A cure for your holiday hangover: All the Miracle pop-up cocktails, reviewed and ranked

Miracle cocktails by Death Or Glory

While visions of sugar plum cocktails are still dancing in my head (and on my taste buds), I would be remiss if I didn’t share my deep thoughts on the Miracle pop-up bar menu that recently dazzled imbibers at more than 80 locations around the world.
See below: Jump straight to the cocktail ratings

The inside bar at Miracle on Delray Beach by Death Or Glory. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)
The inside bar at Miracle on Delray Beach by Death Or Glory. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)

Florida was lucky enough to have nine Miracle bars, the most of any state, for the pop-up’s 39-day run from Black Friday through New Year’s Eve. I’m fortunate enough to work near the site of the dedicated West Palm Beach location and live not far from Death Or Glory, the Delray Beach craft cocktail haven that spearheaded Miracle’s entrée into South Florida.

I got a brief taste of the inventive concept in 2017, the first year of Miracle on Delray Beach. But it was enough to get me as excited as a kid waiting up for Santa when it was announced that the award-winning bar would launch a second location, Miracle on Rosemary, in a vacant space in downtown West Palm’s bustling CityPlace shopping and dining district.

This double-shot of Christmas cheer spurred an article I wrote for The Palm Beach Post following interviews with co-owner Ayme Harrison, beverage director David Bouchard, and executive chef Jessie Steel. You can find a bigger, longer, uncut version here on the blog:
* Festive ‘Miracle’ pop-up bar expands in South Florida, worldwide

The inside bar at Death or Glory's Miracle on Rosemary pop-up in West Palm Beach, which made its debut in 2018. (Atomic Grog photo, November 2018)
The inside bar at Death or Glory’s Miracle on Rosemary pop-up in West Palm Beach, which made its debut in 2018. (Atomic Grog photo, November 2018)

In the weeks that followed, I made regular stops at both locations to unwind from the hectic holiday hubbub. But more importantly, I was on a mission to sample everything on the cocktail menu along with some of Steel’s decadent dishes. The results are detailed below. As with all of my cocktail adventures, I couldn’t resist the urge to rate the drinks on my own 1-5 scale. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I also took plenty of photos that I’ll also share here.

But first, a tip of the Santa hat to Cocktail Kingdom owner and visionary Greg Boehm, who in 2014 created the original “Miracle on 9th Street” pop-up at the suggestion of his mother in the space that later became his bar Mace in New York City. (Hear Greg talk about this and many other geeky cocktail topics on the Bartender At Large podcast released Dec. 2.)

Perhaps it was simply a holiday miracle, but it appears in hindsight that Boehm omnipotently foresaw the coming confluence of craft cocktails and Christmas. The average American consumes double the amount of alcoholic drinks over the holidays than any other time of year, according to research. Now, some of us have many more craft options than the standard eggnog and coquito.

The entrance area of Death Or Glory in Delray Beach during the heart of the Miracle season. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)
The entrance area of Death Or Glory in Delray Beach during the heart of the Miracle season. (Atomic Grog photo, December 2018)

At Miracle, with the Christmas spirit flowing freely, cocktail newbies are more likely to dip in their toes, or just dive in headfirst. “We kind of trick them into drinking cocktails,” Boehm has been quoted as saying.

Or course, this interest has been building for years on both fronts. But while major metro areas have long become accustomed to having outstanding craft bars in every neighborhood, great swaths of the U.S. (and many countries overseas) are still in the cocktail dark ages. Enter Miracle, which has blown up as a contagious concept, adding some 30 locations last year alone. There’s no reason to believe it won’t top 100 in 2019.

Continue reading “A cure for your holiday hangover: All the Miracle pop-up cocktails, reviewed and ranked”

The Week in Tiki (Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 2015): The Mai-Kai anniversary party, The Hukilau updates, Jungle Cruise restaurant at Disney World, Polynesian Resort lights torches, plus more!

