The Atomic Grog had the distinct pleasure of serving up cocktails on Aug. 27 for special guests of artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli at the 20th anniversary party for Altered State Tattoo, the South Florida shop that has gained him a worldwide following for his highly creative ink. See recipes below: Altered State Zombie | Mai Ta-IPA
Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shop.
Respectable Street in downtown West Palm Beach hosted the private bash, which also included a rare performance by Pooch’s hard-rocking band, Ferocious Stones; a lowbrow art marketplace featuring Altered State artists; and a DJ keeping the eclectic tunes flowing during the three-hour party. The Atomic Grog pop-up bar was featured on the back patio along with food by chef Corey Hall.
Pooch opened his modest shop in August 1996 in Lake Worth, funneling his creative energy into a new career as a small business owner. His talent as an artist (and musician) was always evident, with much of his early work centered around his acclaimed hardcore metal band Raped Ape. Pooch quickly became an in-demand tattooist, showcasing his highly original work in national magazines and building a loyal following. A lowbrow art career soon followed, with Pooch’s paintings shown at gallery shows from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York City.
Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)
The artist’s eye-popping surrealist work includes many exotic images, including Polynesian Tikis, Day of the Dead, and his own unique take on roller coasters. Full disclosure: The Atomic Grog home bar and surrounding walls feature a half-dozen Pooch prints, including Franken Tiki Island. Pooch painted a boomerang table that hangs behind the bar and also gave me this rare Tiki piece he painted. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of his work. I even traveled to his 2005 gallery shows in Seattle and Los Angeles.
Not only is Pooch a major talent in the lowbrow and tattoo art worlds, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. A seemingly imposing figure, Pooch is actually a gentle giant, literally and figuratively. Nowadays, we typically meet up for cocktails at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, sharing our affinity for Tiki culture and exotic libations. Mrs. Hayward and I also often join Mike and Stacy (Mrs. Pooch) at the creative gastropub Sweetwater in Boynton Beach.
Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party. (Atomic Grog photos)
When the original review of this “lost cocktail” was posted, it was just the second in a series that I hoped would shed just a little bit of light on some classic drinks that were retired from The Mai-Kai’s menu over the years and largely forgotten. Little did I know that nine months later, the light would be shining brightly on this and two other recipes returned from the vault for a special event at the conclusion of The Hukilau 2013.
More than three years later, at The Mai Kai’s 60th anniversary party, the same three cocktails returned from the vault once again to be enjoyed by a new generation of enthusiasts who may not even have been born the last time they appeared on a menu. * See the 60th anniversary “lost cocktails” menu
Mai-Kai general manager Kern Mattei, who worked behind the bar back in the 1980s and is familiar with many of the drinks before they were retired, was the driving force behind the return of these vintage recipes. Along with the current menu recipes, he keeps retired recipes under lock and key in his office and ensures their quality and authenticity. When it came time to select three drinks for the 2013 party, he committed to two of the previously revealed concoctions (Last Rites and Demerara Float) plus one newly revealed tipple.
Seeking a mild option, Mattei suggested the Liquid Gold or Impatient Virgin, and he prepared samples of both. We were both impressed with the flavor-packed Virgin and went with this slightly reconfigured version for the party. See the tasting notes and tribute recipe below for more info.
Like many of The Mai-Kai’s legendary tropical drinks (31 on the current menu and nine lost classics), the Impatient Virgin can be traced back to Tiki bar pioneer Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber. His Vicious Virgin was a staple at his chain of restaurants in the years prior to The Mai-Kai’s birth. As has been well documented on this blog, one of Beach’s top bartenders, Mariano Licudine, was hired away to The Mai-Kai, and the rest is history.
Licudine took Beach’s classic recipes and ran with them. Many stayed virtually the same, but he also did a lot of tinkering with ingredients and flavors. He also tinkered with the names, documented by Tiki drink historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry in his definitive book on the heyday of tropical mixology, Sippin’ Safari.
Mariano’s son, Ron, told Berry about how the task of naming the drinks became a family affair. Before The Mai-Kai opened, the Licudine family gathered in the living room to come up with new (often better) names for the Beachcomber drinks that the master mixologist had reconfigured (and usually reinvigorated). “They changed the Vicious Virgin into the Impatient Virgin, the Cobra’s Fang into the Cobra’s Kiss, and the Never Say Die into the Oh So Deadly,” Berry wrote.
Most of the names were improved, with an obvious attempt to be more tourist-friendly at the fledgling Fort Lauderdale restaurant. The inspiration of those names remains a secret of the Licudine clan who gathered for those early brain-storming sessions.
