There’s no such thing as summer doldrums in the world of Tiki with plenty of major events spanning coast to coast this summer. We take a look back at July’s Tiki Kon and Tales of the Cocktail and preview August’s Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop in Ohio, plus the Surf Guitar 101 Convention and Tiki Oasis in Southern California. Also upcoming are the Trader Vic’s Portland anniversary party, Tiki Monday With Miller in New York City, and the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau at Disneyland. Our regular features spotlight the artwork of Ken Ruzic; the fuzzed-out sounds of Davie Allan and the Arrows; the Grass Skirt Tiki Room in Columbus, Ohio; and the Dionysus Records Empire website. The rum of the week, Denizen Merchant’s Reserve, is featured in an original creation, the Merchant’s Mai Tai. * 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 RECAPS: Tiki Kon, Tales of the Cocktail
The summer event season got into high gear in July with the 13th annual Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, themed to mid-century air travel. “Tiki Kon Air” was held July 10-12 at the Red Lion Hotel in Vancouver, Wash., and included a tour of commercial and home bars in nearby Portland, Ore. Festivities included eclectic live music and entertainment, symposiums, art and vendors plus the action-packed Iron Tikitender contest. Emerging as the new champion was Sierra Kirk from Hale Pele in Portland. Beginning Friday, Aug. 1, Tiki Kon merchandise will be available in the online store for those who weren’t able to attend. Tiki Kon has already announced plans for the 2016 event, which will return July 8-10 to the Red Lion with a World War II theme. Follow the Facebook page for updates. * Inside the magical world of Tiki Kon (Punch)
While Martin Cate’s Smuggler’s Cove (Best American Cocktail Bar nominee) and Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (Best New American Cocktail Bar nominee) did not take home Spirited Awards, the 13th annual Tales of the Cocktail held July 13-19 in New Orleans certainly did not disappoint. The gathering of 20,000 bar professionals, industry reps and enthusiasts offered a little something for everyone with hundreds of events and seminars, many touching on Tiki and rum topics. Miami Beach’s tropical-themed craft cocktail oasis, The Broken Shaker in the Freehand Miami hotel, was honored with the Spirited Award for Best American Hotel Bar. Bar partners Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, who recently opened a second Broken Shaker in the Freehand Chicago, accepted the award to “thunderous applause,” according to press reports. They had been nominated for the award in the past, but this was their first victory. See all the winners on a special Pintrest page. * More on The Broken Shaker’s win: Miami New Times | Sun-Sentinel * Tales of the Cocktail press coverage: New Orleans Times-Picayune Wall Street Journal | The Daily Beast * Blog coverage: A Mountain of Crushed Ice | Cocktail Wonk
EVENT PREVIEWS: Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop, Surf Guitar 101 Convention, Tiki Oasis
One of the lesser known events on the Tiki calendar rolls into Austin on Aug 2-9, which has been declared Texas Tiki Week. Now in its fourth year, the event is geared toward bar professionals across the state and is organized by members of the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Many events, such as educational classes and a bus tour, are for USBG members and industry trade only. But others, including a Lost Lake pop-up bar and other cocktail events, are open to the public. Check the schedule for more info. Sponsors include a host of rums and spirits, including Appleton, El Dorado, Flor de Caña, Mount Gay, Plantation, Zacapa, and B.G. Reynolds. Get updates on the Facebook page.
The Midwest’s biggest summer Tiki weekender, Hot Rod Hula Hop, is revving up for its seventh annual bash Aug. 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio. Presented by the Kahiki and Kon-Tiki chapters of the Fraternal Order Of Moai, the event features two days and nights of live music, hot rods, a luau dinner, and a burlesque show. Friday’s “Feast of the Tiki Gods” luau will be held at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room, this week’s Tiki bar of the week. Saturday’s festivities and climatic “rock ‘n’ bowl show” headlined by Unknown Hinson will be held at Sequoia Pro Bowl, a 32-lane bowling center. Other performers include an assortment of regional surf and country rockers, including The Revomatics (Wisconsin), the Hellroys (Arkansas), Hypnotide (Ohio), The Whiskey Daredevils (Ohio), and The Digs (Ohio). A portion of the proceeds will benefit Cure CMD. Click here for ticket info and get updates on the Facebook page.
This week’s news includes a contest to win the new event mug for The Hukilau 2015 by Tiki Diablo, plus a preview of a New York City cocktail event featuring the crew from Tiki Mondays With Miller. We also recap last week’s Legacy Cocktail Competition in Miami Beach sponsored by Bacardi, and an auction of Disney parks collectibles that netted $1.7 million. Our weekly features spotlight artist Robert Jimenez, Digitiki.com and The Quiet Village, exotic band Ixtahuele, and former Tiki hotspot The Castaways in Miami Beach. The rum of the week, Denizen white, is featured in the Rebel With a Cause cocktail. * Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive * Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (March 2-8, 2015)
The Hukilau mug giveaway Tuesday
On Tuesday (March 3), The Hukilau will be unveiling a contest that will give participants a chance to win the official 2015 event mug by Tiki Diablo.
You must have a past mug (or mugs) from The Hukilau and an Instagram account to enter. Follow The Hukilau and check the Facebook page for more info.
The annual Polynesian Pop weekender will be held June 10-14 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Musical guests and performers include Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, and King Kukulele. Symposium presenters are Arthur Dong, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Brian Miller, Domenic Priore, Jeff Chenault, plus Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener.
Get your wristbands and symposium tickets now at TheHukilau.com before they sell out. The 14th annual Tiki weekender will also include two one-of-a-kind events: The Tiki Tower Takeover featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) mixing up special cocktails in the Pier Top Lounge. And a special “Three Hour Tour” cruise with actress Dawn Wells, aka Mary Ann on classic TV show Gilligan’s Island.
Some lost Mai-Kai cocktails are easier to trace than others. Even though the drink known as Hanalei Bay disappeared from the menu when the United States was still embroiled in the Vietnam War, its legacy is easy to figure out. This small but powerful drink was an obvious take on Don the Beachcomber’s Montego Bay.
Looking at old Mai-Kai and Don the Beachcomber menus, the resemblance both in name and menu artwork is obvious. Named for the second largest city in Jamaica, the Montego Bay cocktail dates back to the early days of Tiki. We’ve included a vintage recipe below, thanks to the research of tropical drink historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry.
Montego Bay was very similar to the Navy Grog and Zombie, also invented by Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber). All were re-invented by mixologist Mariano Licudine when The Mai-Kai opened in 1956. Licudine spent decades behind the bar at Don the Beachcomber restaurants in Los Angeles and Chicago before he was lured away to Fort Lauderdale. His re-creations of Beachcomber classics usually included a tweak or two, and the Montego Bay is no exception.
It was one of the last remaining “lost” recipes (along with Dr. Fong) that had not been featured at special events over the past several years. I had almost given up hope of ever tasting it when The Mai-Kai’s general manager, Kern Mattei, revealed during the summer of 2016 that both had turned up in an old Mariano Licudine recipe book. It was great to take a trip back in time while enjoying the book release party with Tikiphiles and Mai-Kai fans who had traveled across the country for the event. [More photos on Tiki Central]
Glazner gave a guided tour of The Mai-Kai’s dining rooms, plus a special on-stage presentation featuring stories and photos from the book and his archives. The video clip of Johnny Carson enjoying a Mystery Drink on The Tonight Show is always a highlight (see past coverage). Be sure to pick up a copy of the book to check out the stories and more than 400 images, many revealed for the first time. You can find it in The Mai-Kai gift shop and other brick-and-mortar locations. It’s also available online via Amazon.
SPECIAL EVENT: The Rums of The Mai-Kai at The Hukilau 2019 Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog took guests on an virtual journey to the Caribbean to learn about the key rums and styles that have dominated The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed cocktails for more than 60 years. He was joined by rum expert Stephen Remsberg for an Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy class at Pier Sixty-Six hotel on June 8, and by Cocktail Wonk writer Matt Pietrek for an on-stage symposium at The Mai-Kai Grand Finale on June 9. See the event preview | Full recap coming soon! Get detailed reports and photos on Tiki Central Coming soon: Exclusive news on a new replacement for Kohala Bay rum at The Mai-Kai, plus more! * See exclusive info and photos on Tiki Central
For more than 60 years, The Mai-Kai has carried on the tradition of Tiki forefather Don the Beachcomber by serving some of the world’s most acclaimed tropical drinks. The secret recipes created by Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt (aka Donn Beach) in the 1930s and ’40s became the basis for many of the exotic cocktails on the menu when Bob and Jack Thornton opened their Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale in 1956.
