Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha at fifth annual Art of Tiki cocktail competition at South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the 2019 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Tiki and South Beach: Two great tastes that don’t necessarily go great together. The glitz and glamour of Miami’s most famous tourist strip seems at odds with the laid-back island atmosphere and exotic South Seas vibe that makes Polynesian Pop so endearing.

Bacardi served up four cocktails in its sponsor bar, including a take on the Mai Tai that includes its Anejo Cuatro, a 4-year-old rum
Bacardi served up four cocktails in its sponsor bar, including a take on the Mai Tai that includes its Anejo Cuatro, a 4-year-old rum.

But like diverse ingredients in a complex tropical drink, that awkward juxtaposition may finally be working in harmony if you look closely at the fifth annual “Art of Tiki” cocktail competition during the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Held Feb. 22 at The Surfcomber hotel and featuring mostly up-and-coming Miami bartenders, the festive feast of booze and food made a large leap forward after a disappointing 2018, according to our correspondent. Everything was turned up a notch, from the entertainment to the decor to the food, resulting in a better overall vibe and more successful event. Some credit should go to the event’s second-year sponsor, Miami’s venerable Bacardi rum.

Gui Jaroschy (right) and Anthony Valencia from Driftway at Generator in Miami Beach are hard at work on their GMT 5000 cocktail
Gui Jaroschy (right) and Anthony Valencia from Driftway at Generator in Miami Beach are hard at work on their GMT 5000 cocktail.

In a surprise result, the competition’s Judge’s Choice award went not to a hotshot bartender but to a quiet and unassuming chef whose complex and creative cocktail paid tribute to Cuba. Meanwhile, popular Miami restaurant Beaker & Gray was the People’s Choice, the bar team’s third win in three years. Ted Allen from sponsor Food Network hosted the party, which as usual sold out the large outdoor pool, patio and beach area behind the hotel.

Below you’ll find our full recap, including photos and reviews of all the cocktails. Also check out our photos from the Rhum Barbancourt booth in the SoBeWFF’s Grand Tasting Village, along with a cocktail recipe from New York City’s Brian Miller. We also included a recap and previously unpublished photos from last year’s Art of Tiki, along with a commentary on the history of the event.

Friday, Feb. 22 – Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach. A cocktail competition hosted by Food Network’s Ted Allen and featuring Florida bartenders, plus area chefs serving tropical-themed food at The Surfcomber hotel.
SPECIAL FEATURES BELOW
Photos, review: Exclusive images and ratings of all the 2019 cocktails
History: List of hosts, winners and sponsors from 2015-2019
Photos, bonus recipe: Blue Bayou, served by Brian Miller at the 2019 SoBeWFF
2018: Photos, recap from last year’s competition
Commentary: Bartenders, chefs are the true stars of this show

The Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown was back for a fifth year on Friday, Feb. 22, at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach.

The Art of Tiki returned to The Surfcomber for the fourth year in a row and featured another new marquee name. Ted Allen, best known for hosting the Emmy Award-winning chef competition show Chopped since 2009, was the first non-chef to preside over the Art of Tiki (his bio calls him an author and television personality). His TV role made him well suited to judge the cocktails, which ended up being his central role.

Bacardi executive, ambassador and former bartender Adrian Biggs filled the role of master of ceremonies and made most of the announcements to the crowd. To Barcardi’s credit, it seemed like the spirits giant put more money and effort into the event in its second year as title sponsor. New decor and entertainment by the Mareva Tahiti Polynesian Dancers gave the event a much more authentically Tiki atmosphere. It was as if The Mai-Kai – Fort Lauderdale’s historic Polynesian restaurant – was there in spirit, as one speaker noted.

Sponsor Bacardi put its rums front and center at The Surfcomber hotel.
Sponsor Bacardi put its rums front and center at The Surfcomber hotel.

