Miami Rum Renaissance Festival returns to its roots after 10 years

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

After taking a detour to Fort Lauderdale in 2018, the Rum Renaissance Festival is back in Miami-Dade County for its 11th annual “celebration of cane spirits in the new world” at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club.

May 17-18 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in Coral Gables, Fla.
Quick links: The new venue | Buy tickets
More below: 2018 RumXP and Rum Jury award winners
The Tiki Times: See all the upcoming events

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

About Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The country’s largest and longest-running rum festival moved to Broward County last year to be closer to the center of the South Florida market, and also sidle up to The Hukilau, the annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale. It created the ultimate rum and Tiki weekend in June 2018, but organizers Robert A. Burr and wife Robin Burr decided to return to their roots for a more intimate experience in 2019.

Last year’s event at the Broward County Convention Center was the sixth straight year at a large venue, reflecting rum’s ever-expanding popularity in South Florida, one of the world’s major markets for cane spirits. From 2013 through 2017, Miami Rum Festival (as the event was also known) spent five successful years at the massive Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. [See our past coverage below]

Miami Rum Renaissance actually started as small, boutique event at the Shore Club Beach Resort on South Beach in May 2009. It stayed on Miami Beach at the Raleigh Hotel Beach Resort in 2010 and Deauville Beach Resort in 2011-2012. The festival’s origins go back to 2008, when the Burrs held their first major rum tasting event for a modest 150 people at the historic Venetian Pool in Coral Gables.

Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, pours samples for guests at the 2018 Rum Renaissance Festival in Fort Lauderdale. (Atomic Grog photo)
Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, pours samples for guests at the 2018 Rum Renaissance Festival in Fort Lauderdale. (Atomic Grog photo)

With industry trends encouraging exploration of higher-end rums and smaller events popping up across the world, the Burrs decided to make the move back to a smaller venue in their home turf of south Miami-Dade. It’s serendipity that they ended up back in Coral Gables at another historic venue. The Coral Gables Woman’s Club was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Instead of accommodating the thousands of people who attended the convention center events, the 2019 festival will be limited to 500 people per day “for a more intimate and elegant experience,” Robert Burr said in a recent interview with Caribbean Journal. “We’ll feature a lot of new producers, some old favorites and a fine selection of rare, limited edition luxury rums from my collection.”

Venue and tickets: The Coral Gables Woman’s Club is at 1001 E. Ponce de Leon Blvd. Festival hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, with VIP admission at 2 p.m. Tickets are $50 per day for unlimited samples, $75 for VIP access. Friday trade admission is $25.
* Buy tickets online in advance

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival highlights

American Rum ReportRum tastings: For the price of admission, guests can sample hundreds of rums from the Caribbean and beyond, from Abuelo to Zaya. Dozens of distilleries, importers, producers, distributors and boutique brands will show off their products.
* See all the brands attending

VIP Rum Bar: Robert Burr brings back his popular den of rare and high-end offerings, available for $5 for a healthy sample. Among the more than 60 offerings are such gems as Facundo Exquisito (Puerto Rico); Foursquare’s Premise, Probitas and Zinfandel releases (Barbados and Jamaica); Rhum JM Cuvee 1845 (Martinique); plus Velier Caroni 15 (Trinidad) and Velier Worthy Park (Jamaica).

Rum Education: Seminars will be offered on a variety of topics, including a deep dive into the production of Mount Gay rum in Barbados, and an exploration of the diversity of rum with Plantation’s Rocky Yeh. New for 2019, Miami Rum Renaissance is teaming up with Will Hoekenga of American Rum Report to present two seminars (5 p.m. Friday and Saturday) on the emerging U.S. market, which now includes more than 230 distilleries. Also participating in the seminars will be Phil Prichard of Prichard’s Rum (Tennessee), Tim Russell of Maggie’s Farm (Pennsylvania), and Jonny VerPlanck of Three Roll Estate (formerly Cane Land Distilling, Louisiana). In the Caribbean Journal. interview, Robert Burr predicts a “new American Rum Revolution as distilleries pop up in every corner of North America with boutique offerings often made with great pride and ingenuity. The number of rum distilleries in the USA will easily eclipse all those in the Caribbean region.”
* See the schedule of seminars

Continue reading “Miami Rum Renaissance Festival returns to its roots after 10 years”

Spirited mash-up: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend in June 2018

Rum Renaissance Festival and The Hukilau

After nine years in Miami-Dade County, the country’s largest celebration of cane spirits is moving up the coast to link up with the East Coast’s most esteemed gathering of Polynesian Pop and Tiki enthusiasts. June 2018 promises a monumental mash-up when the Rum Renaissance Festival and The Hukilau collide near Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Rum Renaissance Festival

The thousands attending the Rum Renaissance Festival on June 9-10 at the Broward County Convention Center will be just a mile from the hordes of Tikiphiles at the 17th edition of The Hukilau at the iconic Pier 66 Hotel, separated only by the whims of the 17th Street Causeway bridge. For the past five years, the Miami Rum Festival was held in April at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center.

