the legions of followers that had come to love and cherish The Mai-Kai over its many decades of operation.

Related: The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary as extent of flooding damage, closing detailed

UPDATE: ‘Save The Mai-Kai’ petition tops 10,000 signatures

Primed by the don’t-just-sit-there ethos of the pandemic, these passionate boosters quickly turned their frustration into action. The most shining example of this united front of support can be found in a petition posted on Change.org on Jan. 23. After just two days, it topped 2,600 signatures. Three weeks later, the “Save The Historic Mai-Kai Restaurant & Polynesian Show” petition was closing in on 10,000 signees. It passed that mark on Feb. 22 and has a new goal of 15,000.

SIGN THE PETITION NOW

Mai-Kai petition tops 10,000 signatures

The petition is aimed at Mayor Jane Bolin of Oakland Park, the Fort Lauderdale suburb that has always been an ally of its most famous business. Also named is Broward County Commissioner Lamar Fisher, whose district includes the restaurant that faces Federal Highway (aka U.S. 1) just a few miles from the area’s famous beach.

It urges supporters to sign the online petition to let the officials “know that you don’t want to lose this iconic fixture that makes Oakland Park a global tourist destination and revenue source for so many.” On top of the signatures, more than 270 people took the time to post comments, lamenting the potential loss of a beloved part of their lives.

“The Mai Kai is an icon of authentic Americana in Fort Lauderdale, a place that visitors from across the U.S. and from abroad expect to find in this city – because there is nothing like it anywhere else,” wrote author Sven Kirsten, who featured the restaurant in The Book of Tiki, his influential treatise on Tiki culture.

A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai when the main showroom was still open to the elements
A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai when the main showroom was still open to the elements. (Published in Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant; credit: Licudine family photo collection)

Author Tim “Swanky” Glazner, who wrote the definitive Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, added:
“It is important to the finances of the city. Thousands of people will never return to the city if it closes.”

For others, it was very personal. Holly Kriss wrote: “This is an important cultural landmark which must be saved at any cost! One of the reasons we moved permanently to FL was because of the MaiKai!!” Added Kathryn Pease: “My family and friends go to the Fort Lauderdale area specifically to go to the Mai-Kai.”

Julie Perkins summed up the feelings of many perfectly: “The Mai Kai is historically important architecturally and culturally. It is no hyperbole to say that there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Other tiki restaurants exist, but very few have been in operation for over 50 years, and none with the combination of architecture, live show and gardens that attract visitors from around the world as the Mai Kai does. My family and I visit Ft. Lauderdale from Texas once or twice a year solely because of the Mai Kai.”

Fans gather on Facebook to offer support, share experiences

Save the Mai-Kai group on Facebook

In addition to the petition, a new “Save the Mai-Kai” group exploded on Facebook, gathering more than 730 like-minded members in just two days and 1,400 four days after forming on Jan. 21. It’s now nearing 2,000 members and has become the site of shared emotions, from angst to despair to hope. Many take the opportunity to share family photos of their trips to The Mai-Kai, some from decades ago.

JOIN THE GROUP NOW

The description says the purpose of the group “is for tiki fans worldwide to band together and see what we can do to save this incredible treasure.” The group’s only rules are “Be civil” and “Be respectful.”

By all accounts, members are not just respectful but also reverential and reflective. One member shared a photo of his parents enjoying cocktails at The Mai-Kai in 1962, noting that “57 years later I finally went in 2019. Not sure why I waited so long to go.”

Continue reading “Thousands of fans unite to show support for The Mai-Kai during closing”

Year in the rearview: The Top 9 Tiki stories of 2020

Year in the rearview: The Top 9 Tiki stories of 2020

Undoubtedly, it was a year many would rather forget – preferably by downing a few Mai Tais. If we take “hindsight is 2020” at face value, perhaps some day there will be positive lessons to be learned from last year’s many tragedies. Despite this, not all the news was negative in the modern Tiki revival. Dispensing with the bad news first, here are The Atomic Grog’s picks for the nine most newsworthy stories of 2020.
Bonus recipe below: The Urban Archaeologist (tribute to The Book of Tiki 20th anniversary and commemorative mug)

1. CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWNS

Support Tiki bars now by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers

Of all the industries that were dealt a sucker punch by the pandemic, the bar and restaurant world is the one that seems to have suffered the most long-running impact. When the mandatory closings swept across the United States (and the world) in March and April, most were ill-prepared to deal with the consequences. Heroically, the majority were able to survive by pivoting to take-out and streamlined operations. Sadly, others have remained closed with still no ETA on reopening dates. The list of businesses that closed permanently is sobering. But as we look back at the year, we’re proud of the efforts everyone put forth to keep their Tiki bars and related companies alive against all odds. We will continue to pray for their survival and encourage everyone to help as best they can.

