The must-have Tiki bar accessory of 2018 may have been the custom swizzle sticks designed and made by California artist Michael Grider that take flaming cocktails to a new level.
It didn’t take long for these inventive items, priced at $25 each, to sell out on Etsy. Grider’s Torch Swizzle also requires a specially formulated lemon extract “Torch Juice” developed by Grider. Buy four and you got a free Torch Juice Kit.
But if you’re a procrastinator like me, you missed the boat when these first hit the Internet and took off like wildfire. The last batch was shipped in November. These are not mass produced, but hand-sculpted by Grider and then created using a centrifuge and a mold filled with hot metal. After the top is cast around a stainless steel rod, it’s hand-sanded and polished before it’s sent to be plated and receive a copper, nickel, or brass finish. Grider then completes each swizzle with patina, polish and a coat of clear enamel.
I hate to clue more people into this, but what the hell: A limited amount of torch swizzles will be up for grabs on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m. (Pacific time). Grider and his wife Karissa promise that a few torches will go online for pre-order. They won’t be available again for a few months due to Michael’s upcoming surgery, so now’s your chance to snag one at the same $25 price tag, plus $15 for the juice kit. The kit includes Torch Juice in a reusable dropper bottle for easy dispensing, two replacement wicks, and four replacement screens. The free kit offers stands if you’re able to snag four torches. Go to GriderCo.Etsy.com to pre-order
Traditionally, a flip is a cocktail containing egg, sugar and a spirit. They’re similar to egg nogs but without milk or cream. Originally served hot, flips are now usually shaken with ice and strained into a chilled coupe or wine glass and dusted with nutmeg, according to Difford’s Guide. The first flips can be traced back to England in the late 1600s.
Back in 2015, I created the Demerara Flip for the holidays and was pleased with the results. At Miracle, the delicious Gingerbread Flip was reminiscent. It was a shaken drink featured bourbon, gingerbread syrup, Elemakule Tiki Bitters and a whole egg. It was served in a coupe with a dusting of nutmeg. I understand that the use of a whole egg can put some guests off, hence the drink’s transformation into the Gingerbread Old Fashioned at Death Or Glory’s two Miracle bars that I frequented.
I’m not opposed to eggs in cocktails, but I decided to drop the yolk and keep the white, which is much more common in modern recipes. So the Secret Santa is not strictly a flip, but it has all the same hallmarks. The use of the rich mixes makes up for the missing yolk, and the unpasteurized white adds that traditional foamy head and texture while not imparting any flavor. If cracking an egg to extract the white makes you squeamish, you can find pasteurized egg whites in a carton in most groceries.
The Gardenia Mix was designed as a one-stop-shop for one of Don the Beachcomber’s most complicated (and messy) mixes (aka Pearl Diver’s mix and Coffee Grog batter). It replaces the butter with coconut, but includes the key honey, cinnamon and allspice flavors. I sought a bit more rich honey and allspice notes, so I also used Reynolds’ new Orange Blossom Honey Mix and his now-retired Tiki Spices (another old Donn Beach ingredient featuring allspice and vanilla, aka Don’s Spices #2).
I posted the recipe on the BG Reynolds’ Tiki Bar group on Facebook, where members discuss the products and share classic and new recipes. The Secret Santa Flip is very flexible, however, and you can make your own honey and Don’s Spices #2 (or simply use allspice dram) if those bottles aren’t in your arsenal.
There’s also an alternate version that uses homemade Pearl Diver’s mix in place of all three bottles. The butter gives it a slightly different flavor, but it’s perfectly in keeping with the holiday spirit (think Hot Buttered Rum).
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.
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.
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.
The Hukilau returns for its 18th annual Tiki weekender in June, serving up five days of immersive rum-fueled experiences at the Pier 66 Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant, both 62-year-old landmarks in sunny Fort Lauderdale.
Organizers made the first official announcement of 2019 on New Years’ Day, promising the return of all the hallmarks that make the event one of the Tiki revival’s top summer destinations. Tickets and hotel rooms will not go on sale until Feb. 1, but more details are due to be released throughout the month.
It will be the fifth straight year that The Hukilau has pitched its tent at Pier 66, and the 17th year at the legendary Mai-Kai. (The Hukilau launched in 2002 in Atlanta before migrating south to Florida the next year.) Below you’ll find all the news from the initial communiqué, embellished with some of our favorite photos from last year’s festivities to whet your appetite. Stay tuned for future updates on The Atomic Grog.