Organizers of both events say the move will create a synergy beneficial to everyone (with the possible exception of the temperance movement). Just 7 miles away is the historic Mai-Kai Restaurant, the icing on the cake of any rum and Tiki lover’s ultimate weekend.
See below: Hotels, pricing, schedules | Rum XP Awards revamped

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2018 Tiki and rum events in Fort Lauderdale
June 6-10 – The Hukilau at the Pier 66 Hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant.
* Social: Facebook page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
* Atomic Grog: 2017 recap, photos, video | More past coverage
June 9-10 – Rum Renaissance Festival at the Broward County Convention Center and Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina Hotel.
* Social: Facebook page | Twitter | Instagram | Flickr
* Atomic Grog: 2017 recap, photos, video | More past coverage

UPDATES: The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV
The Hukilau 2018 tickets on sale now: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

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The Hukilau

“There’s lots of crossover potential,” said Robert A. Burr, who with wife Robin founded the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in 2009. “We can bring more people in” to the rum, cocktail and Tiki scenes, he said, noting that cooperation is the key. While logistics are still being worked out, “we’re going out of our way to not step on each other’s toes” and “not cross swords,” he said.

The Hukilau’s head honcho, Richard Oneslager, stressed that the longstanding Tiki event is not changing. “Our first priority is to our villagers and The Mai-Kai,” he said. “We’re not a joint venture.”

However, he was quick to add: “We want to make it beneficial to guests of both events. We’re neighbors. I don’t see them as being competition. I want to work with them as best as we can.” Many villagers will enjoy both, he said. “If The Hukilau isn’t enough, rum fest is close.”

One possible benefit will be the drawing power of the tandem events among industry VIPs and experts. Why wouldn’t a rum company send representatives to both, killing two Tiki birds with one stone? “We hope brands are receptive to coming to both,” Burr said, adding that there may also be some co-branded events.

Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, founder of the UK Rumfest, presents a symposium at The Hukilau in June 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)
Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, founder of the UK Rumfest, presents a symposium at The Hukilau in June 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)

“There will be economies that make sense for everyone,” Oneslager said, adding that The Hukilau will focus more on cocktails than rum, along with the event’s core emphasis on music, art, history and Tiki culture. “We’re still working out details on how to best work together.”

One possibility are perks for people who attend both events. “There will be some sort of benefit if people hold tickets to both,” Oneslager said. Burr also mentioned “fringe benefits” for attending both.

Burr agreed that the move to Fort Lauderdale and close proximity to The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai “will be much better for the Tiki junkies.” The host hotels are just across the Intracoastal Waterway bridge from each other. “It’s an easy walk,” Burr said. There’s also the possibility of a dedicated bus shuttling guests between the festivals, he said.

Map: Rum Renaissance Festival and The Hukilau

According to Google Maps, the Rum Renaissance Festival and the Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center are almost exactly a mile from The Hukilau and the Pier 66 Hotel. The trip takes roughly 6 minutes by car, 9 minutes by bus, and 17 minutes on foot. The rum fest’s official hotel, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, is near the mid-point between the two.

Both sites are also conveniently located within 5 miles of Fort Lauderdale International Airport and the cruise ships at Port Everglades. The public beach near the B Ocean Resort (home of the famous Wreck Bar and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid‘s swimshows) is just a mile north of Pier 66 on Seabreeze Boulevard (aka State Road A1A). [See map] Roughly 7 miles due north is The Ma-Kai, the 60-year-old historic landmark that serves equally historic rum and Tiki cocktails. [See map]

Rums of Puerto Rico representatives at the 2017 Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami. (Atomic Grog photo)
Rums of Puerto Rico representatives at the 2017 Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami. (Atomic Grog photo)

Before the name change to Miami Rum Festival and the move to the Airport Convention Center in 2013, the Rum Renaissance Festival spent its first four years at Miami Beach hotels. The Burrs have always run their event with assistance from son Rob V. Burr, who also contributes to his father’s rum guide and online video show (Rob’s Rum Guide and Rum Minute).

Since the change to the larger convention space, they’ve constantly received requests to move back to more of a beach setting. “The main reason we are moving is people did not like the atmosphere at the DoubleTree after time,” Robin Burr said. “They want to be back by the water again.”

Continue reading “Spirited mash-up: Rum Renaissance Festival moves next door to The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, creating ultimate rum and Tiki weekend in June 2018”

The Tiki Times – April 2017 Events Calendar: Surf and rockabilly, Miami Rum Festival, Chicago Area Tiki Tour

Tiki Night at The Mai-Kai

The Tiki Times

From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. The biggest will get extended coverage as “spotlight events.”
Social media: Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates
Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram
March events: Shag art shows, Tiki bars and festivals, surf rock and more
February recap: Bar openings and closings, cocktail competitions, Modernism Week

APRIL 2017 TIKI EVENTS CALENDAR
Spotlight events: Miami Rum Festival (April 19-23)
Chicago Area Tiki Tour (April 28-30)

April 1 – Surfeño 2017 in Mexico City. The annual surf music festival features live performances by Daikaiju, The Volcanics, Los Elásticos, Hikury Beach, Los Granujas, Dr. Tritón, The Sonoras, Los Caguama, and many more.
Surfeño 2017

April 1 – Unsteady Freddie’s Surf-Rock Shindig at Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York City. Featuring The Vivisectors, Blue Wave Theory, Strange But Surf, and The Wraycyclers.
Unsteady Freddie's Surf-Rock Shindig

April 2 – Dick Dale at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The “King of the Surf Guitar” performs a special concert in the MIM Musical Theater.
* More tour dates at DickDale.com
* Atomic Grog interview: Dick Dale: ‘I had both feet in the grave’
The Dick Dale exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix
The Dick Dale exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

April 2 – Surfin’ Sundays at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. A free, all-ages summer concert series at the Huntington Beach Pier in Southern California. Featuring Neptune Cocktail, The Curl Riders, The Riptides, Par Avion, Tiki Creeps, and Tikiyaki 5-0.
Surfin' Sundays

April 2 – Tonga Hut Parking Lot Sale & Art Show in Los Angeles celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Kon Tiki expedition. See an original piece of rope from the Kon-Tiki raft, on public display for the first time. Also featuring DJ Tonga Tom, food and drinks, Jason Lee and the Black Tides, vendors and artists, plus more.
Tonga Hut Parking Lot Sale & Art Show

April 7 – Exotia Night: A Midcentury Cocktail Experience at Slowly Shirley in New York City. Featuring live jazz and exotica by Alika Lyman, burlesque and special drink menu. Note: Postponed from March.
* Listen: The Speakeasy radio show previews Exotica Nights
Exotia Night: A Midcentury Cocktail Experience at Slowly Shirley

April 8 – Midwest Rum Festival in Chicago. Featuring industry events plus a public grand tasting, seminars, mixology demos and artist booths. Hosted by The Rum Lab at the Logan Square Auditorium with special guests including Richard Seale (Foursquare Distillery in Barbados) and Bryan Davis (Lost Spirits Distillery in Los Angeles). Pre-party on April 7 at Hala Kahiki.
* Press coverage: Chicago GoPride | The Spirits Business

Continue reading “The Tiki Times – April 2017 Events Calendar: Surf and rockabilly, Miami Rum Festival, Chicago Area Tiki Tour”

Week/Month in Tiki (May 1-31, 2016): Recap Tiki Caliente; preview Tiki Kon, Tales of the Cocktail and Tiki Oasis; plus Tiki bar news and more!

The Week in Tiki As usual, May kicked off the Tiki event season with Tiki Caliente in Palm Springs. Check out a recap and photos, plus previews of Tiki Kon in Portland, Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Tiki Oasis in San Diego, and more upcoming events. We have news on South Florida Distillers joining Kreepy Tiki Lounge in an expanded location near Fort Lauderdale’s airport, plus lots more Tiki bar news. Regular features spotlight the godfather of pop surrealism, artist Mark Ryden; Sven Kirsten’s 2010 compilation, The Sound of Tiki; the Palm Springs outpost of the venerable Tonga Hut; plus the Modern Tiki Lounge website. Our featured rum, the inventive Santeria, is included in an Atomic Grog original cocktail, Koko Kahuna.
* Keep up with The Week/Month in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | Past blogs | Archive
* More below: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT RECAP: Tiki Caliente expands to four days of wall-to-wall Poly Pop parties in Palm Springs

The Tiki Caliente tribe gathers poolside at the Caliente Tropics resort in Palm Springs. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)
The Tiki Caliente tribe gathers poolside at the Caliente Tropics resort in Palm Springs. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Like the first major college football bowl game (but a lot more colorful), Tiki Caliente kicked off the annual Tiki event season in style with its eighth gathering of the tribe in the tropical mid-century splendor of Palm Springs on May 12-15. Expanded to four days at the historic Caliente Tropics resort, the intimate, sold-out event also featured a pre-party at Tonga Hut as well as more symposiums, an eclectic lineup of performers, art shows, vendors and the usual festive room parties. Tonga Hut also served as Tiki Caliente’s on-site bar all weekend, keeping the party going with authentic Polynesian-style cocktails from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m.
* See below: Tonga Hut, bar of the week/month

Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid joins Marty Lush for his Don Ho tribute show at Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)
Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid joins Marty Lush for his Don Ho tribute show at Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Performers included Creepxotica, Ding Dong Devils, The Do-Its, The Jimmy Psycho Experiment, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Martini Kings, Surfbroads, TikiTronic, and Voodoo Organist. Organizer Rory Snyder ratcheted up the kitschy fun with a yacht rock party co-hosted with Marty Lush (aka Digitiki of The Quiet Village podcast). Lush also performed a rum-fueled Don Ho tribute show, “Suck on This.”

Symposiums featured some of the most creative minds in Tiki cocktails, including “From the High Seas to High Tiki: Rum’s Cocktail Voyage” by Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, “Finishing Touches” by Marie King of Tonga Hut, and “Punch and the History of the Communal Cocktail” by Chad Austin of Bootlegger Tiki in Palm Springs.