Support Tiki bars now by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers
UPDATES: Support Tiki bars now by visiting their online stores
Get updates on closings and openings, plus the latest on mugs and merchandise, plus more resources.

2. EVENTS CANCELED, POSTPONED

It’s hard for a community to thrive and survive when it’s stripped of its ability to congregate en masse to celebrate and boost each other’s spirits. This hit home in the Tiki world in early March, when Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend held the dubious distinction of being the last pre-pandemic event to take place. The summer season’s blockbuster festivals were forced to scramble. Some postponed, some went to a virtual format, others canceled altogether. But there was still no keeping the fervent followers from seeking out their friends and favorite events, even in stripped-down and online-only form. We tip our hat to the organizers who keep the faithful happy and their brands alive, along with their supporters who kept their heads up and their communities alive throughout the year.

The Year in Tiki 2020: Recap the top virtual and in-person events
The Year in Tiki 2020: Top virtual and in-person events
Take a look back at the major happenings, featuring artwork and links plus photos and video.

3. FLOODING AT THE MAI-KAI

In any other year, the closing of The Mai-Kai would undoubtedly be news story No. 1. But 2020 was no ordinary year, full of curve balls and unexpected twists. After closing during April and May, The Mai-Kai reopened under state social-distancing guidelines and was successfully navigating the pandemic through the summer and fall. An inventive take-out program was pushing boundaries and pleasing fans, while the historic restaurant was consistently filling its available seats with guests eager to watch the acclaimed Polynesian Islander Revue. All that changed in late October, however, when massive rains flooded the kitchen and back-of-house after a roof collapsed during the storm. With no functioning kitchen, The Mai-Kai has closed until the extensive repairs can be done. The annual Halloween party became a drive-in movie event in the parking lot and online sales were stepped up. A family-run operation since 1956, The Mai-Kai faces perhaps its biggest challenge, possibly with a new partnership or ownership. Here’s hoping the grand reopening will top the list of 2021 news events.
The Mai-Kai for sale: See the official statement NEW
UPDATES: Owners vow to “preserve family legacy” while continuing take-out drinks and more events

The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary under the moon as challenges loom
The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary under the moon as challenges loom
Check out all the details
on The Mai-Kai’s sold-out 64th anniversary party on Dec. 28.
Photos: The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue
News: Extent of flooding damage, closing detailed

4. THE PASSING OF TOTI

Toti Terorotua of The Mai-Kai's Polynesian Islander Revue

In September, The Mai-Kai, its extended family and longtime fans mourned the death of Toti Terorotua, a founding member of the restaurant’s acclaimed Polynesian Islander Revue in 1962. “Toti was not only an outstanding musician and entertainer, he was a great friend and part of what made the Mai-Kai one great big family,” an official statement from the restaurant said. “Toti was a highly regarded musician in Tahiti before coming to the US, creating two classic Tahitian albums with his namesake band Toti’s Tahitians. You can still hear songs from his albums, along with his unforgettable voice, softly playing in the background on the Mai Kai’s nightly soundtrack.” Toti was discovered in the late 1950s by Donn Beach himself, who picked him to be part of his show at the Don the Beachcomber in Waikiki when it opened at the International Marketplace. Toti came to Fort Lauderdale and The Mai-Kai to be part of the original Polynesian show and never left. He retired 2000 after 38 years, but came back in 2006 to play drums at The Mai-Kai’s 50th anniversary at age 71. He continued to perform on stage for another decade-plus. In announcing his death, The Mai-Kai shared a tribute in Tahitian, translated to: “We will miss you so. But dreams will keep us near you. We know we’ll meet again. Farewell for just a while. For just a little while.”
Listen: Buy or stream Lure Of Tahiti by Terorotua & His Tahitians