Tickets and hotel rooms go on sale Feb. 1. Look for more details throughout January.
What can you look forward to in 2019? The same things you love:
* Rooms and events at Pier 66 (plus B Ocean Resort) The views of Fort Lauderdale from the 17th floor ballroom at Pier 66 are stunning. (Photo by Chris Kridler)
* Same Wednesday through Sunday schedule Guest bartenders at Thursday’s Tiki Tower Takeover included cocktail legend Brother Cleve (left) and Doc Parks of Pagan Idol and Zombie Village. (Photo by Heather McKean)
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
Who says the Christmas spirit is a thing of the past? In the cocktail world, it’s been growing exponentially since the unwrapping of the “Miracle” pop-up bar concept in 2014 in New York City.
Beverage director David Bouchard (left) and executive chef Jessie Steele pause at Miracle on Rosemary while working to open the Christmas-themed pop-up bar at CityPlace in West Palm Beach. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County will double its pleasure this year when Delray Beach’s Death Or Glory not only brings back the popular six-week holiday food-and-drink festivities, but also expands to a new location in downtown West Palm Beach. “Miracle on Delray Beach” and “Miracle on Rosemary” both launch Friday, Nov. 23, the latter popping up in the former Burger & Beer Joint space that has been closed since spring 2017.
Miracle on Delray Beach at Death Or Glory: 116 N.E. Sixth Ave. in Delray Beach. Go to DeathOrGloryBar.com or call (561) 808-8814. Also on Instagram and Facebook. Open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Street, lot and valet parking available. Miracle on Rosemary at CityPlace: 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 158, West Palm Beach. Go to CityPlace.com or call (561) 808-8814. Also on Instagram and Facebook. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Street, lot and valet parking available. Note: A shorter version of this story ran in The Palm Beach Post.
The CityPlace location is on the east side of Rosemary Avenue, just south of Hibiscus Street. It’s conveniently right next to the valet parking stop for the entire shopping and entertainment complex.
Many bars and restaurants have come and gone in CityPlace, but it’s unlikely the venue’s shoppers and moviegoers have seen anything quite like Miracle. Featuring more than a dozen whimsically themed craft cocktails and gastropub food items, the 4,200-square-foot bar is festooned with kitschy Christmas decor from floor to ceiling.
Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! (sweet potato, Barbados rum, cachaça, Trinidad overproof rum, dry curacao, marshmallow orgeat, lime), as served at the 2017 Miracle holiday pop-up bar at Delray Beach’s Death Or Glory. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)
The venue seats more than 150, with large bars both inside and outside plus comfy booths throughout. Holiday music will play on a nonstop loop, featuring everything from classic Christmas crooners to the Ramones. And you may even run into “Bad Santa” serving his own special drink.
The menu definitely leans toward the naughty side, with potent drinks for all tastes including And A Partridge In A Pear Tree (tequila), Koala-La La La, La La La La (gin), Jingle Balls Nog (cognac), Snowball Old Fashioned (rye), Christmas Carol Barrel (rum), Christmopolitan (vodka), and Gingerbread Old Fashioned (bourbon). All are served in distinctive mugs and glassware that you can take home with you.
Non-adventurous guests will still be able to order many standard cocktails at the CityPlace pop-up. The spirits list will be limited, beverage director David Bouchard said, but “what we will have for each spirit category will be quality and with a purpose and a reason.”
While most of the drinks are standard across all the Miracle bars, the food menu was created by executive chef Jessie Steel, the general manager at Death Or Glory. Expect the same decadent bar food he’s known for in Delray Beach, pleasing all tastes from carnivores to vegans. “Our food menu is a reflection of what we do at Death Or Glory,” Bouchard said. “We’ve just gotten whimsical and playful with the names of the dishes to match the Miracle concept. There’s something for everyone.”
The festive windows at Miracle on Rosemary, a Christmas themed pop-up bar at CityPlace in West Palm Beach. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Palm Beach Post)
Among the dozen items are a Chinese Turkey entree of Peking duck breast and Feast of the Zero Fishes featuring vegan jackfruit “crab” cakes. “They’re all named after scenes from Christmas movies or songs,” Steel said. The menus at both locations will be mostly the same, Steel said, with the CityPlace selections tailored slightly to the specific equipment in the Rosemary kitchen. Getting the kitchen up and running has delayed the debut of the food menu until Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Miracle on Rosemary will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and will feature an all-day menu of small plates, appetizers and entrees. Steel also brought along some of his signature items from Death Or Glory, including the crispy chickpeas and fried brussels sprouts.
For the brunch crowd, there will be special Bloody Marys featuring Ketel One Botanical Vodka. Bouchard said he’s also planning a lineup of Moscow Mules featuring the low-ABV infused peach, grapefruit, and cucumber mint vodkas. “It’s almost like a gin, but it doesn’t have the juniper in it,” he said. Classic Moscow Mule mugs will also likely be employed. Other spirit brands will be featured with promotions and unique cocktails, he said.
Hulaween, South Florida’s Tiki-inspired and retro-themed Halloween bash, celebrates its 10th anniversary at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, Oct. 26, with a “Back from the Dead” reunion party.
Returning for the eighth time to rock the house is veteran roots rock band Slip and the Spinouts, cranking out three sets of classic covers and originals in the historic restaurant’s Molokai lounge. Doors open at 5 p.m. for the bar’s extensive happy hour, featuring some 50 half-priced tropical drinks and dozens of appetizers. The festive mood is set by themed music and a fully-decorated bar, including the signature sarong-clad servers (aka Molokai Girls) in costume.
Slip Mahoney and Spinouts drummer Dominick Daniels keep the party hopping at Hulaween 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)
The live music kicks off at 7 as the always-creative costumed revelers get into the spirit of the festivities with some of the most clever and well-crafted creations. The costume contest happens around 10, with cash and prizes to the top three winners.
Guitarist/vocalist Slip Mahoney and his band will keep the party going late into the evening with an eclectic mix of styles, from blues to rockabilly to classic country to surf. The bar fills up fast, so get there early to reserve a table. The dance floor is always a sight to behold as costumed revelers shake, rattle and roll to the beat of the Polynesian Pop party.
Several of The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed tropical drinks will remain half-priced all night long, and Appleton Rum will also present specials and giveaways. New sponsor Drive-In-Sanity Films will provide ghoulish giveaways themed to its cult B-movies. The Atomic Grog blog is back as media sponsor and musical programmer for the seventh straight year. The exclusive artwork for Hulaween 2018 was created by South Florida artist Robert Jimenez.
OCT. 31 UPDATE: Bartender Gregory Schutt pulled off an upset victory on Oct. 30 in the regional finals of the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai Challenge, edging several fellow Floridians and seasoned competitors from cocktail hotbeds New Orleans and Chicago to earn a trip to the finals in St. Lucia in 2019.
Schutt’s winning drink was an outside-the-box Mai Tai featuring two Chairman’s Reserve rums plus peanut butter orgeat, banana liqueur and homemade marshmallow fluff. The rich and decadent drink wowed the judges, including noted Tiki cocktail guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Chairman’s Reserve brand owner Benjamin Jones.
Florida’s Gregory Schutt’s victory at The Mai-Kai on Oct. 30 won him a ticket to the finals of the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai Challenge in St. Lucia in 2019. (Atomic Grog photo)
Schutt, who tends bar at Crush XI in Melbourne and The Fat Snook in Cocoa Beach, edged runner-up Aiden Dillon of Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. The third place finisher was another Floridian, Sam Wiener of Lost Boy Dry Goods and The Bend Liquor Lounge in Miami.
The 12 bartenders took the stage at the venerable Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale for the 3-hour competition, presenting wildly creative as well as traditional takes on the iconic Mai Tai. They were graded on presentation, creativity, taste and balance, story and theatrical presentation, plus the use of Chairman’s Reserve rums.
Following the contest, the competitors, guests and VIPs joined the happy hour crowd in The Molokai bar to celebrate the first of several Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai Challenge regional contests in the United States. Upcoming competitions include Nov. 12 in Toronto and Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. North American winners will join others from around the world in St. Lucia for the second annual global finals in 2019.
The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring: Bands: The Black Flamingos, Czarna Wolgastar, The Disasternauts, The Exotics, Gold Dust Lounge, The Intoxicators, Los Straitjackets, The Madeira, The Martian Denny Orchestra, Mr Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet, The Neanderthals, The Royal Pacifics, Skinny Jimmy Stingray. Perfomers: King Kukule, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Angie Pontani. Artists: Will Anders, Tom Fowner, Tiki Tony. Bars: Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Foundation Bar (Milwaukee), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), Trailer Happiness (London). Symposiums: Kyle Barnes, Nicole Brauchler, Brother Cleve, Ian Burrell, Ron Ferrell, Tim “Swanky” Glazner. * TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram