The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Atomic Grog presents new class and symposium at The Hukilau 2019

Manager Bob Van Dorpe (left) and head bartender Mariano Licudine (right) show off The Mai-Kai’s rum collection in 1962. Many of those rare and original bottles can still be found in the secluded back service bar (photo from 2017 at right), unseen by guests.

Updated July 6

NEW: Hear The Rums of The Mai-Kai symposium on the Inside the Desert Oasis Room podcast
The Rums of The Mai-Kai, presented by The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2019
Mahalo to Adrian Eustaquio and Inside the Desert Oasis Room for documenting the June 9 presentation featuring Hurricane Hayward and Matt Pietrek of Cocktail Wonk live on stage at The Mai-Kai during the closing festivities of The Hukilau 2019.
Click here to listen now or subscribe on iTunes and other podcast platforms

Full recap coming soon!
NEW: Get detailed reports and photos on Tiki Central
The Atomic Grog presents new class and symposium at The Hukilau
COMING SOON: Exclusive news on a new replacement for Kohala Bay rum at The Mai-Kai, plus more!
More on the rums of The Mai-Kai
NEW: See exclusive info and photos on Tiki Central

The Mai-Kai's original mixologist, Mariano Licudine (right), with his rum collection in 1962. Many of those rare and original bottles can still be found in the secluded back service bar (photo from 2017 at right), unseen by guests. At The Hukilau 2019, we'll take a peek behind the scenes
Manager Bob Van Dorpe (left) and head bartender Mariano Licudine (right) show off The Mai-Kai’s rum collection in 1962. Many of those rare and original bottles can still be found in the secluded back service bar (photo from 2017 at right), unseen by guests. At The Hukilau 2019, we’ll take a peek behind the scenes.

Event preview:

Established in 1956, The Mai-Kai is a national historic landmark with many iconic features that guests see every time they visit, from the Polynesian Islander Revue, to the distinctive design and decor, to the gracious staff.

But there’s one key element to the experience that you rarely ever see, but almost always taste: The rums of The Mai-Kai. Using tropical drink recipes that can be traced directly back to Don the Beachcomber’s 1930s-era classics, the behind-the-scenes bartenders follow generations-old methods of mixing rum cocktails.

The Rums of The Mai-Kai, presented by The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2019
Click here for tickets and more info on The Hukilau 2019

Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog will take guests of The Hukilau 2019 on an virtual journey to the Caribbean to learn about the key rums and styles that have dominated The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed cocktails for more than 60 years. This includes an intimate class for bartenders and enthusiasts at the Pier Sixty-Six hotel, and an interactive symposium on stage at the Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale.

Here are the details on both events:

The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Classic Tiki Template
Saturday, June 8, at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina
Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy class in the Commodore Room, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Stephen Remsberg is famous for his private collection of thousands of bottles of rum. (Image by Annene Kaye)
Stephen Remsberg is famous for his private collection of thousands of bottles of rum. (Image by Annene Kaye)

Don the Beachcomber’s groundbreaking use of multiple rums in a single cocktail is crucial to the style that came to be known as Tiki. Nearly 90 years later, that exact same blending of spirits is still practiced today at The Mai-Kai. Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog will guide hands-on lessons on how the flavors from different Caribbean islands are used in concert to create some of the world’s most famous rum rhapsodies. Put these practices to use to make your home bar sing. Special guest “professor” Stephen Remsberg, famed rum historian and collector, will share his knowledge and a few treats from his collection.

Another special treat: Students will shake up cocktails using sponsor rums and actual Mai-Kai ingredients. The restaurant will provide us with ample quantities of several classic drinks, sans rums, for our mixing pleasure. Also, there will be raffles held throughout the class with an assortment of door prizes, including signed books and barware from Cocktail Kingdom’s Beachbum Berry Collection.

All class members are also invited to The Mai-Kai on Sunday for special events that include rare “lost cocktails” from The Mai-Kai’s 1956 menu, plus reserved seats for an on-stage rum presentation by Hurricane Hayward and Matt Pietrek, aka Cocktail Wonk. Select students will participate in the symposium while a group of others will receive an exclusive, private tour of The Mai-Kai’s back bar and historic rum collection. Free shuttle will run betwen The Hukilau hotels and The Mai-Kai from 11:30 a.m. until around 5 p.m.

BUY TICKETS: Class sizes are limited, so act now before this sells out. Tickets for all Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes cost $49 plus fee, and include a special series of barware (rum sippers, spoons, muddlers, strainers, and a flask) created especially for students by Tiki Diablo. Participants get one item per class, plus the many rum samples, cocktails, and door prizes mentioned above.

The Mai-Kai's vintage rum collection attracts industry VIPs from around the world. Joy Spence, master blender of Appleton Rum, paid a visit in November 2018 and found some rare bottles from Jamaica. Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, tasted a few vintage bottles during a tour after his symposium at The Hukilau 2018 last June. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Mai-Kai’s vintage rum collection attracts industry VIPs from around the world. Joy Spence, master blender of Appleton Rum, paid a visit in November 2018 and found some rare bottles from Jamaica. Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, tasted a few vintage bottles during a tour after his symposium at The Hukilau 2018 last June. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

The Rums of The Mai-Kai: From the Back Bar to Your Glass
Sunday, June 9, at The Mai-Kai
The Mai-Kai Grand Finale, noon to 4 p.m., featuring live music in The Molokai bar by Skinny Jimmy Stingray. Symposium in the main dining room at 1:30 p.m.

Take a deep dive into the historic rum collection of the legendary Polynesian restaurant with Jim “Hurricane” Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog and special guest Matt Pietrek, rum expert and author of the award-winning Cocktail Wonk blog. Discover new information on The Mai-Kai’s connection to Tiki cocktail forefather Don the Beachcomber through the rums they have in common. Includes an interactive, multimedia presentation and rare “lost cocktails” from the archives, as we enjoy The Mai-Kai before it opens to the public.

Continue reading “The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Atomic Grog presents new class and symposium at The Hukilau 2019”

The Hukilau 2019: Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party sold out – Preview, photos and complete history

Updated Jan. 23, 2020

For the fifth year in a row, the signature event at The Hukilau has sold out months in advance. The Tiki Tower Takeover, held every June in the 17th floor rooftop ballroom at Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale, will have added significance in 2019.

It's hard to beat the view, or the cocktails, in the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau. (Photo by Joanne Galka)
It’s hard to beat the view, or the cocktails, in the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2018. (Photo by Joanne Galka)

See more below
HISTORY: Event recaps and photos, 2015-2017
PHOTOS: Recap and new images from last year’s Tiki Tower Takeover
RECIPE: Cotton Mouth Killer from Trailer Happiness

The festive cocktail party that spotlights some of the world’s top Tiki bartenders will celebrate Women Who Tiki with eight female mixologists serving their own special creations. With the hotel closing for a massive refurbishment immediately after The Hukilau, it will also be the last Takeover in the tower for at least two years.

PREVIOUS: Last party at Pier Sixty-Six? Events sell fast as new cocktail classes added

The Hukilau: Wednesday through Sunday, June 5-9, 2019, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Tikiyaki Orchestra, Tikiyaki 5-0, Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Hula Girls, The Intoxicators, The Disasternauts, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Swingin’ Palms, Slowey and the Boats, King Kukulele, Brother Cleve, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, and 25 top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale NEW
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at the five days of festivities at Pier Sixty-Six and The Mai-Kai with dozens of photos and many memorable moments, plus two bonus cocktail recipes.
More: The Hukilau 2019 rewind: Photos and video from social media

A view of downtown Fort Lauderdale from the Pier Top Lounge at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2018. (Photo by Scott Broadway)
A view of downtown Fort Lauderdale from the Pier Top Lounge at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2018. (Photo by Scott Broadway)

In addition to the all-female theme, the 2019 event will feature a significant increase in participants over past years, when no more than five bartenders were included. The Hukilau takes over the Pier Top Lounge from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 6. Prior to boarding the elevators to the tower, villagers can enjoy a welcome drink in the hotel’s ground-floor Windows on the Green.

While individual tickets are no longer available, there’s still one way to gain VIP entry. There are a limited number of South Seas passes available ($399 plus fee) that include exclusive early access at 4 p.m. to the Tiki Tower Takeover plus a custom mug from Tiki Farm. This top-of-the-line pass also gets you admission to all five days of events (not including symposiums and classes). Click here for a rundown on all the ticket options, as well as updates on what’s sold out.

Here’s this year’s all-star lineup of bartenders. All are making their first Tiki Tower Takeover appearance, though two have previously served the welcome drink. No previous events have featured more than five bars, so expect an action-packed (and cocktail-filled) party in the Pier Top Lounge this year.

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2019: Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party sold out – Preview, photos and complete history”

Tiki Kiliki: 15 years of The Hukilau, 15 years of memories

In honor of the 15th anniversary of The Hukilau, we asked Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White to share her remembrances from her 15 years as co-founder, co-producer and organizer. Starting in 2002 in Atlanta and moving to Fort Lauderdale the next year, the event has experienced plenty of high points for guests and participants. But what does Tiki Kiliki remember most?
Video: A look back at The Hukilau’s first 14 years

The Hukilau 2016: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram

Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White
Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White

There were so many highlights, she said, it was tough to narrow down. Here’s a year-by-year look back at a few of the most vivid:

2002 – Two things stick in Tiki Kiliki’s memory from the inaugural event: “The look on the manager’s face when Wayne Coombs began using his industrial stapler to cover the Echo Lounge in Atlanta with reed fencing for The Hukilau party that night.” The other was meeting Sven Kirsten and King Kukulele for the first time, “taking them to antique markets, thrift stores and the Clairmont Lounge.”

2003 – Tiki Kiliki will always remember entering the doors of The Mai-Kai for the first time. “It changed my life forever,” she said. Meeting owner Mireille Thornton and hearing her say that The Hukilau reminded her of the way it used to be was “the ultimate compliment AND memory!” She got an unexpected surprise during the first U.S. appearance of Italian band I Belli Di Waikiki. “They dumped an entire cooler of ice down the back of my dress,” she remembers.

The Hukilau 2006

2004 – Nobody will forget Hurricane Jeanne. “It was a terrible thing to go through, but it created some of the best memories,” Tiki Kiliki said. “People slept in The Mai-Kai and I learned a lot about how you always trust your gut. We should have evacuated the day prior.” The other highlight was watching Billy Mure play the music that he loved to play in front of true fans. “He was horribly arthritic, but he always said the only time he wasn’t in pain was when he was playing,” she said. “He was a friend until his passing in 2013 at the age of 97.”

2005 – Robert Drasnin made a historic appearance, performing his classic Voodoo album for the first time since 1959. “It was one of the moments I’m most proud of in my life,” Tiki Kiliki said. “Everyone in the audience was mesmerized.” The performance was so successful and the reception so warm, “he actually began to write Voodoo 2 while in Fort Lauderdale that weekend,” she said.

Continue reading “Tiki Kiliki: 15 years of The Hukilau, 15 years of memories”

Video: A look back at The Hukilau’s first 14 years

Marking its 15th anniversary, the East Coast’s largest and oldest Polynesian Pop event promises its biggest party ever in 2016. But before the rum-fueled bash gets into high gear, we’d like to pause and take a look back at the past 14 gatherings of the Tiki tribe.
Related: Tiki Kiliki: 15 years of The Hukilau, 15 years of memories

The Hukilau 2016

For more on the history of the modern Tiki revival, be sure to check out these two symposiums during this year’s event at Pier 66: “2001: A Tiki Odyssey with Otto von Stroheim (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.) followed by “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture” featuring an all-star lineup of the men and women who helped shape today’s scene. Click here for more info and here to buy tickets.

The Hukilau 2016: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram

In the beginning …

In 2002, a modern Tiki renaissance was in full swing. Inspired by the heyday of Polynesian Pop, which began with groundbreaking efforts of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s and stretched for more than 30 years into the 1960s, a new generation of artists, musicians, mixologists and entrepreneurs had been embracing retro Tiki culture since the 1990s.

The Hukilau 2002

As this grassroots movement gained momentum and new devotees discovered the wider world of mid-century pop culture, full-blown events soon followed. In Southern California – the birthplace of Tiki and haven for some of the genre’s most beloved bars, architecture and artists – Tiki Oasis started small in 2001 and quickly became the largest Tiki event in the West by its second installment in 2002.

The Hukilau was envisioned by its founders not only as the East Coast’s answer to Tiki Oasis, but also a celebration of the growing family and community, or ‘ohana, that had become so enamored with the entire underground movement. The name of the event, of course, comes from the traditional Hawaiian festival held in fishing villages in which a large net is cast into the sea to capture fish for the feast that honors the spirit of family and community.

Continue reading “Video: A look back at The Hukilau’s first 14 years”

The Hukilau updates: Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium, new sponsors, Pier 66 hotel news

Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture

In honor of The Hukilau’s 15th year and the 60th anniversary of The Mai-Kai, event co-founder/organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White has assembled some of the top names in the Tiki revival for special events and symposiums that promise to educate as well as entertain. On March 3, she announced a first-of-its-kind Tiki event, a groundbreaking gathering of some of the biggest names in the modern revival.

Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture

Tickets are on sale now for “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture”, a freewheeling panel discussion on Saturday, June 11, moderated by yours truly and featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Otto von Stroheim, Humuhumu, Martin Cate, Crazy Al Evans, Shag, and Tiki Kiliki herself. The godfather of the Tiki revival, Sven Kirsten, will participate via Skype. “We would not be celebrating today if it weren’t for these people,” Tiki Kiliki said of her colleagues on the panel.

It’s just $15 for this very special event, which will follow von Stroheim’s “2001: A Tiki Odyssey” symposium at 1 p.m. in the Panorama Ballroom at the Pier 66 hotel. Previously announced symposiums include author and bar owner Berry, Shag, Humuhumu, Tiki historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner, tattoo artist Paul Roe, plus South Florida artists Tom Fowner and Will Anders.

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 | Locations
* Recent Atomic Grog coverage: Entertainment, music and symposiums announced

Sven Kirsten's latest book is a hardcover opus that traces the history of 20th century Polynesian Pop
Sven Kirsten’s latest book is a hardcover opus that traces the history of 20th century Polynesian Pop. © Sven Kirsten/Taschen

The “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture” panel discussion will be divided into two parts: First, Kirsten, Berry and von Stroheim will discuss the early days and evolution of the revival. Then, they’ll be joined by Humuhumu, Cate, Evans, Shag, and Tiki Kiliki to talk about how the revival inspired them to push the boundaries even farther. “I don’t want people to forget how we got here,” Tiki Kiliki said.

You’ll hear the stories of how Tiki became a passion for a select few Californians, and how they revived this lost culture for the rest of the world to enjoy. Learn how they did their research and how they found each other, kicking off a new renaissance that continues to this day. The rest of the panel will talk about their discovery of Tiki, and how they approach their own unique experiences.

I’ll be quizzing the panelists about their place in the Tiki pantheon, and the audience will also have an opportunity to ask questions. A special cocktail is also included in the price of admission. It’s recommend you attend von Stroheim’s symposium beforehand to get the full backstory on how it all started.

Continue reading “The Hukilau updates: Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium, new sponsors, Pier 66 hotel news”

The Hukilau 2016: Entertainment, music and symposiums announced, full website launches

Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White
Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 19

After 15 years of planning the East Coast’s premiere Tiki weekender, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White knows a thing or two about giving her guests, affectionately known as “villagers,” what they want. For the 15th anniversary of The Hukilau, scheduled for June 8-12 in Fort Lauderdale, that means assembling the biggest names in the Polynesian Pop revival for an unforgettable experience unlike any other.

“Tiki culture is only growing stronger, and we are trying to provide the best show possible for anyone who wants to join us,” Tiki Kiliki said in an interview this week. She said she wants her guests to feel like “they’ve just stepped back in time into an era where Tiki was ever-present.”

See below: Signature events | Symposium previews | Music, entertainment, more
The Hukilau quick links: Buy tickets, passes | Book hotel | Schedule | Locations

The Hukilau 2016

Tickets went on sale Tuesday for an impressive array of symposiums and experiences that will make the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale the epicenter of the 21st century Tiki revival. Special guests and entertainers include some of the scene’s top artists (Shag, Tom Fowner, Will Anders, Jeff Chouinard), cocktail creators (Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Brian Miller, St. John Frizell), bands and musicians (The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides, The Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Quiet Villagers, The Disasternauts), entertainers (Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Angie Pontani, Kitten de Ville, Lila Starlet), and pop culture historians (Otto von Stroheim, Tim “Swanky” Glazner, Humuhumu, Paul Roe).

“The appearance of Shag has really stirred tons of excitement here on the East Coast,” Tiki Kiliki said. “We don’t see him often enough, so that will be a true treat for everyone.”

This year’s event celebrates not only The Hukilau’s 15th year, but also the 60th anniversary of The Mai-Kai, the legendary Tiki temple that was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. The Hukilau moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2003 after launching in 2002 in Atlanta, drawn by the restaurant’s legendary reputation that only continues to grow. Last year, it was named best Tiki bar in the world after a tally of ratings by Critiki.com users.

Crowds fill the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel's Crystal Ballroom on the last day of the Tiki Treasures Bazaar. (Atomic Grog photo)
Crowds fill the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel’s Crystal Ballroom for the Tiki Treasures Bazaar during The Hukilau 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Hukilau is returning for a second year to Pier 66, another historic property that dates back to 1956 and is beloved for its mid-century architecture and iconic rotating rooftop penthouse lounge. It’s a miraculous turnaround for The Hukilau, which nearly called it adieu in 2014. At the 11th hour, Tiki Kiliki was approached by new partners who have injected new life (and financing) into the event, enabling the move to Pier 66. She has also been able to concentrate on the creative end of things, putting together a perfect Polynesian Pop getaway for guests.

The Hukilau’s villagers last year voted Pier 66 “Best Hotel in The Hukilau’s History,” enamored by its modern amenities and hospitality provided by Hyatt, combined with its history and mid-century design. With only a few available rooms remaining during The Hukilau weekend, Tiki Kiliki urges potential guests to book sooner rather than later.

“The 66 provides a perfect backdrop to the classic era of Tiki with its roots perfectly planted the same year that The Mai-Kai first opened,” Tiki Kiliki said. Pier 66 guests are also the only villagers who will receive special welcome bags full of swag provided by sponsors. When Pier 66 sells out, she hopes to have another nearby hotel lined up for villagers to enjoy.

The 17th floor ballroom at Pier 66 offers an unparalleled view of Fort Lauderdale Beach.
The 17th floor ballroom at Pier 66 offers an unparalleled view of Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Sales of 2016 event passes and tickets for special events have been selling at an unprecedented rate after going online in late October, much earlier than in past years. Demand is no doubt driven by the anniversaries and the unique experiences the 2016 event offers.

Tiki Kiliki said many things are driving interest this year. Villagers are “excited about celebrating the past and the future with the anniversaries, and Tiki culture is only growing stronger. … Also, Pier 66 has a lot to do with it too. The event grows ever stronger in the right venue.”

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2016: Entertainment, music and symposiums announced, full website launches”

Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond

After coming precariously close to saying aloha and goodbye to The Hukilau, the long-running Tiki event she has organized since 2002, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White is sure glad things turned out differently. “For me, it was the best event in the history of The Hukilau,” she said of the five-day festival in June that not only marked the 13th annual gathering of vintage culture devotees from around the world, but also a new beginning.

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night's Main Event at The Mai-Kai.
The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night’s Main Event at The Mai-Kai.

Just months before she planned to close the books on The Hukilau for good, White was approached by two fans of the event who also happened to be experienced businessmen and event organizers who were eager to strike up a partnership. “I consider myself a very lucky person,” she said of the serendipity of the happenstance that led to The Hukilau not only surviving to see 2015, but becoming poised to thrive and reach new audiences across the country.

I sat down with Tiki Kiliki recently at The Mai-Kai, the beloved 57-year-old Polynesian restaurant that serves as the inspiration for the event, to get the lowdown on what she and her new partners, Richard Oneslager and Mike Zielinski, have in the works for The Hukilau and how their mutually beneficial partnership came about. But first, a look back at that memorable event in June that was expanded to five days in anticipation of a last hurrah. Instead, it turned into a celebration of what’s to come.