The Week in Tiki There’s a lot of news to report in this belated but special holiday edition of The Week in Tiki. We have details on The Mai-Kai’s 59th birthday party on Dec. 28, plus updates on The Hukilau in June. There’s a new restaurant in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland that celebrates the Jungle Cruise, plus more news from the Polynesian Village Resort. Holiday features include event recaps and photos, plus last-minute gift ideas and a special Christmas Day broadcast. Quick sips include 50 days of Fwaygo Rum recipes, a special Aloha shirt from Shag, news on FOM fundraising efforts, plus updates on Tiki bars across North America. Regular features spotlight the master ceramists known as Munktiki; instrumental legends The Ventures; new Las Vegas bar The Golden Tiki; and Professor Cocktail’s website. The Rum of the Week, Seven Tiki spiced, is featured in two seasonal cocktails: the Devil’s Island Daiquiri from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Hapa Holidaze from The Atomic Grog.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

The Mai-Kai says mahalo with 59% off at Dec. 28 anniversary party

The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is giving back to its loyal fans and followers on Dec. 28 during its annual Mahalopreciation Party. In honor the historic Polynesian restaurant’s 59th anniversary, all guests in The Molokai bar will get 59 percent off most drinks and appetizers starting at 5 p.m. and running all night.

A postcard from the 1960s. The large Tiki still stands on the northeast edge of the property.
A postcard from the 1960s. The large Tiki still stands on the northeast edge of the property.

Voted the best Tiki bar in the world by Critiki.com users and recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, The Mai-Kai is considered to be the mecca of mid-century Tiki culture. It opened on Dec. 28, 1956, on sleepy Federal Highway and has survived decades of changing tastes by relying on its status as one of South Florida’s top tourist dining destinations and its legendary Polynesian Islander Review, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.

Just as crucial to The Mai-Kai’s success is the amazing decor, much if it brought back from the South Seas by original owners Bob and Jack Thornton, and more than 50 tropical drinks that are hailed by some of the world’s top cocktail enthusiasts. The secret recipes are descendants of some of the original drinks created by Tiki cocktail pioneer Don the Beachcomber in the 1930s. Bob Thornton took over the restaurant in 1970, and his family still runs The Mai-Kai to his exacting standards.

Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)
Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)

The Dec. 28 party will include live music by guitarist-vocalist Rose-Marie starting at 6 p.m. The bar typically stays open until midnight, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy classic cocktails such as the Zombie and Barrel O’ Rum while partaking in the many pu-pus (Polynesian Chicken, Javanesian Beef, Spinach Salad) and new sushi rolls. You can easily make a meal out of the “small plates” in The Molokai.

In related news, longtime Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner has announced details on his upcoming book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of The Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Glazner, who has been passionately researching The Mai-Kai for more than 13 years, has channeled all his efforts into this 176-page, hard cover book due out early next year. It includes rare photos and images, plus first-hand stories that document the heyday of the mid-century Tiki era. It tells the story of The Mai-Kai’s creation, and its reign as the playground of celebrities and playboys in the 1950s and ’60s. [See previous Atomic Grog coverage] Swanky reports that the book should be available for pre-order soon. For updates, follow the links above or subscribe to his email list.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 2015): The Mai-Kai anniversary party, The Hukilau updates, Jungle Cruise restaurant at Disney World, Polynesian Resort lights torches, plus more!”

The Week in Tiki (April 6-12, 2015): Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows open, Miami Rum Festival coming up

The Week in TikiThis week’s top news is the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, plus the latest on Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Cocktail Week. Also noted are The Hukilau’s 2015 mug, and the death of Polynesian performer Ernie Menehune. Weekly features spotlight artist Thor, website The Floating Rum Shack, exotica pioneer Martin Denny, and Tucson’s Kon Tiki. The rum of the week, Flor de Caña white, is featured in the Pieces of Eight cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Disney World celebrates grand opening of reimagined Polynesian Village

A dancer performs during a celebration of the grand opening of Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows on March 31, 2015
A dancer performs during a celebration of the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows on March 31, 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Disney’s Polynesian Village, one of the Orlando resort’s original flagship hotels, has unveiled an expansive two-year renovation designed to lure visitors with lavish new rooms, refreshed lobby and pools, and an interactive Tiki-themed lounge.

April 1 was the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, the latest Disney Vacation Club (DVC) addition to the sprawling Disney World property. The 360 deluxe studio rooms are being added to the 39-acre resort’s 11 existing South Seas themed longhouse buildings, while the 20 bungalows were built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon with scenic views of the Magic Kingdom.