Tiki Caliente organizer Rory Snyder (front) enjoys a Zen Tiki Lounge room party. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)
Tiki Caliente organizer Rory Snyder (front) enjoys a Zen Tiki Lounge room party. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

While not officially part of the event, the room crawl has become a fixture and allows guests to meet and mingle as well as show off their mixology skills. Many participants go all-in with full-blown Tiki decor, DJs, live music and more. Organized by the crew from the Zen Tiki Lounge podcast, this year’s crawl spanned three days and featured 15 rooms. Among the more noteworthy parties were hosted by Zen Tiki Lounge (celebrating their 10-year anniversary), Kevin Upthegrove of the 5 Minutes of Rum podcast (serving a riff on the Cobra’s Fang/Cobra’s Kiss called The Snakepit), and the faculty and students from Poly Hai (serving the “Wake Your Tiki Ass Up Coffee Grog” with sponsor Deadhead rum at 9:30 a.m.).

Artist Tiki Ray Kieffer sees one of his tikis installed at the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs during Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)
Artist Tiki Ray Kieffer sees one of his tikis installed at the Caliente Tropics in Palm Springs during Tiki Caliente 2016. (Photo by Kari Hendler of Poly Hai)

Commercial Tiki bars got in on the act on Saturday night with a Tonga Hut bash followed by the finale, hosted by Huntington Beach’s Don the Beachcomber in the Caliente Tropics lobby and featuring live music from Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides. The room crawl judges gave the best cocktail award to John and Janet Mulder of Eekum Bookum for their gin Saturn. The award for best decor/theme went to artist Doug Horne for “Swampfire Ball.” The judges choice award went to Stephen Holt’s Kraken Hunter Bar.
* Room crawl photos on Facebook | Tiki Central discussion
Live at Tiki Caliente: Listen to the Zen Tiki Lounge podcast

The Mulders collaborated with Horne on the Tiki Caliente 8 War Club, one of the most creative event mugs we’ve seen in a long time. Horne also created the official event limited edition print and limited-edition war club pedants. The art of Shag was also featured in a special reception and party for the massive “Trousdale Twist” painting. Shag, who owns a mid-century modern home in Palm Springs, was on hand to meet guests and soak in the Polynesian Pop atmosphere.

More from Poly Hai: Gallery of 400+ images from Kari Hendler | Videos
* Official sites: Tiki-Caliente.com | Facebook page

EVENT PREVIEW: Step back into the WWII era at Tiki Kon in Portland

Tiki Kon

The northwest Tiki scene is gearing up for the 14th annual Tiki Kon, happening July 8-10 in Portland. Themed to Polynesian Pop’s roots in the post-World War II era and the USO, the eclectic event is centered at a new host hotel, the Red Lion Hotel On The River. Guests can enjoy Tiki-themed music, art and fashion, with a rollicking camp show, surf and lounge bands, educational symposiums, themed food and drinks, vendors from around the world, and the longest-running home bar tour of its kind.

Here’s a look at the schedule and highlights of the vintage weekend. Unless noted, all events are at the Red Lion Hotel. Some individual events have tickets available at the door, while others are free and open to the public. Check the online schedule for details.

Continue reading “Week/Month in Tiki (May 1-31, 2016): Recap Tiki Caliente; preview Tiki Kon, Tales of the Cocktail and Tiki Oasis; plus Tiki bar news and more!”

Week in Tiki (March 16-31, 2016): Lost Lake fire and more Tiki bar news, event previews, Lemon Hart rum returning?

The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.

The Week in Tiki Late March was punctuated by upheaval in the Tiki bar world, including a fire at Lost Lake in Chicago and the confirmed closing of Trader Vic’s in Portland. We also have updates on the upcoming Pacific Seas in Los Angeles and False Idol in San Diego, among others. Event previews include The Atomic Grog’s fifth anniversary party, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, and Tiki Kon. We investigate the rumored return of Lemon Hart, the upcoming Midwest Rum Festival, plus more rum news. Quick sips include Thor joining the Tiki Farm team, a new bar at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, a new Tiki-flavored pulp novella, and the aborted end of a re-creation of the voyage of the Kon-Tiki. Regular features spotlight legendary carver Milan Guanko; longtime Tiki entertainer King Kukulele; the historic Tiki bar La Mariana Sailing Club in Honolulu; and the video series Rum Minute. The rum the week, Sailor Jerry, is featured in the Wicked Wahine cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

TIKI BAR NEWS: Lost Lake hit by fire, Trader Vic’s Portland closing confirmed; changes coming to South Florida’s Kreepy Tiki, Psycho Suzi’s owner honored

The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.
The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.

A near tragedy struck acclaimed Tiki bar Lost Lake in Chicago on March 27, when what was originally thought to be a small electrical fire in the kitchen ended up causing extensive smoke damage that kept the year-old establishment closed for weeks. “The Chicago Fire Department put out a fire that was moments away from taking our beloved Tiki bar all the way down – not to mention two apartments upstairs,” Shelby Allison, who runs the bar with Paul McGee, posted on Facebook. “There are lots of very scientific cleaning methods happening at Lost Lake this week, but it could have been so much worse.” According to reports on a A GoFundMe page, the kitchen of the adjoining Thank You restaurant and the front entrance “were completely incinerated” while the bar suffered smoke damage that sadly forced the disposal of the bar’s vast rum collection. Lost Lake, which was recently nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award, received an outpouring of support from the entire Chicago hospitality community in the wake of the fire, from bartenders and bar owners to chefs, distributors, and brands. Bars as far away as Los Angeles also held Lost Lake support events. Allison reported that every member of Lost Lake’s support staff received temporary positions, and many bars hosted special pop-ups to keep the tip-based employees afloat. Special T-shirts were printed, with all profits going to Lost Lake bartenders. The GoFundMe page campaign received 309 donations and raised $20,000 for Lost Lake employee aid.
* More coverage online: Critiki | Time Out Chicago | DNAinfo
* Lost Lake: Official website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Don’t miss: McGee and Allison will return to The Hukilau in June, participating for the second year in a row in the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover at the Pier 66 hotel in Fort Lauderdale. [2015 coverage]

Trader Vic's Portland

A fire earlier in March had more devastating effects the Portland Trader Vic’s franchise, as reported in the previous edition of the Week in Tiki. The March 2 fire at the medical office above the 8,000-square-foot restaurant burned through most of the ceiling in the bar and dining room, causing damage that would have closed the restaurant for at least eight weeks for repairs, according to reports. Instead, the owner decided that due to mounting debt and high operating costs, he would close permanently. Weeks went by without an official statement from the franchise owner, but on March 21, J. Clayton Hering posted this on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the decision to close Trader Vic’s in Portland after four and a half years. This is effective immediately. We can be proud that we provided an excellent entertainment venue to our customers, families, and private parties. Our menu for appetizers, food and drink as well as our atmosphere were a unique addition to the Portland restaurant scene. Our customers enjoyed Trader Vic’s return to Portland because of the fun environment we created which was unique to the city and well received. We thank you for your support over the last four and a half years.” There was no word on what became of the extensive Tiki-themed decor, though in past Trader Vic’s closings most of the major art pieces were returned to the Trader Vic’s corporation. A dozen black walnut dining room tables later turned up on Craigslist. Of the 20 remaining Trader Vic’s locations, only two are in the United States while 18 are overseas. The Atlanta franchise is still going strong after 40 years, while the corporate-owned flagship location has been in Emeryville, Calif., for 44 years. The original Trader Vic’s was opened by Victor Bergeron in Oakland in 1937.
* Why Trader Vic’s closed its Portland location (The Oregonian)

Continue reading “Week in Tiki (March 16-31, 2016): Lost Lake fire and more Tiki bar news, event previews, Lemon Hart rum returning?”

Miami Rum Festival boldly explores the next frontier of cane spirits

UPDATE: RumXP Awards announced at eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival returned for an eighth year on Friday, April 15, through Sunday, April 17, at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Go to MiamiRumFest.com for more info.

Here’s our look back at the 2015 festival
Jump below: Special cocktail recipe: Mai-Kai Moai | Photo gallery | Award-winning rums

A Bayou Rum representative prepares cocktails.
A Bayou Rum representative prepares cocktails. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

If there was an unofficial theme of the 2015 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, held April 17-19 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center, it was the impressive innovation and continuing commitment to quality from a new wave of craft rum producers from around the world. In a year when some major players were absent, the young guns definitely picked up the slack and presented products fit for any rum connoisseur.

The festival was less about the big brands flexing their muscle and more about the boutique labels showing off their innovation and commitment to craft. This is the typical scenario at the annual Rum XP Awards, but it’s now overflowing to the convention floor, where consumers had the opportunity to see firsthand what the critics and judges have long known.

Near the end of the three days of public tastings, festival organizer Robert A. Burr was like a kid in a candy store when I ran into him talking to RumXP judge Bernhard Schäfer and enjoying the special trade-only area for rums not yet released in the United States. These rums are the future, he said, pointing to the dozens of brands from around the world seeking entry into the American market. And it was hard to argue with him.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival organizer Robert A. Burr (left) with longtime judge Bernhard Schäfer.
Miami Rum Renaissance Festival organizer Robert A. Burr (left) with longtime judge Bernhard Schäfer. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

“You have to try the Monymusk,” he said, referring to the aged rum from Jamaica that was on display on the Authentic Caribbean Rums table. Indeed, Monymusk Plantation Reserve was the nectar of the gods, one of the best rums I tasted during the festival. When Burr recommends a rum, my advice is to listen closely. In 2016, he’ll be opening up his private collection for all to taste, which should be a real treat.

Nearby in the industry-only section of the festival were an array of premium rums from around the Caribbean (Barbados, Haiti, etc.) produced by Bristol Spirits in the U.K. and inexplicably not yet distributed in the U.S. Bristol’s Demerara Port Morant from Guyana was amazing, perhaps my favorite of the weekend. I ran into Rum XP judge Suzanne Long, owner of the acclaimed Longitude neo-Tiki bar in Oakland, and we both marveled at the rich complexity of this Demerara-style rum. It would sure shine in a Demerara Cocktail.

But rare rums from the Caribbean were just the tip of the iceberg at the 2015 Miami Rum Festival. Spirits producers came from near and far to show off their products, and many went home with awards for their efforts. The perfect example of this were the white rum categories. The best in class winner for white rum was Skotlander, all the way from Denmark. [See review] One of the brands with a booth in the trade zone, lobbying for U.S. distribution, Skotlander also picked up a gold medal for its premium white rum for the second year in a row. Skotlander also makes a wide variety of other rums, including cask and aged varieties.

Avi Aisenberg (right) and Joe Durkin make their first appearance at the festival with their new Fwaygo Rum.
Avi Aisenberg (right) and Joe Durkin make their first appearance at the festival with their new Fwaygo Rum.

The surprise winner of the best in class ribbon for premium white rum was Fwaygo, produced just 30 miles away in Fort Lauderdale. Earlier in the week we got a sneak preview of when The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale served the Grapefruit Julep, a special cocktail featuring Fwaygo during one of the rum fest pre-parties. [Video: See recipe] The flagship rum from South Florida Distillers is funky and clean, a great mixer. It’s right up there with acclaimed expressions such as Plantation 3 Stars, which won a gold medal.

Avi Aisenberg (CEO and proprietor) and Joe Durkin (head distiller and COO) personally manned the Fwaygo booth, handing out samples and chatting up the appreciative tasters. They happily gave out coupons for a fee tour and tasting at their spanking new operations near downtown Fort Lauderdale, billed as the “city’s oldest distillery.” Well, it’s true. It’s also a DIY operation with passion, not profit, driving the creative process. Though widespread retail distribution has been difficult, Fwaygo Rum is available at bars and restaurants throughout South Florida. In 2016, we’re looking forward to trying Fwaygo’s two new premium rums: Single Barrel and Grilled Pineapple.

Other new rums that caught my attention:

Continue reading “Miami Rum Festival boldly explores the next frontier of cane spirits”

UPDATE: RumXP Awards announced at eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Updated May 9
A full recap of the eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is coming soon. In the meantime, here are the winners of the annual RumXP Awards announced on Friday, April 15. Also check out our photo gallery on Facebook.
See below: The Mai-Kai pre-party and Santeria Rum cocktail recipe | Full preview
UPDATE: Koloa, Plantation and Don Q dominate awards at eighth annual Miami festival

2016 RumXP Award Winners and Consumer Rum Jury Awards

For the third year in a row, Plantation won a festival-best eight RumXP awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
For the third year in a row, Plantation won eight RumXP awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

White Rum
Best In Class:
Bayou Silver
Gold: Blue Chair Bay, Pito Rico Elite, Don Q Cristal, Ron Cartavio Silver

Premium White Rum
Best In Class:
Puerto Angel
Gold: Caliche, Fwyago, Plantation 3 Star, Skotlander Rum VI, Koloa White

Gold Rum
Best In Class:
Siesta Key Gold
Gold: Wicked Dolphin, Puerto Angel Amber, Don Q Gold, Koloa Gold

Spiced Rum
Best In Class:
Siesta Key Spiced
Gold: Siesta Key Distillers Solara, Bayou Spiced, Siesta Key Limited Edition Spiced, Koloa Spiced

Flavored Rum
Best In Class:
Koloa Coffee
Gold: Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy, Don Q Pasion, Blue Chair Bay Banana, Koloa Coconut

Continue reading “UPDATE: RumXP Awards announced at eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival”

Week in Tiki (March 1-15, 2016): Trader Vic’s Portland closes, The Hukilau and more event updates

The Week in Tiki Some sad news out of Portland with the unexpected closing of Trader Vic’s. Meanwhile in South Florida, The Hukilau announces an exciting new symposium. Other event updates include the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Tiki Fest in the Pacific Northwest, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, and Tiki Kon. Quick sips include a Tiki home design show, a new FOM chapter in Atlanta, a space-Tiki lounge in L.A., and a Tiki speakeasy in NYC. Regular features spotlight lowbrow art legend Von Franco; sizzling San Diego surf band Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides; and the Luau, a historic restaurant from Miami Beach’s heyday. Learn about rum at the website of the week, RumJourney.com, before sampling the rum and cocktail of the week: Don Q Cristal and Val’s Daiquiri from New York City’s End of the Century.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

BREAKING NEWS: Fire closes Trader Vic’s in Portland

A March 2 fire at the medical office above the Trader Vic’s location in Portland forced what was originally thought to be a temporary closing of one of the few remaining North American outposts of the venerable Polynesian restaurant chain. But news later leaked out that due to mounting debt and high operating costs, the franchise owner was forced to close permanently, Wilmanette Week reported.

Trader Vic's in Portland announcement

The fire burned through most of the ceiling in the bar and dining room, but a Facebook post on the restaurant’s official page that same day indicated that repairs would be made. After several weeks, however, a manager posted on his personal Facebook account that Trader Vic’s Portland “is now permanently closed” less than 5 years after it opened. In a follow-up, he said that the re-opening would have taken eight weeks and the owner decided to close after struggling to “keep above water” due to the high rent and overhead of the 8,000-square-foot restaurant.

The return of Trader Vic’s to Portland was heralded in August 2011 as the beloved brand joined a burgeoning local Tiki scene that had grown around the annual Tiki Kon and worldwide revival. Portland previously had a longstanding Trader Vic’s in the Bensen Hotel from 1959 to 1996.

The new location in the Pearl District was warmly received by locals and Tikiphiles alike. It was filled with authentic decor, including Tikis, tribal masks, glass floats and outrigger canoes. The food and drinks were also highly regarded, but apparently the costs were too high to stay competitive in one of the country’s top food and beverage cities. The closing leaves only two Trader Vic’s restaurants in the United States: the company-owned flagship location in Emeryville, Calif., and a long-rinning franchise in Atlanta. There are 18 overseas locations in 11 countries.
* Trader Vic’s corporate site

More on Trader Vic’s Portland
* Critiki: News story | Profile, ratings photos
* Tiki Central: Reviews, discussion, photos
* Tiki With Ray: A fire shut Trader Vic’s but that isn’t why it’s closed for good

EVENT PREVIEWS: The Hukilau, Miami Rum Festival, Tiki Fest, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, Tiki Kon

The Hukilau announces new symposium, sponsors

Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture

Some of the biggest names in the modern Tiki revival will gather at The Hukilau for a groundbreaking symposium as part of the 15th annual festivities June 8-12 in Fort Lauderdale. “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture” will bring together author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), event promoter Otto von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis), historian Humuhumu (Critiki), author and bar owner Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), artist Crazy Al Evans, acclaimed artist Shag, and event promoter Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White of The Hukilau for a rousing two-part panel discussion hosted by Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog. Author Sven Kirsten (Tiki Pop, The Book of Tiki) will also participate via Skype. Tickets are on sale now for $15 for passholders, $30 for non-passholders. The symposium will take place on Saturday, June 11, at 1 p.m. in the Panorama Ballroom at the host Pier 66 hotel.
* FULL COVERAGE: PREVIEW OF THE HISTORY SYMPOSIUM, MORE

Continue reading “Week in Tiki (March 1-15, 2016): Trader Vic’s Portland closes, The Hukilau and more event updates”

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16-29, 2016): Rum and Tiki event roundup, new Tiki bars in D.C., S.F., photos and event recaps

The Week in Tiki We have lots of news from February on upcoming spring and summer events: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Tiki Caliente, Tiki Kon, and Hot Rod Hula Hop. Tiki bars continue to open across the country – from Washington, D.C., (Archipelago) to San Francisco (Pagan Idol) – with more in the works. Event recaps include The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Naked Tiki’s grand opening in South Beach, and another Modernism Week party with Shag. Quick sips include a James Beard nomination for Chicago’s Lost Lake, the death of Trader Vic’s son, a new study on Easter Islanders, and a new Tiki cartoon. Regular features spotlight South Florida artist Tom Fowner; exotica legend Arthur Lyman; Houston Tiki bar Lei Low; and the Surf Guitar 101 website. The Rum of the Week, Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7, is featured in a storied cocktail, the Hotel Nacional Special.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT PREVIEWS: Rare rums at Miami fest, Tiki Caliente and Tiki Kon news, Hot Rod Hula Hop announced

Miami Rum Festival adds VIP tasting bar, announces cruise

If sampling more than a hundred of the world’s best rums on a festive 50,000-square-foot convention floor isn’t enough, the organizers of the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival have something special just for you at this year’s event. One of the world’s largest gatherings of rum consumers, experts, and industry professionals will offer a luxury VIP Tasting Bar featuring a special selection of rare, vintage and limited edition rums you can’t find anywhere else at the festival.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival VIP Tasting Bar

Miami Rum Festival and International Trade Expo host Robert A. Burr is opening up his extensive private collecion to special guests partaking in the tasting bar during the April 15-17 event at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. “We want to share with rum fest participants some of the most interesting and exquisite rums that we’ve collected from our travels around the world,” Burr announced. The Burr family home’s Rum Wreck Dive Bar, which is featured in the new Rum Minute online video series, is stocked with more than 2,000 different rums. Burr and his son, Rob V. Burr, will share hosting duties in the VIP Tasting Bar, passing along their knowledge and passion for the select spirits.

“In the course of publishing Rob’s Rum Guide and reporting for the National Rum Examiner, we are privileged to visit most of the great rum distilleries in the world,” Robert V. Burr said. “Along the way, we’re collecting some very special bottles that represent the incredible range of high quality rums from Barbados and Jamaica to Guatemala and Panama; from Nicaragua and Haiti to Martinique and Guadeloupe; from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to Venezuela and Guyana – and beyond.” Rum is a family affair for the Burrs, with Robin V. Burr joining her husband and son as hosts of the festival and organizer of many of the associated events.

Fort Lauderdale's fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year's Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Fort Lauderdale’s fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year’s Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The tasting bar will be open all three days of the festival from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., the same hours as general admission. Two $5 sample tickets for use in the tasting bar come with a $125 three-day VIP pass to the festival. Additional tickets may be purchased at the event. A one-day pass is $75 but doesn’t include the complimentary tasting bar tickets. All Grand Tasting rum and cocktail samples are complimentary. Members of the spirits and beverage trade will receive steeply discounted tickets and will also have access to a special section of the festival featuring exclusive rums for industry and press representatives only. Advance tickets are available online now and will not be sold at the door.

