Beachbum Berry’s ‘Potions of the Caribbean’ cruises back to the birthplace of Tiki cocktails

Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them (Cocktail Kingdom), hardcover, 317 pages, $34.95.
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Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them

Like a fine barrel-aged rum, the new magnum opus from Tiki cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry benefited from years maturation, developing a rich depth of flavor and nuance. When Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them is finally uncorked next week, it will undoubtedly be savored to the last drop by a growing legion of fans.

It could also quite possibly be Berry’s last call as a self-proclaimed “layabout” author. While the carefree image will likely remain, Berry’s other much-anticipated project could soon make him a much busier Bum. The former screenwriter, whose six books since 1998 have sown the seeds of the Tiki cocktail revival, will be embarking on a new career next year when he opens his own bar in New Orleans.

These plans are accelerating, Berry confirmed in an e-mail this week, and he hopes to sign a lease at an undisclosed location by the end of the year. That would put him on track to open his Tiki bar (in partnership with Mrs. Bum, aka Annene Kaye) as early as spring 2014. They already have a designer, architect and key staff lined up. In the meantime, Berry’s solo career as a literary figure will reach its peak with the release of Potions of the Caribbean.

Berry’s sixth book on tropical drinks and the fascinating stories behind them, Potions of the Caribbean could be considered the sequel to Sippin’ Safari (2007), both in style and substance. Berry’s first three books were mainly spiral-bound drink recipe compilations, and his previous (Beachbum Berry Remixed, 2010) was a redesigned and expanded re-release of the first two.

Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them

But with Sippin’ Safari, Berry used his seemingly endless supply of vintage recipes, photos and artwork to embellish the stories of the bartenders, restaurant owners and other pioneers of the early days of Tiki. The result was a wonderful read – a beautifully illustrated cocktail guide, history book and retro culture travelogue all rolled into one. The new book follows this same format, with the stories taking a starring role and the recipes enhancing the narrative.

The rich history of the Caribbean and its role in the Tiki cocktail movement was actually supposed to be an additional chapter of Sippin’ Safari. A subtitle near the end of the book’s final chapter, which tells the story of Mariano Lucidine and The Mai-Kai, introduces the Potions of the Caribbean name while very briefly mentioning the birthplace of rum and its role in Tiki cocktails.

Berry explained his dilemma on the Oct. 29 episode of The Quiet Village podcast. “I was trying to cram all this stuff into one chapter,” he told host Digitiki. “After we talked about The Mai-Kai, I was just going to go down to Cuba and Jamaica. But I realized there was just way, way too much stuff to do that, so it became its own book, five years later.”

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The Hukilau presents the perfect way to serve up Tiki history in a glass

The Hukilau, the annual Polynesian Pop festival that invades Fort Lauderdale every June, is known for its authentic and eye-catching event merchandise, particularly the mugs and glassware. But when the event is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up some cool retro-themed goodies.
See below: Bonus recipe and winning photo from The Hukilau’s glassware photo contest

Tiki History Glasses (pink/orange) from The Hukilau

Tiki History Glasses (pink/orange) from The Hukilau.

The latest in a series of double old-fashioned glasses featuring historic Tiki locations has just arrived and has begun shipping to those who pre-ordered. They’re available in sets of two ($22) or four ($42).
* Click here to order yours today on Web site

This new limited-edition glassware features logos and artwork from these historic Tiki-themed hotels, bars and restaurants: The Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, Luau 400 in New York City, The Mainlander in St. Louis, Johnny’s Tiki Hut in Salt Lake City, and the Inter-Island Resorts in Hawaii. The Hukilau’s co-founder and producer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, has once again done a great job along with Stacie Herndon of Heelgrinder Design in assembling some classic images for the latest in a series of vintage glasses. [See more photos on the Facebook page.]

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PBS stations say aloha this week to long-awaited documentary on Tiki culture

We got a sneak peek at The Hukilau in April 2012, then an exclusive premiere at The Mai-Kai during the 2013 edition of the Tiki event in Fort Lauderdale. Now, the rest of the world will be exposed to Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, a documentary that traces the history of America’s love affair with exotic style and tells a fascinating story of pop culture.

Plastic Paradise: A Swingin' Trip Through America's Polynesian Obsession

Filmed at Tiki events, bars and restaurants across the country and produced by Miami’s award-winning commercial and documentary filmmakers Common Machine, Plastic Paradise has finally been released to PBS affiliates. It was commissioned by Miami affiliate WLRN, where it premieres this Wednesday (Sept. 18) at 8 p.m. It will air again on WLRN on Thursday at 2 a.m., Friday at 7 p.m., and Monday (Sept. 23) at 11 p.m. It will also be carried by WXEL in Palm Beach County beginning on Saturday (Sept. 21) at 8 p.m. WLRN’s Plastic Paradise page also lists air times on PBS stations in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois and Washington. It also encourages you to call your local PBS station if you want to see the documentary in your area.

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A Tiki Top 10: Photos and memories from The Hukilau 2013

The Hukilau was held June 6-9, 2013, at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (aka the Yankee Clipper) and The Mai-Kai restaurant.
See below: Gallery of 40 photos

The Intoxicators from Tallahassee unleash a surf-rock fury in The Molokai lounge during Thursday's late-night bash.

The Intoxicators from Tallahassee unleash a surf-rock fury in The Molokai lounge during Thursday’s late-night bash. (Atomic Grog photo; click for gallery)

More than 800 devotees of Polynesian Pop culture and classic mid-century style assembled for the 12th annual gathering of the tribe known as The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. Despite inclement weather that forced some venue and schedule changes, the colorfully-clad attendees didn’t seem to mind, flocking to a wide assortment of events showcasing eclectic music, rum-filled cocktails, expert speakers and lots more.

Below are the highlights of The Atomic Grog’s whirlwind weekend, which began early in the week with organizational efforts and didn’t end until Sunday’s post-event party at The Mai-Kai. I missed one band and a couple symposiums, but I tried to hit all the major happenings and photographed the revelry for posterity (see photos below). For extensive photo coverage, click on the Go11Media link below the gallery.

The following is highly subjective but should give a fair snapshot of the wide array of festivities, along with a few tasty cocktail recipes. I apologize to any bands and participants I may have neglected to mention, but all did a great job. It was tough narrowing this list down to 10. In roughly chronological order …

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Take 5: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Tiki cocktail author and historian extraordinaire

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is extremely passionate about Tiki, tropical drinks and The Mai-Kai. In April, we caught up with the author of such essential Tiki cocktail bibles as Grog Log and Sippin’ Safari in his natural habitat (The Mai-Kai gardens) and posed the following questions.

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (right) and Hurricane Hayward enjoy their classic Mutiny cocktails in The Mai-Kai gardens

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (right) and Hurricane Hayward enjoy their classic Mutiny cocktails in The Mai-Kai gardens. (Photo by Susan Hayward, April 2013)

Interview by Jim “Hurricane” Hayward

1. If you could transport yourself for one night back in time to any Tiki bar or restaurant, what would it be and when?

That would be Don the Beachcomber’s in 1934: Ground zero, the big bang, the creation of the Tiki bar as we know it – by Donn, right after Prohibition. I would have loved to have seen what that was like.

2. If Food Network or the Travel Channel came to you and said, “Pitch us a show about tropical drinks,” what would you suggest?

I would suggest that they just take their suggestion and shove it. Because none of those channels, none of those hosts, none of that garbage is about what these places are about. What these places are about is “aloha,” it’s about the spirit of true hospitality, of welcoming, of making you feel important, of making you feel good. All of these TV channels traffic in all of this competition bullshit, where restaurants are not places to go to relax and unwind. Where you get stressed out and compete against your fellow chefs or bartenders. I hate all that. That’s the antithesis of the true spirit of hospitality, of genteel camaraderie, of going to a place to exchange confidences and emotions, and happy experiences with people that you either know or you’ve met at these places. It’s not about competition, it’s not about who’s the best, it’s not about some guy with spiked hair telling you about the awesomeness of the food. That’s just artificial garbage. … All these people are self-appointed experts. They don’t know anything about anything.

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