Continue reading “Year in the rearview: The Top 9 Tiki stories of 2020”

Photos: Remembering Dawn Wells at The Hukilau 2015

The recent death of television sitcom icon Dawn Wells, best know as Mary Ann on the 1960s classic Gilligan’s Island, immediately brings back happy memories amid the sadness. Wells died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles at age 82.
See below: Photos of Dawn Wells at The Hukilau

The cause of her death was related to COVID-19, her publicist announced. Tina Louise, the last surviving regular cast member from the 1964-67 series, paid tribute to Wells on Twitter: “I will always remember Dawn’s kindness to me. We shared in creating a cultural landmark that has continued to bring comfort and smiles to people during this difficult time. I hope that people will remember her the way that I do — always with a smile on her face.”

Dawn Wells is greeted at The Hukilau 2015 by emcee King Kukulele and artist/performer Crazy Al Evans. (Credit: The Hukilau)
Dawn Wells is greeted at The Hukilau 2015 by emcee King Kukulele and artist/performer Crazy Al Evans. (Credit: The Hukilau)

When remembering Wells, many recall images of the enduring show about castaways stranded on a deserted Pacific island. A few lucky Tikiphiles also cherish the memorable chance to meet the actress in June 2015 at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale.

Organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White invited Wells to participate in the annual Tiki weekender, designing a special event just for her: A “Three Hour Tour” cruise in a luxury yacht through the Intracoastal Waterway. The Hukilau villagers joined their favorite castaway on June 12, 2015, aboard the Lady Windridge Yacht as it set sail from the Pier 66 Marina at the event’s host hotel.

Guests were invited to dress in their favorite Gilligan’s Island garb, with Wells selecting the costume contest winners. They also enjoyed an open bar featuring craft Tiki cocktails and food, luxuries not afforded the passengers on the ill-fated S.S. Minnow. Wells later participated in an autograph session and mingled with attendees of The Hukilau throughout the weekend at both the Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant.

Dawn Wells
A vintage photo of Dawn Wells during the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ heyday in the 1960s.

The Hollywood Reporter quoted Wells as saying the “values and principles” of Mary Ann mirrored her own and are timeless: “I know this because the core of Mary Ann is really me. I mean, I built her from scratch … if you play a character long enough on stage or screen, I think your true self shows through.”

Wells appeared in more than 150 TV shows, seven movies and six dozen stage plays. She was a producer, author, spokesperson, journalist, motivational speaker, and teacher. She also founded and participated in many charity organizations. Donations in her name can be made to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn.; the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum; and The Shambala Preserve outside Los Angeles.

Continue reading “Photos: Remembering Dawn Wells at The Hukilau 2015”

The Year in Tiki 2020: Recap the top virtual and in-person events

The Year in Tiki 2020: Recap the top virtual and in-person events

The Tiki Times

This past year was unlike any other. As the deadly coronavirus pandemic swept the world, events were postponed and canceled while the hospitality and entertainment industries suffered economic disaster. New and rescheduled events became fundraisers and calls to action to help struggling businesses. As social gatherings moved online to a virtual format, so did many events and a new lineup of symposiums and learning experiences. The Atomic Grog documented many of these happenings and participated in a few over the past tumultuous 12 months. The Tiki Times continues to follow the top events of interest to retro-minded enthusiasts of Tiki, mid-century modern, surf and rockabilly music, rum and spirits, plus more. Below you’ll find the cream of the crop of 2020 events, along with artwork and links to official sites. Under many events, you’ll also find images and videos from social media plus links to news articles. We hope everyone remains healthy and safe as we find out what 2021 has to offer.
COMING SOON: Full 2021 calendar
UPDATES: Support Tiki bars online – Buy merch, contribute to fundraisers
Social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

THE TIKI TIMES: 2020 EVENTS RECAP

Jan. 3-5 – The Rhythm Collision Weekend #7 in Riverside, Calif.
The Rhythm Collision Weekend #7

Jan. 11 – Tiki Central 20th Anniversary Celebration at Forbidden Island in Alameda, Tonga Hut in Los Angeles, Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas, and Tiki Cat in Kansas City.
Tiki Central 20th Anniversary Celebration

Jan. 12 – The Original Tiki Market Place 8th Anniversary in Garden Grove, Calif.
The Original Tiki Market Place 8th Anniversary

Jan 19-20 – Exotica VIII in The Raines Law Room at the William Hotel in New York City.

