The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16, 2015): Tiki cocktail showdown on South Beach, ukuleles and lost cocktails at the historic Mai-Kai

The Week in TikiSouth Florida appears to be the nexus of the Tiki universe this week. On Friday, Emeril Lagasse hosts a who’s who of Tiki bartenders and VIPs for “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The Mai Kai hosts special musical guests on Friday and an evening of “lost cocktails” on Saturday. This all comes on the heels of last week’s news that the Fort Lauderdale landmark has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Our weekly features spotlight Tiki Tiablo, Critiki, Koop Kooper’s Cocktail Nation, and Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas. The rum of the week, Tanduay from the Philippines, is featured in the Shark’s Tooth cocktail.
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THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (Feb. 16-22, 2015)

Emeril Lagasse brings the ‘Art of Tiki’ to South Beach

Emeril Lagasse
Emeril Lagasse is hosting “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown,” featuring mixologists from across the country, this Friday during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Tiki cocktails are the centerpiece of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s signature event at this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, a sure sign that tropical drinks have gained some long-overdue respect. The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown hits the Shore Club on Friday night (Feb. 20) from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for an evening of “Polynesian flare with Tiki-inspired cocktails from across the country.”

The sold-out event pays tribute to the “subculture enjoying a resurgence in popularity with bartenders across America.” Presented by Captain Morgan Rum and hosted by Lagasse, the showdown will feature eight cocktails from some of the most notable Tiki mixlogists, bars and restaurants from near and far: Lost Lake (Chicago), The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Tiki Mondays With Miller (New York City), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach), and Spike Mendelsohn’s upcoming Miami restaurant.

Judging the competition will be Lagasse, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), and Lynnette Marrero (Diageo rum ambassador; DrinksAt6, New York City). Guests will also have a vote in determining the winner. To supplement those tasty cocktails, there will be tropical treats served by some top chefs and restaurants: the Shore Club, The Rum Line, Ian’s Tropical Grill (Stuart, Fla.), Coyo Taco (Miami), That Little Beet (New York City), and Red Ginger (Miami).

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: Find out what makes the Shark Bite so Jawesome

The Shark Bite is always served with a "side of danger" (in this case, a shot of aged Appleton rum). (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 2017)

Updated August 2018
See below: Our Shark Bite review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

We continue our journey through dangerous waters this week with another of The Mai-Kai’s signature drinks, the Shark Bite.

Hurricane Hayward enjoys a Shark Bite in The Molokai bar in September 2016 during a book-release party for Tim "Swanky" Glazner's "Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant." (Atomic Grog photo)
Hurricane Hayward enjoys a Shark Bite in The Molokai bar in September 2016 during a book-release party for Tim “Swanky” Glazner’s “Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant.” (Atomic Grog photo)

Considering that this is the heart of the summer vacation season and we’re still digesting Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” this is an appropriate choice. Actually, the Shark Bite’s potency is a bit overstated. It’s our favorite drink from the “medium” section of the menu.

Like the much stronger Shrunken Skull, the Shark Bite has an ominous name and also a shot of flavorful rum added as it’s served. It’s also one of many of the legendary Fort Lauderdale Polynesian restaurant’s drinks that date back to the early days of Tiki, when Donn Beach (aka Donn the Beachcomber) laid out the template for tropical drinks that is still followed to this day.

The Shark Bite is an almost spot-on copy of the Shark’s Tooth, a drink featured on Don the Beachcomber menus as well as other bars and restaurants during the mid-century golden age of Tiki. You’ll find a Shark’s Tooth recipe below that was unearthed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry for his seminal 1998 book, Grog Log, and later republished in Beachbum Berry Remixed (2010). Also below is a slight variation that we’re calling a tribute to the Shark Bite.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai cocktail review: Find out what makes the Shark Bite so Jawesome”