‘Rum Rat Pack’ starts a revolution at Hukilau 2011

See below: Rumposium photo gallery
Related: The Hukilau crowns a Rum Barrel Master Mixologist
2011 Hukilau photos and video: Facebook | Flickr | Go11Media

February 2013 update: How big a punch can Tiki Month take?

‘Rumposium’ kicks off Tiki event’s Mia-Kai bash

Tropical drink revivalist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and his “Rum Rat Pack” – four of the world’s most noted authorities on the cane spirit – banded together on stage at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale during the afternoon of Saturday, June 12, to celebrate Tiki’s favorite elixir.

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry leaves no doubt about what this event is all about.
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry leaves no doubt about what this event is all about.

More than two hours and a thousand or so cocktails later, the 200 Tikiphiles attending this 10th anniversary Hukilau exclusive event were swept up in a movement not seen in these parts of the tropics since Fidel’s rise to power in another rum-soaked nation just to the south. But in the friendly environs of The Mai-Kai, which actually pre-dates Castro’s revolt by several years, the revolutionaries were armed only with good spirits. Lots of good spirits.

Before the symposium even started, several samples of high-end rums awaited us as we were seated in the Polynesian palace’s main dining room. Beachbum Berry wasted no time in introducing us to some of the fine rums on display this afternoon: Chairman’s Reserve from St. Lucia; Rhum Clement VSOP and La Favorite Rhum Agricole, both from Martinique; Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum from Guyana; and Dos Maderas (a blend of aged rums from Barbados and Guyana).

Of course, more than 50 cocktails from The Mai-Kai’s legendary tropical drink menu were also available, and many in the audience wasted no time in beginning the evening’s imbibing early (The Atomic Grog included). I opted for one of the restaurant’s signature drinks, the Derby Daiquiri, a refreshing frozen lime-orange concoction created by the late, great master mixologist Mariano Licudine. Mariano’s son, Ron, was in attendance for the festivities and was happy to entertain us cocktail geeks with stories from his youth when his dad ruled the tropical drink world.

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The Hukilau crowns a Rum Barrel Master Mixologist

See below: Our Master Mixologist photo gallery | See all the drink recipes
Audio slideshow flashback: Contest was a Barrel of fun
Related: ‘Rum Rat Pack’ starts a revolution at Hukilau 2011 | Full Hukilau coverage

Bartending contest highlight of Tiki event’s kickoff party

On Thursday night, June 9, The Hukilau kicked off with a bang as five tropical drink mixologists created their own take on the classic Rum Barrel, squaring off live on stage at the Bahia Cabana Beach Resort.

The winning cocktail, Joe Desmond's Moon Barrel
The winning cocktail, Joe Desmond's Moon Barrel. (Photo by Wayne Curtis)

Using predetermined sponsor rums and mixers, plus other ingredients of their choice, they each had seven minutes to make one fully-garnished drink plus samples for the judges. Hosted by author and tropical drink historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the contest was a combination of cocktail seminar and Tiki party, with colorful drinks made in rapid-fire precision by the contestants and passed around the judging table.

Judging the contest were some of the top rum authorities in the world: UK Rumfest organizer Ian Burrell, San Francisco bar owner Martin Cate, journalist and author Wayne Curtis and New Orleans rum historian Stephen Remsberg. The Rum Barrel Challenge judges (aka the Rum Rat Pack) will also be participating in Beachbum Berry’s “Rumposium” special event on Saturday, June 11, at The Mai-Kai.
* Check out Wayne’s review of the Rum Barrel Challenge

The Master Mixologist Rum Barrel Challenge was sponsored by Montanya Rum and Fee Brothers, and both products were incorporated into all the drinks. Judges rated each drink on its originality, creativity, adherence to the theme, use of the required ingredients, taste (including balance and use of rums), and presentation.

