The Hukilau photo highlights: Thursday’s Tiki Tower Takeover and Kick-Off Party

Check out images from the second day of festivities during The Hukilau’s 14th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale.
Photos by day: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday/Sunday

PHOTOS FROM THURSDAY, JUNE 11

Tiki Tower Takeover in the Pier Top Lounge at Pier 66
(All photos by The Atomic Grog except where noted)
Atomic Grog recap, recipes: Tiki’s top barmen take over the Pier 66 tower

The Hyatt Regency Pier 66 is and its exclusive rotating top-floor lounge are primed and ready for today's events.The Hyatt Regency Pier 66 is and its exclusive rotating top-floor lounge are primed and ready for today’s events.

The 17th-floor lounge offers a panoramic view of Fort Lauderdale BeachThe 17th-floor lounge offers a panoramic view of Fort Lauderdale Beach.

With prep completed, the Tiki Tower Takeover's all-star cast of bar professionals joins The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White (center) for a group photo. (Photo by Go11Events.com)With prep completed, the Tiki Tower Takeover’s all-star cast of bar professionals joins The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White (center) for a group photo. (Photo by Go11Events.com)

The event featured an exclusive gathering of four of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki barmen serving up signature drinks …

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The Hukilau photo highlights: Wednesday’s mermaid show, pre-party at The Mai-Kai

Check out images from the first day of festivities during The Hukilau’s 14th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale.
Photos by day: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday/Sunday

PHOTOS FROM WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10

Registration opens at Pier 66

The moai were placed in the lobby with care.A moai awaits guests near the registration booth in the Crystal Atrium. (The Hukilau photo)

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Event preview: The Hukilau keeps 20th century Tiki culture alive and thriving in the 21st century

Polynesian Pop enthusiasts from around the world will gather Wednesday through Sunday (June 10-14) in Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau, the East Coast’s largest and longest-running celebration of all things Tiki. The event reaches new heights in its 14th year at the towering Pier 66 hotel with marquee events that include the country’s top Tiki cocktail barmen and actress Dawn Wells, aka Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island.

The Hukilau 2015

The Hukilau: June 10-14, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Special guest: Dawn Wells. Musical guests and performers: Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, King Kukulele, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Lila Starlet, DJ James Brown’s Sweat. Symposium presenters: Arthur Dong, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Domenic Priore, Jeff Chenault, Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener. Guest bartenders: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Brian Miller, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Dean Hurst, the Straw Hat Barmen.
* Buy tickets, get more info at TheHukilau.com
* Latest updates: The Hukilau on Facebook | Twitter
* The Atomic Grog: The Week in Tiki

For a so-called fad that started in the 1930s and peaked in the mid-20th century, Polynesian Pop seems to be doing quite well 15 years into the 21st century. So what makes Tiki culture so enduring, and endearing?

“It’s really all about the escape,” said Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, an Alabama native who co-founded The Hukilau in 2002 in Atlanta and sagely moved it to Fort Lauderdale and its historic Polynesian palace, The Mai-Kai, in 2003. “Some of us live the lifestyle, but for so many others, they get to dress in island prints, make tropical cocktails and create an instant vacation. Tiki gives all of us a release from the hustle of everyday life.”

* See below: Sponsors and merchandise | Special events | The venues | Symposiums
Bands and performers | Tickets and schedule

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Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond

After coming precariously close to saying aloha and goodbye to The Hukilau, the long-running Tiki event she has organized since 2002, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White is sure glad things turned out differently. “For me, it was the best event in the history of The Hukilau,” she said of the five-day festival in June that not only marked the 13th annual gathering of vintage culture devotees from around the world, but also a new beginning.

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night's Main Event at The Mai-Kai.
The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White introduces her new partners, Richard Oneslager (left) and Mike Zielinski, during Saturday night’s Main Event at The Mai-Kai.

Just months before she planned to close the books on The Hukilau for good, White was approached by two fans of the event who also happened to be experienced businessmen and event organizers who were eager to strike up a partnership. “I consider myself a very lucky person,” she said of the serendipity of the happenstance that led to The Hukilau not only surviving to see 2015, but becoming poised to thrive and reach new audiences across the country.

I sat down with Tiki Kiliki recently at The Mai-Kai, the beloved 57-year-old Polynesian restaurant that serves as the inspiration for the event, to get the lowdown on what she and her new partners, Richard Oneslager and Mike Zielinski, have in the works for The Hukilau and how their mutually beneficial partnership came about. But first, a look back at that memorable event in June that was expanded to five days in anticipation of a last hurrah. Instead, it turned into a celebration of what’s to come.

The Hukilau 2014 was held June 11-15 at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
See below: Gallery of 62 photos from The Atomic Grog. Click on bold links below for galleries by the official photographers at Go11 Media.
Related: The Hukilau offers a deep dive into the history of porthole cocktail lounges
The Hukilau 2015 will be held June 10-14. Get updates at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.

In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff "Beachbum" Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.
In the waning hours of The Hukilau on Sunday, artist Crazy Al Evans and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry get one last chance to savor The Mai-Kai, its cocktails and its tropical garden.

“This is going to sound really strange, but sort of like Disney, it was kind of like magic this year,” Tiki Kiliki told me. “You can’t really explain it, but everything just fell into place in a magical way. We talked about it afterwards. We don’t really know what the magic formula was, it just happened.”

The magic started on Wednesday, June 11, when what was formerly an informal night at The Mai-Kai became the Unofficial Official Pre-Party. South Florida roots/rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts jammed in the sold-out Molokai bar while other attendees enjoyed many of the bar’s 47 classic Tiki cocktails and the restaurant’s extensive appetizer and dinner menu in the more sedate dining rooms. Logistical problems at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper forced the cancellation of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s scheduled midnight swim show, but that just gave some attendees the opportunity to begin their room parties early. Disappointed guests were heartened by the fact that there was much more Marina to come.

Continue reading “Following ‘magical’ 2014, Tiki Kiliki has big plans for The Hukilau in 2015 and beyond”

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.

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The Hukilau announces new art show, entertainers, more updates for Tiki fest in June

Organizers of The Hukilau have shifted plans for the 12th annual Polynesian Pop weekender into overdrive over the past several weeks, announcing a new cocktail contest, art show, additional entertainment plus the sellout of the host hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

* Previous post: The Hukilau announces rum sponsors, cocktail contest
THE HUKILAU: June 6-9, 2013, at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, Best Western Oceanside, and The Mai-Kai restaurant.
* Latest updates at TheHukilau.com and Facebook.

The Hukilau

But even though all the specially-discounted rooms at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (aka the Yankee Clipper) have been booked, you still can make reservations at the neighboring Best Western Oceanside. This hotel also offers a special rate for festivalgoers, but you must call to get the discount. Check the accommodations page on the official website for details.

Also, be aware that this just means that the host hotel’s rooms are sold out, not The Hukilau itself. There are plenty of event tickets available, though it’s a good idea to buy sooner rather than later … particularly for the popular symposiums that can sell out. Click here to see all the different pricing levels, ranging from a four-day all-access pass ($187) to individual symposiums for ($20).

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Audio slideshow flashback: Los Straitjackets highlight a rockin’ 2009 Hukilau

The 2012 Hukilau will be held April 19-22 at The Mai-Kai and several Fort Lauderdale beachside hotels. Official sites: TheHukilau.com | Facebook page | Facebook group

Other flashbacks: 2011 contest was a Barrel of fun | 2010 party features Shag
Previous posts: Beachbum Berry digs deep to unearth vintage Zombies
Hukilau announces mug, cocktails, new rum sponsor | Full Hukilau coverage

The Hukilau

The Hukilau is an all-encompassing celebration of Polynesian Pop culture: Art and architecture, food and drinks, music and fashion. It’s a trip back in time with hundreds of like-minded Tiki disciples to an era when kitsch was king. The entire event is an orgiastic fest of the senses – from the outrageous lowbrow art and Tiki carvings to the exotic music to the decadent drinks and food. Fort Lauderdale’s beachside locale and historic Mai-Kai restaurant are the perfect backdrop for the revelry.

To warm up for this month’s 11th annual Hukilau, let’s take a trip back to 2009, when lucha-masked surf and rockabilly band Los Straitjackets headlined the event. Click here or on the image below to see a special audio slideshow of all the festivities. Be sure to turn up your speakers! Below that is a recap of the schedule for reference. This year’s event promises the same experience, plus much more. Eddie Angel of Los Straitjackets is back with his new band, The Martian Denny Orchestra. We hope to see you there!

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: Double your pleasure with the exotic and delicious Zula #1 (and #2)

Updated November 2016
See below: Our Zula reviews | Ancestor recipe | UPDATE: Tribute recipes
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

The mysterious Zula #1 is easily one of the most curious (and deliciously distinctive) cocktails on The Mai-Kai’s 56-year-old tropical drink menu. And, as usual, it has a fascinating back-story.

Zula No. 1 (left) and Zula No. 2, February 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Zula No. 1 (left) and Zula No. 2, February 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The cocktail’s flavors are just as exotic as its origins, which both took us years to figure out. The pineapple-forward taste is unlike any other you’ll find at The Mai-Kai.

But there’s another secret about Zula #1 that not many guests may be aware of: It shares its name (and flavor profile) with a secret off-menu sister drink, the smaller and sweeter Zula #2. But it wasn’t always that mysterious.

If you look back at older menus, you’ll find both drinks. On The Mai-Kai’s original 1956-57 cocktail menu, there’s “Zula No. 1” in a tall glass and “Zula No. 2” in a stemmed coupe similar to other lost classics such as Liquid Gold.

Long-stemmed glassware was extremely popular in the 1950s. You’ll find a dozen cocktails on early menus using the elegant coupe glass, which faded from use at The Mai-Kai but made a big comeback at craft cocktail bars in the early 21st century.

The Mai-Kai's original cocktail menu, circa 1957.
The Mai-Kai’s original cocktail menu, circa 1957.

By 1979, when the menu had been arranged in its now-familiar “mild,” “medium” and “strong” groupings, the names had changed slightly to Zula #1 (strong) and Zula #2 (mild), but the coupe glass endured. It’s now served in a short rocks glass similar to the Shark Bite, Oh So Deadly and Mai-Kai Special.

We’ve seen menus from the ’80s that still feature Zula #2. But by the 1990s it was gone, never to be seen on a menu again. What many didn’t realize as the years went by, however, is that you could still order the milder Zula. By the time I started bellying up to the bar in the 2000s, it was a distant memory. I only discovered it while researching the history of Zula #1 for this cocktail guide.

Is this the source of the name
Is this the source of the name “Zula”? While doing research for Hulaween 2016, we discovered a vintage Betty Boop clip from 1937 called "Zula Hula." Click above to watch.

I give credit to Tiki Central friends for helping track down the drink’s origins. As we know now, a majority of the vintage cocktails served at the Fort Lauderdale Polynesian palace (32 at last count) can be traced back to drinks created by tropical drink godfather Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber).

Most are relatively easy to figure out. Some (Rum Julep, 151 Swizzle) have the exact same name, while others are obvious tweaks (Cobra’s Fang to Cobra’s Kiss, Don’s Pearl to Hidden Pearl).

However, nothing in Beach’s vast repertoire seemed to resemble the Zula. But there it was in Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari (2007), right under our nose: Penang Afrididi. Don’t ask us how the names relate, but the flavor profile is indeed remarkably similar. The clincher: There are two versions of both cocktails, known as Penang Afrididi #1 and Penang Afrididi #2.

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Hukilau 2011 video preview: A Tiki-lover’s dream event

The 10th anniversary Hukilau – featuring four days of music, art, cocktails, vendors, symposiums on Tiki culture and much more – takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 9-12, in Fort Lauderdale. Go to TheHukilau.com for the full schedule and more information on all the performers and guests.
* Related: A decade of The Hukilau (video) | Mixologists vie to build a better Barrel

All history lessons should be this fun

Now entering its 10th year, The Hukilau has become not only the largest Tiki-themed event on the East Coast, but also a museum of Polynesian Pop and mid-century modern art, culture, music and much more.

The Hukilau

Most of the weekend’s events celebrate and honor the history of the original Tiki movement, which began in the 1930s and was fueled by vets returning from the Pacific after World War II in the 1940s, the statehood of Hawaii in the 1950s, and the boom of cocktail culture in the 1960s.

What had once been a vibrant culture lay dormant for several decades until it was rediscovered in the 1990s by the retro-loving underground art, music and cocktail scenes. By the turn of the century, a revival was in full swing and events such at The Hukilau were launched.

Now, 10 years down the road, the word “revival” may no longer be relevant as a whole new generation of artists, musicians and mixologists has evolved. With much due respect to the past, they’ve put their own modern spin on Tiki culture and will be showing off their talents at The Hukilau.

A day-by-day preview of events …

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