Disney held a media preview event on March 31, with tours of all the new additions as well as a grand-opening ceremony that included a torch-lighting and traditional fire-dancing by a performer from the resort’s Spirit of Aloha dinner show. Ken Potrock, the executive who oversees Disney Vacation Club, called the Polynesian “the third jewel in our monorail crown,” joining the nearby villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort.

The new Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort are furnished in mid-century modern style
The new Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are furnished in mid-century modern style. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 31, 2015)

The Bora Bora Bungalows are the most spectacular addition, providing a unique and luxurious experience for guests. With two bedrooms, two baths and full kitchen, these freestanding huts inspired by traditional Polynesian structures sleep up to eight guests. Despite the stylistic similarities, these are not primitive accommodations. Disney’s bungalows include three giant flat-screen TVs, a TV embedded in the master bathroom’s mirror, a surround-sound entertainment system featuring invisible speakers in the wall, a washer and dryer, and many artistic touches that harken back to the history of Disney and the Polynesian Village.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (April 6-12, 2015): Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows open, Miami Rum Festival coming up”

Dada in Delray Beach embraces rum with new cocktail menu

If I have one complaint about the proliferation of craft cocktail bars, it’s that many of the mixologists tend to shun perhaps the most versatile and tasty base spirit of them all. Of course, I’m talking about rum.
Related: Innovative watering holes fuel rise of craft cocktails

A barrel of small-batch rum at Dada in Delray Beach
A barrel of small-batch rum at Dada in Delray Beach. (Facebook photo)

So when I heard that Dada in Delray Beach – already one of the best spots for mojitos in South Florida (not to mention the award-winning food) – was expanding its bar menu to include new rums and cocktails, I regained my faith in the new cocktail culture. It took a while to get down there to check out the offerings, but on a recent visit I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of the drinks. Pairing them with delicious food and lounging in Dada’s outdoor dining area only enhanced the experience.

Previous: A Taste Of … Dada in Delray Beach (February 2013)

While Dada is often mentioned among the top restaurants to grab a cocktail, and boasts some acclaimed bartenders, it’s typically not mentioned in the same breath as some of the area’s top craft cocktail spots. The mojitos are great, but there was nothing there for those who prefer a classic, or something a little less fruity. That all changed last summer, when Dada released its own line of small-batch spiced rums.

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Innovative watering holes fuel rise of craft cocktails in Palm Beach County

The craft cocktail scene in Palm Beach County has come a long way in a very short time. No longer must residents trek south to Fort Lauderdale or Miami to get a wildly creative adult beverage skillfully made by talented mixologists.

Nowhere is this recent explosion more evident than in a list of the Ten Best Bars for Cocktails in Palm Beach County published this week on the food blog Clean Plate Charlie on the Broward/Palm Beach New Times website. Only one of the 10 existed before 2009, a testament to the impact these establishments have had on the local food and drink scene.

The Dead Ringer cocktail (Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Velvet Falernum, fresh lime, Dandelion & Burdock Bitters, plum bitters) at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach
The Dead Ringer cocktail (Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Velvet Falernum, fresh lime, Dandelion & Burdock Bitters, plum bitters) at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, June 2013)

While such lists are always subjective, I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with writer Nicole Danna’s top picks. I’ve been singing the praises of Sweetwater Bar & Grill (No. 1), Kapow! Noodle Bar (No. 2), and Hullabaloo (No. 4) for the past several years.

And I’m eager to check out No. 3 on the list, HMF, which is technically a new venue (est. in late 2012) but is housed in The Breakers, Palm Beach’s historic hotel originally built by railroad pioneer Henry Morrison Flagler (aka “HMF”) in 1896. The grand hotel’s main bar was re-imagined as a swank cocktail den inspired by mid-century style, classic cocktails and delicious small bites (it was featured in an episode of Emeril’s Florida on the Cooking Channel).