All guests will have access to the full Grand Tasting floor, which includes dozens of booths from both established and up-and-coming rum brands: Cartavio, Diplomatico, Don Q, Fwaygo, Koloa, Mezan, Plantation, Pusser’s, Santeria, Siesta Key, Wicked Dolphin, Yolo, and many more. The festival also hosts the annual International Rum Expert Panel (RumXP) Tasting Competition and awards. [See past winners]
* More info: VIP Tasting Bar | Grand Tastings | Sample rums

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16-29, 2016): Rum and Tiki event roundup, new Tiki bars in D.C., S.F., photos and event recaps”

The Week in Tiki (Jan. 1-15, 2016): New Tikis to rise at The Mai-Kai, Lost Lake honored, Smuggler’s Cove book release, Tiki in South Beach, plus more!

The Week in Tiki The new year is off to a roaring start with comprehensive coverage of the carving and planned installation of two giant Tikis at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau. Chicago’s Lost Lake was named Cocktail Bar of the Year, while Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove announced the release date for his long-awaited rum and cocktail book. In South Beach, “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” sells out, and we receive exclusive news on a new Tiki bar from celebrity chef Ralph Pagano. We also preview an art and rum event in Fort Lauderdale, plus Tiki Caliente in Palm Springs. Quick sips include The Broken Shaker opening an outpost in Los Angeles, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid heating up Las Vegas, and the introduction of Rum Minute videos. Regular features spotlight lowbrow legend Robert Williams; Indianapolis surf band The Madeira; The Rum Line cocktail bar on Miami Beach; and the Imbibe website. The Rum of the Week, R.L. Seale’s 10-year-old from Barbados, is featured in the Winter Daiquiri.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Note: For 2016, The Week in Tiki will remain bi-weekly, but we’ve simplified the schedule. Look for blogs recapping the first and second half of each month.

Giant carved Tikis to be donated to The Mai-Kai in June

Fort Lauderdale carver Will Anders works on a Tiki that will rise in The Mai-Kai's outdoor gardens in June. The log behind him will become the second Tiki. (Photo by Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White, January 2016)
Will Anders works on a Tiki that will rise in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens in June. (Photo by Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, January 2016)

The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is renowned for the massive Tiki carvings that grace its grounds, some dating back a half-century. But in recent years, many have sadly succumbed to the elements. Every year, it seems, you’ll find another tribute mug to one of The Mai-Kai’s fallen Tikis.

A Tiki carved by Barney West in the early 1960s is seen in The Mai-Kai garden in 2005, before it fell victim to the elements. (The Palm Beach Post)
A Tiki carved by Barney West in the early 1960s is seen in The Mai-Kai garden in 2005, before it fell victim to the elements. (The Palm Beach Post)

In June, however, there will be a welcome new sight at the 59-year-old historic landmark. Two monumental Tiki carvings standing up to 10 feet tall will be unveiled in the restaurant’s outdoor tropical garden during The Hukilau, the annual Polynesian Pop celebration that draws enthusiasts from around the world. Marking the project happen were The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and master carver Will Anders, plus several other people whose contributions were indispensable.

Anders began work on the Tikis in November, when two gigantic logs estimated to weigh 4,000 to 6,000 pounds each arrived at his Fort Lauderdale home. By early January, when White snapped the photo above, the first Tiki was already taking shape. She later announced the project on Facebook, calling it a dream come true. “I have to say, when you see a man of 119 pounds carving a 4,000-pound tree into such an amazing work of art, it humbles you,” she wrote.

Using tools including chainsaw and chisel, Anders said he “bangs away for about four hours every morning” on the Florida Black Olive tree trunk that started out 10 feet tall and 3 feet across at the small end. It sits in a special rigging system, a “come along,” to enable him to move and turn the massive log. Once it’s complete, he’ll begin work on the Florida Live Oak and its much harder wood, a task he said he’s not looking forward to. But he’s gladly accepted the challenge.

In late November, two logs weighing 4,000 to 6,000 pounds each await carver Will Anders in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Will Anders)
In late November, two logs weighing 4,000 to 6,000 pounds each await carver Will Anders in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Will Anders)

But the story begins long before chisel hit wood. Saddened by the loss of The Mai-Kai’s massive Tikis, created by legendary carver Barney West in the early 1960s, White made it a mission to replace them. She enlisted the help of Tiki and Mai-Kai loyalists, and remarkably everything fell into place. “It’s a true labor of love for all involved,” she wrote on Facebook.

“It didn’t take long to get others inspired, and to date we have been successful in getting everything donated – from the giant Tikis, to the trucks to get them to us to the man who has set out to carve them,” White wrote. “All of them have donated their efforts, time and money.” She said the goal is to “keep the spirit of The Mai-Kai alive by replacing the large idols in the gardens” and unveil them at The Hukilau in June.

First, White recruited Anders, who has a longtime relationship with The Mai-Kai that includes a unique artistic role casting dozens of smaller Tikis in cement from their original molds. A mutual friend and former Mai-Kai employee, Lonnie Dryden, donated the heavy equipment needed to transport the logs. And a frustrating search for wood in Florida that was large enough and suitable for carving finally ended when Dryden’s friend, Lee Cicchella of Paradise Found Landscaping, donated the two trees. Pete Ginn donated all the heavy equipment, and the plan was in place.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Jan. 1-15, 2016): New Tikis to rise at The Mai-Kai, Lost Lake honored, Smuggler’s Cove book release, Tiki in South Beach, plus more!”