Jan. 25 – Central Florida Rum and Food Experience in Lakeland.

Jan 25 – Winter Surf Fest in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Feb. 7-8 – Miami Rum Congress in Miami Beach.
Miami Rum Congress
Continue reading “The Year in Tiki 2020: Recap the top virtual and in-person events”

The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary under the moon as challenges loom

The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary under the moon as challenges loom

In 64 years, The Mai-Kai has never failed to celebrate the anniversary of its Dec. 28, 1956, opening with its own distinctive flair. This year will be no exception, despite a global pandemic and an unfortunate roof collapse in October that forced the restaurant’s temporary closing.

It is finally the end of 2020 and we’re here to help you finish strong. We have made a fresh batch of Rum Barrels and…

Posted by Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show on Wednesday, December 30, 2020

 

Jump to more features below
Photos: The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue
News: Extent of flooding damage, closing detailed

On Monday, the owners of the historic landmark in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Oakland Park will open up their vast parking lot for Under The Mai-Kai Moon, the 2020 version of the annual Customer “Mahalo” Appreciation Party. The socially distanced event sold out less than a week after going on sale.

Under The Mai-Kai Moon - photo by Mark O'Byrne
A view of the front of The Mai-Kai from Federal Highway. (Photo by Mark O’Byrne)

The event is not just a bittersweet celebration. Proceeds will benefit laid-off employees as well as keeping The Mai-Kai in business until repairs are finished. Unfortunately, it could be a long process (see below).

Since 1962, the centerpiece of any celebration at The Mai-Kai has been the Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. Under The Mai-Kai Moon will feature three performances by the acclaimed group, which includes dancers and musicians from islands in every corner of Polynesia.

Cars will be spread out across the 150-space lot behind the restaurant with gaps in between to allow a “tailgate party” atmosphere, except it won’t be BYOB. The Mai-Kai will be selling several signature cocktails as well as beer, wine and soft drinks. One or more food trucks will be on hand to provide ample options for noshing.

Under The Mai-Kai Moon - artwork by Pooch
Artwork by Mike Pucciarelli (aka Pooch)

The event will run from 6 to 10 p.m., and vehicles can arrive as early as 5:30. Unlike the recent Hulaween Drive-In Movie party, there’s no cutoff time on arrivals. All parking spots will allow views of the performances, and guests can spread out their folding chairs in adjoining empty spaces.

You’ll want to be there by 8 p.m., however, to catch the first of three shows by the Polynesian Islander Revue. The performances will be staged on a flatbed truck, which will be moved around to different locations to allow all cars a good view, according to The Mai-Kai’s director of public relations, Pia Dahlquist. A DJ will also be spinning tunes to keep the atmosphere lively.

Two of The Mai-Kai’s signature drinks – the Barrel O’ Rum and Mai Tai – will be sold by the quart and glass. The Vodka Barrel will also be available by the glass along with beer, wine and sodas. There will also be a complimentary champagne toast for everyone at 9.30 p.m.
Continue reading “The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary under the moon as challenges loom”

Fundraisers, online sales aid The Mai-Kai during closure for refurbishment

Fundraisers, online sales aid The Mai-Kai during closure for refurbishment

The historic Mai-Kai restaurant may be closed for repairs and refurbishment due to damage caused by an October flood, but fans still have plenty of opportunities to support the staff and management. Several fundraisers have been organized, and online merchandise sales are ramping up for the holidays. There are also limited opportunities to take home cocktails, plus more special experiences to be announced.

The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary under the moon as challenges loom
NEW: The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary under the moon as challenges loom
Check out all the details on The Mai-Kai’s sold-out 64th anniversary party on Dec. 28. FULL STORY
Photos: The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue
News: Extent of flooding damage, closing detailed

The Mai-Kai Trading Post

Organizers of the regular charity Online Tiki Bingo events were quick to step up with a benefit for employees of The Mai-Kai. Hosted by the Gumbo Limbo Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai, the virtual version of the long-running event was held Thursday evening (Dec. 10). Donations will directly benefit the furloughed staff.

A previous online bingo benefit was held for Mai-Kai employees in May during the closing due to COVID-19, and subsequent events aided other Florida Tiki establishments in need. In normal times, Tiki Bingo is held monthly at The Mai-Kai to benefit local charities and provide a fun social event for Tikiphiles in South Florida.