By their very nature, Tiki bars are known for their rums and cocktails highlighting cane spirits. But The Mai-Kai takes it to the extreme. The 48 drinks on Licudine’s original menu called for 43 different brands of rum, reports author and Tiki historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry in The Mai-Kai chapter of Sippin’ Safari, the seminal 2007 book on Tiki’s unheralded bartenders that was recently expanded and enhanced for a 10th anniversary edition.
“Shortly after opening, The Mai-Kai became the largest independent user of rum in the U.S., pouring more than 2,000 cases of Puerto Rican rum in 1958 alone,” Berry wrote in Sippin’ Safari. Some 60 years later, lighter bodied rums from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands still make up a large chunk of the total volume of rum poured in The Mai-Kai’s secluded back bars. They play a key role in the many popular drinks on the tourist-friendly mild section of the menu.
But Beach’s true genius, as carried on by his brethren at The Mai-Kai, was the ability to blend rums of different body and character and create an entirely new and bold flavor profile. Many of The Mai-Kai’s most robust cocktails feature three and four different rums, such as the Zombie and Jet Pilot.
The rums that define The Mai-Kai style are straight out of Donn’s playbook. As a counterpoint to the Spanish-style column-stilled rums, Beach often added two English-style pot-stilled rums: The dark and funky rums from Jamaica, and the rich and smoky Demerara rums from Guyana. These have always been the distinctive flavors that define many of The Mai-Kai’s best cocktails, particularly those on the strong section of the menu.
Following is a deep dive into these two rum styles as they’re served at The Mai-Kai today and through history, including discussion and reviews of the current brands and cocktails.
DEMERARA RUMS: Lemon Hart, Hamilton shine in strong, flavorful cocktails
The Mai-Kai began using the latest reboot of Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum, the iconic mixing rum from Guyana, in September 2016. This black blended overproof rum, which disappeared from the U.S. market in mid-2014, was reintroduced in the summer of 2016 and continues to regain distribution across the country. Lemon Hart’s 80-proof rum (known as Original 1804) is making slower progress, and The Mai-Kai continues to use Hamilton 86 as its standard black blended Demerara rum as of mid-2018. * Tiki Central: Latest updates on Lemon Hart’s return
It was during the two-year absence of Lemon Hart that Hamilton 151 and 86, also from Guyana, stepped up to fill the void. The Hamilton rums were embraced not only at The Mai-Kai, but at Tiki and craft cocktail bars across the country. While some bars have chosen to stick with Hamilton across the board, The Mai-Kai is splitting the difference with Lemon Hart 151 and Hamilton 86.
Following is a list of the drinks at The Mai-Kai using Lemon Hart and Hamilton rums. The links will connect you with reviews and recipes.
Retired cocktails featuring Demerara rum: In addition to the current drinks listed above, you can also sample a few recipes for drinks that are no longer featured on The Mai-Kai menu. Both of these have made comebacks at special events, so you never know when they will return for an encore. Demerara Cocktail | Demerara Float
HISTORY: The saga of Demerara rums at The Mai-Kai
What exactly is Demerara rum and why is it so important to Tiki cocktails? According to Berry, aged Demerara rums “are the rich, aromatic, smoky ‘secret weapon’ in most truly memorable tropical drinks.” They hail from the banks of the Demerara River in Guyana, hence the name. The last remaining distillery in Guyana is Demerara Distillers, which produces its own extensive suite of rums under the El Dorado brand. It also supplies all of the world’s Demerara rum, including those bottled by Lemon Hart and Hamilton.
The historic distillery, aka Diamond Distillery, was established in 1670. The rums are made using molasses from local Demerara sugar, which along with the distillery’s special strain of cultured yeast, historic stills and Guyana’s tropical climate, provide a unique combination that yields some of the world’s richest rums. Diamond employs some of the oldest and unique stills the world, including the last wooden pot stills, which can be traced back to the 1730s.
There are more than 20 different styles of rum produced at the distillery, we learned in a 2014 seminar at the Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami. Master distiller Shaun Caleb offered a fascinating look at the inner workings of Diamond Distillery and the excellent El Dorado rums.