The other three joints are a bit more accessible to the Average Joe, but they all offer spectacular food and drinks that are far from pedestrian. Sweetwater, which opened in 2009, remains my second favorite spot in all of South Florida to indulge in those pleasures (trailing only a certain 57-year-old Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale). The food menu may be small, but ingredients are always fresh and the dishes decadent and delicious. I can’t get enough of the tacos (pork or fish), sliders (beef or bison) and flatbreads.

Continue reading “Innovative watering holes fuel rise of craft cocktails in Palm Beach County”

A Taste Of … Dada in Delray Beach

This is the first in a series of profiles of some of The Atomic Grog’s favorite spots in South Florida to enjoy events, music, art, cocktails and culture. Our first stop is an eclectic restaurant that for more than a decade has seamlessly merged all of the aforementioned elements in a cool historic setting along with some great food from an award-winning chef.

Dada in Delray Beach

March 2014 update: Dada embraces rum with new cocktail menu

It’s difficult to find a truly unique restaurant experience in this age of cookie-cutter chain eateries and independents that feel the need to follow every trend. But tucked into a vintage 1920s house just off Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach is Dada, a one-of-a-kind experience that’s a true feast for all the senses.

Built in 1924, with the second story added 1939, the Tarrimore house was restored around 1990 with plans for it to become a bed and breakfast. But when that fell through, it became a cozy restaurant (the acclaimed Damiano’s) in 1992. The Damiano family sold the restaurant in 1999 and Dada opened in 2000.

Dada is perhaps the most distinctive and successful restaurant to spring from the partnership of owners Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich. Their South Florida ventures include Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton, Howley’s diner in West Palm Beach, and the Dubliner Irish pub in Boca Raton. A new Dubliner is set to open in Fort Lauderdale in March. Mayo also has a hand in Tryst in Delray Beach, Longboards and Hullabaloo in West Palm Beach, plus nightspots such as Respectable Street in West Palm Beach and The Vagabond in Miami. There are 14 ventures in total that you can find on his Sub-Culture website.

Continue reading “A Taste Of … Dada in Delray Beach”

Hullabaloo jazzes up Clematis Street with inventive craft cocktails

Tonight is the grand opening of Hullabaloo, the new gastropub and craft cocktail bar in downtown West Palm Beach, but the party started early with a sneak preview for invited guests last night that definitely put the staff to the test.

Previous story: Hullabaloo to raise a ruckus in downtown West Palm Beach with gastropub food, craft beverages

The bar and kitchen staff serve the growing crowd during Hullabaloo's special preview party on Thursday, Jan. 24
The bar and kitchen staff serve the growing crowd during Hullabaloo’s special preview party on Thursday, Jan. 24. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The small 1,700-square-foot space in the 500 block of Clematis Street that was formerly home to The Lounge was packed to the gills for most of the night as the many friends and associates of owners Rodney Mayo and Jon Elu enjoyed free drinks and small bites. One guest described it as “The Lounge meets Kapow,” which is as accurate a description as any. The owners have taken the somewhat generic Lounge format and jazzed it up with a creative food and drink menu, just as Mayo and his partners did at the cozy spot in Boca Raton that houses Kapow! Noodle Bar.

Guests at Hullabaloo were greeted last night by classic jazz and ragtime music performed on keyboards by a solo musician just outside the front door. The music was also piped into the bar, complementing the vintage vibe. Within hours, the party had spread to the half-dozen tables on the sidewalk.

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Sweetwater Bar & Grill: A shining beacon of light in South Florida’s food and drink wasteland

Update: Sweetwater introduces new cocktails, voluminous spirits menu

Unbeknownst to most of South Florida, a craft cocktail revolution has swept the country over the past decade, elevating mixology to heights not seen since the heady days following the repeal of Prohibition. With rare exceptions, our tourism-driven marketplace has no room for this kind of creativity.

From left: The freshly made Bacon Old Fashion, Skinny Dip and Airdrop cocktails. To the right is a 22-ounce Yeti Imperial Stout. Sweetwater offers something for all tastes.
From left: The freshly made Bacon Old Fashion, Skinny Dip and Airdrop cocktails. To the right is a 22-ounce Yeti Imperial Stout. Sweetwater offers something for all tastes.

But since opening in April 2011, Sweetwater Bar & Grill has with little fanfare become the area’s preeminent hidden gem for inventive adult beverages, plus gastropub-style food that’s just as decadent and delicious. The cocktails are indeed outstanding, but Sweetwater’s true triumph may be this perfectly timed head-on collision of the craft food and drink movements.

In 2012, being under-the-radar doesn’t necessarily mean a dingy back-alley location in the wrong part of town. Sweetwater is located in plain sight on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, but it might as well be a secret unmarked speakeasy. While foodies flocked to Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue and West Palm Beach’s Clematis Street, locals in south-central Palm Beach County probably thought they had Sweetwater to themselves.

But despite no advertising and little traditional media attention, word has slowly but surely circulated about the unique dining and imbibing experience awaiting at Sweetwater. We joined the chorus, raving after our initial visits in June and July. But teasing you with just a taste is quite unfair. To truly enjoy this establishment, you have to go for the gusto and sample items from across the menu, as we had the pleasure of doing on multiple occasions this summer.

Continue reading “Sweetwater Bar & Grill: A shining beacon of light in South Florida’s food and drink wasteland”

Old and new favorites take home South Florida “Best of” awards

Last week’s special “Best of 2012” issue of Broward / Palm Beach New Times recognized many of the area’s coolest places to eat, drink and hang out after dark. Among the winners are several Atomic Grog favorites worth noting:

Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton
Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2011)

“Best New Restaurant” and “Best Happy Hour” in Palm Beach County both went to Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton, which we reviewed in depth back in December. We loved the craft cocktails and small bites on the inventive menu and have been eager to return ever since. The latest recognition just gives us more reason to move it up on our bucket list.

New Times says the restaurant’s Mizner Park location “is flourishing, thanks in no small part to the challenging but accessible dishes streaming out of the kitchen during a slamming dinner hour and an aesthetic that is simultaneously trendy and unpretentious.” In Kapow’s second award, the alternative weekly praised the menu’s $3 bar bites menu: “These are treats — steamed buns, shishitou peppers, roasted cauliflower — that are well worth full price, drunk or sober. Add to that the cool tunes, hip décor, and energetic crowd and you’ve got a solution to the mystery of how to build a happy hour that doesn’t compromise standards.”

Continue reading “Old and new favorites take home South Florida “Best of” awards”

Kapow! explodes onto South Florida dining and cocktail scene

Photos: Jump to the gallery
Previous posts: Kapow! in Boca cooks up noodles, cocktails, edgy artwork
Take 5: Artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli

Review by Jim “Hurricane” Hayward

Like the restaurant’s colorful logo inspired by Japanese animation, everything about the new Boca Raton hotspot Kapow! leaps out and grabs your attention. Creativity is running amok at Kapow! in the cocktails and, especially, the food.

Kapow!

It starts with the cutting-edge concept and design of the warm yet elegantly cool space in the trendy Mizner Park dining and shopping district near downtown Boca. This is to be expected considering the ownership dream team of restaurant/nightlife moguls Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich (The Dubliner, Tryst, Dada, Howley’s, Longboards, et al.) plus eco-conscious trendsetter Vaughan Lazar (Pizza Fusion).

But a cool concept is nothing without execution in the kitchen and behind the bar. Kapow! delivers on both counts, thanks in no small part to the fourth member of the ownership team, executive chef Roy Villacrusis – reigning two-time champion of the Grand Chef Throwdown at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival.

Pooch poses with his handiwork at Kapow!
Pooch poses with his handiwork at Kapow!

Kapow! noodle bar launched with a VIP tasting on Nov. 22 and a public opening the following day. The menu features a blend of unique “Asiatic” cuisine with a French Vietnamese flair, leaning heavily on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Add to this an eclectic selection of hand-crafted cocktails, and it’s a recipe for an exotic dining experience right up The Atomic Grog’s alley.

My wife and I finally got a chance to visit last Sunday, joined by artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli and “Mrs. Pooch.” The dominant feature of the intimate 1,600-square-foot room is the 9-by-28-foot mural made from a Pooch painting that hangs in the back of the restaurant. The Pucciarellis had attended the VIP tasting, but this was their first visit for a sit-down dinner.

Continue reading “Kapow! explodes onto South Florida dining and cocktail scene”

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