Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber, famously came up with the idea of a lavish and immersive lounge featuring South Pacific themes and Caribbean cocktails in the 1930s. But it took two upstart restaurateurs and one of Beach’s top bartenders to take the Tiki concept to a whole new level when they opened The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale in 1956.
At The Hukilau, set for June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale, find out how the combination of the insightful ownership of Bob and Jack Thornton along with the mixology skills of former Don the Beachcomber bartender Mariano Licudine set a standard of tropical cocktail excellence that has stood the test of time for more than 60 years.
Sticking closely to Beach’s groundbreaking secret recipes, but putting their own more modern and accessible spin on them, the brothers and their head bartender envisioned a menu of some 50 elaborate libations that endure and are beloved to this day under the continued ownership of Bob Thornton’s family.
Learn how The Mai-Kai still follows Don the Beachcomber’s procedures and standards that were created nearly 90 years ago to maintain the mystery and allure of the modern tropical cocktail in the restaurant’s secret back bars.
Join Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog and some very special guests for an exploration of the passing of the torch from Donn Beach to the Thornton brothers, and the key role of Licudine in keeping these historic cocktails alive and thriving.
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.
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.
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 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.
When The Atomic Grog launched in late April of 2011, the second post was a Tiki cocktail recipe. Now, more than 400 posts and 200 recipes later, we’ve put all those drinks into an alphabetical list for easy access as a treat to all of you who’ve supported the blog for the past eight years.
Click below and bookmark this page, we’ll keep updating as we add new drinks … Atomic Grog Cocktail Recipes, A through Z Among the many tribute recipes you’ll find are The Master Ninja from Beachbum Berry (center), and (from left) The Mai-Kai’s Yeoman’s Grog, Special Reserve Daiquiri, Black Magic, and Deep Sea Diver.
That title is a misnomer, because we’ve included more than just the A-Z list, which currently stands at 210 cocktails. Below that, you’ll find the recipes grouped in nine different categories – from Don the Beachcomber to our own original creations. They’re also organized into six common Tiki drink styles, including Daiquiris and Mai Tais.
Our mission to cover the very best events, music, art, cocktails, and culture in the modern Tiki revival has not changed in eight years. But the blog has come a long way since that Atomic Zombie Cocktail post on April 25, 2011. That recipe remains one of our favorites, however, and a standard The Atomic Grog has tried to maintain.
Since then, we’ve gone on a deep dive down a rabbit hole that we continue to explore in our most popular feature, The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide, which includes nearly half of the recipes on the site. But there have been many other drinks explored in stories and reviews that we want you to be able to find easily. I hope this new feature accomplishes that.
Mahalos to all!
First and foremost, I’d like to thank the owners and staff of The Mai-Kai, not only a historic landmark, but a place that holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of many. I still get chills walking through the doors for the umpteenth time. It serves as the “mothership” to generations of Tiki mixologists, including yours truly. Owner Dave Levy, manager Kern Mattei, promotions director Pia Dahlquist, and everybody I’ve ever encountered have made it a pleasure to be there.
I’d also like to send out my deepest appreciation to author, Tiki cocktail historian, and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Without his groundbreaking work, you probably wouldn’t be enjoying half the cocktails on our list, and most certainly you would not be reading this blog. He has truly been an inspiration. Also, much appreciation to everyone else whose recipes appear on the list. They’re all enjoyable drinks or they wouldn’t be there.
I’m also very appreciative and humbled by all the bars across the country who have served our cocktails. Mahalo to Tiki Mondays With Miller, Trader Vic’s, Hale Pele, Hidden Harbor, Forbidden Island, and everyone else who have featured Atomic Grog recipes on their menus over the years.
The most special thanks go to my wife, Susan, not only for agreeing to marry me at The Mai-Kai nine years ago, but also for supporting these crazy endeavors through thick and thin. She also contributed her graphic design talents by creating The Atomic Grog logo, as well as helping photograph, edit and proof many features on the blog.
And last but not least, a huge shout out to all the home bartenders who take the time to mix up our featured cocktails, from The Mai-Kai tributes to the many delicious creations by some of the best bartenders across the country. Like you, I’m just a fan of well-crafted tropical cocktails, looking for the best recipes to make in my home bar. You rule!
The Atomic Grog was pleased to present a special happy-hour talk about “Demerara Rum: The Mai-Kai’s Secret Weapon” during The Mai-Kai Takeover event on Jan. 19, presented by the Magical Tiki Meet-Up and Retro Rekindled.
A big thanks to sponsor Lemon Hart & Son rum and brand ambassador Miles Maximillian Vrahimis for all the assistance, including the photos below plus the promo materials featured at the event as well as a special Blackpool spiced rum package that was presented to a lucky charity raffle winner. The raffle raised $275 for the Humane Society of Broward County.
The event kicked off at 4 p.m. with an extra hour of happy hour that included our talk in The Molokai bar. There was a full house of close to 100 people on hand for the 30-minute presentation, plus two sample cocktails featuring Lemon Hart’s two traditional Demerara rums.
Lemon Hart 151 is a legendary Tiki cocktail ingredient and one of the world’s most distinctive rums. The Mai-Kai features it in seven of its most flavor-packed (and strong) cocktails, including the Jet Pilot and Zombie. Guests at the Jan. 19 event were treated to a mini version of the 151 Swizzle, a classic that showcases the rich and smoky overproof rum.
As a special treat, we also sampled the long-lost Demerara Float, perhaps the best of all the drinks from the 1956 menu that have been retired over the decades. It’s served only at special events, so it was a unique opportunity to try this Don the Beachcomber creation (originally known as the Demerara Dry Float) using Lemon Hart’s 80-proof rum, aka Original 1804.
Attendees received my handy checklist documenting all The Mai-Kai cocktails featuring Lemon Hart 151 and Hamilton 86, with the strong warning that I don’t advise trying all 13 in one sitting. Or two. Or three. Take your time and savor them. RELATED: See all the cocktails featuring Demerara rum at The Mai-Kai
Here are some nuggets of info from the 30-minute talk:
Mahalo to everyone who turned out to our talk on Lemon Hart and Demerara rum, plus all the festivities at The Mai-Kai Takeover from the Magical Tiki Meet-Up and Retro Rekindled. The rum raffle raised $275 for the Humane Society of Broward County.
The Atomic Grog is joining forces with the Magical Tiki Meet-Up and Retro Rekindled for a special talk at The Mai-Kai on Saturday, Jan. 19: “Demerara Rum – The Mai-Kai’s Secret Weapon.” This event is sold out!
Here’s the schedule: 4 p.m. – Early entry for happy hour in The Molokai bar. Meet and greet, Demerara rum discussion and cocktails. 5 p.m. – Seating for dinner. * Advance dinner show tickets include early entry and sample cocktails. Happy hour tickets were also offered separately. * Facebook event
Attendees will enjoy two sample cocktails featuring sponsor Lemon Hart & Son rum, there will be a raffle to win a bottle of rum, plus an assortment of free goodies.
Everyone who bought tickets or RSVP’d will have their names listed at the door. Early entry and the sample drinks are included for those who signed up for dinner. For those attending happy hour only, there will be a $15 charge for the Demerara rum drinks, which will include a “lost cocktail” from the 1956 menu that is rarely served.
Among the topics we’ll cover: * What is Demerara Rum? * The History of Demerara Rum and Lemon Hart. * Tiki arrives with Don the Beachcomber. * The Mai-Kai, Mariano Licudine and mid-century Tiki. * Mixology magic: Demerara Rum’s greatest hits. * Lemon Hart at The Mai-Kai: Yesterday and today. Brand ambassador Miles Maximillian Vrahimis will also be on hand to answer questions.
If you’re not attending the dinner show, feel free to hang out for the remainder of happy hour and we’ll continue to discuss the finer points of Demerara Rum and The Mai-Kai’s historic cocktails. For a little background, check out this deep dive on the history of this distinctive rum: * Rums from Guyana star in The Mai-Kai’s classic cocktails
The front and back covers are now blue, replacing the previous yellow. The centerspread featuring the classic tropical drinks remains the same color, and the entire menu has a matte finish (instead of the old laminated, shiny menu).
South Florida’s favorite roots and rockabilly band, Slip and the Spinouts, will scare up some monstrous mayhem on Friday, Oct. 27, at the ninth annual Hulaween party at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. The theme for this year’s retro-themed bash is “Monster Tiki Party,” and the highlights include an always irreverent costume contest with cash and prizes to the winners.
The festivities kick off with happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. in the historic Mai-Kai’s nautical themed Molokai bar, featuring half-priced drinks and appetizers plus specially themed monster music curated by The Atomic Grog. This year’s Hulaween cocktail is the “Appleton Monster Barrel” featuring sponsor Appleton Rum. This month’s “Friday Flashback” cocktail, Last Rites, also fits perfectly with the theme.
The Appleton Monster Barrel is a new, enhanced version of the iconic Barrel O’ Rum featuring two rums from the venerable Jamaican brand. Last Rites is a cocktail from The Mai-Kai’s original 1956 menu that was retired decades ago. It made its first return from the grave at the 2012 Hulaween party.
There are many other dark and deadly drinks available, including the Black Magic and Shrunken Skull. In addition, the usual Friday night special features half-priced Jet Pilot and Shark Bite cocktails all night. The Mai-Kai’s drinks are considered among the best Tiki cocktails in the world, revered by such award-winning authors and bar owners as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate.
The Molokai bar in the iconic Polynesian restaurant, established in 1956 and recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, will be transformed into a rockin’ retro shindig with The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed Tiki cocktails and classic pupu platters sharing the spotlight with the lively crowd of undead revelers.
Ghoulish guests also get half off from 5 to 7 on all of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian appetizers and small plates, including favorites such as the Pupu Platter, crab, escargot, beef, pork, duck, octopus, sushi, vegetarian options, and lots more. If you haven’t explored all the menus recently, you’re missing out on the transformation led by chef Mark Rivera.
It’s also hard to resist the full-blown experience of The Mai-Kai’s famous Polynesian Islander Revue (est. 1961), the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. Friday’s showtimes are 7 and 9:30 p.m., so you can work it into your Hulaween experience. Or, if you prefer the dark and mysterious, adjourn to one of The Mai-Kai’s secluded dining rooms, or grab a table outside near a waterfall in the Tiki garden. To guarantee a seat, be sure to make advance reservations for dinner.
More than 100 Tiki explorers took a trip through time, from 1956 to the present day, via the lavish tropical drink menus of the world famous Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale during The Hukilau on Sunday, June 11. “The Menus of The Mai-Kai: 60 Years of Tiki Cocktail History” was an interactive slideshow presentation that examined vintage menus and traced the chronology of the legendary cocktails at this acclaimed mid-century landmark.
This special event in The Mai-Kai’s main dining room took place at 1:30 p.m. as part of The Hukilau’s final day of festivities. The party started at noon in The Molokai bar with live surf music by Skinny Jimmy Stingray and three special “lost cocktails” from The Mai-Kai’s 1956 menu. The Hukilau’s villagers enjoyed drinks and classic pu-pu appetizers all day while Skinny Jimmy performed several high-energy sets, keeping the dance floor hopping. This rare daytime event at The Mai-Kai was exclusive for attendees of The Hukilau.
The Hukilau organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and spirits coordinator Dean Hurst visit the newly installed carving, King Kai, in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens. (Photos by Go11Events.com)
The rains swept through South Florida, threatening a wet weekend but the skies suddenly cleared for the opening night festivities at The Mai-Kai. The hundreds of villagers, many coming straight from the airport, were swept up in the majesty of the Polynesian palace. Many made a pilgrimage to the garden to see King Kai, the new Tiki carved by South Florida artist Will Anders. Others made sure to check out the new Tiki trio in the porte-cochère.
Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate kick off their book tour at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
The first order of business was to meet Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate, the power duo behind the new book Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. The owners of the acclaimed San Francisco rum bar Smuggler’s Cove were signing copies of the book in The Mai-Kai gift shop, where they also had limited-edition mugs (a “Ports O’ Call” glaze on The Kuhiko) for sale that are exclusive for the book tour. And it’s indeed a tour. After two book signings at The Hukilau, the pair headed straight to Miami for a Sunday night event, then on to other events across the country.
Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate sign copies of their new book in The Mai-Kai gift shop. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward and Susan Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Martin and Rebecca were thrilled to be at The Mai-Kai for the book’s release (it officially hit shelves and mailboxes the day before), and to meet their many friends and fans. As soon as you walked in The Mai-Kai Trading Post, you were greeted by a full display of the epic new book, which has the Tiki and cocktail scenes abuzz with its comprehensive look at the modern Polynesian Pop revival. I was one of the first in line to get my copy signed (and pick up a mug), and the authors made a special effort to personalize their signings and pose for photos. Their assistant, Peggy Williams, was also on hand to give out copies of the book’s accompanying trading cards, a novel way to promote the book and stir interest. Fans can collect the full set of 20 and discuss the recipes that appear on each on a special Facebook page.
The party officially ran from 6 until after 10 p.m., but many showed up early to enjoy The Mai-Kai’s famous happy hour, which began at 4:30 and ran until 7. Skinny Jimmy played three solo sets of nearly an hour each starting at around 6:30. In between sets, Hurricane Hayward played artists featured as Band/Music of the Week on The Atomic Grog over the past 16 months. There was also a preview of The Hukilau 2016 with music from the bands performing at the June 8-12 event at The Mai-Kai and Pier 66 hotel.
The event marked the debut of Deerfield Beach-based Skinny Jimmy playing solo at The Mai-Kai. His all-instrumental band is typically a power trio with a bassist and drummer, but he’s been working on special material designed to be performed in a more intimate lounge setting. He was his usual bombastic self on electric guitar, but the role of the rhythm section was played by carefully curated, pre-recorded backing tracks.
Skinny Jimmy jammed out on an eclectic mix of some of his favorite surf, rock ‘n’ roll and exotica songs, featuring everything from Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser to Herb Alpert’s The Lonely Bull to Blue Hawaii as performed by The Makaha Sons. Highlights of the more than 50 classic tunes featured throughout the night: Pipeline, Sukiyaki, Runaway, Tiny Bubbles, Perfidia, Sleepwalk, Diamond Head, Kon Tiki, Music to Watch Girls By, Walk Don’t Run, Apache, Hernando’s Hideaway, Caravan, Girl From Ipanema, Secret Agent Man, Harlem Nocturne, Hawaii Five O, Taste of Honey, Route 66, and Geronimo.
Touted by SouthFlorida.com as a “boozy, retro culture blog,” The Atomic Grog made sure to also put the spotlight on The Mai-Kai’s renowned cocktails. For one night only, the Yeoman’s Grog, a distinctive Tiki classic with its trademark ice cone, was half-price all night. The regular nightly special saw the K.O. Cooler and Tahitian Breeze also 50 percent off.
And as a bonus for fans of The Atomic Grog’s Okole Maluna Society, a special “lost cocktail” was available exclusively between 6 and 7 p.m. The Demerara Float appeared on the original 1956 menu but was removed in the 1990s. It was the first time we tasted this cocktail with the new Hamilton rums from Guyana, including a floater of 151. The punchy rums from the banks of the Demerara River give the drink a bolder body than the smoother Lemon Hart.
Perhaps the most crowd-pleasing part of the evening were the giveaways, awarded to guests who answered trivia questions about The Mai-Kai and The Hukilau. Two lucky winners received four-day Aloha Passes for The Hukilau. Other prizes were a bottle of Santeria Rum, a Mai-Kai Club membership, and an Atomic Grog T-shirt.