If the idea of a cross-country road trip to five Tiki bars in five different states seems daunting, The Hukilau will make it easy for you during the 15th annual gathering of Polynesian Pop enthusiasts June 8-12 in Fort Lauderdale. During the event’s Friday afternoon festivities, guests will have the opportunity to sip cocktails and chat up the bar staff from five current and upcoming Tiki establishments spread across the Southeast, East and Midwest. More below:New sponsor rums | Shag glassware, more merch
The Tiki Road Trip Pool Party will include cocktails from four well-known tropical drink destinations: Porco Lounge & Tiki Room (Cleveland), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), Aku Aku (Orlando), plus The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley (New York City). Also joining the party will be Cooking Channel star Jim Stacy, who will be offering up a sneak preview of his upcoming Tiki bar in Atlanta, the Barnacled Mermaid.
Also on hand will be James Teitelbaum, whose seminal 2003 book, Tiki Road Trip, inspired the party (as well as many actual trips). The book chronicled Teitelbaum’s travels to Tiki bars across the world while he was a touring musician in the early days of the Tiki revival. Updated in 2007, the book also documents many legendary establishments from the past. Teitelbaum will be signing copies of both Tiki Road Trip and his latest book, Destination: Cocktails: The Traveler’s Guide to Superior Libations (2012), at a time to be announced in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar.
Tickets for the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party are available now for just $20 for weekend passholders, $49 for non-passholders. It will run from noon to 4 p.m. in the courtyard surrounding the main pool at the host hotel, the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. It’s a good idea to snag a weekend pass before they sell out. The Aloha Pass ($155) includes Thursday through Sunday, while the Luau Pass ($135) covers Friday through Sunday.
The Hukilau’s co-founder/organizer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, said a pool party has been a top guest request since the event moved to Pier 66 last year. The waterfront hotel includes what it calls a “three-pool tropical oasis” in its center courtyard, and White plans to put it to good use with what she’s calling an “epic pool party” featuring “five bars serving the best in exotic cocktails from around the U.S.”
Catching up on news from the first half of February, we have reports on the debut of Tiki-themed bars in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach, plus a recap and photos from two of Shag’s parties at Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Quick sips include The Wreck Bar, the Polynesian Village Resort, the Rapa Nui Reef, and Tiki Month on the Pegu Blog. Regular features spotlight California artist Michelle Bickford; Milwaukee surf band The Exotics; New York City craft cocktail bars The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley; and Tiki mug collecting website Ooga-Mooga. The Rum of the Week, Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy, is featured in an original Atomic Grog cocktail, Kilauea Iki. * 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
New Tiki bars open in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach
It was a banner year for Tiki in 2015 with an unprecedented number of high-profile bars opening across the country. [Year in Tiki recap] It’s too early to know if 2016 will come close to the quality level of new establishments such as Lost Lake, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and The Golden Tiki , but the number of openings could easily top last year. [Previous: See our 2016 preview] And the variety is astounding, from a classic rum den in frigid Maine to the world’s first vegan Tiki bar in Seattle. Already open as of mid-February:
Howie’s Tiki in Spring, Texas: North of Houston, owner Mark “Howie” Voros is aiming for classic Tiki, including lamps from Oceanic Arts, exotic music, and a selection of classic tropical and modern cocktails, according to a Critiki News story. Artwork by California artist Ken Ruzic adorns the walls, with a Big Toe piece coming soon. Communal drinks include the Scorpion Bowl and Blood of the Kapu Tiki. * Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki
Rhum in Portland, Maine: A tribute to classic Tiki bars as well as the craft and romance of rum, this full-service restaurant has already made a splash in the heart of winter. “It’s about escapism,” co-owner Jason Loring, who owns several other Portland hotspots, told a Portland area blog. The food is an inventive, modern take on Polynesian-themed cuisine. The cocktails show off the bar’s massive rum collection, running the gamut from the Mai Tai to the Painkiller to the Fogcutter served in unique mugs made by a local artist. Another blogger raved: “It’s what Portland has been missing – a lounge full of escapism with an air of mystery.” * Official site | Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki
Hidden Harbor in Pittsburgh: This small “modern Tiki spot” opened Jan. 19 in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood under the guidance of co-owner and cocktail director Adam Henry. There’s a small menu of creative tapas (Deconstructed Tuna Tacos, Lamb Curry, etc.) and some unique takes on tropical cocktails. Ishmael includes clove-infused Jamaican rum, Tropic Thunder features a house five-rum blend, and Josie’s Faraway Vacation employs Arrack (Indonesian rum). You can also find drinks with sake, gin, rye and coconut-washed vodka. But purists shouldn’t fret: Every Tuesday is the Tiki Time Machine, featuring classics such as Don the Beachcomber’s Pearl Diver and Missionary’s Downfall. “It’s clear that the team at Hidden Harbor respects the classic tiki playbook,” according to the Pittsburgh City Paper. “But it isn’t afraid to add some notes in the margins.” The decor is described as minimalist by Tiki standards, with a few distinctive carvings and nautical knick-knacks. * Official site | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
No Bones Beach Club in Seattle: Easily the most distinctive of the new offerings is the world’s first vegan Tiki bar and restaurant. This former award-winning food truck and pop-up tent now serves Southern California-meets-Asian tropical treats in the city’s Ballard neighborhood. Highlights of the 100 percent plant-based menu include Sweet Pineapple and Soy Curl Sizzling Lettuce Wraps, tomatillo-avocado salsa-topped Jackfruit Flautas, and Smoked Golden Beet Poke, VegNews Magazine reports. Owner MacKenzie DeVito told Seattle Met’s Nosh Pit that the goal is to make guests in the sometimes dreary city “feel like they’re on a little vacation.” The drinks are made with local spirits and served in Tiki and tropical mugs. The decor includes a large Tiki, bamboo and thatch accents, plus colorful lanterns. * Official site | Facebook | Twitter | Critiki
Naked Tiki in Miami Beach: The new restaurant/bar/lounge from celebrity chef Ralph Pagano (Hell’s Kitchen, Pressure Cook) held its soft opening on Feb. 11, with a grand opening Feb. 20. Located in the recently re-branded Stiles Hotel, a historic property in the heart of the Art Deco District on South Beach that dates back to 1936, Naked Tiki is a multi-level space that must blend in with the upscale property, so don’t expect over-the-top decor. But the food is outstanding, from the wings, ribs and bacon-wrapped shrimp rumaki to the handmade dumplings, decadent crab rangoon, inventive buns and signature Bang! Bang! Rice. Pagano obviously knows his way around a kitchen (watch him battle Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America). The cocktail menu is less ambitious but very solid, featuring a nice assortment of classics (Mai Tai, Scorpion, Painkiller, Singapore Sling, Aku Aku). “I have a borderline obsession with rum and tropical drinks,” Pagano told Miami New Times. “I’ve taken basically all that I love and put it under one roof.” The decor and music is more South Beach than South Pacific, but it makes sense in this neighborhood. It will be interesting to see how this space evolves. * Official site | Facebook page
A hometown favorite took home the top prize at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26, while an enthusiastic bar team that traveled more than a thousand miles also came away a winner.
The Judges Choice award for best cocktail was awarded to The Broken Shaker of Miami Beach and bartenders Gui Jaroschy and Randy Perez for their crafty Sweet Micky. Hosted by Food Network’s Guy Fieri, the event featured nine of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki bars facing off during a festive event at the oceanside Surfcomber hotel on South Beach.
Some 700 guests enjoyed the many excellent cocktails and cast their own votes for the People’s Choice award, which went to Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room. The entire Porco staff of 18 people made the trip to SoBeWFF, cheering their mixologists to victory with their Alchemy Hour cocktail. The event also featured many top chefs from South Florida serving up Tiki-themed small bites in the spirit of the festival, one of the largest of its kind in the country.
Across the board, the cocktails were clearly superior to those at last year’s inaugural event. The rum and other sponsor products greatly contributed to this (absinthe and sherry were other popular ingredients), but the participants also showed creativity and a knowledge of their craft that led to some high-quality creations (check out the reviews and recipes below). But this was Tiki, after all, so fun was the name of the game. The bar stations ranged from whimsical tropical oases to an Egyptian tomb, manned by mad scientists and voodoo priestesses (see photos).
The team of Perez and Jaroschy was considered a favorite after winning the People’s Choice award for The Broken Shaker at last year’s inaugural showdown, and also finishing second on the judges’ ballots. (There was no second place announced this year.) The acclaimed craft cocktail bar – located a mile north of the Surfcomber in the Freehand Miami hotel – is a critical darling, both locally and nationally. The most recent feather in its cap was being named best bar in Florida by Business Insider.
Fieri mentioned The Broken Shaker’s acclaim in announcing the Judge’s Choice award during the climax of the event. Jaroschy and Perez were all smiles, graciously accepting the title and a bevy of prizes, including a Mavenhal bar bag and Rhum Barbancourt aging barrel. They proudly showed off the most coveted prize, a rare (unreleasd in the U.S.) bottle of Cuvée 150 Ans rum, released in a very limited bottling in 2012 to commemorate Rhum Barbancourt’s 150th birthday. The only question remaining: Will the popular bartenders be gracious enough to share their booty with their loyal followers?
But even The Broken Shaker’s fans couldn’t top the flood of fan adulation heaped upon Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, who moments earlier enthusiastically accepted the People’s Choice award from Fieri, along with all the same prizes. The Porco crew, led by general manager and head bartender Shannon Smith, posed for photos while basking in the victory. Those who weren’t working behind the bar became an enthusiastic cheering section surrounding the Porco station, urging guests to cast their ballots with tokens given out upon arrival.
Exciting news this week for fans of The Mai-Kai with the release of new Tiki mugs and pre-orders for a long-awaited history book. News on The Art of Tiki event in South Beach includes a new rum sponsor and the return of last year’s champ. We recap events from N.Y.C. to L.A., including new Doug Horne Tiki mugs. Upcoming events include a tribute to Steve Crane, South Florida’s Polynesian Cultural Festival, and a new Trader Vic’s seminar. In other news, a tree crashes the party at VenTiki, plus Bacardi and Havana Club duke it out. Regular features spotlight eclectic artist Sam Gambino; groundbreaking exotica ensemble Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica; Brooklyn bar Fort Defiance; and online group Poly Hai. The Rum of the Week, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 15, is featured in the Pineapple Express 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
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.
New Mai-Kai mugs released, history book coming in July
In December, a limited number of artist proofs were released and quickly sold out. The mug, which comes with its own pendant, pays tribute to the historic Polynesian Palace’s iconic Tikis. Tiki Diablo, aka Danny Gallardo, has previously created mugs that pay homage to memorable Tikis at The Mai-Kai in 2014 and 2015 (see story). He’ll also be crafting the official mug for the upcoming book on The Mai-Kai by Tim “Swanky” Glazner.
UPDATE: The book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, will be released Sept. 28. The 176-page hardcover book (11 inches wide by 8 1/2 inches high) is being issued by Schiffer Publishing. It’s available for pre-order online via Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Glazner will be hosting a release party and special events at The Mai-Kai on Sept. 17-18. Advance copies of the book will be available at the release party.
In the book, the longtime Mai-Kai historian reveals never-before-seen photos and stories that he’s gleaned from more than 13 years of research on the 59-year-old Tiki temple, which was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a fascinating story of the brash young men who in 1956 created The Mai-Kai for a million dollars, making it one of the most expensive restaurants of its day. By sparing no expense and creating a one-of-a kind Tiki paradise, Bob and Jack Thornton created an acclaimed playground of celebrities and playboys during the mid-century heyday of Polynesian Pop.
Glazner also spotlights the beautiful women who worked there, many who used the experience as a jumping-off point for adventure and fame. The book includes exclusive first-hand stories on more than 400 images, documenting not only The Mai-Kai but the history, allure, and enduring legacy of the original Tiki era. Focusing on 1955 to 1971, the book traces the genesis of the restaurant and its key employees back to Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber. Many of The Mai-Kai’s original key managers and employees came from the Beachcomber outpost in Chicago, where the Thorntons called home. This includes bartender Mariano Licudine, who created the acclaimed bar menu (based on Donn Beach’s original “rum rhapsodies”) that remains intact at The Mai-Kai today.