However, one name in particular remained a favorite of Mariano’s son, Ron Licudine, who elaborated on the history of the Impatient Virgin in an interview for the PBS documentary Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession. Coincidentally, the film premiered at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau 2013, just before the Lost Cocktails Party. Sadly, two weeks after The Hukilau, Ron Licudine lost a long battle with cancer at age 69.
The namesake of the drink, Licudine relates in the film with a smile, was actually a cousin in the Philippines named Virginia. We won’t speculate on the degree of her patience, but we certainly appreciate the purity and virtue of this lost-but-not-forgotten classic cocktail.
Okole Maluna Society review and rating
Flavor profile: Intense sweet and sour juices, falernum, and a hint of gold rum.
Review: A tantalizing combination of juices, syrups and rum with a distinctive Mai-Kai flair.
Ancestry: Based on Don the Beachcomber’s Vicious Virgin, the Impatient Virgin was on the original 1956-57 Mai-Kai cocktail menu and spotted as recently as the mid-1980s. At this point, however, drinks in small cocktail glasses were quickly losing popularity, a factor that might have had something to do with the Impatient Virgin’s demise.
* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice * 1/2 ounce Cointreau * 1/4 ounce falernum * 1/2 ounce Puerto Rican dark rum * 1 ounce Virgin Islands light rum
Pour into blender. Add a handful of cracked ice. Blend for 15 seconds at high speed. Serve in a thin 6-ounce champagne glass that has been frozen in a deep freezer.
Don’t confuse this drink with Vicious Virgin #2, a tequila drink featured in Beachbum Berry Remixed.
I went with Bacardi 8 and Cruzan Estate as my rums. My falernum choice, as usual, was Fee Brothers.
The result is quite sour and tart, with a nice kick from the aged Bacardi. The absence of a overtly sweet syrup makes for a drink that’s on the sour side. It’s similar to a classic sour frozen daiquiri, Hemingway style.
Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Impatient Virgin, v.2 – circa 2013-2016 By The Atomic Grog
* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice * 3/4 ounce fresh orange juice * 1/4 ounce falernum (Fee Brothers) * 1/4 ounce grenadine (Fee Brothers) * 3/4 ounce Appleton Special gold Jamaican rum * 3/4 ounce white Virgin Islands rum * 1/2 teaspoon fassionola (see below)
Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for 3-5 seconds. Serve in a small rocks glass. Or strain into a small martini glass or cocktail coupe. Garnish with a optional maraschino cherry.
Notes and tips for home mixologists
The Impatient Virgin was originally served in a small cocktail glass, just like its ancestor. According to Mattei, it even had the same maraschino cherry that settled in the bottom of the glass (see Vicious Virgin artwork above). When it was first resurrected from the lost cocktails graveyard in 2013, it was served in a rocks glass with ice (see photos above and below).
But in December 2016, we were pleased to see it return to its old form as a strained cocktail, served in a small martini glass. A small detail, but much appreciated. Otherwise, the drink seemed to stay pretty much the same. It’s a rich and sweet cocktial, with hints of gold rum offsetting the juices and syrups.
Prior to its 2013 appearance, we posted this a tribute recipe that isn’t too far off the latest version above …
Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Impatient Virgin, v.1 By The Atomic Grog
* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice * 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice * 1/4 ounce falernum (Fee Brothers) * 1/2 ounce Appleton Estate Extra dark Jamaican rum * 1 ounce Appleton Special gold Jamaican rum * 1/2 teaspoon fassionola (see below)
Blend with 1/2 cup of crushed ice until smooth. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry. Wahine optional.
Notes and tips for home mixologists
In both tributes, I went with Appleton Jamaican rum, which is used in many of the restaurant’s current cocktails. It gives the drink a richer rum flavor to accent the sour notes.
The addition of both grenadine and fassionola give the drink a pink hue and intense sweetness. The original Impatient Virgin was indeed a “girly drink,” Mattei confirmed, and it has a distinctive color. Fassionola, an obscure bar syrup from the early days of tropical mixology, is used here much the same way as the similarly colored Tahitian Breeze. Used in small doses, it adds color but doesn’t alter the flavor.
Fassionola substitute: The intense red and fruity syrup is an old-school ingredient that’s rarely used today. The Atomic Grog endorses the Jonathan English brand that we found on eBay. But an easier solution is to mix equal parts of a dark, rich grenadine (Fee Brothers does the trick) and Smucker’s Red Raspberry Syrup.
