Every February, Tiki cocktail bloggers gather for Tiki Month at The Pegu Blog to share cocktail recipes, tips, tricks and musings about the state of tropical mixology. Why February? It has something to do with an escape from Mother Nature’s frigid wrath, but I don’t really grasp that concept having been marooned in Fort Liquordale for more years than I can remember.
Not a bad place to be marooned, however, especially when The Hukilau rolls into town every year. There’s also a little restaurant called The Mai-Kai. Both serve as a beacon, summoning the greatest minds in the Tiki world to an annual bacchanalia of rum and revelry.
The single event that perhaps reached the pinnacle of rum and revelry was the appearance of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s “Rum Rat Pack” at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in June 2011, which brings us back to Tiki Month. This year’s blog contributions have been entertaining and informative, covering such esoteric topics as homemade ginger syrup, garnishes made from ground coconut and orange peel, and more drink recipes than you can shake a shaker at. There was also something about geeks who re-create recipes they’ve never actually tasted, if you can imagine that.
Lost in all these intricate tropical concoctions is a common conundrum: How do you handle a thirsty mob who can’t wait for you to carefully fillet an orange or toast coconut? The Rum Rat Pack’s Rumposium demonstrated how to solve that problem with style and flair. In one fell swoop, they whipped up a Tiki punch for 200, featuring 240 ounces of six different rums, a jaw-dropping bowl filled with 630 ounces of deliciousness.
It seems like every year The Hukilau comes up with a new twist on the concept of a Tiki-themed weekend party. You never know what great band or special event will surprise and entertain you. With this year’s event fast approaching – it kicks off Thursday and runs through Sunday – now’s the time to scour the schedule for cool and unique happenings.
Last year, one of the highlights took place on Thursday night, June 9, during the kickoff party at the Bahia Cabana Beach Resort. Five tropical drink mixologists faced off in the Master Mixologist Rum Barrel Challenge to see who could impress a who’s who of rum experts with their own take on the classic cocktail made famous at The Mai-Kai.
The contest was held live on stage following the night’s musical performances and certainly lived up to its billing. It was hosted by tropical drink author and guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and judged by his hand-picked Rum Rat Pack, four of the most noted experts in the field. The five contestants were given 7 minutes each to prepare their creations for the judges. What ensued was a rum-soaked flurry of mixology and creativity that impressed the judges and entertained hundreds in attendance.
Click here or on the images above and below to take a look back at this action-packed contest. Then click on the play button and be sure to turn up your speakers!
The creators of a new documentary on the rise, fall and resurgence of Tiki culture have announced that artist Kevin Kidney has been hired as art director.
Much of Plastic Paradise was filmed last June at The Hukilau and the historic Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, and there are plans to show a sneak preview during next year’s Polynesian Pop extravaganza, scheduled for April 19-22. Plastic Paradise is then slated to hit the festival circuit, followed by airings nationwide on PBS affiliates.
The documentary, an hour-long chronicle of Tiki culture, was commissioned by PBS. The filmmakers, known as Common Machine, had previously provided PBS with an award-winning film about Cuban artists living in Miami, Hecho a Mano: Creativity in Exile.
* Click here to see a preview of Plastic Paradise
The 10th anniversary of The Hukilau, the annual gathering of Tikiphiles from around the globe that happens every June in Fort Lauderdale, is still fresh in our memory. But if we need a reminder, we just look to our mug and glassware collection, where Hukilau collectibles are a essential.
If you didn’t get a chance to hit the merchandise booth in June, or if you were unlucky enough to miss The Hukilau entirely, it’s not too late to pick up a wide assortment of goodies from the official Hukilau online store:
Tiki For 2, the commemorative mug set sculpted by Kevin Kidney and produced by Munktiki. These 4-ounce mugs (photo at right) feature the familiar “Huki” design by Kevin, similar to the full-size 2009 mug. One features a brown exterior glaze with green interior glaze, while the other features a vanilla exterior glaze with a orange sherbet interior glaze.
Go11Media, the official photographer of The Hukilau, has just completed updating its massive archive of photos from the 2011 Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale. Bill Dillard and company did their usual great job of capturing the spirit of the event. If you’ve got a spare hour or two, mix a cocktail and put one some exotica tunes while you browse these colorful galleries.
One of the last batch that was posted earlier this week was all the action from the Master Mixologist Rum Barrel Challenge, which was organized by The Atomic Grog on Thursday night, June 9, at the Bahia Cabana Beach Resort. We’ve covered the event extensively and posted our own photos, but the Go11Media shots are too good to pass up. We’ve taken the liberty of picking our favorites and posting them below.
To set the scene: The mixologists took the stage following live surf and exotica music by The Intoxicators and Tikiyaki Orchestra as part of the poolside kickoff party. They came armed with their own interpretations of the classic Barrel O’ Rum, one of the signature tropical drinks at the legendary Mai-Kai. The event was hosted by tropical drink author and historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and judged by his hand-picked Rum Rat Pack, four of the most noted experts in the field. The five contestants were given 7 minutes each to prepare their creations for the judges.
If you missed the Tiki fine art show at The Hukilau last month, you have another chance to check out some great work by artists such as Kevin Kidney, Jody Daily, Shag, Skot Olsen and many more at the Harold Golen Gallery, Miami’s premiere pop surrealist art gallery.
The gallery’s annual Fine Art Tiki show has its grand opening this Saturday as part of the monthly Second Saturday Art Walk in the Wynwood Art District of Miami. The area features more than 70 galleries, museums and collections. Many of them host parties and special events during the monthly art walk.
There’s a lot to like about the The Hukilau, the gathering of the worldwide Tiki community that takes place every June in Fort Lauderdale: The cool art and collectibles, the cocktails and camaraderie, the history and majesty of The Mai-Kai restaurant.
One overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of the four-day event, however, is the live music provided by bands who travel from around the country to perform for the brightly-attired masses at a variety of venues. This year’s event was no exception. The Intoxicators from Tallahassee, Tikiyaki Orchestra from Southern California, The Exotics from Milwaukee, Grinder Nova from Atlanta, The Fisherman from New York City and The Disasternauts from Cocoa Beach all brought their own distinctive retro sound and style to the event.
Following are some video highlights and our recollections of the potent musical Mai Tai that we call The Hukilau …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.