For a restaurant that has been closed since October, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is sure a busy place these days. In advance of this Sunday’s parking lot car show, guests are picking up quarts and gallons of classic tropical drinks. Meanwhile, vendors are being sought for the historic Polynesian palace’s first-ever outdoor Tiki marketplace, scheduled for April 17.
The Mai-Kai’s DJ Mike will also be on hand spinning tunes at this socially distanced event. Unless seated with your party, guests are required to wear masks and/or practice physical distancing at all times. Feel free to bring chairs, hang out and enjoy the show.
In preparation for the cruise-in, The Mai-Kai batched up an ample supply of four cocktails for pick-up this week, along with an exclusive rum. The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend, a special Barbados rum from the Foursquare Distillery, is available only during these limited take-out opportunities right before special events. Look for the next window to open in April.
The same four cocktails will be offered on Sunday in single servings or quarts, along with beer, wine and water. Guests can pair their drinks with gourmet street food from the M.C.K. Fusion food truck. The Mobile Culinary Kitchens truck features Colombian and Latin American fusion cuisine, including burgers, tacos, quesadillas and more.
It was great to be back at The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show on Sunday for the Cruise-In Classic Car Show. Cool…
Following the 64th anniversary party on Dec. 28, fans received a bombshell when it was announced that the Thornton family was considering selling the 2.69-acre property. Possible partnerships are also on the table, but the consistent message from The Mai-Kai has been a desire to keep as much of the original property intact as possible.
This did not quell the overwhelming outpouring of concern and support from fans, who took to social media to console each other and seek ways to help the cause. The most high-profile effort is the “Save The Mai-Kai” petition on Change.org, which at press time has topped 10,750 signatures with no signs of slowing down.
Thousands of fans unite to show support for The Mai-Kai during closing Previous coverage: More than 10,000 have signed a petition and thousands are flooding social media channels as the historic restaurant plans events, take-home cocktails while potential partners/owners are sought.
Vendors sought for Tiki marketplace in April
News of the next parking lot event was revealed when The Mai-Kai put out a call for vendors for an ambitious Tiki marketplace on April 17. While similar events have become popular regular happenings at Tiki bars around the country, this is believed to be the first time The Mai-Kai has hosted an outdoor Tiki marketplace in its long history.
The Mai-Kai’s director of public relations, Pia Dahlquist, is rounding up vendors to fill the restaurant’s 150-space parking lot. She said she’s aiming for around 25 to 30 booths with a “diversified” lineup. If you’d like to participate and need more information, contact Dahlquist via email or call (954) 646-8975. The cost is just $50 per booth.
Undoubtedly, it was a year many would rather forget – preferably by downing a few Mai Tais. If we take “hindsight is 2020” at face value, perhaps some day there will be positive lessons to be learned from last year’s many tragedies. Despite this, not all the news was negative in the modern Tiki revival. Dispensing with the bad news first, here are The Atomic Grog’s picks for the nine most newsworthy stories of 2020. Bonus recipe below:The Urban Archaeologist (tribute to The Book of Tiki 20th anniversary and commemorative mug)
1. CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWNS
Of all the industries that were dealt a sucker punch by the pandemic, the bar and restaurant world is the one that seems to have suffered the most long-running impact. When the mandatory closings swept across the United States (and the world) in March and April, most were ill-prepared to deal with the consequences. Heroically, the majority were able to survive by pivoting to take-out and streamlined operations. Sadly, others have remained closed with still no ETA on reopening dates. The list of businesses that closed permanently is sobering. But as we look back at the year, we’re proud of the efforts everyone put forth to keep their Tiki bars and related companies alive against all odds. We will continue to pray for their survival and encourage everyone to help as best they can.
It’s hard for a community to thrive and survive when it’s stripped of its ability to congregate en masse to celebrate and boost each other’s spirits. This hit home in the Tiki world in early March, when Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend held the dubious distinction of being the last pre-pandemic event to take place. The summer season’s blockbuster festivals were forced to scramble. Some postponed, some went to a virtual format, others canceled altogether. But there was still no keeping the fervent followers from seeking out their friends and favorite events, even in stripped-down and online-only form. We tip our hat to the organizers who keep the faithful happy and their brands alive, along with their supporters who kept their heads up and their communities alive throughout the year.
In any other year, the closing of The Mai-Kai would undoubtedly be news story No. 1. But 2020 was no ordinary year, full of curve balls and unexpected twists. After closing during April and May, The Mai-Kai reopened under state social-distancing guidelines and was successfully navigating the pandemic through the summer and fall. An inventive take-out program was pushing boundaries and pleasing fans, while the historic restaurant was consistently filling its available seats with guests eager to watch the acclaimed Polynesian Islander Revue. All that changed in late October, however, when massive rains flooded the kitchen and back-of-house after a roof collapsed during the storm. With no functioning kitchen, The Mai-Kai has closed until the extensive repairs can be done. The annual Halloween party became a drive-in movie event in the parking lot and online sales were stepped up. A family-run operation since 1956, The Mai-Kai faces perhaps its biggest challenge, possibly with a new partnership or ownership. Here’s hoping the grand reopening will top the list of 2021 news events. The Mai-Kai for sale:See the official statementNEW UPDATES: Owners vow to “preserve family legacy” while continuing take-out drinks and more events
In September, The Mai-Kai, its extended family and longtime fans mourned the death of Toti Terorotua, a founding member of the restaurant’s acclaimed Polynesian Islander Revue in 1962. “Toti was not only an outstanding musician and entertainer, he was a great friend and part of what made the Mai-Kai one great big family,” an official statement from the restaurant said. “Toti was a highly regarded musician in Tahiti before coming to the US, creating two classic Tahitian albums with his namesake band Toti’s Tahitians. You can still hear songs from his albums, along with his unforgettable voice, softly playing in the background on the Mai Kai’s nightly soundtrack.” Toti was discovered in the late 1950s by Donn Beach himself, who picked him to be part of his show at the Don the Beachcomber in Waikiki when it opened at the International Marketplace. Toti came to Fort Lauderdale and The Mai-Kai to be part of the original Polynesian show and never left. He retired 2000 after 38 years, but came back in 2006 to play drums at The Mai-Kai’s 50th anniversary at age 71. He continued to perform on stage for another decade-plus. In announcing his death, The Mai-Kai shared a tribute in Tahitian, translated to: “We will miss you so. But dreams will keep us near you. We know we’ll meet again. Farewell for just a while. For just a little while.” Listen:Buy or stream Lure Of Tahiti by Terorotua & His Tahitians
This past year was unlike any other. As the deadly coronavirus pandemic swept the world, events were postponed and canceled while the hospitality and entertainment industries suffered economic disaster. New and rescheduled events became fundraisers and calls to action to help struggling businesses. As social gatherings moved online to a virtual format, so did many events and a new lineup of symposiums and learning experiences. The Atomic Grog documented many of these happenings and participated in a few over the past tumultuous 12 months. The Tiki Times continues to follow the top events of interest to retro-minded enthusiasts of Tiki, mid-century modern, surf and rockabilly music, rum and spirits, plus more. Below you’ll find the cream of the crop of 2020 events, along with artwork and links to official sites. Under many events, you’ll also find images and videos from social media plus links to news articles. We hope everyone remains healthy and safe as we find out what 2021 has to offer. COMING SOON: Full 2021 calendar UPDATES:Support Tiki bars online – Buy merch, contribute to fundraisers Social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
Importer Ed Hamilton has announced the arrival of a new Hamilton Rum blend bottled for the Florida Rum Society, soon to be available in retail locations across the Sunshine State. Plans call for the rum, a blend of Jamaican and Guyanese rums, to be distributed in 2021 to other states as well.
The first shipment arrived in Orlando on Friday (Dec. 4) from Hamilton’s New York bottling facility, he announced during a Zoom happy hour event that evening. On Thursday, he teased Florida rum lovers with an Instagram post containing the label, announcing that the rum was “on I-75 on the way to Florida.”
The quick arrival pleased the longtime rum connoisseur, author and owner of his own boutique label and import company, Caribbean Spirits. The new rum will be part of Hamilton’s Ministry of Rum Private Collection, containing a similar label but more limited-edition bottlings than his standard Ministry of Rum releases. These include a variety of rum blends sourced from Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia and other islands.