Benefit Auction for The Mai-Kai staff

In conjunction with the online bingo event, the FOM is hosting a virtual Benefit Auction for The Mai-Kai staff. Bids are being accepted through 6 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 13) on a variety of items, including:

Continue reading “Fundraisers, online sales aid The Mai-Kai during closure for refurbishment”

Rum Spotlight: Ed Hamilton brings new West Indies blend to Florida

Rum Spotlight: Ed Hamilton brings new West Indies blend to Florida

Updated Dec. 23, 2020

Importer Ed Hamilton has announced the arrival of a new Hamilton Rum blend bottled for the Florida Rum Society, soon to be available in retail locations across the Sunshine State. Plans call for the rum, a blend of Jamaican and Guyanese rums, to be distributed in 2021 to other states as well.

Ministry of Rum Private Collection, Florida Rum Society Blend

The first shipment arrived in Orlando on Friday (Dec. 4) from Hamilton’s New York bottling facility, he announced during a Zoom happy hour event that evening. On Thursday, he teased Florida rum lovers with an Instagram post containing the label, announcing that the rum was “on I-75 on the way to Florida.”

Jump below: 15 things you need to know about Ed Hamilton and Hamilton Rum
Recipe: Hamilton Navy Grog, as served at The Mai-Kai

The quick arrival pleased the longtime rum connoisseur, author and owner of his own boutique label and import company, Caribbean Spirits. The new rum will be part of Hamilton’s Ministry of Rum Private Collection, containing a similar label but more limited-edition bottlings than his standard Ministry of Rum releases. These include a variety of rum blends sourced from Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia and other islands.

He also imports a selections of acclaimed rums from Martinique, including the Neisson, La Favorite and Duquesne labels. Ministry of Rum refers to the website and message board Hamilton launched in the late 1990s that remains an essential reference tool for researching and learning about all rum.

Ed Hamilton spars with rum ambassador Ian Burrell at the first Miami Rum Congress in February 2019. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Ed Hamilton spars with rum ambassador Ian Burrell at thefirst Miami Rum Congress in February 2019. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

For the Florida Rum Society blend, Hamilton said he went with a modified version of his popular Navy Strength blend, a powerful 114-proof combination of 60 percent Guyana rum and 40 percent Jamaican rum. The new blend is more accessible, clocking in a 45 percent alcohol by volume, or 90 proof. Hamilton said the blend is 65 percent from Demerara Distillers in Guyana and 35 percent from Worthy Park Estate in Jamaica.

Besides the proof and percentages, there’s a slight variation the age of the rum, Hamilton said. The Jamaican component is a 1-year-old rum while the Navy blend contains unaged distillate. The Guyanese rum is the same blend of 2- to 5-year-old rums that Hamilton uses in the Navy Strength bottling, as well as the Hamilton 86 and 151 Guyana rums that are well-known and loved at Tiki bars across the country. Check our in-depth look at Hamilton’s journey in bringing these rums to market, and their use at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.

The Florida Rum Society blend promises to be more versatile and just as tasty as the Navy blend, its lower proof and added aging making it more assessable as a sipper and all-purpose mixer. It’s also a higher proof than the similar New York Blend, an 84-proof version of the Navy blend. At 65 percent Demerara, it could also make a fine substitute for Hamilton 86 in cocktails. During the Zoom meeting, Hamilton sipped on one of his favorite easy-to-make highballs, a blend of Hamilton 86, Hamilton Jamaican Pimento Dram, and orange juice. I tried a mix of 1 part dram, 3 parts rum and 6 parts juice, and it was delicious.

The flagship Hamilton rums from Guyana are available at Total Wine stores in Florida. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2016)
The flagship Hamilton rums from Guyana are available at Total Wine stores in Florida. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2016)

The new rum should also work well in classic Tiki cocktails that call for a roughly equal blend of non-overproof Demerara and Jamaican rums, such as the Navy Grog (and Beachbum Berry’s The Ancient Mariner), Pearl Diver’s Punch, and Sidewinder’s Fang. The extra 5 percent ABV will give the drink a boost to help it hew closer to the original rums. In the mid-century heyday, it was not unusual for standard mixing rums to be higher than 80 proof, especially those from Guyana and Jamaica. During the Zoom meeting, I enjoyed a Navy Grog featuring three of Hamilton’s signature rums (see recipe below).

Follow the Florida Rum Society on Facebook and Instagram for updates on distribution. Hamilton confirmed that the main retail location will be the Sarasota Liquor Locker. The rum society boasts a robust online store with quick delivery across the state featuring rums stocked by the Sarasota store.

UPDATE: Sarasota Liquor Locker and the rum society’s online shop were the first get the rum. Soon after, it was on its way to Five Star Liquor & Wine in Orlando, Primo Liquors in Broward County (multiple ocations), Big Game Liquors in Miami, and Beach Liquors in the Panhandle (multiple ocations).

Florida Rum Society

Hamilton said he expects retail outlets across the state to carry the rum. Part of the goal of the partnership with the Florida Rum Society, he said, is to leverage the group’s influence to persuade more retailers to carry the Hamilton (and Caribbean Spirits) product line. The bottling includes 112 cases, he said, though he didn’t rule out another batch in the future depending on demand. If the store you frequent in Florida doesn’t carry Hamilton rums, or you’d like to request the new blend, ask them to contact the distributor: Progress Wine Group from Opa Locka, (321) 230-4682.

UPDATE: The Florida Rum Society announced an online cocktail contest featuring the new blend, with the winner earning “a hoard” of Hamilton rums. The group has quickly ramped up its activities after forming only in mid-2019. Members began holding in-person gatherings before the pandemic and have continued them online, with Hamilton and other high-profile rum industry veterans, such as Privateer Rum’s Maggie Campbell, joining in.

The Hamilton blend is not the society’s first special bottling. Just last week, a Plantation 2008 single cask rum from Guyana featuring a Florida Rum Society label landed in Orlando. This label release is extremely limited (just 140 bottles) and available at Five Star. There are also a few bottles remaining at Five Star from the exclusive (214 bottles) release in August of a 109.2 proof New England rum from Privateer dubbed Rumdemic. The release marked the return of Privateer’s single barrel program (now known as the Letter of Marque series).

If that’s not enough for Florida rum fanciers, another exclusive release is coming in 2021. The Florida Rum Society Masters Selection from Chairman’s Reserve and St. Lucia Distillers is available for pre-sale at Jensen’s Liquors in Miami. This 115.6 proof blend is expected around April. Shipping and pick-up are both available.

For more on the Florida Rum Society, check out the interview with founder Jay Cocorullo on the Rumcast podcast, episode 14.

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15 things you need to know about Ed Hamilton and Hamilton Rum

As part of the inaugural Miami Rum Congress in February 2019, the “Minister of Rum” (he actually prefers to be called “Administer of Rum”) hosted his first-ever master class at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on his Hamilton Rum product line, including a discussion of his journey from Caribbean sailboat adventurer to rum importer and label owner.

Hamilton Rum master class at The Mai-Kai

The hands-on symposium took place in the historic restaurant’s intimate Samoa dining room and included rum and cocktail samples, plus a heaping helping of Hamilton’s wit and wisdom. Here are a few nuggets we gleaned from the presentation:

* After studying chemical and mechanical engineering and getting his college degree, Hamilton worked a job “selling bomb parts” in the mid-1970s. “It really wasn’t something I wanted to base my career on,” he said. When his boss queried him about what he wanted to be doing in five years, he exclaimed: “Go sailing.” Asked how he could make that happen, he replied: “I quit.” He says never spent another day looking for a job after that.

Continue reading “Rum Spotlight: Ed Hamilton brings new West Indies blend to Florida”

The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations

The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations

The Mai-Kai specializes in time travel, taking diners back to the mid-century heyday of grand Tiki temples by creating a spectacularly immersive feast of the senses. So it’s no surprise that the Fort Lauderdale restaurant successfully scared up a vintage Halloween party in 2020, transporting hundreds of Hulaween revelers to a vintage drive-in theater in its expansive parking lot for a physically-distanced celebration like no other.

A pineapple jack-o-lantern sets the scene at Hulaween 2020.
A pineapple jack-o-lantern sets the scene at Hulaween 2020.

The sold-out Hulaweeen Drive-In Movie on Oct. 30 creatively navigated the new pandemic reality, giving the occupants of the 60+ vehicles multiple treats to savor. From the screening of the infamous 1970 B-movie Beast of Blood, to the live costume contest projected onto the 33-foot screen, to the rockin’ pre-movie festivities fueled by classic tropical cocktails, the evening provided a frightening (but safe) good time for all in attendance.
Previous story: See the full event preview

Unfortunately, someone apparently played a trick on The Mai-Kai. After successfully navigating the scary new pandemic reality since late May, the historic restaurant faced a scare of its own just days before the 12th annual Hulaween when a massive storm caused damage that will require an extended, temporary closing for repairs and refurbishment.

Just announced: There will be a Virtual Tiki Bingo event to benefit The Mai-Kai employees on Dec. 10. Click here for info and updates.

MORE: Jump to special features below
Preshow: Appleton Rum’s Joy Spence appears via video
News: Latest on the temporary closing
Photos: Hulaweeen Drive-In Movie scene, costumes
Tribute recipe: Blood Island Green Potion #2
Videos: Selection of Hulaween 2020 music

The sudden closing caused some last-minute scrambling to keep the drive-in movie on track, but The Mai-Kai and the event’s driving force, director of public relations Pia Dahlquist, pulled it off with the usual aplomb. Since guests could not enter the restaurant, drinks were served from a pop-up bar behind the building, and portable restroom facilities were secured. With the kitchen closed, a food truck arrived to fill the need with finger-licking barbecue.

Hurricane Hayward picks up his cocktail quarts as the parking lot fills up.
Hurricane Hayward picks up his cocktail quarts as the parking lot fills up.

But all the innovative plans appeared to be in danger all afternoon as dark clouds literally loomed over the event. An afternoon storm blew through The Mai-Kai property on Federal Highway, but miraculously the entire event remained dry. It was a blustery evening, however, and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival staff had their hands full keeping the inflated screen stable. The dark and ominous weather was apropos, but not an issue at the end of the day.

The FLIFF crew was indispensable, not only handling the high-tech rear-projection screen but also guiding all the vehicles into parking spots the old-fashioned way. Some of us brought portable chairs, and my hurricane radio came in handy to tune into the FM frequency that broadcasted the clear and crisp audio.

Considering the weather and makeshift logistics of the entire endeavor, the 90-minute preshow video and 90-minute feature film were both professionally presented and easy to enjoy. The evening concluded, as usual, with a kooky costume contest that was up to the same creative standards of past Hulaween parties.

Guests were welcomed with the same high level of hospitality The Mai-Kai is known for. Quarts of cocktails ordered in advance were delivered to car windows personally by Dahlquist in the porte-cochere. Arriving vehicles also received goodie bags that included Beast of Blood swizzle sticks (courtesy of Drive-In-Sanity Films) and complimentary anti-virus masks provided by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association’s Broward County chapter. All 60 Beast of Blood 50th anniversary mugs, created by Thor, sold out in advance.

Annubis & Isis arrive and enter the costume contest.
Annubis & Isis arrive and enter the costume contest.

We brought Mai-Kai mugs from home and a bag of ice from Sonic to enjoy the signature Barrel O’ Rum and special Blood Island Green Potion #2 featuring sponsor Appleton Estate Rum. The food from Iron Butt BBQ was delicious, pairing perfectly with The Mai-Kai’s potent cocktails. More traditional drive-in fare (freshly popped popcorn) was also offered by roving Mai-Kai servers.
TRIBUTE RECIPE: Scroll down for our take on Blood Island Green Potion #2

The Mai-Kai’s refreshment stand served two other popular cocktails – the Jet Pilot and Mai Tai – along with a selection of beer, wine, soft drinks and water.

Many spirited guests came in full costume, and some bedecked their vehicles with flaming Tiki accouterments. Those who chose to enter the contest were filmed as they arrived. The clips were later edited together, and the resulting video was shown after the movie. A panel of judges picked the top three winners: Dr. Paul Bearer and Dolly, Death By Swizzle, and Annubis & Isis. As usual, the costumes included many movie and TV references (The Witches, What We Do in the Shadows, Spirited Away, The Walking Dead, et al.) as well as just-plain-wacky get-ups.
PHOTO GALLERY: Scroll down to see scenes from Hulaween, plus all of the costumes

Continue reading “The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations”