The Tiki Times – February 2017 News and Events: Bar openings and closings, cocktail competitions, Modernism Week, plus more

Representing sponsor Rhum Barbancourt at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, Brian Miller is joined by Tiki Mondays With Miller cohort Jelani Jah Edwards-Jöhnson (left). Miller mixed and presented his ever-popular Greedo in Paradise cocktail on Feb. 24. Look for a new bar project from Miller in New York City coming soon. (Photos by The Atomic Grog)

The Tiki Times

Updated March 8
NEW: After each month, look for a summary of all the top Tiki news, plus updates on bar openings and closings, the world of rum, plus more!
Jump below: Tiki news | Bar news | Rum news | Links | Events calendar
March events: Shag art shows, Tiki bars and festivals, surf rock and more

From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs.
Social media: Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates
Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram

FEBRUARY 2017

TIKI NEWS: Book and mug releases

Shag the Store announced the release of Shag’s newest signed book, Shag: The Collected Works. It’s available signed by Shag directly from the Palm Springs and Hollywood stores. It’s also coming soon to the online store. The 192-page hardcover book features the “Balcony on Sunset” print on the front cover and the “Three Coats” print on the back cover.

BAR NEWS: Farewell Tiki Mondays With Miller, Longitude, Kreepy Tiki and Trader Vic’s; Aloha The Reef and Tiki Underground

Lost Lake in Chicago continues to rake in the honors, the most recent being named a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program by the James Beard Foundation. “It’s really a thrill to see Lost Lake listed alongside the incredible bars that inspire us daily,” said a message on the acclaimed Tiki bar’s Facebook page. Among the many other nominees are Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, Bar Agricole in San Francisco, Canon in Seattle, Clyde Common in Portland, The Dead Rabbit in New York City, and The Varnish in Los Angeles. The 2017 James Beard Awards Gala will be held in Chicago on May 1.
Lost Lake's Paul McGee, Shelby Allison and Erin Hayes at the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2016 in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Go11Events.com) Lost Lake’s Paul McGee, Shelby Allison and Erin Hayes at the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2016 in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
* More photos, full coverage of the special cocktail event

Following his Tiki Mondays With Miller finale on Feb. 13 at Pouring Ribbons in New York City, Capt. Brian Miller posted the following missive on Facebook: “The crew and I left it all on the stage and we hope each and every one of you had a great time. We said we wouldn’t go quietly and we didn’t. There was so much rum and so much love. I was humbled by all of it. Thanks to all of you that came on Monday and everyone else that has come to Tiki Mondays over the past 5+ years. It was my pleasure and my honor to serve all of you.” Look for a new venture in New York City in the near future from Miller and company.

There was sad news out of Oakland, Calif, where owner Suzanne Long announced a March 5 closing of her beloved Longitude. Open since August 2014, this was the respected rum and cocktail expert’s first bar of her own, and it was well-received across the Tiki and rum communities. In her Facebook announcement, Long wrote: “Thank you to all of you who have walked through our doors in the last three years. It has been an amazing, glorious adventure and we couldn’t have done it without all of your love and support. Mahalo to you and Aloha, with so much love! And from me, don’t worry. You haven’t seen the last of me yet.” We’re holding you to that, Suzanne!

While many will say it was a shell of its former self, Trader Vic’s ended a 62-year association with the Beverly Hilton with the Feb. 2 closing of the poolside lounge that was the last remnant of the legendary Tiki restaurant at the venerable hotel, Los Angeles Magazine reported. “The original Beverly Hilton Trader Vic’s was a sprawling Polynesian pop masterpiece that opened with the Welton Becket-designed hotel in 1955 and was a celebrity hot spot for decades,” the article says. Added Eater Los Angeles: “Operating on land owned for decades by Merv Griffin and playing host to everyone from Hugh Hefner to the Rat Pack, Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills had become a beloved staple for that side of town – but now it’s all been scrubbed away.” When the restaurant closed in 2007, the pool bar became the only place in Los Angeles to get an authentic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai and pu-pu platters. A more modern Trader Vic’s restaurant operated at L.A. Live from 2009 to 2014. Now the only U.S. locations are in Emeryville, Calif., and Atlanta. There are more than a dozen overseas locations.

Ayme Harrison (left) and daughter Demi Anne Natoli representing Kreepy Tiki Lounge in 2016 at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Harrison is shuttering the old Kreepy Tiki and helping launch a new South Florida craft cocktail bar. You can find Natoli at Lost Lake in Chicago. (Atomic Grog photo)
Ayme Harrison (left) and daughter Demi Anne Natoli representing Kreepy Tiki Lounge in 2016 at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Harrison is shuttering the old Kreepy Tiki and helping launch a new South Florida craft cocktail bar. You can find Natoli at Lost Lake in Chicago. (Atomic Grog photo)

An era ended in Fort Lauderdale, where the proprietors of Kreepy Tiki Lounge announced that the live music venue and craft cocktail bar would be closing its doors on April 1. “We invite you all to celebrate the times we had, friendships we’ve made, and enjoy the last remaining days with us,” said a Facebook announcement. The adjoining Kreepy Tiki Tattoos will remain open during construction in the weeks to come, so look for news on future upgrades to the space near Fort Lauderdale International Airport. South Florida Distillers, makers of the award-winning Fwaygo rums, is a recent new addition to the building. A longtime rockabilly and punk-rock hangout under various names, the bar received a major upgrade (and full liquor license) when Ayme Harrison took over bar operations in late 2014. It was subsequently named one of the best 22 Tiki bars in the country by Condé Nast Traveler, and Harrison’s mixology skills were recognized in 2016 at such high-profile events as The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and The Hukilau. Harrison is one of several high-profile partners in a new craft cocktail bar in nearby Delray Beach called Death or Glory, set to open April 1, according to Miami New Times. The article also says that the old Kreepy Tiki Lounge “may continue to operate in another capacity” under Kreepy Tiki Tattoos owner Jackson Valiente.

It was not all about closings this month. Some exciting news in Palm Springs heralded the opening of The Reef at the Caliente Tropics resort. Home of the annual Tiki Caliente and Mod Palm Springs events, the vintage resort with the iconic A-frame entrance and distinctive mid-century Polynesian Pop architecture had once been home to a bar called The Reef. When Rory Snyder, creator of the aforementioned Tiki weekenders, saw an opportunity to take over the bar space, he jumped at it. He enlisted the talents of artists Buzzy Meeker (design, build-out), Doug Horne (logos, menus and mug design) and John Mulder of Eekum Bookum (mug creation). “I want the mood and menu of The Reef make all who walk in here feel at home,” Snyder said in an announcement on Facebook. “Everyone from the long-time Palm Springs residents, to vacationing tourists, to our enthusiastic Tiki ohana. Because The Reef is located at a hotel, some people might wander in from the pool in their flip-flops and some might arrive dressed up for a night out. Regardless, I want people to come in knowing that, just because this is a tropically-themed bar, they can get still their favorite standard well drinks or enjoy one of our craft Tiki cocktails, along with some good food while having a memorable time. You will be entertained.” Previews were held in February, with a grand opening scheduled for March 4.

It’s clear that the best Tiki bars are a passion project of their owners, and the new Tiki Underground in the Akron, Ohio, area is no exception. Cleveland native Sean Coffey was a Tiki fanatic for 20 years before realizing his dream and opening a tropical paradise for all to enjoy. “Sean has loved Tiki culture for so many years and he’s basically had a Tiki bar, at home,” his wife and co-owner Jessie Coffey said in an article on Cleveland.com. “Now we get to have the public come over.” Funded in part by fans and supporters, the bar is a DIY effort in the truest sense of the word. Coffey took over a 4,500-square-foot space that was formerly home to a sports bar in Hudson, Ohio, bringing South Seas style and the spirit of aloha to an enthusiastic opening day crowd on Feb. 24. A grand opening and the roll-out of more entertainment and menu options were planned for March.

In Fort Lauderdale, news broke about a new restaurant opening in the beachside B Ocean Resort, perhaps best known for the classic “porthole lounge” The Wreck Bar and long-running swim shows by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen is the brainchild of celebrity chef and restauranteur Ralph Pagano, who has had success with his Naked Taco and Naked Lunch concepts in Miami. Less successful was the short-lived Naked Tiki on South Beach, but hopefully Pagano’s appreciation of Tiki shines through in his new 150-seat restaurant, which also includes The Florida Bar. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Naked Crab is a “stripped-down but also dressed-up crab and seafood and steak house where I cook impeccably sourced fish,” Pagano told New Times. In related Wreck Bar news, Marina and her pod of aquaticats launched a new, burlesque-themed swim show for ages 21 and older on Friday and Saturday nights at 9:30 p.m. These are in addition to the regular family-friendly “fishtail glam” mermaid shows at 6:30.
Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid at The Wreck Bar

The kitschy dive bar Hula Hula, which has been operating since 2007 and proudly advertising “karaoke 365 days a year,” announced that it has been forced to move from its Seattle Center location. According to a post on the bar’s Facebook page, Hula Hula will shut down March 18 but reopen in a new location in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in April.

RUM NEWS: Bacardi crowns North American Cocktail Competition champion

Darnell Holguin (left) after his presentation at the at the 1306 Bar on South Beach. (Photos by The Atomic Grog) Darnell Holguin after his presentation at the 1306 Bar on South Beach. (Photos by The Atomic Grog)

Darnell Holguin of New York City won the Bacardi Legacy North American Cocktail Competition Finals in Miami Beach on Feb. 13 with his It Was All a Dream cocktail. Other U.S. finalists included Cody Henson of Miami, Will Isaza of Boston, Alex Chien of Chicago, Cameron George of Seattle, and Vincent Toscano of San Francisco. Holguin will represent the United States at the Global Final in Berlin in May. Around 250 people attended the private industry-only event at the 1306 Bar. Our correspondent tasted almost all of the 19 drinks and reported to us (without knowing the winner) that he thought Holguin’s was far and away the best. He called it “a very Tiki-tastic concoction that utilized condensed milk and allspice dram. … The minute I sipped it, I knew it was the winning drink.”
* See video of the competition

LINKS
* At Fort Lauderdale’s Mai-Kai, it’s always Tiki time (The New York Times)
* Connoisseurs tap Cuban history for original daiquiri (USA Today)
* A Voodoo Grog story (Critiki News)
* Black rum: Setting the record straight (Cocktail Wonk)
* How Tiki Month began (Pegu Blog)
* The Golden Age of Tiki…Now? (Tiki with Ray)
* At Jungle Bird, everything old is new again (Sacramento Magazine)
* Portland has the world’s second vegan Tiki bar (Willamette Week)
* The mesmerising mysteries and traditions of Easter Island (Daily Mail)

TIKI EVENTS: Modernism Week, plus rum, surf and Polynesian culture

Feb. 4-March 4 – Dark & Stormy: A Tiki Nightmare show at Night Gallery Fine Art in Santa Ana, Calif. Opening party Feb. 4 with featured artist Big Toe plus live music by the The Jimmy Psycho Experiment.

Dark & Stormy: A Tiki Nightmare

Feb. 4 – Tropical Rum Fest in West Palm Beach. The fifth annual taste of the tropics at the downtown Meyer Amphitheater featuring international rum exhibitors and authentic island cuisine.

Feb. 4 – Unsteady Freddie’s Surf-Rock Shindig at Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York City. Featuring The Obsidians, Howlin’ Thurstons, Strange But Surf, and Infra-Men.

Unsteady Freddie's Surf-Rock Shindig

Feb. 9 – Tiki Bingo at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale hosted by the Gumbo Limbo Chapter of the Fraternal Order Of Moai. A fund-raising event featuring an extended happy hour.

Tiki Bingo at The Mai-Kai

Feb. 11 – Aloha Fest in Venlo, The Netherlands. An evening of European surf music and culture including Surfer Joe, The Terrorsaurs, Kilaueas, Aloha Sluts and more. Plus DJs, unplugged shows, market with Tiki art and music for sale.

Aloha Fest

Feb. 11 – Southern Surf Stomp at Kavarna in Decatur, Ga. All-ages concert featuring Liz Brasher, and The Fugitives.

Feb. 11 – Second Saturday Surf fourth anniversary party at Nomad Bar in Austin, Texas. Featuring Sonny & The Starfires, Los SuperAvengers, and The Zilkers.

Second Saturday Surf fourth anniversary party

Feb. 13 – Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City. The final voyage of Brian Miller and his scurvy crew, with special guests Gaz Regan and the Hula Belly Sisters. At Pouring Ribbons in the East Village.

Feb. 16 – Mahiki Invasion at UnderTow in Phoenix featuring an hour of Tiki education with Georgi Radev of Mahiki in London. Includes cocktails, a Tiki mug, sponsor Reàl Cocktail Ingredients giveaways, and a recipe guide created by Radev.

Continue reading “The Tiki Times – February 2017 News and Events: Bar openings and closings, cocktail competitions, Modernism Week, plus more”

Kapow! replacing Longboards in downtown West Palm Beach

Updated Sept. 1
Longboards, the surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach, closed unexpectedly this week after five years of serving up fresh seafood and good vibes to the 500 block of Clematis Street. In its place, according to reliable sources, the veteran restaurateurs who own the building and neighboring Hullabaloo restaurant plan to open a second location of their successful Asian street-food concept, Kapow!

The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.
The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.

A message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page by the Sub-Culture Group says the owners “decided to close this chapter with Longboards and bring you another new, exciting concept to be unveiled soon.” According to reliable sources, however, the restaurant going into 519 Clematis St. won’t be entirely unique. Look for a new, expanded outpost of Kapow! Noodle Bar, a mainstay in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park since late 2011.
* Official sites: Longboards on Facebook | Sub-Culture.org
* Related: Goodbye Grub: Longboards closes on Clematis Street (The Palm Beach Post)
Aug. 9 update: Longboards closes to become second Kapow! location (New Times)
Sept. 1 update: Follow the progress on the Kapow WPB Facebook page

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sub-Culture Group honcho Rodney Mayo has been considering bringing Kapow! to Clematis Street since at least May 2012, when he was planning the opening of Hullabaloo (see story). The cozy artisan food and craft cocktail den, which launched just to the east of Longboards at 517 Clematis St. in January 2013, has been a smash success for the owners and chef Fritz Cassel. Hullabaloo has won numerous awards, acclaim, and high-profile exposure thanks to cheerleaders such as Emeril Lagasse, who featured the cutting-edge eatery on Emeril’s Florida on the Cooking Channel.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street

 Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)
Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)

Longboards, by comparison, was a disappointment. While it was immaculately themed to surf culture and featured fresh seafood and an inviting atmosphere, the restaurant never caught on in a big way. When we visited last Thursday evening, less than a week before it closed its doors, it was nearly empty while Hullabaloo was bustling with diners and Clematis club crawlers happily consuming the creative food and high-end spirits. We sampled some impressive Tiki cocktails recently added to the Longboards menu, but the writing was apparently already on the wall.

With a much larger footprint (nearly 4,000 square feet, compared to Hullabaloo’s 1,700), Longboards had an uphill struggle with a lower-priced menu and a niche (seafood and a beachy theme) that could be attached to many other area eateries. Not that Mayo and his team didn’t find much success and high points over the past five years. Opening on July Fourth weekend in 2011, Longboards took over the long-vacant room that many old-timers and local music fans will remember as the site of Ray’s Downtown Blues bar from 1995 to 2007.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Clematis Street rides a new wave with the opening of LongBoards
* Surf’s up: The story behind LongBoards

Continue reading “Kapow! replacing Longboards in downtown West Palm Beach”

The Hukilau updates: High Tide party, rum sponsor rundown, merchandise preview and photos!

Updated June 30
On sale now: The Hukilau 2016 merchandise by Shag, inspired by The Mai-Kai NEW
Photos: First exclusive day-by-day recap
15-year tributes: Tiki Kiliki’s memories | Video: The first 14 years
Official sites: TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram | App

Previous updates:
The East Coast’s longest-running and largest Tiki-themed weekender continues to add special events, merchandise and rum sponsors with less than a month remaining before throngs of retro-loving Tikiphiles descend on Fort Lauderdale. The latest major addition is the The Hukilau’s High Tide, presented by Rhum Barbancourt and taking place during the Friday night festivities at the host Pier 66 hotel.

The Hukilau’s High Tide, sponsored by Rhum Barbancourt

An overlay to the live performances in the waterfront Panorama Ballroom, High Tide is a special event celebrating the high water mark of the weekend and featuring Rhum Barbancourt cocktails by swashbuckling New York City bartender Brian Miller, plus Polynesian small bites from award-winning Atlanta-based celebrity chef Jim Stacy.
Exclusive recipe below: Brian Miller’s Haitian Frolic featuring Rhum Barbancourt
See more below:
* 15 rum sponsors serve up tastings, cocktails
* New merchandise goes on sale (photos)

High Tide takes place from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. during the live performances by an eclectic lineup of bands (Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides, Tikiyaki Orchestra, The Intoxicators) and burlesque/retro entertainers (Angie Pontani, Kitten Deville, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Lila Starlet).

The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* Buy tickets, passes | Book hotel | Schedule
* Previous Atomic Grog coverage: Tiki Road Trip announced, Pier 66 and Mai-Kai sold out

Brian Miller of Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City will be mixing special Rhum Barbancourt cocktails during The Hukilau's High Tide on Friday, June 10.
Brian Miller of Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City will be mixing special Rhum Barbancourt cocktails during The Hukilau’s High Tide on Friday, June 10.

Existing Friday night passholders can buy wristbands for $35 giving them access to the special Barbancourt cocktails during High Tide (up to eight per person). Cocktails are also available for $10 each. Non-passholders can buy a Friday day pass that also includes the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party (noon-4 p.m.) and Tiki Treasures Bazaar (10 a.m.-8 p.m.) for $129. A Friday night pass is $99 (or $69 without drink bracelet). Stacy’s Polynesian tidbits will be sold à la carte. Hotel bars will also be selling cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.

Miller, an accomplished Big Apple bartender and brand ambassador, is host of the city’s most celebrated Tiki cocktail event, Tiki Mondays With Miller. He’ll be bringing many of his motley crew with him to The Hukilau to help him with the Rhum Barbancourt pop-up bar, including Ryan “Corporal Captain” Liloia, Jelani “Swabble” Johnson, and Garret “Dr. Funk” Richard. They’ll be pouring four different Tiki cocktails featuring Rhum Barbancourt, a venerable spirit from Haiti that will have a high profile at this year’s event. Miller issued a missive from his pirate’s lair promising “an assortment of temptresses, rogues and scoundrels.” His captain’s orders: “Tortuga ain’t got nuthin on Tiki Mondays With Miller at The Hukilau.”

Miller and an all-star lineup of world-class bartenders (Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, St. John Frizell) will also be mixing with Rhum Barbancourt at the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover on Thursday night. You can sample the distinctive rhums and see them mixed in cocktails Thursday through Saturday outside the Tiki Treasures Bazaar in the brand’s special tasting booth.

Jim Stacy's TV credits include host of 'Offbeat Eats' on the Cooking Channel and 'Deep Fried Masters' on Discovery Channel's Destination America.
Jim Stacy’s TV credits include host of ‘Offbeat Eats’ on the Cooking Channel and ‘Deep Fried Masters’ on Discovery Channel’s Destination America.

As a special treat, Friday’s High Tide event will also include The Hukilau debut of larger-than-life chef Jim Stacy, best known for his appearances on Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Stacy is a renaissance man whose talents include butcher, bartender, chef, touring rock ‘n’ roller and tattoo artist. He cut his teeth in the Atlanta bar and restaurant scene at the Star Community Bar and Starlight Drive-In Theatre, then became a local and national TV food authority. He recently sold the Atlanta-area Pallookaville Fine Foods in preparation for a new concept sure to please fans of traditional Polynesian-themed food and cocktails.

Stacy will soon be opening MoaKai, a full-blown Polynesian/island restaurant spotlighting “classic resort dishes made with Southern soul food ingredients.” Expect the themed Atlanta eatery to include such creative, taste-tempting dishes as lau-lau with collards instead of taro leaves, and poi made with sweet potato. “We’ll be doing a traditional Hawaiian barrel smoked chicken as our specialty with additional emphasis on vegetarian and vegan menu items,” Stacy said in a recent interview. At the High Tide party, Stacy will be cooking up “Polynesian delights featuring Rhum Barbancourt expressions with a soul food twist,” according to the event announcement.

Of course, Stacy’s restaurant will include a Tiki bar, The Barnacled Mermaid. Guests can sample Stacy’s fresh take on tropical mixology on Friday afternoon during the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party along with other top bars from across the country: Porco Lounge & Tiki Room (Cleveland), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), Aku Aku (Orlando), and The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley (New York City). Stacy is a longtime supporter of The Hukilau who attended last year’s event (see photos). But this will be his first year as a participant. He also featured The Mai-Kai on an episode of Offbeat Eats in January 2015.

Some events sold out, but plenty remain on full weekend schedule

The Hukilau 2016

Interest is high in The Hukilau for its 15th anniversary gathering, which will also celebrate the upcoming 60th birthday of The Mai-Kai. The historic Pier 66, another 60-year-old landmark, is sold out of rooms. But event co-founder and organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White quickly lined up an overflow host hotel, the nearby Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina Hotel. See our previous report for all the details and book a room now.

Several smaller and in-demand events have sold out, so it’s recommended you buy you tickets and passes now. Events that are already filled to capacity:

Continue reading “The Hukilau updates: High Tide party, rum sponsor rundown, merchandise preview and photos!”

UPDATE: Mixologists take Tiki cocktails to new artistic heights at South Beach Wine & Food Festival showdown

Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their Judges Choice award. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt.

Updated May 17, 2016

Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)
Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)

A hometown favorite took home the top prize at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26, while an enthusiastic bar team that traveled more than a thousand miles also came away a winner.

The Judges Choice award for best cocktail was awarded to The Broken Shaker of Miami Beach and bartenders Gui Jaroschy and Randy Perez for their crafty Sweet Micky. Hosted by Food Network’s Guy Fieri, the event featured nine of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki bars facing off during a festive event at the oceanside Surfcomber hotel on South Beach.

Some 700 guests enjoyed the many excellent cocktails and cast their own votes for the People’s Choice award, which went to Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room. The entire Porco staff of 18 people made the trip to SoBeWFF, cheering their mixologists to victory with their Alchemy Hour cocktail. The event also featured many top chefs from South Florida serving up Tiki-themed small bites in the spirit of the festival, one of the largest of its kind in the country.

The Atomic Grog’s ratings: Reviews and ingredients for all the competing cocktails
Cocktail recipes: The Broken Shaker’s Sweet Micky | The Mai-Kai’s Pupule Punch
Exclusive photo gallery: Browse images from The Atomic Grog
More below: See the full event preview and participant bios

Bartenders from Cleveland's Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People's Choice award.
Bartenders from Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People’s Choice award. (Atomic Grog photo)

Also competing were mixologists from Fort Defiance (Brooklyn), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), The Golden Tiki (Las Vegas), Kreepy Tiki Lounge (Fort Lauderdale), The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Slowly Shirley (New York City). He wasn’t part of the competition, but defending Judge’s Choice champ Brian Miller of “Tiki Mondays With Miller” in New York City was a welcome addition, mixing up a special cocktail for sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. All of the night’s drinks included at least one of four expressions of the distinctive rum from Haiti.

Across the board, the cocktails were clearly superior to those at last year’s inaugural event. The rum and other sponsor products greatly contributed to this (absinthe and sherry were other popular ingredients), but the participants also showed creativity and a knowledge of their craft that led to some high-quality creations (check out the reviews and recipes below). But this was Tiki, after all, so fun was the name of the game. The bar stations ranged from whimsical tropical oases to an Egyptian tomb, manned by mad scientists and voodoo priestesses (see photos).

The team of Perez and Jaroschy was considered a favorite after winning the People’s Choice award for The Broken Shaker at last year’s inaugural showdown, and also finishing second on the judges’ ballots. (There was no second place announced this year.) The acclaimed craft cocktail bar – located a mile north of the Surfcomber in the Freehand Miami hotel – is a critical darling, both locally and nationally. The most recent feather in its cap was being named best bar in Florida by Business Insider.

Bartender Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley in New York City prepares his Manta Ray cocktail with assistance from Sean Saunders.
Bartender Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley in New York City prepares his Manta Ray cocktail with assistance from Sean Saunders. (Atomic Grog photo)

Fieri mentioned The Broken Shaker’s acclaim in announcing the Judge’s Choice award during the climax of the event. Jaroschy and Perez were all smiles, graciously accepting the title and a bevy of prizes, including a Mavenhal bar bag and Rhum Barbancourt aging barrel. They proudly showed off the most coveted prize, a rare (unreleasd in the U.S.) bottle of Cuvée 150 Ans rum, released in a very limited bottling in 2012 to commemorate Rhum Barbancourt’s 150th birthday. The only question remaining: Will the popular bartenders be gracious enough to share their booty with their loyal followers?

But even The Broken Shaker’s fans couldn’t top the flood of fan adulation heaped upon Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, who moments earlier enthusiastically accepted the People’s Choice award from Fieri, along with all the same prizes. The Porco crew, led by general manager and head bartender Shannon Smith, posed for photos while basking in the victory. Those who weren’t working behind the bar became an enthusiastic cheering section surrounding the Porco station, urging guests to cast their ballots with tokens given out upon arrival.

Continue reading “UPDATE: Mixologists take Tiki cocktails to new artistic heights at South Beach Wine & Food Festival showdown”

The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more

The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis
The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis.
It was a year of both sadness and elation, when some legends were lost but the world of Tiki made great strides. As we mourned the deaths in 2015 of musicians Robert Drasnin and Ernie Menehune, plus artist The Pizz, we were bolstered by the fact that a new generation of artists and musicians are taking inspiration from the past and creating an incredible new body of work. And Tiki culture was embraced and celebrated across the country at sold-out events and a whole new wave of bars. After our first year of The Week in Tiki updates, The Atomic Grog takes a look back at the memorable news of 2015.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook | RSS feed | See all the past weeks | Archive
See below: Month-by-month recap | The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards

The year 2015 marked a turning point in the 21st century Tiki scene. If there was ever a time to declare that the “revival” had become a full-blown renaissance, it’s now. It’s been building for some years now, but last year seemed to be the tipping point. Just look at the evidence in our favorite topics: Events, music, art, cocktails, and culture. Then, take a chronological look back at the biggest news of the year, month by month. Finally, find out our selections for the top artist, band, bar, website, rum, and cocktail of 2015 in our first Year in Tiki Awards.

****************** EVENTS ******************

The Alika Lyman Group's performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)
The Alika Lyman Group’s performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Long gone are the days when you spent the entire year planning for Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau. Smaller events, such as Tiki Kon and Tiki Caliente, have risen up to challenge the trend-setters. And the Fraternal Order Of Moai has filled a gap by providing a plethora of regional events from Ohana: Luau At The Lake to the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, and more. All of the above were wildly successful in 2015, with many events selling out in advance.

The top dogs continue to raise their game: The Hukilau moved to the iconic Pier 66 Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach and attracted some of Tiki’s biggest names, most notably the gathering of four of the world’s top bartenders for the Tiki Tower Takeover. Tiki Oasis keeps getting bigger, breaking its own attendance records, while newer events such as Mod-Palm Springs and Ohana: Luau by the Sea have carved out their own niche. Rum and cocktail events – such as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Tales of the Cocktail – have refined their successful formulas, spreading their message to an even wider audience.

Continue reading “The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more”

The Week in Tiki (Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 2015): The Mai-Kai anniversary party, The Hukilau updates, Jungle Cruise restaurant at Disney World, Polynesian Resort lights torches, plus more!

The Week in Tiki There’s a lot of news to report in this belated but special holiday edition of The Week in Tiki. We have details on The Mai-Kai’s 59th birthday party on Dec. 28, plus updates on The Hukilau in June. There’s a new restaurant in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland that celebrates the Jungle Cruise, plus more news from the Polynesian Village Resort. Holiday features include event recaps and photos, plus last-minute gift ideas and a special Christmas Day broadcast. Quick sips include 50 days of Fwaygo Rum recipes, a special Aloha shirt from Shag, news on FOM fundraising efforts, plus updates on Tiki bars across North America. Regular features spotlight the master ceramists known as Munktiki; instrumental legends The Ventures; new Las Vegas bar The Golden Tiki; and Professor Cocktail’s website. The Rum of the Week, Seven Tiki spiced, is featured in two seasonal cocktails: the Devil’s Island Daiquiri from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Hapa Holidaze from The Atomic Grog.
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The Mai-Kai says mahalo with 59% off at Dec. 28 anniversary party

The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is giving back to its loyal fans and followers on Dec. 28 during its annual Mahalopreciation Party. In honor the historic Polynesian restaurant’s 59th anniversary, all guests in The Molokai bar will get 59 percent off most drinks and appetizers starting at 5 p.m. and running all night.

A postcard from the 1960s. The large Tiki still stands on the northeast edge of the property.
A postcard from the 1960s. The large Tiki still stands on the northeast edge of the property.

Voted the best Tiki bar in the world by Critiki.com users and recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, The Mai-Kai is considered to be the mecca of mid-century Tiki culture. It opened on Dec. 28, 1956, on sleepy Federal Highway and has survived decades of changing tastes by relying on its status as one of South Florida’s top tourist dining destinations and its legendary Polynesian Islander Review, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.

Just as crucial to The Mai-Kai’s success is the amazing decor, much if it brought back from the South Seas by original owners Bob and Jack Thornton, and more than 50 tropical drinks that are hailed by some of the world’s top cocktail enthusiasts. The secret recipes are descendants of some of the original drinks created by Tiki cocktail pioneer Don the Beachcomber in the 1930s. Bob Thornton took over the restaurant in 1970, and his family still runs The Mai-Kai to his exacting standards.

Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)
Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)

The Dec. 28 party will include live music by guitarist-vocalist Rose-Marie starting at 6 p.m. The bar typically stays open until midnight, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy classic cocktails such as the Zombie and Barrel O’ Rum while partaking in the many pu-pus (Polynesian Chicken, Javanesian Beef, Spinach Salad) and new sushi rolls. You can easily make a meal out of the “small plates” in The Molokai.

In related news, longtime Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner has announced details on his upcoming book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of The Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Glazner, who has been passionately researching The Mai-Kai for more than 13 years, has channeled all his efforts into this 176-page, hard cover book due out early next year. It includes rare photos and images, plus first-hand stories that document the heyday of the mid-century Tiki era. It tells the story of The Mai-Kai’s creation, and its reign as the playground of celebrities and playboys in the 1950s and ’60s. [See previous Atomic Grog coverage] Swanky reports that the book should be available for pre-order soon. For updates, follow the links above or subscribe to his email list.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 2015): The Mai-Kai anniversary party, The Hukilau updates, Jungle Cruise restaurant at Disney World, Polynesian Resort lights torches, plus more!”

The Week in Tiki (Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2015): Lowbrow art icon The Pizz dies, September event previews and news, Tiki returns to South Beach fest

The Week in TikiSad news this week with the passing of artist Stephen Pizzurro, who will forever be known as The Pizz. The September calendar is chock full of Tiki events, from Chicago to Indianapolis to California. There’s also news on Tiki Kon, Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise and next year’s Tiki cocktail showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Our regular features spotlight artist of the week The Pizz; Milwaukee surf band The Revomatics; vintage Chicago-area restaurant Chef Shangri-La; and online magazine Punch. The rum of the week, Plantation 3 Stars, is featured in two cocktails: Blue Ricardo and the Allspicy Daiquiri.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

The Pizz, legend of lowbrow, dies at 57

Stephen Pizzurro, better known in the lowbrow art world as El Pizzo and The Pizz, has died at age 57. The Pizz is considered to be one of the pioneering creators of “cartoon expressionism,” and his influence is felt by an entire generation of artists.

The Pizz

The Pizz was part of a new breed of artists who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, when cheeky hot-rod culture seeped out of the underground and into mainstream consciousness. Like many others, he was influenced by a wide array of counterculture styles (including Tiki, surf, beatnik, skateboarding, tattoo, underground comics, and Kustom Kulture). But only the most talented bridged the gap into fine art, and The Pizz was one of those rare talents.

His hardcore yet colorful and exotic work was embraced by galleries such as La Luz De Jesus in Los Angeles, where he was a fixture for more than 20 years. Yet The Pizz always kept himself grounded in the lowbrow underbelly, focusing his artwork on cartoonish depictions of hot rods, pinups, and all manner of ne’er-do-wells. He once described his work as “a tumultuous adrenaline-soaked hellride of a lifetime leaving a mountain of debris and unspeakable carnage in its wake. Yeah, it’ll scar your fragile psyche for miles into the hereafter.” The Pizz died Aug. 30 in the same hard and impetuous manner that he portrayed characters on canvas. Instead of pen and brush, his chosen tool was a .357 revolver.

The Pizz

The Pizz grew up in Orange County, Calif., learning to draw at an early age. A disciple of legendary cartoonist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, he realized his dream by working for Roth’s Rat Fink comics. He graduated to punk-rock album covers, then became a key player in the lowbrow art movement. The Pizz was a popular and admired artist, showing his work at galleries around the country. He also appeared on television shows and in film documentaries, including Flake and Flames (2013) and The Treasures of Long Gone John (2006). Friends have created a GoFundMe page to aid his wife, Yuki. See more on The Pizz below in our Artist of the Week feature.
* A farewell to The Pizz, Long Beach’s ‘zeitgeistically poignant’ artist (Press-Telegram)
* ‘Lord of Lowbrow,’ artist The Pizz, 1958-2015 (Hi-Fructose)
* Video: Interview with The Pizz at Don the Beachcomber (YouTube)

EVENTS AT A GLANCE: Denver Modernism Show, California Rum Fest, Fong Fest, WMNF Birthday Luau, International Tiki Market Place, Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Dapper Day Expo

Here’s a rundown of some of the events on a busy September calendar:

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2015): Lowbrow art icon The Pizz dies, September event previews and news, Tiki returns to South Beach fest”

Emeril brings Tiki to South Beach during Wine & Food Festival cocktail showdown

Updated May 19, 2015
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival was hit by a Tiki tornado on Friday night, when more than 700 people packed the Shore Club’s poolside patios for a whirlwind event hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Seven of the country’s top mixologists competed in “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown,” bringing a true taste of the tropics to South Beach.

Tiki roundup: Reviews and ingredients for all the competing cocktails
Bonus cocktail recipe: The Mai-Kai’s Molokai Swizzle
Photo gallery: Exclusive images from The Atomic Grog
More below: See the full event preview and participant bios

Brian Miller and his Pain Reliever.
Brian Miller and his Pain Reliever.

When the smoke cleared, the winner of the Judge’s Choice award (and a $5,000 check) was veteran New York City bartender Brian Miller, host of the popular Tiki Mondays With Miller events. The People’s Choice award went to a local favorite, Miami Beach craft cocktail bar The Broken Shaker. Bartenders Randy Perez and Gui Jaroschy accepted the $2,000 prize after spending several hours feverishly mixing drinks for the South Beach masses. Other bars and mixologists competing were The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Sunny’s (Miami).

Lagasse was joined by an esteemed crew of VIP judges: Author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), bar owner and rum expert Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), plus rum ambassador and consultant Lynnette Marrero (Diageo; DrinksAt6, New York City). There were also food stations scattered around the Shore Club’s two pools featuring notable chefs from South Florida and beyond.

After winning his top prize and posing for photos, Miller said he hoped to use the money to help fund an upcoming move to Los Angeles. Miller said he wanted to “take a seat at the big boys’ table” and “hopefully pick up where Don (the Beachcomber) left off.” However, less than a month later, Miller said via e-mail that he scuttled those plans and will be staying in New York.

Continue reading “Emeril brings Tiki to South Beach during Wine & Food Festival cocktail showdown”

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16, 2015): Tiki cocktail showdown on South Beach, ukuleles and lost cocktails at the historic Mai-Kai

The Week in TikiSouth Florida appears to be the nexus of the Tiki universe this week. On Friday, Emeril Lagasse hosts a who’s who of Tiki bartenders and VIPs for “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The Mai Kai hosts special musical guests on Friday and an evening of “lost cocktails” on Saturday. This all comes on the heels of last week’s news that the Fort Lauderdale landmark has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Our weekly features spotlight Tiki Tiablo, Critiki, Koop Kooper’s Cocktail Nation, and Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas. The rum of the week, Tanduay from the Philippines, is featured in the Shark’s Tooth cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (Feb. 16-22, 2015)

Emeril Lagasse brings the ‘Art of Tiki’ to South Beach

Emeril Lagasse
Emeril Lagasse is hosting “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown,” featuring mixologists from across the country, this Friday during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Tiki cocktails are the centerpiece of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s signature event at this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, a sure sign that tropical drinks have gained some long-overdue respect. The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown hits the Shore Club on Friday night (Feb. 20) from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for an evening of “Polynesian flare with Tiki-inspired cocktails from across the country.”

The sold-out event pays tribute to the “subculture enjoying a resurgence in popularity with bartenders across America.” Presented by Captain Morgan Rum and hosted by Lagasse, the showdown will feature eight cocktails from some of the most notable Tiki mixlogists, bars and restaurants from near and far: Lost Lake (Chicago), The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Tiki Mondays With Miller (New York City), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach), and Spike Mendelsohn’s upcoming Miami restaurant.

Judging the competition will be Lagasse, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), and Lynnette Marrero (Diageo rum ambassador; DrinksAt6, New York City). Guests will also have a vote in determining the winner. To supplement those tasty cocktails, there will be tropical treats served by some top chefs and restaurants: the Shore Club, The Rum Line, Ian’s Tropical Grill (Stuart, Fla.), Coyo Taco (Miami), That Little Beet (New York City), and Red Ginger (Miami).

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16, 2015): Tiki cocktail showdown on South Beach, ukuleles and lost cocktails at the historic Mai-Kai”

Epcot Food and Wine Festival continues to deliver delicious bites, a bounty of booze

As the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival approaches its 20th anniversary next year, it shows no signs of getting stale or losing momentum. Foodies flock to Disney World every fall for this massive event, which was expanded this year to 53 days. We hit dozens of food and beverage booths during a recent two-day visit, our first since 2012. If you’re visiting during the fest’s last few days, or want to file away some tips for next year, check out the reviews below.

Hurricane Hayward samples the flavors of Brazil at the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Hurricane Hayward samples the flavors of Brazil at the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival. (Atomic Grog photo)

2014 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Through Nov. 10 at Disney World, Buena Vista, Fla. Access to the festival marketplace is free with theme park admission; food, seminars, and special events are priced individually. More at EpcotFoodFestival.com.

The festival is believed to be the largest food and wine event of its kind in the world, and its size and scope can be overwhelming. More than 250 food-and-beverage menu items are available (priced from $3 to $8) at 36 booths and kiosks encircling Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon amid the 11 permanent international pavilions. It’s a great atmosphere for sampling the food and drinks from more than 25 international regions, with many nearby diversions such as acrobats, musicians, and Disney’s famous attractions.

There are also nearly 400 culinary, wine and beverage demonstrations featuring hundreds of the industry’s top experts; concerts starring a wide array of retro rock, soul and blues bands; cultural exhibits; and special events such as food and wine pairings, VIP parties, special breakfasts and lunches with celebrity chefs, and much more. Many fans spend multiple days or weeks exploring everything the festival has to offer, making it the centerpiece of their vacation every year. It’s also a popular destination for central Florida locals, especially on weekends.

Tony Abou-Ganim (left) and Dale DeGroff present a mixology seminar at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World on Sunday, Nov. 2
Tony Abou-Ganim (left) and Dale DeGroff present a mixology seminar at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World on Sunday, Nov. 2. (Atomic Grog photo)

The seminars, which are reasonably priced and sometimes free, cover a wide range of topics, from obscure wines to culinary demos featuring Food Network stars such as Robert Irvine. My personal interest lies in cocktails, so when planning our trip I went straight for the list of mixology seminars. I was excited to pick up tickets to a demonstration featuring one of the biggest names in modern mixology, Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff. When we arrived, we found out that he was sharing the stage with another pioneer of the modern cocktail revival, Tony Abou-Ganim.

Continue reading “Epcot Food and Wine Festival continues to deliver delicious bites, a bounty of booze”