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Hukilau 2011 video preview: A Tiki-lover’s dream event

The 10th anniversary Hukilau – featuring four days of music, art, cocktails, vendors, symposiums on Tiki culture and much more – takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 9-12, in Fort Lauderdale. Go to TheHukilau.com for the full schedule and more information on all the performers and guests.
* Related: A decade of The Hukilau (video) | Mixologists vie to build a better Barrel

All history lessons should be this fun

Now entering its 10th year, The Hukilau has become not only the largest Tiki-themed event on the East Coast, but also a museum of Polynesian Pop and mid-century modern art, culture, music and much more.

The Hukilau

Most of the weekend’s events celebrate and honor the history of the original Tiki movement, which began in the 1930s and was fueled by vets returning from the Pacific after World War II in the 1940s, the statehood of Hawaii in the 1950s, and the boom of cocktail culture in the 1960s.

What had once been a vibrant culture lay dormant for several decades until it was rediscovered in the 1990s by the retro-loving underground art, music and cocktail scenes. By the turn of the century, a revival was in full swing and events such at The Hukilau were launched.

Now, 10 years down the road, the word “revival” may no longer be relevant as a whole new generation of artists, musicians and mixologists has evolved. With much due respect to the past, they’ve put their own modern spin on Tiki culture and will be showing off their talents at The Hukilau.

A day-by-day preview of events …

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The Hukilau challenges mixologists: Can you build a better Barrel?

The 10th anniversary Hukilau – featuring four days of music, art, cocktails, vendors, symposiums on Tiki culture and much more – takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 9-12, in Fort Lauderdale. Go to TheHukilau.com for the full schedule and more information on all the performers and guests.
* Related: Hukilau 2010 video preview | A decade of The Hukilau (video)

Rum luminaries to judge annual cocktail contest

In 2010, The Hukilau introduced the Master Mixologist Cocktail Challenge, a high-octane bartending contest in which participants raced the clock to create unique tropical drinks using sponsor rums and exotic mystery ingredients. A panel of Tiki drink experts including artist Josh “Shag” Agle helped crown the first Hukilau Master Mixologist and awarded unique prizes such as custom-sculpted, hand-carved muddler.

Master Mixologist Rum Barrel Challenge

In 2011, the most intimate Tiki gathering in the world honors its 10th anniversary and the 55th anniversary of the historic Mai-Kai restaurant with an epic contest featuring an iconic tropical drink and a panel of acclaimed rum experts. Competitors in “The Master Mixologist Rum Barrel Challenge” will take center stage at Fort Lauderdale’s Bahia Cabana Beach Resort on Thursday, June 9, with the task of making a contemporary version of The Mai-Kai’s beloved “Barrel O’ Rum”.

Sponsors of the event represent the new and the old of the booming craft cocktail movement: Montanya Rum, a 3-year-old Colorado micro-distillery that hand crafts award-winning rum in the Rocky Mountains; and Fee Brothers, a four-generation-old, family-owned manufacturer of top quality cocktail mixes, bitters and flavoring syrups since 1863.

Judging the contest will be a who’s who of modern Tiki mixology and rum aestheticism: Tiki drink revivalist and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (“Beachbum Berry Remixed,” “Sippin’ Safari”), UK Rumfest founder and global “rum ambassador” Ian Burrell, San Francisco bar owner Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), journalist and author Wayne Curtis (“And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails”), and New Orleans rum historian Stephen Remsberg. The Rum Barrel Challenge judges (aka the Rum Rat Pack) will also be participating in Beachbum Berry’s “Rumposium” special event on Saturday, June 11, at The Mai-Kai. Click here for more on the judges.

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We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai

Zombie Jamboree

Related links
* See our photos from the event | Our event preview | More on Rum Renaissance
* Our recipe (with photos) for the Atomic Zombie Cocktail

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry teaches a graduate course on the Zombie
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry teaches a graduate course on the Zombie.

There was enough revelry and hard-core mixology on display this past Monday to wake the long-dead Tiki spirits at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

The occasion was a collision course of Tiki culture and rum appreciation known as the Zombie Jamboree, the kickoff party for the seven-day Miami Rum Renaissance Festival.

The evening consisted of three components. First, Tiki drink expert and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s seminar on the history of the Zombie cocktail, then the best contemporary mixologists competing in the “Zombie Jam,” followed by The Mai-Kai’s show and dinner.

When I first heard about this event, I had to pinch myself. Had I died and gone to Tiki heaven? My favorite Mai-Kai drink was being celebrated with a seminar by my mixology guru and a contest that was just beckoning for me to enter. So enter I did.

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Yo, ho, ho! Don’t miss Rum Renaissance this weekend in Miami

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, one of the world’s premier international rum events, wraps up this weekend at the Deauville Beach Resort on Miami Beach. If you’re a rum aficionado or local Tikiphile, you’ll want to be sure to catch this unique event.

Saturday and Sunday activities run from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include the opportunity to sample more than 100 rums, check out and purchase island lifestyle fashion and arts, and attend celebrity seminars and workshops.

The festival kicked off Monday at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale with the Zombie Jamboree cocktail seminar with author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Zombe Jam cocktail competition. Click here to see photos from those fun festivities.

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Photos from the Zombie Jamboree at The Mai-Kai

Wake the dead, it’s time for the Atomic Zombie Cocktail

Atomic Zombie Cocktail

* See our full report (with photos) on the Zombie Jamboree

As the only “amateur mixologist” at the first-ever “Zombie Jamboree” at The Mai-Kai, the kickoff of the annual spirits extravaganza known as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, I had to come up with something special. After all, The Mai-Kai is my home turf and the Zombie is one of my favorite all-time drinks. The Mai-Kai’s version, with lineage traced back to the original Don The Beachcomber classic, is my favorite drink at the legendary Polynesian palace.

So what I came up with is a riff on the classic with contemporary stylings. It has that great classic Zombie flavor profile but with a few special twists. I hope you dig it.

Continue reading “Wake the dead, it’s time for the Atomic Zombie Cocktail”

Zombie Jamboree: The Mai-Kai hosts an event to die for

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival kicks off today with a “Zombie Jamboree” at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale from 5 to 7 p.m.

Invented by tropical drink and Tiki bar pioneer Don The Beachcomber in the 1930s, the infamous Zombie cocktail took the world by storm more than 75 years ago. When the great wave of Polynesian Pop faded in the 1970s, so did the Zombie. Its secret original recipe was seemingly lost forever with only a few remaining Tiki palaces, such as The Mai-Kai, carrying on Don The Beachcomber’s legacy.

Beachbum Berry unearthed classic Zombie recipes
Beachbum Berry unearthed classic Zombie recipes

But then along came the Tiki revival of the 1990s and “cocktail archaeologist” Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. He unearthed long-forgotten Zombie recipes in his seminal books Grog Log (1998) and Intoxica (2002), both recently re-released in the revised and updated anthology Beachbum Berry Remixed (2010).

But it was Berry’s fourth book, Sippin’ Safari (2007), that truly blew the lid off the great “lost” tropical drink recipes and the people behind them. An entire chapter explores the Zombie and its history, finally nailing down the true “original recipe.” The book’s final chapter is devoted to The Mai-Kai, one of the last places on earth making drinks directly descended from the Don The Beachcomber classics.

At the Zombie Jamboree, Berry will present his graduate-level thesis seminar on the original creation of – and the further evolution of – the Zombie cocktail, featuring samples of Don’s classic 1934 and 1956 recipes for guests to taste.

The seminar will be followed by the “Zombie Jam,” demonstrations by notable mixologists – including yours truly – with their own variations of the infamous Zombie cocktail. Guests will be asked to vote for the drink they enjoy most with the winner crowned “Zombie Master” of Rum Renaissance 2011.

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