Several Bacardi-owned rums were made available for the 10 contestants, including sponsors Banks, Santa Teresa and Havana Club (the U.S. version, of course). Among those used by the mixologists were Bacardi Anejo Cuatro, Banks Five Island, Santa Teresa 1796, and Havana Club Anejo Blanco. The contestants also challenged the judges’ taste buds with an array of unique house-made ingredients along with fresh juices, syrups, liqueurs and bitters.

In addition to Allen, the judges included journalists Belkys Nerey (Miami’s WSVN-7) and Laine Doss (Miami New Times), plus bar manager Chris Hudnall (Soho House & Co.). While there’s no Tiki in Allen’s background (that we know of), he sure seems like the kind of guy you’d want to drink with at a Tiki bar. He appeared to enjoy the festivities, but looked “more like a spectator than a host,” according to our correspondent.

The 2019 lineup featured just two 2018 returnees (last year’s champs, Jesus Perez and Ben Potts), along with two-time winner Gui Jaroschy plus many new faces:
* Kevin Andrade from Drunken Dragon (Miami Beach)
* David Cedeno, Seth Carter and Roman Naumov from MiniBar (Miami Beach)
* Emiliano Gonzalez from Casa Florida (Miami)
* TJ Palmieri from Madrina’s (Gainesville)
* Jesus Perez and Courtney Lane from The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach)
* Daniele Dalla Pola from Esotico Miami
* Ben Potts from Beaker & Gray (Miami)
* Andres Rairan from The Social Club at The Surfcomber (Miami Beach)
* Jorgie Ramos from Abi Maria Bar & Refuge (Miami)
* Anthony Valencia and Gui Jaroschy from Driftway at Generator (Miami Beach)

Particpiating chefs included: Byron Alabado of SushiSamba (Miami Beach), Adrianne Calvo of Chef Adrianne’s (Miami), Victoria Chediak of Poké 305 (North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, Miami), Brian Mullins of Ms. Cheezious (Miami, Coral Gables), Richard Sandoval of Toro Toro (Miami), and Cesar Zapata of Phuc Yea (Miami).

Continue reading “Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha at fifth annual Art of Tiki cocktail competition at South Beach Wine & Food Festival”

Inuhele celebrates Atlanta’s meteoric rise as Tiki destination

Updated Feb. 17

What city best exemplifies the recent explosive growth of Tiki bars and Polynesian Pop culture? A strong argument could be made for Atlanta, which has been blessed with at least three new exotic cocktail destinations since 2015. Now, in just its second year, the Tiki weekender known as Inuhele has greatly expanded to include three days of bar-hopping, panels, vendors, bands, demos and more geared to the area’s burgeoning scene.

Feb. 15-17 – Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend
See below: Bonus cocktail recipe – Makani Pahili
* Previous story: Iron TikiTender goes on tour at Inuhele
Inuhele: Atlanta's Tiki Weekend
* Facebook event | Get tickets
The Tiki Times: See all the upcoming events

Tiki in Atlanta

Tim "Swanky" Glasner, who will be presenting a symposium at Inuhele 2019, was one of the co-creators of The Hukilau in Atlanta in 2002.
Tim “Swanky” Glasner, who will be presenting a symposium at Inuhele 2019, was one of the co-creators of The Hukilau in Atlanta in 2002.

The vibrant multicultural city has long had a connection with modern Tiki and its surrounding subcultures. After all, the Atlanta Hilton hosts the country’s longest operating Trader Vic’s location, circa 1976. The Hukilau started there in 2002 before moving to Fort Lauderdale the next year. Atlanta is home to talented lowbrow artists such as Derek Yaniger and Jonathan M. Chaffin of Horror in Clay. And there’s a longtime instrumental surf scene celebrated at the annual Southern Surf StompFest, along with a history of events (such as the late, great Drive Invasion) spotlighting other retro music styles.

But things really got interesting when the Tiki and craft cocktail revivals merged, creating a hot trend among bartenders and owners worldwide. Atlanta caught the bug, resulting in the opening of The S.O.S. in Decatur, just northeast of Atlanta, in 2015. In 2018, the Virginia Highland neighborhood of Atlanta saw the opening of Tiki Iniki, the first stateside franchise location of the concept created by Todd and Michele Rundgren in Hawaii. And while not truly traditional, Match Bamboo Lounge offers spirited aloha in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood.

Derek Yaniger at Inuhele 2019

Meanwhile, the city’s Tiki underground organized on Facebook in The Atlanta Tiki Revival Society group. And the area’s home bars (such as the Enchanted Treehouse High on the Hooch, Mon-a’ Roa Lanai, and The Kingfish Lounge) received high ratings and worldwide recognition on the Critiki website.

Just in time for Inuhele 2019, the city will get its newest full-blown exotic cocktail locale when the ambitious, three-story Tiki Tango opens in the former Lava Lounge space in Midtown (grand opening set for Friday, Feb. 15). The opening will indeed be grand. As part of the festivities, there will be an attempt to set a record for the world’s largest Mai Tai with a 55-gallon cocktail.
Press coverage: Say ‘aloha’ to Tiki Tango, Midtown’s new three-story Tiki bar
* First Look: Tiki Tango brings Tiki drinks and food to Midtown
* Atlanta Eats: Polynesian vibes and specialty cocktails

About Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend

All this activity spurred Horror in Clay’s Jonathan and Allison Chaffin to organize the first Atlanta Tiki Homebar Tour, dubbed Inuhele (for “cocktail journey”) on Feb. 24, 2018. It was a small affair with 50+ people taking a bus tour of local home bars for a day, then concluding the night at Trader Vic’s.
* See photos from 2018

Atlanta Tiki Home Bar Tour

For 2019, the Chaffins are taking Inuhele to the next level as a full-blown weekender on the same scale as other mid-sized Tiki events such as the pioneering Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, which also started as a home bar tour nearly two decades ago. The Marriott Century Center has been secured as the host hotel, and the Chaffins promise “a weekend of bar hopping, panels, bands, demos, sharing of ideas, and most importantly community building.”

Eekum Bookum at Inuhele 2019

The community definitely came together to help make such an ambitious undertaking possible. Among the more than a dozen sponsors are:
* Tiki Tango, host of the “Tiki Hop-on Hop off Shuttle” and Friday night party.
* Spiribam rum specialists, presenting sponsor of the home bar bus.
* BG Reynolds, the premium bar syrups purveyor and man behind the “Iron TikiTender On Tour” event that will take place on Saturday at the Marriott.
* Royer Corp., the popular swizzle stick manufacturer known for its cutting-edge designs.
>>> See all the sponsors here

Inuhele highlights

Friday kickoff and bar crawl: Events at the Marriott Century Center include classes and meet-ups, the trading post, a DJ dance party with Brother Cleve, plus more. Meanwhile, a bus will shuttle guests to Trader Vic’s, Tiki Tango, and Tiki Iniki all evening.

Continue reading “Inuhele celebrates Atlanta’s meteoric rise as Tiki destination”

The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

The Hukilau 2018

Updated Feb. 8, 2018
The Hukilau gave its loyal fans a New Year’s treat by announcing an expanded lineup for the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event, giving its regular “villagers” early access and discounts on tickets. The general public can now join the party at the 17th annual mash-up of Polynesian Pop and cocktail culture.

UPDATE: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV

The Hukilau 2018

The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
Quick links: Tickets | Book hotel | Schedule | Bands, bars, VIPs
Previous story: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend
See below: Bonus cocktail recipes
* Three Dots and a Dash from Three Dots and a Dash
* Nu Nui Nui from Daniele Dalla Pola of the Nu Lounge

Here are the highlights of the announcement, sent via email and posted on the official website. I also spoke directly with the event’s owner and co-organizer, Richard Oneslager, to get all the scoop on 2018. NEW: As of Feb. 8, this preview is now updated with the late January announcement.

Party like it's 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)
Party like it’s 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)

PREVIEW: The Hukilau 2018 highlights

* MUSIC: More headlining bands. The 2018 event will include some of the world’s top surf and exotica bands, including Los Straitjackets, The Madeira, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet and The Martian Denny Orchestra. Villagers will also be thrilled to see the return of The Intoxicators, who missed 2017 after 12 straight appearances. Other performers include The Exotics, Black Flamingos, Czarna Wolgastar, The Royal Pacifics, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, and The Hukilau’s one and only emcee during its previous 16 years, the ubiquitous King Kukulele. Look for more bands to be announced, along with special guest DJs. Bands will perform on all five days in various venues. [More details below]

* BARS: 12 Tiki pop-ups. Seven of last year’s 10 acclaimed bar teams are returning, joined by five new Tiki-themed pop-ups from around the world setting up shop all over Pier 66 at special events, tastings, and classes. Due to popular demand, a second afternoon pool party with complimentary cocktails has been added to the schedule. Back for more more rum and cocktails are bartenders from Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), and S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta). Coming on board for 2018 are Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Foundation Bar (Milwaukee), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), and Trailer Happiness (London). [More details below]

Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He'll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer)
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He’ll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer).

* INDUSTRY VIPS: Cocktail influencer makes debut. Boston’s Brother Cleve will bring his vast knowledge of cocktails and music to The Hukilau for the first time. This prime mover of the craft cocktail scene in the 1990s and former member of the groundbreaking band Combustible Edison will present a symposium, make a special DJ appearance, and also have his own bar in the Tiki Tower Takeover event. In addition, rum ambassador Ian Burrell returns from London for a second straight year to host a symposium, two cocktail classes and a special rum tasting. [More details below]

* TIKI TOWER TAKEOVER: Signature cocktail party expands, returns for Round 4. Held on Thursday night in the hotel’s revolving Pier Top Lounge, the fourth edition of one of Tiki’s most exclusive events is likely to sell out just as fast as the previous three. Tickets are limited to passholders, so act now. The lineup will grow from four to five pop-ups (featuring six different bar teams), including returning participants Three Dots and a Dash and Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar. Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick also returns, teaming up with Pagan Idol for a special two-bar mash-up. The final two pop-ups will feature the craft cocktail stylings of Brother Cleve and the crew from the U.K.’s Trailer Happiness. [More details below]

* MERCHANDISE: Works of top Tiki artists on display. The official artists for The Hukilau 2018 are Joe Vitale and Donella Vitale, whose work can already been seen on the website and promo artwork. The couple is based in Orlando, where they both work for Disney in addition to being among the most recognizable artists of the Tiki revival. Fun fact: The Vitales are among a select few who have attended The Hukilau all 16 years, along with emcee King Kukulele and co-founder Tim “Swanky” Glazner. Villagers will get first shot at the event merchandise, including the 17th annual mug produced by Eekum Bookum. There will also be special items for some villagers, including a South Seas passholder pendant by Crazy Al Evans.

Bar teams from Pittsburgh's Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta's S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year's expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)
Bar teams from Pittsburgh’s Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta’s S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year’s expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)

* ENHANCEMENTS: Feedback from villagers. The Hukilau listened to its attendees and will implement quite a few changes: Extended hours and a second pool party on Saturday (in addition to Friday) including live music, more bars and bands (see above), a “Villager’s Lounge” tent to “meet and hang with old friends and new,” a party featuring all exotica music, and more food trucks.

* MORE SPECIAL EVENTS: Symposiums, Medusirena Marina swimshows. Symposiums, craft workshops, Okole Maluna cocktail classes, hula lessons, plus more new additions were announced in late January. These include three swimshows featuring Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in her home at the nearby Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort, plus symposiums on Disney’s Trader Sam’s Tiki bar concept and the heyday of Tiki on television. Craft workshops will feature a trio of noted Tiki artists, while cocktail classes will include bartenders and experts from across the country.
UPDATE: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!”

The Week in Tiki (July 27-Aug. 9, 2015): Tiki Oasis blasts off, plus Summer event recaps, more rum and cocktail news

The Week in TikiThe summer Tiki event season reaches its climax this week with the big kahuna, Tiki Oasis in San Diego. We have a full preview, plus a recap of many other recent happenings: Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop, the Surf Guitar 101 Convention, plus Shag at Disneyland and Tiki Night in Hollywood. There’s also news on the upcoming Mai Tai Festival in Hawaii, a Trader Vic’s rum tasting, and lots more. Our regular features spotlight Tiki mug creators PopTiki; the otherworldly music of Man or Astro-man?; the Bali Hai Restaurant in San Diego; and the website of Americana ambassador Charles Phoenix. The rum of the week, Angostura 5, is featured in The Morning After cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT PREVIEW: Tiki Oasis takes guests back to the retro future

Tiki Oasis

San Diego becomes the center of the Tiki universe when the 15th annual Tiki Oasis presents “Yesterday’s Future Today” on Aug. 13-16 with four whirlwind days of 20 live bands and 20 DJs, 35 educational symposiums, art, mixology, book signings, a 100-vendor marketplace, 20 burlesque performers, comedy, vintage cars, fashion, food, kids events, and more. If you can’t find something to enjoy at Tiki Oasis, you’re following the wrong pop culture subgenre.

As a testament to the popularity of Tiki Oasis, it’s pretty much sold out. Organizers announced Monday that limited tickets will be available for Thursday night’s Bali Hai party starting at 6 p.m. And those with hotel room reservations will still be able to buy two tickets if they haven’t already. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. However, the festival marketplace, car show, and an assortment of other activities are free and open to the public.

King Kukulele leads kids in a sing-along
King Kukulele leads kids in a sing-along. (Tiki Oasis photo)

Thursday’s’s Meet and Greet takes place at the legendary Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island, while ground zero for the rest of Tiki Oasis is the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly The Hanalei Hotel). Though it has suffered through renovations, the hotel still features waterfalls, lava rock pools and eight-story glass elevators, plus classic tikis featured in Sven Kirsten’s The Book of Tiki.

In keeping with the theme, many events are centered around mid-century modern primitivism (think the jet age meets Tiki). Musical acts include spacy surf band Man or Astroman?, out-of-this-world rockabilly band The Phenomenauts, and ’60s garage legends The Chocolate Watchband. Other notable bands include The Phantom Surfers, Tikiyaki Orchestra, Clouseaux, and Project: Pimento.

Symposium educators include original Mothers of Invention keyboardist Don Preston, Rodenberry Entertainment CEO Rod Roddenberry, author and Tiki historian Sven Kirsten, and mid-century historian and entertainer Charles Phoenix. The art show features more than 30 top Tiki artists from around the world. The first San Diego Tiki Bartenders Challenge will be held during a beefed-up Sunday schedule that also features a special garage band showcase.

Don the Beachcomber room parties at Tiki Oasis

Guests always get in on the fun, so look for lots of retro and mod fashion, and appropriate Tiki space age decor for the famous room parties. Of course, everything is bigger at Tiki Oasis, including the Friday-Saturday room crawl. For example, Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach is hosting a two-night bash featuring live music from The Hula Girls and the Jimmy Psycho Experiment. New Las Vegas bar The Golden Tiki will also host a massive room party with live music and the owner himself DJing in his suite at the Crowne Plaza. Branden Powers is actually no stranger to the hotel, having DJ’d a weekly lounge event called Taboo 20 years ago when it was still the Hanalei Hotel.

Tiki Oasis is also a collector’s and shopper’s paradise, with some 100 vendors selling hand-crafted Tiki art, vintage clothing, records, collectibles and more. The marketplace is free and open to the public for most event hours Friday through Sunday at the Crowne Plaza. The vintage car show, also free, is held Saturday and Sunday in the hotel parking lot.

Here’s a day-by-day preview of all the headlining entertainment:

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (July 27-Aug. 9, 2015): Tiki Oasis blasts off, plus Summer event recaps, more rum and cocktail news”

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 2, 2015): Los Straitjackets at Ohana: Luau at the Lake, Tiki Caliente updates

The Week in TikiAloha, and welcome to a new feature on The Atomic Grog spotlighting the latest news and information on the Polynesian Pop revival and wide world of retro-themed entertainment. Every Monday, look for a new blog post that previews what’s coming up and looks back at the highlights of the previous week. The Week in Tiki will attempt to cover all the major happenings across the world, with a focus on our home base, Florida and the U.S. East Coast. In keeping with the theme of the blog, look for updates on events, music, art, cocktails and culture, along with our obsession with Disney World. We’ll also celebrate our favorite spirit, rum, and spotlight a different cocktail recipe every week. Sit back, relax … and enjoy!
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks
* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (Feb. 2-8, 2015)

Los Straitjackets
Los Straitjackets

Los Straitjackets to headline Ohana: Luau at the Lake
Event tickets are scheduled to go on sale today (Feb. 2) for the seventh annual Ohana: Luau at the Lake at The Tiki Resort in Lake George, N.Y. Featuring three days of music, cocktails and ‘ohana in a classic Polynesian setting, the June 25-28 event has become the biggest Tiki gathering in the Northeast and one of the signature events of the Fraternal Order of Moai. The 1950s era Polynesian-themed motor inn will be transformed into a weekend Tiki party featuring carvers, artists and vendors plus room parties and an authentic luau. Last week, it was announced that Los Straitjackets, the Lucha Libre-masked surf-rock stalwarts, will be headlining this year’s entertainment lineup. Other bands scheduled to perform include The Neanderthals, Waitiki, The Outta Sites and 9th Wave. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for further updates.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 2, 2015): Los Straitjackets at Ohana: Luau at the Lake, Tiki Caliente updates”

A Tiki Top 10: Photos and memories from The Hukilau 2013

The Hukilau was held June 6-9, 2013, at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (aka the Yankee Clipper) and The Mai-Kai restaurant.
See below: Gallery of 40 photos

The Intoxicators from Tallahassee unleash a surf-rock fury in The Molokai lounge during Thursday's late-night bash.
The Intoxicators from Tallahassee unleash a surf-rock fury in The Molokai lounge during Thursday’s late-night bash. (Atomic Grog photo; click for gallery)

More than 800 devotees of Polynesian Pop culture and classic mid-century style assembled for the 12th annual gathering of the tribe known as The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. Despite inclement weather that forced some venue and schedule changes, the colorfully-clad attendees didn’t seem to mind, flocking to a wide assortment of events showcasing eclectic music, rum-filled cocktails, expert speakers and lots more.

Below are the highlights of The Atomic Grog’s whirlwind weekend, which began early in the week with organizational efforts and didn’t end until Sunday’s post-event party at The Mai-Kai. I missed one band and a couple symposiums, but I tried to hit all the major happenings and photographed the revelry for posterity (see photos below). For extensive photo coverage, click on the Go11Media link below the gallery.

The following is highly subjective but should give a fair snapshot of the wide array of festivities, along with a few tasty cocktail recipes. I apologize to any bands and participants I may have neglected to mention, but all did a great job. It was tough narrowing this list down to 10. In roughly chronological order …

Continue reading “A Tiki Top 10: Photos and memories from The Hukilau 2013”

The Hukilau gears up for vintage Tiki weekend with exclusive merchandise, new sponsors and added entertainment

The Hukilau

With just over a week before The Hukilau invades South Florida for its 12th annual vintage Polynesian Pop extravaganza, attendees can look forward to a great assortment of recently announced goodies from sponsors and the event organizers.

The Hukilau: June 6-9, 2013, at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (Yankee Clipper), Best Western Oceanside, and The Mai-Kai restaurant. Tickets, schedule and updates at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.
Previous posts: The Hukilau crowns winner of Deadhead Rum Cocktail Contest
The Hukilau announces new art show, entertainers, more updates for Tiki fest in June

Angostura Rum and Bitters

NEW SPONSORS JOIN THE PARTY

Angostura Rum and Bitters has not only joined The Hukilau as a sponsor, the venerable spirits company is sending brand ambassador David Delaney to the event to mix up some special tropical cocktails. Look for Delaney at the Angostura booth in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar at the Yankee Clipper on Friday, June 7, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Also joining as a sponsor in 2013 is Barritt’s Ginger Beer, a classic Caribbean brand that will be featured in cocktails Thursday evening in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar. While you’re in the bazaar, keep an eye out for these cocktails and other special events, such as Saturday’s 1 p.m. memorabilia signing by classic pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager and mid-century Polynesian dancer and actress Nani Maka.

Continue reading “The Hukilau gears up for vintage Tiki weekend with exclusive merchandise, new sponsors and added entertainment”

Mai-Kai cocktail review: If you’re ‘Passionate’ about tropical drinks, this one’s for you

The Mai-Kai cocktail review: If you're 'Passionate' about tropical drinks, this one's for you

Updated October 2019

See below: Our Piña Passion review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe NEW
Related: What says ‘Tiki’ better than a drink served in a pineapple?
Mai-Kai cocktail guide

One of the most iconic images of the tropical drink is a vessel made from a hollowed-out pineapple. This over-the-top cocktail experience has been perfected at The Mai-Kai with the classic Piña Passion.

The Mai-Kai's Piña Passion, served in The Molokai bar in June 2016 with a 60th anniversary swizzle stick. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Mai-Kai’s Piña Passion, served in The Molokai bar in June 2016 with a 60th anniversary swizzle stick. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Piña Passion is served in a fresh pineapple that guests can take home. The one exception is during happy hour in The Molokai bar, when you’ll have to settle for having the drink in an old fashioned glass.

If you ever get a chance to take a peek into The Mai-Kai’s main service bar, tucked way behind the kitchen and hidden from guests, you’ll find cases of pineapples awaiting their fate. [See photo]

Drinks in pineapples were staples on tropical-themed cocktail menus across the country during Tiki’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. You can still find them at old-school establishments such as San Francisco’s Tonga Room (est. 1945) and Chicago’s temple of Witco, Hala Kahiki (est 1966). In the Hawaiian language, a pineapple is called “hala kahiki.”

A postcard shows a server in the early years of The Molokai bar holding the welcoming Piña Passion. (MaiKaiHistory.com)
A postcard shows a server in the early years of The Molokai bar holding the welcoming Piña Passion. (MaiKaiHistory.com)

Even in the dark days of Tiki in the 1970s and ’80s, pineapple drinking vessels remained essential on cruise ships and resorts in exotic locales. They go hand-in-hand with the concept of a tropical paradise.

They’re not as easy to find at today’s smaller Tiki and craft cocktail bars, which tend to favor traditional glassware and ceramic mugs. But this is changing in a big way thanks to a new breed of craftsmen who are taking Tiki hospitality to a whole new level.

At Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, one of the most popular events presented by owner Martin Cate and his team is Domingo de Piña (Pineapple Sunday), which features a selection of cocktails served in pineapples. We recommend Cate’s book – Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki (2016) – for more in-depth info and recipes for several tasty drinks served in pineapples.

There's nothing more welcoming than a server in The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai with a tray full of exotic cocktails, including a Piña Passion. (The Palm Beach Post / 2005 file photo)
There’s nothing more welcoming than a server in The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai with a tray full of exotic cocktails, including a Piña Passion. (The Palm Beach Post / 2005 file photo)

Italy’s Daniele Dalla Pola, who built upon the success of his Nu Lounge Bar to open Esotico Miami in August 2019, is also a big proponent of the spiky fruit. His new exotic bar and restaurant features both food and drink served in fresh pineapples. At The Hukilau 2017, he presented two Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes called “Pineapple Paradise” with information and advanced techniques on using the hospitable fruit in tropical drinks.

Of course, the pineapple is iconic as the worldwide symbol of hospitality. It was so sought-after in colonial times that people would rent them for a day to use as a party decoration. Considered the world’s most exotic fruit, pineapples were brought back to Europe by Columbus and other explorers. George Washington praised the fruit in his diary, noting that among his favorite foods, “none pleases my tastes” like a pineapple.

Because of their scarcity and high price, pineapples were typically served only to prestigious guests, and even those who could not afford them picked up on the image to share the sentiment of a special welcome. Towns, inns and households began displaying images of the pineapple to convey a sense of welcoming. You can find pineapple images on historic buildings around the world.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: What could be Cooler than a Mai Tai history lesson?

K.O. Cooler, October 2017. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Updated July 2018
See below: Our K.O. Cooler review | Ancestor recipes | Tribute recipe
Related: Trade in Vic’s Mai Tai for this classic | Mai-Kai cocktail guide

Beachbum Berry presents Don the Beachcomber's Q.B. Cooler, which he made during a symposium on the history of the Mai Tai at The Hukilau 2009 at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Go11Media)
Beachbum Berry presents Don the Beachcomber’s Q.B. Cooler, which he made during a symposium on the history of the Mai Tai at The Hukilau 2009 at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Go11Media)

It’s 1937. A budding Oakland, Calif., restaurateur named Victor Bergeron ventures south to Hollywood to see for himself what all the hoopla is about surrounding a small tropical-themed bar called Don the Beachcomber. According to legend, Bergeron was inspired to adopt the same Polynesian theme and shortly thereafter changed the name of his restaurant from Hinky Dink’s to Trader Vic’s.

The rest is history, and Trader Vic’s remains the standard-bearer for Polynesian restaurants worldwide with more than 25 locations. The Don the Beachcomber chain disappeared, save for a lone corporate restaurant/bar location at the Royal Kona Resort in Hawaii and a recently closed one-off franchise in Huntington Beach, Calif., that’s reportedly reopening soon in a new location. Neither, however, have much tangible connection to founder Donn Beach. He officially left the company when his ex-wife, Sunny Sund, took the helm during World War II.

Our nation’s soldiers always held a special place in the heart of Beach, a veteran of the Army Air Corps during WW II and recipient of both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. One of the drinks on Beach’s menu in 1937 was the Q.B. Cooler, named for the Quiet Birdmen, a drinking fraternity of aviators founded by seven World War I pilots in 1921. Donn changed his Q.B. Cooler recipe over the years, but as cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry revealed in his 2007 book, Sippin’ Safari, the original version tastes remarkably similar to what Trader Vic later introduced to the world as perhaps the most famous of all tropical drinks, the Mai Tai.

Beachbum Berry discusses the history of the Mai Tai and its relation to the K.O. Cooler during his symposium at The Hukilau 2009 at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
Beachbum Berry discusses the history of the Mai Tai and its relation to the K.O. Cooler during his symposium at The Hukilau 2009 at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Go11Events.com)

As Berry theorized in the book and later demonstrated during a symposium at the 2009 Hukilau at The Mai-Kai, it’s likely that Bergeron created the Mai Tai by copying the flavor profile of the Q.B. Cooler. What’s remarkable is that the Mai Tai contains quite different ingredients (orange curacao, sugar syrup, orgeat syrup). The two drinks have only rum and lime juice in common. But it’s undeniable that the tastes are incredibly similar.

Of course, Bergeron later claimed that he invented the Mai Tai in 1944 and eventually won a court battle that established him as the originator of the famous cocktail. Berry puts forward the theory that Bergeron most likely did invent the Mai Tai as we all know it, but he was inspired by the Q.B. Cooler and re-created it using almost entirely different ingredients. In honor of the battle to make the best Mai Tai, the Royal Kona holds on popular bartending competition every year dubbed the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival.

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