He also imports a selections of acclaimed rums from Martinique, including the Neisson, La Favorite and Duquesne labels. Ministry of Rum refers to the website and message board Hamilton launched in the late 1990s that remains an essential reference tool for researching and learning about all rum.
For the Florida Rum Society blend, Hamilton said he went with a modified version of his popular Navy Strength blend, a powerful 114-proof combination of 60 percent Guyana rum and 40 percent Jamaican rum. The new blend is more accessible, clocking in a 45 percent alcohol by volume, or 90 proof. Hamilton said the blend is 65 percent from Demerara Distillers in Guyana and 35 percent from Worthy Park Estate in Jamaica.
Besides the proof and percentages, there’s a slight variation the age of the rum, Hamilton said. The Jamaican component is a 1-year-old rum while the Navy blend contains unaged distillate. The Guyanese rum is the same blend of 2- to 5-year-old rums that Hamilton uses in the Navy Strength bottling, as well as the Hamilton 86 and 151 Guyana rums that are well-known and loved at Tiki bars across the country. Check our in-depth look at Hamilton’s journey in bringing these rums to market, and their use at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
The Florida Rum Society blend promises to be more versatile and just as tasty as the Navy blend, its lower proof and added aging making it more assessable as a sipper and all-purpose mixer. It’s also a higher proof than the similar New York Blend, an 84-proof version of the Navy blend. At 65 percent Demerara, it could also make a fine substitute for Hamilton 86 in cocktails. During the Zoom meeting, Hamilton sipped on one of his favorite easy-to-make highballs, a blend of Hamilton 86, Hamilton Jamaican Pimento Dram, and orange juice. I tried a mix of 1 part dram, 3 parts rum and 6 parts juice, and it was delicious.
The new rum should also work well in classic Tiki cocktails that call for a roughly equal blend of non-overproof Demerara and Jamaican rums, such as the Navy Grog (and Beachbum Berry’s The Ancient Mariner), Pearl Diver’s Punch, and Sidewinder’s Fang. The extra 5 percent ABV will give the drink a boost to help it hew closer to the original rums. In the mid-century heyday, it was not unusual for standard mixing rums to be higher than 80 proof, especially those from Guyana and Jamaica. During the Zoom meeting, I enjoyed a Navy Grog featuring three of Hamilton’s signature rums (see recipe below).
UPDATE: Sarasota Liquor Locker and the rum society’s online shop were the first get the rum. Soon after, it was on its way to Five Star Liquor & Wine in Orlando, Primo Liquors in Broward County (multiple ocations), Big Game Liquors in Miami, and Beach Liquors in the Panhandle (multiple ocations).
Hamilton said he expects retail outlets across the state to carry the rum. Part of the goal of the partnership with the Florida Rum Society, he said, is to leverage the group’s influence to persuade more retailers to carry the Hamilton (and Caribbean Spirits) product line. The bottling includes 112 cases, he said, though he didn’t rule out another batch in the future depending on demand. If the store you frequent in Florida doesn’t carry Hamilton rums, or you’d like to request the new blend, ask them to contact the distributor: Progress Wine Group from Opa Locka, (321) 230-4682.
UPDATE: The Florida Rum Society announced an online cocktail contest featuring the new blend, with the winner earning “a hoard” of Hamilton rums. The group has quickly ramped up its activities after forming only in mid-2019. Members began holding in-person gatherings before the pandemic and have continued them online, with Hamilton and other high-profile rum industry veterans, such as Privateer Rum’s Maggie Campbell, joining in.
The Hamilton blend is not the society’s first special bottling. Just last week, a Plantation 2008 single cask rum from Guyana featuring a Florida Rum Society label landed in Orlando. This label release is extremely limited (just 140 bottles) and available at Five Star. There are also a few bottles remaining at Five Star from the exclusive (214 bottles) release in August of a 109.2 proof New England rum from Privateer dubbed Rumdemic. The release marked the return of Privateer’s single barrel program (now known as the Letter of Marque series).
If that’s not enough for Florida rum fanciers, another exclusive release is coming in 2021. The Florida Rum Society Masters Selection from Chairman’s Reserve and St. Lucia Distillers is available for pre-sale at Jensen’s Liquors in Miami. This 115.6 proof blend is expected around April. Shipping and pick-up are both available.
15 things you need to know about Ed Hamilton and Hamilton Rum
As part of the inaugural Miami Rum Congress in February 2019, the “Minister of Rum” (he actually prefers to be called “Administer of Rum”) hosted his first-ever master class at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on his Hamilton Rum product line, including a discussion of his journey from Caribbean sailboat adventurer to rum importer and label owner.
The hands-on symposium took place in the historic restaurant’s intimate Samoa dining room and included rum and cocktail samples, plus a heaping helping of Hamilton’s wit and wisdom. Here are a few nuggets we gleaned from the presentation:
* After studying chemical and mechanical engineering and getting his college degree, Hamilton worked a job “selling bomb parts” in the mid-1970s. “It really wasn’t something I wanted to base my career on,” he said. When his boss queried him about what he wanted to be doing in five years, he exclaimed: “Go sailing.” Asked how he could make that happen, he replied: “I quit.” He says never spent another day looking for a job after that.
NEW: Check out The Atomic Grog’s annual calendar for all the major events across the world of Tiki culture. This list also includes rum events, plus modernism, surf and rockabilly music, Disney and other happenings of interest to the Tiki community. It will be continually updated throughout the year, so check the link below for The Tiki Times main page frequently: UPDATES: FULL 2020 EVENTS CALENDAR
Once again, The Atomic Grog documented an entire 12 months of events in 2019, following the top Tiki and rum events, plus mid-century modern, surf and rockabilly music, Disney and other happenings of interest to the Tiki community. Check below for official artwork and links to the official sites along with our own unique coverage. Under many events, you’ll also find images and videos from social media plus links to news sites. NEW EVENTS: UPDATED 2020 CALENDAR Social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
Jan. 19 – The Mai-Kai Takeover in Fort Lauderdale. Special event: ‘Demerara Rum – The Mai-Kai’s Secret Weapon’ The Atomic Grog was pleased to present a special happy-hour talk during The Mai-Kai Takeover event on Jan. 19, presented by the Magical Tiki Meet-Up and Retro Rekindled. Click here to check out our full event recap, including photos and highlights of our Demerara rum discussion.
After taking a detour to Fort Lauderdale in 2018, the Rum Renaissance Festival is back in Miami-Dade County for its 11th annual “celebration of cane spirits in the new world” at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club.
The country’s largest and longest-running rum festival moved to Broward County last year to be closer to the center of the South Florida market, and also sidle up to The Hukilau, the annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale. It created the ultimate rum and Tiki weekend in June 2018, but organizers Robert A. Burr and wife Robin Burr decided to return to their roots for a more intimate experience in 2019.
Last year’s event at the Broward County Convention Center was the sixth straight year at a large venue, reflecting rum’s ever-expanding popularity in South Florida, one of the world’s major markets for cane spirits. From 2013 through 2017, Miami Rum Festival (as the event was also known) spent five successful years at the massive Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. [See our past coverage below]
Miami Rum Renaissance actually started as small, boutique event at the Shore Club Beach Resort on South Beach in May 2009. It stayed on Miami Beach at the Raleigh Hotel Beach Resort in 2010 and Deauville Beach Resort in 2011-2012. The festival’s origins go back to 2008, when the Burrs held their first major rum tasting event for a modest 150 people at the historic Venetian Pool in Coral Gables.
With industry trends encouraging exploration of higher-end rums and smaller events popping up across the world, the Burrs decided to make the move back to a smaller venue in their home turf of south Miami-Dade. It’s serendipity that they ended up back in Coral Gables at another historic venue. The Coral Gables Woman’s Club was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
Instead of accommodating the thousands of people who attended the convention center events, the 2019 festival will be limited to 500 people per day “for a more intimate and elegant experience,” Robert Burr said in a recent interview with Caribbean Journal. “We’ll feature a lot of new producers, some old favorites and a fine selection of rare, limited edition luxury rums from my collection.”
Venue and tickets:The Coral Gables Woman’s Club is at 1001 E. Ponce de Leon Blvd. Festival hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, with VIP admission at 2 p.m. Tickets are $50 per day for unlimited samples, $75 for VIP access. Friday trade admission is $25. * Buy tickets online in advance
Miami Rum Renaissance Festival highlights
Rum tastings: For the price of admission, guests can sample hundreds of rums from the Caribbean and beyond, from Abuelo to Zaya. Dozens of distilleries, importers, producers, distributors and boutique brands will show off their products. * See all the brands attending
VIP Rum Bar: Robert Burr brings back his popular den of rare and high-end offerings, available for $5 for a healthy sample. Among the more than 60 offerings are such gems as Facundo Exquisito (Puerto Rico); Foursquare’s Premise, Probitas and Zinfandel releases (Barbados and Jamaica); Rhum JM Cuvee 1845 (Martinique); plus Velier Caroni 15 (Trinidad) and Velier Worthy Park (Jamaica).
Rum Education: Seminars will be offered on a variety of topics, including a deep dive into the production of Mount Gay rum in Barbados, and an exploration of the diversity of rum with Plantation’s Rocky Yeh. New for 2019, Miami Rum Renaissance is teaming up with Will Hoekenga of American Rum Report to present two seminars (5 p.m. Friday and Saturday) on the emerging U.S. market, which now includes more than 230 distilleries. Also participating in the seminars will be Phil Prichard of Prichard’s Rum (Tennessee), Tim Russell of Maggie’s Farm (Pennsylvania), and Jonny VerPlanck of Three Roll Estate (formerly Cane Land Distilling, Louisiana). In the Caribbean Journal. interview, Robert Burr predicts a “new American Rum Revolution as distilleries pop up in every corner of North America with boutique offerings often made with great pride and ingenuity. The number of rum distilleries in the USA will easily eclipse all those in the Caribbean region.” * See the schedule of seminars
Hosted by Federico Hernandez of The Rum Lab and global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, the event spotlighted many of the world’s top boutique brands while presenting serious discussion of today’s hottest industry issues. The tasting room featured new and exclusive bottles from a number of the most acclaimed producers and distillers, such as Foursquare’s Richard Seale of Barbados.
Other brands and distillers in attendance included Appleton and Wray & Nephew, Banks, Bounty, Caliche, Damoiseau, Deadhead, Don Q, English Harbour, Gosling, Habitation Velier, Hamilton, Hampden Estates, Mezan Rum, Montanya, Monymusk, Mount Gay, Plantation, Pusser’s, Rhum Clément, Rhum J.M., Ron Abuelo, Ron Barceló, Ron Brugal, Ron Centenario, Ron del Barrilito, Ron Diplomatico, Rum Fire, Rum-Bar, Saint Benevolence, Smith & Cross, Santa Teresa, The Scarlet Ibis, Tanduay, and Worthy Park
In addition to the wonderful Foursquare “Exceptional Cask” rums, I was intrigued and excited to get my first taste of outstanding spirits from Plantation (including the elusive Xaymaca), Jamaica’s Monymusk (coming soon to the U.S. market), Hamilton (the rebranded West Indies blend), Venezuela’s Ron Diplomatico (look for the new Distillery Collection), Saint Benevolence (a Caribbean blend that directs all profits to the needy island of Haiti), and Martinique’s Rhum J.M. (the 1996 vintage was perhaps the best rhum agricole I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting).
I caught several informative seminars, capped off by the South Florida return of author and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, regaling us with “Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers – The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch.” Meanwhile, importer and Ministry of Rum founder Ed Hamilton followed up his first-ever rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Thursday with a no-holds-barred look at changes in the rum market over the past 25 years. We’ll be posting expanded coverage of both of these talks soon.
In 2018, The Atomic Grog consolidated previous news and events coverage into a comprehensive 12-month calendar that offers dates, links and previews of all the major Tiki and rum events, plus a touch of modernism, surf music, Disney and other happenings of interest to the Tiki community. Below, you can still find the official artwork and links to the official sites. Following the events, the calendar was updated to include images and videos culled from social media, along with some of our own photos and relevant press coverage. We’ve archived this full year of coverage for posterity. UPDATES: 2019 EVENTS CALENDAR Social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest