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 (Sept. 21-Oct. 4, 2015): The Hukilau passes going on sale, Hulaween is back at The Mai-Kai, Ohana flock to the sea

The Week in Tiki Get ready to book your trip to The Hukilau 2016: Tickets and rooms could be available as early as this week. The latest news also includes details on Hulaween, The Mai-Kai’s annual Halloween party. Also in South Florida, Ohana: Luau by the Sea just wrapped up its first annual gathering. Event previews include Mod-Palm Springs, Mahaloween at Trader Sam’s, and the UK RumFest. We also look back at a memorial for The Pizz, the Tonga Room’s 70th anniversary, Thee Hot Rod Luau in Huntington Beach, Dapper Day and Tiki Day at Disneyland, and Rome Rumfest. Regular features honor the artist of the week, Eekum Bookum; Northeast surf band 9th Wave; Kreepy Tiki Lounge in Fort Lauderdale; and the Cocktail Kingdom website. Cockspur Fine Rum is featured in The Mai-Kai’s Moonkist Coconut.
* 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

Passes, special event tickets and rooms available soon for The Hukilau 2016

It’s time to gear up and make your plans for The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary event, coming June 8-12 to the historic Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Weekend passes and several special event tickets may go on sale as early as this week, along with special room rates, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White told The Atomic Grog.

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag
The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag.

Keep an eye on The Hukilau’s official website and Facebook page for updates.

In August, White announced the dates and some details on the East Coast’s oldest and largest Tiki weekender, including special guest Shag. The acclaimed artist will be creating a special 15th anniversary print and designing the event mug, White said, along with hosting several signings of his books and art.

But the most anticipated Shag-related activity may be “Shag’s SkyLounge,” an exclusive cocktail party in the 17th floor rotating Pier Top Ballroom at Pier 66. Built in 1965, the space-age tower has already been depicted by Shag in promotional artwork for the 2016 event. “The Pier Top Ballroom will be transformed into a mid-century modern sky lounge,” White said. “Guests will have the opportunity to actually be a part of a live Shag painting.” Shag will also be presenting a separate symposium, his first ever at a Tiki event, White said. He plans to talk about his life and times and art, she said.

Steve Yamada (left) and Jeff
Steve Yamada (left) and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry from Latitutde 29 serve up their signature T.O.T.C. Swizzle at the Tiki Tower Takeover in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The other signature event in the Pier Top Ballroom will be a reprise of last year’s Tiki Tower Takeover, which brought together four of the country’s top Tiki barmen for an exclusive happy hour event featuring their signature cocktails. While enjoying spectacular views of Fort Lauderdale, guests were treated to full-sized and fully garnished drinks personally mixed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), Paul McGee (Lost Lake), and Brian Miller (“Tiki Mondays With Miller”.

For 2016, Berry is confirmed to return, White said, and he’ll be joined by five more top Tiki cocktail bars from around the world. That expands the lineup of bars (and selection of drinks) from four to six. White said the Tiki Tower Takeover and Shag’s SkyLounge will both take place on Thursday, June 9.
* Atomic Grog recap: Photos, recipes, full report on the 2015 Tiki Tower Takeover

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Sept. 21-Oct. 4, 2015): The Hukilau passes going on sale, Hulaween is back at The Mai-Kai, Ohana flock to the sea”

Upstart spirits share spotlight with major players at sixth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Miami Rum Renaissance FestivalIt’s a rum enthusiast’s dream: Seven days of nothing but tasting hundreds of rums and cocktails in sunny Miami, learning about the colorful history and culture that envelop every aspect of the industry.

But the sixth annual Miami Rum Festival also revealed a key component of rum’s burgeoning success: It’s rare for an industry to simultaneously embrace both tradition and innovation, giving upstarts equal footing with the industry’s revered giants. In the world of rum, this is possible, and it was on full display in late April.

This story covers my adventures at industry parties during the first Miami Cocktail Week, plus an in-depth look at the festival’s signature Grand Tastings and seminars. Click here for reviews of the week’s best cocktails, including some tasty recipes.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival was held April 25-27 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Miami Cocktail Week was April 21-27 at venues throughout South Florida.
Jump below: Rum reviews | Seminars | Photo gallery | Tasting competition results
Related story: Cocktails reach new heights of creativity at Miami Rum Festival

MIAMI COCKTAIL WEEK: Welcome to the jungle

Daniele Crouch and Matt (Rumdood) Robold serve Caña Rum Bar cocktails featuring Plantation Rum during the Miami Rum Festival party at The Broken Shaker on Monday, April 21
Daniele Crouch and Matt (Rumdood) Robold serve Caña Rum Bar cocktails featuring Plantation Rum during the Miami Rum Festival party at The Broken Shaker on Monday, April 21. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The week of rum-soaked festivities commenced on Monday, April 21, with a kick-off party sponsored by Plantation Rum and featuring a pop-up bar with cocktails from Caña Rum Bar in Los Angeles. Held at The Broken Shaker in Miami Beach, the laid-back event gave early arrivals and locals a chance to mingle and sample some inventive concoctions.
* Click here to check out my review of the cocktails

The vibe and weather were perfect as attendees soaked up both the atmosphere and complimentary cocktails with equal gusto. Rum fest organizers Robert A. Burr and Robin Burr, along with son Robert V. Burr, chilled out and entertained guests as if they were hosting an informal backyard party at their home. At the time, I thought the Burrs were enjoying the calm before the storm, but a storm never arrived. The weather was perfect all week (clear and sunny days, mild nights), and the festival seemed to run without a hitch.

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Cocktails reach new heights of creativity at Miami Rum Festival

Miami Rum Festival Cocktail WeekFueled by the first Miami Cocktail Week, mixologists upped their game at the 2014 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April, presenting new and classic drinks with a modern flair. From the full week of events hosted by area bars, to the three-day Grand Tasting exhibits attended by more than 10,000 enthusiasts, there were plenty of opportunities to sample some of the best rum drinks being created today.

This story covers my search for the tastiest and most creative cocktails of the entire week. Click here for an overview of the festival and reviews of the best rums.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival was held April 25-27 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Miami Cocktail Week was April 21-27 at venues throughout South Florida.
See recipes below: Don Q Cocktail | Miami Swizzle | Passion Fontaine | Good Head
Jump below: The Grand Tastings | The Top 10 cocktails
Related coverage: Upstart spirits share spotlight with major players at Miami Rum Fest
Atomic Grog photo gallery | RumXP International Tasting Competition results

Matt Robold pours Plantation Rum as he mixes up Caña Rum Bar cocktails
Matt Robold pours Plantation Rum as he mixes up Caña Rum Bar cocktails at The Broken Shaker on Monday, April 21. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

THE PRE-PARTIES: Cocktail Week kicks off

It’s fitting that the first event of the week was held at Miami Beach’s The Broken Shaker, one of the most acclaimed cocktail bars in South Florida. But this was not just an ordinary evening at the funky indoor/outdoor bar, which would have been just fine. I did manage to squeeze in one of the establishment’s carefully hand-crafted rum cocktails before I left, but the main attraction of the evening was the pop-up bar sponsored by Plantation Rum and featuring mixologists from Caña Rum Bar in Los Angeles. [See the flyer]

There were four complimentary drinks [see menu] expertly mixed by Daniele Crouch and Matt Robold, aka Rumdood. This was no easy task considering the temporary bar set up on the patio, not far from the pingpong table and quite a distance from any traditional bar fixtures and plumbing. But the drinks were spot-on, made to order and consummately garnished. This pair deserves an award for most impeccably produced drinks under strenuous circumstances. I noticed Rumdood sweating in the Miami heat, but he and Daniele never lost their cool. My only complaint would be that they ran out of their homemade peach cordial before I could try the Gypsy Cab cocktail, which got high marks from the folks I talked to.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: A delicious and Oh So Deadly treat

Updated November 2016
See below: Our Oh So Deadly review | Ancestor recipe | UPDATE: Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

Oh So Deadly is a deceptive name since the cocktail is actually from the mild section of The Mai-Kai’s extensive menu. It packs intense flavors, however, ranking it among the best of the mild drinks.

Oh So Deadly pairs perfectly with some of the new small plates on The Mai-Kai's appetizer menu in The Molokai bar. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2016)
Oh So Deadly pairs perfectly with some of the new small plates on The Mai-Kai’s appetizer menu in The Molokai bar. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2016)

Until recently, we were convinced that cinnamon was a featured ingredient. When this guide was launched in 2011, Oh So Deadly was among 10 cocktails that we thought contained cinnamon syrup, a key secret weapon of Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber. Many of The Mai-Kai’s best drinks are direct descendants of Beachcomber classics from the 1930s through 1950s, when original mixologist Mariano Licudine tended bar at Don the Beachcomber restaurants in Hollywood, Calif., and Chicago. In this case, Oh So Deadly can be traced back to Never Say Die.

In 2012, we posted our take on Oh So Deadly featuring cinnamon and considered this among our better tributes. However, in June 2015 we learned that cinnamon syrup is not featured in any of the current cocktails. Manager Kern Mattei and owner Dave Levy assured me that it’s not used anywhere on the menu, though the cinnamon sticks used for garnish in several of the drinks can give you that illusion. This caused a minor stir on Tiki Central, where Mai-Kai cocktail fans debated the revelation.

Never Say Die

The distinctive juices, rums and syrups used at The Mai-Kai have always given the cocktails a unique flavor that’s nearly impossible to duplicate. The phantom cinnamon flavor in drinks such as Oh So Deadly just reinforces that fact. The juices come fresh-squeezed from South Florida groves, the rums include bold Jamaican and Demerara brands, and the syrups are house-made following mysterious recipes that only Levy knows.

More recently, the recipe was tweaked to add falernum, which gives it an added boost of flavor. This Caribbean syrup features many exotic flavors, including almond, ginger, cloves, and lime. It’s featured in multiple drinks on the menu, including Cobra’s Kiss, Mai-Kai Swizzle and S.O.S. Oh So Deadly contains a healthy dose of falernum, making it perhaps the best showcase of all.

What also sets it apart from many of the other mild drinks is the inclusion of two of The Mai-Kai’s most distinctive rums (Demerara and dark Jamaican). The mild cocktails typically contain light and gold rums that don’t impart as much flavor. Oh So Deadly is an exception to that rule.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: Find out what makes the Shark Bite so Jawesome

The Shark Bite is always served with a "side of danger" (in this case, a shot of aged Appleton rum). (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 2017)

Updated August 2018
See below: Our Shark Bite review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

We continue our journey through dangerous waters this week with another of The Mai-Kai’s signature drinks, the Shark Bite.

Hurricane Hayward enjoys a Shark Bite in The Molokai bar in September 2016 during a book-release party for Tim "Swanky" Glazner's "Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant." (Atomic Grog photo)
Hurricane Hayward enjoys a Shark Bite in The Molokai bar in September 2016 during a book-release party for Tim “Swanky” Glazner’s “Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant.” (Atomic Grog photo)

Considering that this is the heart of the summer vacation season and we’re still digesting Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” this is an appropriate choice. Actually, the Shark Bite’s potency is a bit overstated. It’s our favorite drink from the “medium” section of the menu.

Like the much stronger Shrunken Skull, the Shark Bite has an ominous name and also a shot of flavorful rum added as it’s served. It’s also one of many of the legendary Fort Lauderdale Polynesian restaurant’s drinks that date back to the early days of Tiki, when Donn Beach (aka Donn the Beachcomber) laid out the template for tropical drinks that is still followed to this day.

The Shark Bite is an almost spot-on copy of the Shark’s Tooth, a drink featured on Don the Beachcomber menus as well as other bars and restaurants during the mid-century golden age of Tiki. You’ll find a Shark’s Tooth recipe below that was unearthed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry for his seminal 1998 book, Grog Log, and later republished in Beachbum Berry Remixed (2010). Also below is a slight variation that we’re calling a tribute to the Shark Bite.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai cocktail review: Find out what makes the Shark Bite so Jawesome”