After 10 years, we know what to expect from The Mai-Kai’s infamous Hulaween party: A night of kooky costumes, rockin’ tunes and many cocktails consumed in the legendary Polynesian restaurant’s Molokai bar. The 2019 bash, held Oct. 25, lived up to those standards.
The 11th annual Hulaween, themed “Luau of the Living Dead,” featured South Florida’s favorite roots rock band, Slip and the Spinouts, playing three raucous sets. The dance floor was hoppin’ all night as guitarist/vocalist Slip Mahoney led his three-piece band through classic covers and his own original tunes.
The bar was decked out in creepy cobwebs and other decor while the signature Molokai Girls got into the spirit while keeping the food and drinks flowing. Halloween tunes got everyone warmed up for the first set by the Spinouts, which also included bassist Noah Hall and drummer Tony Tomei. It was the band’s ninth Hulaween appearance.
After the band’s second set, it was time for the always creative costume contest, with $600 in cash and prizes to the winners. The Mai-Kai’s manager, Kern Mattei, and marketing director, Pia Dahlquist, presided over the creepy chaos of the costume parade.
The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween, one of the highlights of South Florida’s Halloween party season, will feature a festive feast for the living and dead on Friday, Oct. 25. The 11th annual bash is titled “Luau of the Living Dead,” a theme befitting the historic Polynesian restaurant that will celebrate its 63rd anniversary at year’s end.
The baroque bacchanal begins with a full two hours of happy hour prices on food and drinks, plus retro Halloween tunes in The Molokai lounge. Once the spirits are satiated, roots rockers Slip and the Spinouts take the stage, turn up the volume and put the party into overdrive.
The band – led by guitarist/vocalist Slip Mahoney – will unearth its deadly mix of rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly classics, with lethal original tunes liberally sprinkled throughout three sets. The Atomic Grog will also provide special Halloween music during happy hour and between sets. Doors open at 5, so get there early to get a good seat for the musical mayhem and one of the most creative costume contests in the area.
Participants always come up with wild and wacky costumes, often themed to Tiki and The Mai-Kai but also paying tribute to classic movie characters and Halloween archetypes. The contest takes place around 10 p.m. This year’s prizes are: * First: $300 in cash, a bottle of Appleton Estate 21 rum signed by master blender Joy Spence, and a Hulaween 2019 poster signed by artist Mike Pucciarelli. * Second: $200 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster. * Third: $100 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster.
Appleton Rum is a perennial sponsor, providing not only prizes but also cocktail samples during the party. Spence, a legend in the rum world, signed a bottle of her 21-year-old rum that will be one of the first-place prizes during her August tasting and Appleton Estate presentation at The Mai-Kai. Click here to see full coverage and photos from this special event.
Appleton, a venerable brand from Jamaica, is a key rum in many of the acclaimed cocktails at The Mai-Kai. You can find it in more than a dozen drinks, including the classic Mai Tai and deliciously deadly Shark Bite. The latter (plus the high-octane Jet Pilot) will be available at half price all night long as part of the bar’s nightly drink specials.
The Molokai, which was designed as a turn-of-the-century seaport saloon featuring actual set pieces from the classic 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty, boasts 51 specialty drinks and extensive menu of small and large plates. Pair your potent rum drink with a pupu platter and other vintage apps, sushi and sashimi, elaborate salads, and modern tapas including beef sliders and fish tacos. If you so desire, you can also adjourn to The Mai-Kai’s secluded dining rooms or take in the acclaimed Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.
What could possibly be better than an Appleton Estate rum tasting at The Mai-Kai? How about the first-ever such event at the historic Polynesian palace hosted by Joy Spence, the longtime master blender for the venerable Jamaican brand synonymous with pure premium rum.
The 50 or so enthusiasts who were lucky enough to score a ticket to the sold-out presentation on Aug. 14 were in for a treat. In addition to four delicious Appleton rums, we enjoyed a complimentary Mai Tai and happy-hour prices on The Mai-Kai’s extensive cocktail and pupu menus.
But the most valuable take-away was undoubtedly the fascinating first-hand information provided by the world’s first female master blender. Her articulate and straightforward delivery, sprinkled with entertaining and whimsical anecdotes, made the rum-tasting experience a true Joy.
Here are some of the many insights we learned from Spence during her hour-long appearance in the Fort Lauderdale restaurant’s Tahiti dining room:
5 things you might not know about Joy Spence
* In her youth, she went to an all-girls catholic school and originally wanted to become a nun. “But I’m an only child, and when I told my mother I wanted to become a nun she marched down to the school and told the principal that she needs grandchildren.” Luckily for Appleton Estate and Jamaican rum devotees worldwide, she never joined the convent.
* Spence went to college to become a doctor, but she ended up concentrating on her passion for chemistry. When it came time to get some industry experience, she joined Tia Maria as a research chemist. At this time, the company that makes the dark Jamaican liqueur was located right next to J. Wray & Nephew, which makes Appleton Rum.
* She was bored at Tia Maria and always noticed the action at the “happening place” across the road, so in 1981 she sent a resume and set up an interview. “They told me right up front that there were no vacancies,” she said, but two weeks later they offered her a new position as chief chemist because they were so impressed with her resume. Despite the salary being less than her current job, she left Tia Maria and the rest is rum history.
* As chief chemist, Spence worked closely with the master blender, Owen Tulloch. “I became very fascinated with what he was doing in his private room,” she said, and her curiosity led her to knock on his door and find out. Spence recalled: “He started to test me and said ‘you have amazing sensory skills. You’ll become an excellent blender one day.’ So he took me under his wing and I studied with him for 17 years. When he retired, my bosses took a very bold move to appoint me as the master blender. No other woman had ever been given that position in the entire spirits industry. They actually got a lot of flack for it, but they knew what they were doing. My whole life changed after that.”
* The first rum she oversaw as master blender was the Appleton Estate 250th Anniversary release in 1999. She said her knees where shaking during the process. She wasn’t sure how it would be received, “but I got an excellent reaction” and “that gave me the strength and courage to continue and make the other blends that we now have in our portfolio.”
12 things we learned about how Appleton Estate rum is made
* Appleton Estate, est. 1749, is located in the lush and tropical Nassau Valley. “Believe it or not, it rains every day at 2 p.m., so we don’t have to worry about irrigation,” Spence said. This rainfall feeds the limestone springs beneath the ground, as well as the robust sugar cane crop.
* The estate grows 10 varieties of sugar cane year-round. The crop is harvested between January and May and crushed to yield juice. The juice is then boiled, resulting in crystals of sugar suspended in molasses. A massive centrifuge separates the two. The sugar is sold, and the leftover molasses is pumped over to the distillery, becoming the starting material for the rum.
* The limestone springs – which produce a distinctive turquoise blue water with “a nice soft, sweet taste” – are Spence’s favorite part of the estate. “When I’m feeling depressed and down, I take a glass of Appleton Estate Reserve, drive over to the water source, sit on a rock, and enjoy the beauty of the springs. I sip the Reserve, and by the time my glass is finished, all my troubles have been washed away and I’m ready to go back and face the problems of the distillery.” This unique spring water is added to the molasses.
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.
Some of the biggest names in the spirits world flocked to South Florida for the first annual Miami Rum Congress, a two-day event featuring tastings and educational seminars dedicated to the burgeoning booze that may finally have outgrown its “party like a pirate” image. Atomic Grog photo gallery, event recap NEW:VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress
Rum has forever been touted as the “next big thing,” a more economical and (some would argue) tastier alternative to whiskey in the hearts and glasses of aficionados of brown spirits. But, perhaps to its advantage, rum’s popularity has come at a more slow and steady pace, built from the ground up through an expanding group of devotees, event organizers and well-regarded industry loyalists. All of those folks will converge on Miami Beach to network and learn more about the world’s most diverse spirit.
Rum’s diversified, worldwide appeal is what keeps it near and dear to many. Our 2019 events calendar includes rum gatherings around the globe, from Jamaica to Czechoslovakia to The Netherlands to Madrid. And that’s just the next four months. In the United States, the Rum Renaissance Festival (set for May 17-18 in Coral Gables) has been the torch-bearer since launching in 2009 and deserves credit for being ahead of its time and paving the way for what has followed.
Miami, always a top market due to its proximity to the Caribbean and historic appreciation for rum, has been a step ahead of the rest of the country. But the word is out. Rum is not only fun, but it’s incredibly diverse and quickly gaining traction as a premium spirit. Smaller boutique festivals have become the norm, appealing to premium tastes.
Enter Federico Hernandez (of TheRumLab.com) and Ian Burrell (the award-winning global “rum ambassador”), who have joined forces to bring South Florida its second major rum festival. It’s clear that the demand is warranted. Tickets are selling briskly and several price points are sold out.
Hernandez and Burrell are on the cusp of the explosion of rum festivals worldwide. In 2007, Burrell founded The UK RumFest, widely considered to be the godfather of all rum events around the globe. In the years since, the charismatic ambassador has been on a one-man crusade, traveling to every continent on Earth on behalf of spirits companies and earning the 2018 Spirited Award as Best International Brand Ambassador. The 13th annual UK RumFest is set for Oct. 19-20.
The next logical step for Burrell and Hernandez in their efforts toward the “premiumization and education of rum” is Miami Rum Congress. “After years of attending and hosting rum events, we are combining our experiences and expertise to bring consumers and tradespeople the finest rum event in the Americas,” said Burrell in a press release. “We are bringing in expert guest speakers from around the world so that Miami Rum Congress attendees will not only have the opportunity to taste a wide array of exotic rums but can interact with and learn from top industry experts and thought-leaders. This unparalleled spirit event will be an exciting moment for the industry and monumental in shaping the modern-day rum landscape.”
Miami Rum Congress is the newest addition and the first event of the 2019 rum festival circuit. It’s not hard to lure anyone to sunny Miami Beach in February, but the lineup of VIPs and experts is nevertheless extremely impressive.
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.
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.
Slip and the Spinouts scared up some monstrous mayhem at the ninth annual Hulaween party at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Living up to the theme “Monster Tiki Party,” the band and guests rocked for more than six hours on Oct. 27 in the legendary restaurant’s Molokai bar. See below:Exclusive Atomic Grog photo gallery
Halloween parties, themes and trends come and go. But The Mai-Kai and its annual bash serve as a festive mainstay, never failing to disappoint the retro-minded fans who flock to 60-year-old historic landmark on South Federal Highway. The costume contest annually draws a creative bunch of Tiki-loving guests who get in the spirit of the season with outfits that are both reverential and fun.
Amping the party up to 11, as usual, was South Florida rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts, performing at their seventh Hulaween. Slip Mahoney and his tight, three-piece band performed three sets of classic roots rock and their own distinctive original tunes.
The trio of Slip Mahoney on guitar and vocals, Rodney Simioni on bass, and Dominick Daniels on drums were decked out for the occasion. During happy hour and between sets, The Atomic Grog presented a playlist of retro Halloween tunes with a monster slant.
South Florida’s favorite roots and rockabilly band, Slip and the Spinouts, will scare up some monstrous mayhem on Friday, Oct. 27, at the ninth annual Hulaween party at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. The theme for this year’s retro-themed bash is “Monster Tiki Party,” and the highlights include an always irreverent costume contest with cash and prizes to the winners.
The festivities kick off with happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. in the historic Mai-Kai’s nautical themed Molokai bar, featuring half-priced drinks and appetizers plus specially themed monster music curated by The Atomic Grog. This year’s Hulaween cocktail is the “Appleton Monster Barrel” featuring sponsor Appleton Rum. This month’s “Friday Flashback” cocktail, Last Rites, also fits perfectly with the theme.
The Appleton Monster Barrel is a new, enhanced version of the iconic Barrel O’ Rum featuring two rums from the venerable Jamaican brand. Last Rites is a cocktail from The Mai-Kai’s original 1956 menu that was retired decades ago. It made its first return from the grave at the 2012 Hulaween party.
There are many other dark and deadly drinks available, including the Black Magic and Shrunken Skull. In addition, the usual Friday night special features half-priced Jet Pilot and Shark Bite cocktails all night. The Mai-Kai’s drinks are considered among the best Tiki cocktails in the world, revered by such award-winning authors and bar owners as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate.
The Molokai bar in the iconic Polynesian restaurant, established in 1956 and recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, will be transformed into a rockin’ retro shindig with The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed Tiki cocktails and classic pupu platters sharing the spotlight with the lively crowd of undead revelers.
Ghoulish guests also get half off from 5 to 7 on all of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian appetizers and small plates, including favorites such as the Pupu Platter, crab, escargot, beef, pork, duck, octopus, sushi, vegetarian options, and lots more. If you haven’t explored all the menus recently, you’re missing out on the transformation led by chef Mark Rivera.
It’s also hard to resist the full-blown experience of The Mai-Kai’s famous Polynesian Islander Revue (est. 1961), the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. Friday’s showtimes are 7 and 9:30 p.m., so you can work it into your Hulaween experience. Or, if you prefer the dark and mysterious, adjourn to one of The Mai-Kai’s secluded dining rooms, or grab a table outside near a waterfall in the Tiki garden. To guarantee a seat, be sure to make advance reservations for dinner.
Oct. 1 – Tiki Safari in Australia, a celebration of Tiki culture featuring live music, DJs, merchandise, food and carver Tiki Bob plying his trade.
Oct. 3-7 – El Floridita’s 200th anniversary celebration in Havana, Cuba. Tales of the Cocktail presents a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to celebrate the bicentennial of the legendary cocktail bar with special events, tours, tastings, competitions and more.
From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. The biggest will get extended coverage as “spotlight events.” Social media:Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram
July 6-9 – Exotica 10 Years After featuring the finest in surf, garage and roots music in venues throughout Chicago.
July 8 – Tiki Night at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. The American Cinematheque’s 13th annual Tiki Night event starts at 1:30 p.m. with a Tiki marketplace and continues into the evening with an exclusive screening of the 1994 film Rapa Nui. The day’s activities include live music by King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis, performances by the Polynesian Paradise Dancers, Tiki vendors, the Aloha Fridays food truck, and craft Tiki cocktails. * More info | Facebook event
July 9 – Surfin’ Sundays at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. A free, all-ages summer concert series at the Huntington Beach Pier in Southern California. Featuring The MuerTones, Durango 66, Tequila Worms, 3 Balls Of Fire, Driving Guitars (The Ventures tribute), and The Breakaways.
July 14-15 – Spirit of Tiki Cocktail Festival in London. This second annual event brings the tropical atmosphere of the South Pacific to Regent’s Park for a celebration of Tiki culture with a focus on rum and exotic cocktails. Includes Tiki art, performances, music (including British singer Andy Abraham) and food. Organized by Mahiki bar manager Georgi Radev, rum enthusiast Roger Barnes and global rum ambassador Ian Burrell. * Facebook page | Press coverage (The Spirits business)
July 15- Tiki Makeke at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif. More than 60 vendors selling their wares, plus authentic Polynesian music and hula dancers, live bands, food and drinks, plus more. Live music by The Hula Girls.
July 15 – Tiki Run in St. Paul, Minn., featuring races (5k, 10k, half marathon, etc.), costume contest, and post-race party. * Facebook page