The Hukilau 2014 was held June 11-15 at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
See below: Gallery of 62 photos from The Atomic Grog. Click on bold links below for galleries by the official photographers at Go11 Media.
Related: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges
The Hukilau 2015 will be held June 10-14. Get updates at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.

In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff "Beachbum" Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.
In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.

“This is going to sound really strange, but sort of like Disney, it was kind of like magic this year,” Tiki Kiliki told me. “You can’t really explain it, but everything just fell into place in a magical way. We talked about it afterwards. We don’t really know what the magic formula was, it just happened.”

The magic started on Wednesday, June 11, when what was formerly an informal night at The Mai-Kai became the Unofficial Official Pre-Party. South Florida roots/rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts jammed in the sold-out Molokai bar while other attendees enjoyed many of the bar’s 47 classic Tiki cocktails and the restaurant’s extensive appetizer and dinner menu in the more sedate dining rooms. Logistical problems at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper forced the cancellation of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s scheduled midnight swim show, but that just gave some attendees the opportunity to begin their room parties early. Disappointed guests were heartened by the fact that there was much more Marina to come.

Continue reading “Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond”

Missed The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai? Limited edition Tiki mugs are the next best thing

Updated June 21, 2014

The 13th edition of The Hukilau, the East Coast’s largest annual event dedicated to mid-century and Polynesian Pop culture, rolled into Fort Lauderdale last week for five days of “the most authentic Tiki event in the world.” But if you didn’t make it down to the beachside festivities or the historic Mai-Kai restaurant, you still have a limited-time opportunity to pick up some exclusive merchandise.
Related: Artists pay tribute to The Mai-Kai with one-of-a-kind mugs

The Hukilau was held June 11-15, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Check the Facebook page for photos and recaps.
* The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2014

The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug by Eekum Bookum
The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug by Eekum Bookum comes with a choice of two different glazes. (Photo by Nomeus)

For many, the one piece of merchandise most closely associated with Tiki culture is, of course, the Tiki mug. Every year, The Hukilau has produced one of the most distinctive (and valuable) mugs on the market, designed by noted artists and produced in limited editions by the top mug manufacturers. [Click here to see some of the past designs]

First released only to ticket-holders and registered guests, The Hukilau 2014 Commemorative Mug is available (while supplies last) to the general public. Designed and produced by Oregon’s Eekum Bookum, the mug comes with two different glazes (Lava and Sunset) and features “The Final Aloha” on the back. In production before it was announced that the event will continue next year, this mug is likely to become a collector’s piece. [Check out the value of past mugs]

Continue reading “Missed The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai? Limited edition Tiki mugs are the next best thing”

Never-say-die Tiki event The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015

The Hukilau, the East Coast’s flagship event celebrating mid-century Polynesian Pop culture, delighted its Facebook fans with an announcement Friday that this year’s event will not be its last after all.

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Get updates on the Facebook page.
UPDATE: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment
* See all of The Atomic Grog’s coverage

Artwork for The Hukilau by noted Disney and mid-century revival artist Kevin Kidney
Artwork for The Hukilau by noted Disney and mid-century revival artist Kevin Kidney.

In late 2013, The Hukilau’s co-founder and longtime organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced that this year’s event would be the “Final Aloha.” The annual gathering of Tiki culture fans began in 2002 in Atlanta and has been based in Fort Lauderdale and the historic Mai-Kai since 2003. But as has happened before, fate (or perhaps the Tiki gods) once again intervened.

“While the Final Aloha was a very difficult decision to make, it was necessary by a series of factors at that time,” White posted on The Hukilau’s official Facebook page. “I’m relieved and thankful that we may be able to overcome them. I’m happy to announce due to recent events that The Hukilau will continue!”

The Hukilau has returned from the brink at least once before, and it has overcome many hurdles. It survived a direct hit from Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, then the potential closing of The Mai-Kai in 2008. That year was thought to be the last, until an 11th-hour announcement that The Mai-Kai has secured loans to repair long-standing damage from the hurricane, ensuring both the survival of the iconic Polynesian restaurant (est. in 1956) and The Hukilau.

Continue reading “Never-say-die Tiki event The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015”

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.
* Order now: Cocktail Kingdom (U.S.) | Amazon | More info on BeachbumBerry.com
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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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