Both fassionola and grenadine are necessary to achieve the full, rich flavor – much like the Cobra’s Kiss. In fact, this could be considered a mild version of that drink with that same combination of falernum, grenadine-fassionola, OJ and lime used to great effect.
Was the Impatient Virgin too similar to those other, more popular, cocktails to survive a menu purge in the 1980s? Perhaps. We’re just grateful it returned, undefiled, from the ranks of The Mai-Kai’s long-lost cocktails.
Though it appears on the surface to be a simple, light and breezy rum drink, The Mai-Kai’s Tahitian Breeze is actually a complex creation with roots that date back nearly 80 years to the world’s first Tiki cocktails.
A close cousin of the Hidden Pearl in both look and taste, the Tahitian Breeze evolved from Donn Beach’s Tahitian Rum Punch, one of the original drinks served at Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood, Calif., in the 1930s.
Mariano Licudine, who created The Mai-Kai’s original 1956 menu, started working for Donn Beach in 1939 in Hollywood, then spent 16 years at the Don the Beachcomber in Chicago. So he most likely knew the Tahitian Breeze very well as it evolved over the years.
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 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.”
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.
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.
Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber’s Test Pilot was one of the most copied drinks during the mid-century heyday of Polynesian cocktails. It morphed into the Ace Pilot, Space Pilot and Astronaut, among others. At The Mai-Kai, it became the Jet Pilot.
As discussed in the review of the vintage S.O.S. (Don the Beachcomber’s Three Dots and a Dash), Donn Beach was a decorated World War II veteran and always had a deep connection to the armed forces. In his honor, a B-26 Marauder was painted with a replica of the Don the Beachcomber driftwood sign on its nose. The plane and crew flew many successful missions in the Pacific.
The Test Pilot is also an interesting study in how Donn Beach constantly tweaked his drinks. A Don the Beachcomber cocktail from the 1930s or ’40s could be vastly different than one with the same name in the 1950s or ’60s.
Included below is a Test Pilot recipe unearthed by cocktail sleuth and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry from the 1940s. It’s one of the most popular in the Tiki revival, and it features many of the same ingredients as The Mai-Kai’s Jet Pilot. We’ve also listed a later recipe from a book by Donn Beach’s widow, Phoebe. It’s slightly different but also very strong and has a similar flavor profile. Other popular old-school versions include the Jet Pilot served at Steve Crane’s The Luau chain in the 1950s (revealed by Beachbum Berry in Sippin’ Safari in 2007) and the Space Pilot, still served today at the Tiki Ti in Los Angeles (est. 1961).
In Minimalist Tiki by Cocktail Wonk blogger Matt Pietrek, a 2020 Spirited Award nominee for Best New Cocktail or Bartending Book, the Test Pilot and Jet Pilot are both listed among the “Classic 30” cocktails from the first golden era of tropical mixology.
Like Tiki Ti owner Ray Buhen, The Mai-Kai’s original mixologist, Mariano Licudine, worked for Donn Beach in the early days. In 1956, he was lured from the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Chicago to design The Mai-Kai’s original tropical drink menu. So it’s likely he had a vast knowledge of multiple versions of the Test Pilot when he created arguably one of the best, The Mai-Kai’s high-octane Jet Pilot.
The official menu description JET PILOT Fast and courageous, a vigorous blend of heavy bodied rums and zesty juices.
Okole Maluna Society review and rating
Flavor profile: Dark and powerful rums, spicy and bitter notes with a hint of exotic sweetness.
Review: Very complex and intense. Not for the timid. Sweet, spicy and strong all at the same time.
The Cobra’s Kiss is one of the most original and distinctive cocktails you’ll find anywhere. And like many of the best complex drinks at The Mai-Kai, it takes time to fully appreciate it. But if you truly savor rum and exotic flavors, you’ll eventually experience a revelation.
For The Atomic Grog, that revelation came during the 2010 Hukilau (see photo at right). It became the event’s drink du jour, a suddenly under-appreciated classic. If you hang out at The Mai-Kai and sample enough of the cocktails, you’ll have many similar experiences.
I’d hesitate to use the word unique since the Cobra’s Kiss is actually a knock-off of an early Don the Beachcomber drink, but this cocktail has a flavor profile that you’re not going to find very often. As he did with many of the classics, former Beachcomber bartender Mariano Licudine tweaked the Cobra’s Fang just enough to give it his own stamp at The Mai-Kai. In this case, it is arguably better than the original. It’s one of my favorites on the medium-strength section of the menu, along with the Shark Bite and Rum Julep. All are intensely flavorful and highly recommended.