OCT. 31 UPDATE: Bartender Gregory Schutt pulled off an upset victory on Oct. 30 in the regional finals of the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai Challenge, edging several fellow Floridians and seasoned competitors from cocktail hotbeds New Orleans and Chicago to earn a trip to the finals in St. Lucia in 2019.
Schutt’s winning drink was an outside-the-box Mai Tai featuring two Chairman’s Reserve rums plus peanut butter orgeat, banana liqueur and homemade marshmallow fluff. The rich and decadent drink wowed the judges, including noted Tiki cocktail guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Chairman’s Reserve brand owner Benjamin Jones.
Schutt, who tends bar at Crush XI in Melbourne and The Fat Snook in Cocoa Beach, edged runner-up Aiden Dillon of Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. The third place finisher was another Floridian, Sam Wiener of Lost Boy Dry Goods and The Bend Liquor Lounge in Miami.
The 12 bartenders took the stage at the venerable Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale for the 3-hour competition, presenting wildly creative as well as traditional takes on the iconic Mai Tai. They were graded on presentation, creativity, taste and balance, story and theatrical presentation, plus the use of Chairman’s Reserve rums.
Following the contest, the competitors, guests and VIPs joined the happy hour crowd in The Molokai bar to celebrate the first of several Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai Challenge regional contests in the United States. Upcoming competitions include Nov. 12 in Toronto and Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. North American winners will join others from around the world in St. Lucia for the second annual global finals in 2019.
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)
It was a year of both sadness and elation, when some legends were lost but the world of Tiki made great strides. As we mourned the deaths in 2015 of musicians Robert Drasnin and Ernie Menehune, plus artist The Pizz, we were bolstered by the fact that a new generation of artists and musicians are taking inspiration from the past and creating an incredible new body of work. And Tiki culture was embraced and celebrated across the country at sold-out events and a whole new wave of bars. After our first year of The Week in Tiki updates, The Atomic Grog takes a look back at the memorable news of 2015. * Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook | RSS feed | See all the past weeks | Archive See below:Month-by-month recap | The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards
The year 2015 marked a turning point in the 21st century Tiki scene. If there was ever a time to declare that the “revival” had become a full-blown renaissance, it’s now. It’s been building for some years now, but last year seemed to be the tipping point. Just look at the evidence in our favorite topics: Events, music, art, cocktails, and culture. Then, take a chronological look back at the biggest news of the year, month by month. Finally, find out our selections for the top artist, band, bar, website, rum, and cocktail of 2015 in our first Year in Tiki Awards.
The top dogs continue to raise their game: The Hukilau moved to the iconic Pier 66 Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach and attracted some of Tiki’s biggest names, most notably the gathering of four of the world’s top bartenders for the Tiki Tower Takeover. Tiki Oasis keeps getting bigger, breaking its own attendance records, while newer events such as Mod-Palm Springs and Ohana: Luau by the Sea have carved out their own niche. Rum and cocktail events – such as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Tales of the Cocktail – have refined their successful formulas, spreading their message to an even wider audience.
The Hukilau tops this week’s news with updated info on event passes, Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders, and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s swim shows. October was jam-packed with Halloween events, plus a Tiki cocktail showdown in New York City. There’s sad news on the loss of a Tiki landmark, plus quick hits on an exclusive Mai-Kai serigraph, Martin Cate’s new San Francisco bar, UK RumFest, and a new venue for Tiki Kon in Portland. Regular features spotlight lowbrow artist Pooch; rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts; The Shameful Tiki Room in Vancouver; and the Shag the Store website. The Rum of the Week, Appleton Estate 12, is featured in Martin Cate’s Pampanito. * 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
The Hukilau: Passes selling fast, Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders return, Marina to perform in expanded Wreck Bar
Weekend passes for The Hukilau 2016, which went on sale Oct. 27 at 2015 prices, are off to a roaring start. On Monday, Nov. 9, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced that the highest level pass had already sold out, and another was getting close. White also revealed two returning participants in the Tiki Tower Takeover, plus the return of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in a possibly expanded Wreck Bar.
The top-tier South Seas Pass is no longer available, White said, and you’re urged to act fast if you want a Big Kahuna Pass. Both of these passes include access to events on all five days of the event, scheduled for June 8-12 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
There are plenty of four-day Aloha and three-day Luau passes available, White points out. The reason five-day passes go quickly is because of the relatively small capacity of The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai, site of Wednesday’s opening-night party. But it should also be noted that there is plenty of room in the rest of The Mai-Kai, so guests shouldn’t be shy about making plans to attend all five days of festivities.
Through the end of the year, general passes are priced the same as they were last year: $155 for the Big Kahuna Pass, $130 for the Aloha Pass, and $115 for the Luau Pass. If you buy your pass now, you’re also given exclusive early access to buy tickets for two special events that are expected to sell out: the Tiki Tower Takeover and Shag’s SkyLounge. Introduced this year, the premium South Seas Pass ($349) covers all five days of the event, plus VIP access to the Tiki Tower Takeover including early entry to meet the bartenders, a ticket to Shag’s SkyLounge, special seating at The Mai-Kai during the June 11 dinner shows, plus a special Pier 66 Tower Barrel Mug by Eekum Bookum. * Buy passes and tickets now
August was a cavalcade of Tiki news and events, with thousands gathering in California for Tiki Oasis in San Diego. Meanwhile, Disney fans flocked to Anaheim for the D23 Expo. We also have recaps of the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau at Disneyland and the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival in Hawaii. Event previews include the Southern Surf StompFest, Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Mod-Palm Springs, Tiki Mondays With Miller, and the Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise. We also have news on The Hukilau and new Tiki bars in Las Vegas and Toronto. Our regular features spotlight artist Christine Benjamin; the new album from The Tikiyaki Orchestra; the historic Tonga Hut in Los Angeles; and Internet radio site Luxuria Music. The rum of the week, Koloa Dark, is featured in Kahuna Kevin’s Escape Pod cocktail. * 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
Thousands have a blast as Tiki Oasis soars into retro space on 15th anniversary
At 15 years old, the world’s oldest and largest Tiki event is now the equivalent of a rowdy teenager. Bursting with energy and ambition but also wild and a bit out of control, Tiki Oasis lived up to its reputation Aug. 13-16 during its annual bacchanal in San Diego, drawing 4,000 people from around the globe for a party like no other. Inspired by the mid-century retro-futuristic theme “Yesterday’s Future Today,” guests and performers alike turned the event into a crazy, Tikified version of a 1960s B-movie. See below:Browse a Tiki Oasis 15 photo gallery
The event launched like a Mercury rocket on Thursday night with the Blast Off Party at the Bali Hai smashing previous attendance records, organizer Otto von Stroheim said. More than 1,000 packed into the historic Shelter Island restaurant, topping the previous mark by 200. Live entertainment included King Kukulele, Fono 66, Project: Pimento, and The Tikiyaki Orchestra, who were joined by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.
Friday through Sunday was wall-to-wall fun at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, featuring a 100-vendor marketplace, car show, dozens of live bands and DJs, more than 30 educational symposiums, an art show, a mixology competition, and late-night performances by some of the top names in burlesque. And don’t forget the room parties. Tiki Oasis attendees take this simple concept to another level with elaborately themed and decorated soirees that put all others to shame.
For von Stroheim, the highlight was Saturday night’s headlining performance by Man or Astro-man? on the poolside stage. “It was a super rockin’ set that ended with them jumping in the pool with their clothes on, then returning for a two-song encore,” he said. The band rarely does encores, von Stroheim was told, and even then it’s never two songs. The out-of-this-world surf combo from Alabama put on a spectacle, blasting through many of their instrumental classics and even lighting a theremin on fire during the performance.
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.
The arrival of new signature Tiki mugs marks the official opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort this week. Also in the news is a seminar at Trader Vic’s in Atlanta, the new Tiki Magazine, the New England Tequila & Rum Festival, and a list of the 150 best bars in America. Weekly features spotlight artist Basement Kahuna, the Exotic Tiki Island website and podcast, exotica supergroup Tiki Joe’s Ocean, and the adventurous Oakland bar and restaurant Longitude. The rum of the week, Plantation Barbados 5-year-old Grande Reserve, is featured in Julie Reiner’s Plantation Mai Tai. * 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
Mugs arrive: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto now officially open
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto has been entertaining guests since March 28 at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, but it didn’t “officially” open until Monday, April 27, when the Tiki bar’s custom mugs finally arrived.
You can now take home the new Tiki mugs after drinking the Shrunken Zombie Head, Uh-Oa!, Krakatoa Punch, and Nautilus at the immersive, interactive bar and adjoining Tiki Terrace. The first three drinks were imported from Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Anaheim, along with the mugs. The new mugs are slightly different than their Disneyland brethren.
The giant Nautilus mug is unique to the Grog Grotto and is now for sale for the first time. The drink – a massive concoction featuring Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appleton Estate Reserve rum, Combier Creme de Peche de Vigne Liqueur, tropical juices and falernum – is a tribute to the infamous submarine in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea film and extinct attraction. Also available for the first time are the shot glasses that accompany the rum flight (Bacardi 8, Pyrat XO Reserve, Ron Zacapa Centenario 23).
You can also still pick up unique vessels that have been available since the soft opening with the Polynesian Pearl (a Grog Grotto original) and HippopotoMai-Tai (a favorite from the Disneyland bar that opened in 2011). The new mugs will likely only keep the crowds flocking to the intimate 50-seat bar designed by Disney’s Imagineers to pay homage to 20,000 Leagues, the Polynesian Resort, and mid-century Tiki culture.
The latest news from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort includes the pending opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, plus DVC and construction updates plus new resort merchandise. There’s also news on a possible Jungle Cruise restaurant coming to the Magic Kingdom, plus a preview of next month’s Miami Rum Festival. Weekly features spotlight artist N! Satterfield, Tikiman’s Polynesian Village Resort website, surf rockers The Intoxicators, and Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. The rum of the week, El Dorado 12, is featured in the El Dorado Mai Tai. * 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 23-29, 2015)
Trader Sam’s soft opening imminent, new Polynesian Village merchandise
There’s lots of activity at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort this week as the soft opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto approaches. On Monday, the long-awaited “Poly Tiki” appeared on top of the new fountain and rock formation in the Great Ceremonial House. And all week there have been sneak previews of both Trader Sam’s and the new Bora Bora Bungalows, both scheduled to officially open on Wednesday, April 1. Meanwhile, work continues frantically on the refurbished pool and patio outside the Great Ceremonial House.
Inside the massive lobby, which recently completed an extensive refurbishment (see our previous coverage), the resort’s signature logo Tiki made his appearance in the early a.m. hours Monday. It’s the last stage of the new rock waterfall centerpiece, as pictured in concept artwork released in the early stages of the project (see above). Though Polynesian Resort purists have bemoaned the loss of the original plantscape and water fall, which dominated the entire lobby, many are calling the new design much more friendly and inviting. In fact, the final touch will be the addition of leis draped across the Poly Tiki’s arms, welcoming visitors to his refurbished domain.
Of all the cocktails that disappeared from The Mai-Kai’s bar menu since the famed Polynesian restaurant opened in Fort Lauderdale in 1956, perhaps the most elusive has been the Martinique Cocktail. It lasted into the 1980s, but disappeared without a trace.
A 1979 menu described the drink as “a small, yet robust creation of Martinique Rum, fresh juices and harmonious syrups” (see image below). I was able to identify this drink as a descendant of a classic cocktail by tropical mixology’s founding father, Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber. Although I haven’t seen it on many Beachcomber menus, I was delighted to find the Martinique Cocktail listed as one of the “original rum drinks” at the Chicago location in 1963, seven years after The Mai-Kai opened.
It’s highly likely that this was the same drink, and not just because of the name. Mariano Licudine, The Mai-Kai’s original bar manager and mixologist, had a history of borrowing recipes from his days working at Don the Beachcomber, which began in 1939 in Hollywood. He was the No. 2 bartender at that very same Chicago location from 1940 until 1956, when he joined owners Bob and Jack Thornton at The Mai-Kai.
Included in the chapter on the influence of the Caribbean on early Tiki cocktails is a recipe for Don the Beachcomber’s Island of Martinique Cocktail, along with the backstory. Like many Donn Beach drinks, there were multiple recipes over the years, including an early version based on the classic Caribbean drink the Ti Punch (aka Petit Punch), which dates back to the late 1800s in Martinique. It was a simple combination of rum, lime and sugar, what Berry calls the “holy trinity” of tropical mixology.
One cannot imagine what the modern Tiki revival would be like without Otto von Stroheim. A much less festive place, that’s for sure. Since 2001, the Los Angeles native has produced, along with his wife Baby Doe, the first and largest Tiki event of its kind in the world, Tiki Oasis in San Diego. Before that, he was among a small group of devotees that is credited with igniting interest in mid-century Polynesian culture that continues to thrive and grow more than 25 years later.
Tiki Oasis: Aug. 14-17, 2014, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Bali Hai restaurant in San Diego. Includes live music and entertainment, symposiums, vendors, car show, and more. Go to TikiOasis.com or Facebook for more info.
I cornered Otto at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale during Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April and asked him five burning questions:
1. You’ve been at ground zero of the Tiki revival since the very beginning. What do you miss about the early days, and what’s better now?
Back then, there were fewer eyes watching you, less pressure, less people to answer to. And, you know, there was less knowledge so if you got something wrong or it was yet to be proven, or if you got a fact wrong, or if you told a story and left out a fact, or if you had a recipe and didn’t get the ingredients right, nobody was there to say whether that was right or wrong. You were moving the peg forward either way. Now there’s so much knowledge and so many people involved, and the knowledge can be dispersed very quickly, if you make a statement or you’re interviewed in a newspaper or a blog, or you write a book or post something or publish something, there’s going to be somebody out there who knows a little more, or knows that you left something out, and they’re going to call you on it. It’s kind of funny because in the old days, people were like, “Oh, that’s great, cool. The recipe for the Mai Tai. Awesome. You know that, alright.” It was a little more relaxed in that way. A little bit less pressure, which would allow you to kind of have more fun in a way.