The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum from The Real McCoy, plus new glassware and spirits menu

The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum from The Real McCoy, plus new glassware and spirits menu

Updated Oct. 15, 2020

Safe and scary fun: Hulaween Drive-In Movie at The Mai-Kai on Oct. 30
NEW: The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations
The historic Polynesian restaurant transported revelers to a socially-distanced celebration like no other, including an appearance by Appleton Rum’s Joy Spence. FULL EVENT RECAP
News: Latest on the temporary closing
Photos: Hulaweeen Drive-In Movie scene, costumes
Tribute recipe: Blood Island Green Potion #2

ORIGINAL STORY:

In honor of National Rum Month, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale has released a new batch of its first-ever signature rum for guests to enjoy in the restaurant or take home in limited-edition bottles. The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend can be paired with new branded glasses also available for purchase.

See more below
* New sipping rum menu introduced
* Cocktail menu reduced, experience remains
Bonus recipes: The Real McCoy Shark Bite and Special Reserve Daiquiri
Previous coverage: More on Bailey Pryor, The Real McCoy and the new Mai-Kai rum

The second batch of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend is now available along with new signature glassware
The second batch of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend is now available along with new signature glassware. (Photo Credit: © Mai-Kai)

The initial batch of the 92-proof rum, aged and blended by Richard Seale at Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, was quickly snapped up during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic in April. But the closing of the historic restaurant for two months forced the release party and seminar by The Real McCoy’s founder to be canceled. That presentation will now be held virtually, and everyone who buys a bottle of the rum is invited.

Thursday, Aug. 13: Rum Runners of the Prohibition Era Virtual Seminar featuring Bailey Pryor of The Real McCoy Rum and hosted by The Mai-Kai. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker and founder of The Real McCoy Rum will discuss the history of rums during Prohibition along with the creation of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend. Guests can ask questions at the end of the presentation. [Facebook event]

An invitation to the Zoom event will be sent to anyone buying a bottle of the newly released Batch 131. It’s available at the restaurant for $64.20 (including tax). To order and arrange for pick-up, call marketing director Pia Dahlquist at (954) 646-8975 or email Pia@MaiKai.com. Unfortunately, you must pick up the rum in person. Shipping is not available. Those who bought a bottle of Batch 130 in April can also reach out to Pia to attend the event, which will include tastings of the rum.

The limited-edition glassware can be purchased along with the rum. The square shot glass ($10.70, including tax) and double old-fashioned rocks glass ($13.85) are both etched with The Mai-Kai logo and artwork. After picking up the new rum and glasses and enjoying the seminar, guests are invited to The Mai-Kai for National Rum Day on Aug. 16. A updated rum menu is now available featuring 49 different choices from The Mai-Kai’s “cellar,” including The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend. Scroll down for more on the new rum choices.

Bailey Pryor won five Emmy Awards for his documentary The Real McCoy in 2012. His research inspired him to launch The Real McCoy Rum in 2013
Bailey Pryor won five Emmy Awards for his documentary The Real McCoy in 2012. His research inspired him to launch The Real McCoy Rum in 2013.

The Mai-Kai’s first branded rum is touted on the menu as a “single-blended Barbados rum, exceptionally smooth with unmistakable notes of toasted pecan, vanilla and wood spice, with a long, elegant finish.” It’s The Real McCoy’s latest partnership with an acclaimed Tiki bar after working with Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco on a similar 92-proof, 12-year-old rum in 2017.

But The Mai-Kai blend, created by Pryor and Foursquare master distiller and blender Seale, is a bit different than that rum as well as The Real McCoy’s flagship 12-year-old rum. The label, launched by Pryor in 2013 after his documentary on pioneering rum-runner Bill McCoy, also features 3-year-old and 5-year-old rums, all from Foursquare..

The Mai-Kai rum is a blend of rums from copper column and pot stills, aged in heavily charred American oak Bourbon barrels. As noted in our May blog post, it was produced at a higher proof than The Real McCoy’s 12-year-old single blended rum (92 vs. 80) and has more pot still rum in the blend. This “heavier” blend is a better fit with flavor profile of the rums used in The Mai-Kai’s signature cocktails, typically higher proof rums from Jamaica and Guyana.

But don’t expect The Mai-Kai blend to be used frequently in cocktails. It’s designed (and priced) as a “super premium” rum like its predecessors and presented that way on The Mai-Kai’s new menu (see below). But it would not be out of line to feature it in a Daiquiri or other simple and elegant cocktail that showcases the rum. We’ve featured a few of these below as well.

The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend
Previous coverage: The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend introduced
News and background on the April release, plus tasting notes.

SHOWDOWN OF THE 12-YEAR-OLD RUMS

Lacking a bottle of The Real McCoy’s standard 12-year-old rum to compare – as our friends at The Rum Traveler blog did [see video] – I took a different approach. My mind jumped immediately to another 12-year-old rum that is highly regarded as both a sipping and mixing rum, a longtime favorite at The Mai-Kai that appears in several highly-regarded cocktails.

The first batch of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend was released in April but quickly sold out
The first batch of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend was released in April but quickly sold out. (Photo Credit: © Mai-Kai)

Essentially, I wanted to know how The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend held up, both neat and in cocktails, against Appleton Estate 12-year-old Rare Blend (soon to be known as Reserve Casks) rum from Jamaica. Both come from well-respected distilleries and acclaimed master blenders in the English-speaking Caribbean’s two islands with the richest history of rum production.

There are distinct differences when you compare Barbados and Jamaican rums more broadly, but these two particular premium rums are closer than you might think. At 86 proof, the masterfully blended juice in the Appleton Estate flagship product is also aged in American oak Bourbon barrels and is a combination of column and pot still rums. After extensive tastings, I have no problem declaring it a virtual tie in my own informal rum ratings (3.7 out of 5). They’re easily distinguishable from each other, but both display the unmistakable characteristics of 12-year-old blended rums made with care and precision.

Continue reading “The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum from The Real McCoy, plus new glassware and spirits menu”

UPDATE: Cocktail quarts join gallons as The Mai-Kai expands takeout menu

Updated Oct. 15, 2020

Safe and scary fun: Hulaween Drive-In Movie at The Mai-Kai on Oct. 30
NEW: The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations
The historic Polynesian restaurant transported revelers to a socially-distanced celebration like no other, including an appearance by Appleton Rum’s Joy Spence. FULL EVENT RECAP
News: Latest on the temporary closing
Photos: Hulaweeen Drive-In Movie scene, costumes
Tribute recipe: Blood Island Green Potion #2

The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum from The Real McCoy, plus new glassware and spirits menu
The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum, plus new glassware and spirits menu
The Fort Lauderdale restaurant hosts virtual seminar with The Real McCoy Rum creator Bailey Pryor. Also check out our 12-year-old rum showdown plus info on the summer cocktail menu.
Bonus recipes: The Real McCoy Shark Bite and Special Reserve Daiquiri

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June 26 update

The Mai-Kai continues to adapt and adjust to meet guest demand after the historic Polynesian restaurant reopened less than a month ago amid Florida’s struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. Following the popularity of the cocktail “Gallons to Go,” locals can now pick up quarts of five different popular topical drinks.

The Hukilau, Mai Tai and three other classic Mai-Kai cocktails are now available for curbside pickup in 32-ounce jars in addition to gallon jugs. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Hukilau, Mai Tai and three other classic Mai-Kai cocktails are now available for curbside pickup in 32-ounce jars in addition to gallon jugs. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The 32-ounce glass mason jars were introduced during the special virtual event in honor of The Hukilau on the weekend of June 5-6. Online videos hosted at The Mai-Kai by Jupiter Jones and Retro Rekindled were streamed worldwide, but local guests had the added treat of picking up a special Beachbum Berry mug from sponsor Real Cocktail Ingredients, plus quarts and gallons of The Hukilau cocktail featuring Don Q Rum.

Since that event, the curbside pickup cocktail menu has been updated to include 32-ounce jars of the four favorites that had been available only in 128-ounce jugs, plus several variations of the classic Rum Barrel. The Hukilau has also remained on the expanded menu. The quarts are a great option, allowing smaller groups to partake, or larger groups to sample multiple cocktails. Planning a backyard Fourth of July bash? Look no further.

Here’s the takeout cocktail menu and pre-tax prices as of June 26:
* Barrel O’ Rum – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart
* Black Magic – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart
* The Hukilau – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart
* Jet Pilot – $122.90 gallon, $32.71 quart
* Mai Tai – $112.15 gallon, $32.71 quart
By request, if available:
* Coconut Barrel (rum) – $74.77 galllon, $23.37 quart
* Vodka Barrel – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart

Select Mai-Kai tropical drinks are available by the gallon
Select Mai-Kai tropical drinks are available by the gallon. (Mai-Kai photo)

Each quart contains at least four servings of the robust Barrel, Black Magic and The Hukilau, but even more of the Jet Pilot and Mai Tai, which are usually served in smaller glasses. The gallons include 15 servings at 8 1/2 ounces each, but you’ll get many more servings of the smaller drinks. All are great deals compared to the prices for single servings in the restaurant.

Of course, since May 29, guests have been able to enjoy happy hour in The Molokai Bar from opening until 7 p.m., featuing half-priced cocktails and appetizers. In addition, The Mai-Kai recently announced the return of the Wednesday night free sushi buffet. A minimum $10 bar tab comes with a complimentary buffet featuring sushi and other finger foods from 5 to 9 p.m.

As they have since the reopening, The Mai-Kai management and staff are taking extra precautions to keep guests safe. “Masks are required when approaching the buffet, there are clear lines on the floor keeping everyone 6 feet apart and guests do not serve themselves,” according to a June 24 announcement on Facebook.

The restaurant and attached bar have been operating in accordance with all state and local guidelines, going above and beyond with additional measures in sanitization, distancing, team wellness, and training. Face coverings are required for all guests when entering, according to the latest Facebook post (see below). “We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in keeping each other safe. Mahalo!”

Hurricane Hayward is greeted by manager Kern Mattei while picking up quarts of cocktails to go. (Atomic Grog photo)
Hurricane Hayward is greeted by manager Kern Mattei while picking up quarts of cocktails to go. (Atomic Grog photo)

The Mai-Kai has also announced an expanded schedule of its legendary Polynesian Islander Revue for the July Fourth weekend. Check the official website for hours and showtimes or call (954) 563-3272. Reservations are required and can be made either online or by phone. The restaurant and gift shop remain open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday.

However, if you’re not quite ready to venture out for a meal or just want to enjoy a taste of The Mai-Kai at home, there are penty of take-out options available every day. You can place an order online or by phone and schedule your pick-up time seven days a week:
Curbside pickup hours
Monday-Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday: 3 to 9 p.m.

Note that if you prefer to stay in your car, the staff will bring your order to you. Also, if you live close to the restaurant, you may be able to get delivery of food and beverages on Wednesdays through Sundays.

The menu is expansive, perfect for upcoming Fourth of July family festivities. In addition to cocktails, the wine list features more than a dozen different bottles. But for a full Polynesian feast, you need to explore the distinctive food menu, which includes a delicious mix of classic Tiki bar staples and modern Pan Asian cuisine. As of late June, the menu included 23 appetizers, 36 entrees, six side dishes, and four desserts.
Official website: Check MaiKai.com for updates

The Hukilau 2020: A week of virtual events honor 19th annual Tiki weekender, help those in need
The Hukilau 2020: Virtual events honor 19th annual Tiki weekender, help those in need
Pay homage to the canceled Tiki weekender with educational symposiums, a special virtual event at The Mai-Kai, plus more.
* See video replays, all of the activities

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Expanded hot food menu joins cocktail ‘Gallons to Go’ as The Mai-Kai reopens to guests
Updated June 3

The Mai-Kai announced on May 21 that it will reopen for guests under the latest coronavirus rules for restaurants in Broward County and the state of Florida on Friday, May 29.

The Mai-Kai will reopen on May 29 after closing since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)
The Mai-Kai will reopen on May 29 after closing since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)

“Of course, our guests’ and employees’ health and safety are our first priority,” the email announcement said. “We have met and surpassed all CDC guidelines and mandatory government-issued operational requirements and we’ve taken additional measures in sanitization, distancing, team wellness, and training. Please note when entering the restaurant face coverings are required and temperatures will be taken. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in keeping each other safe.”

Reservations for dinner only or dinner and the legendary Polynesian Islander Revue are required and can be made online at MaiKai.com or by phone at (954) 563-3272. Delivery options are also available.

The Mai-Kai's online ordering

The Molokai Bar will be open for happy hour prices on The Mai-Kai’s famous tropical drinks and appetizers from opening until 7 p.m. with socially-distanced table seating only but no reservations required. Check the website for the latest info on opening days, hours and showtimes. The Mai-Kai’s gift shop will also be reopening to guests.

The Mai-Kai also announced that the extensive menu of takeout food, wine and cocktails will still be available, even after the May 29 opening. Check out all the details below on the signature appetizers, entrees and “Gallons to Go” of tropical drinks you can order by phone for curbside pickup. To make the experience even easier, The Mai-Kai has just launched a new online ordering platform accessible directly from MaiKai.com.

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Original story:
Expanded hot food menu joins cocktail ‘Gallons to Go’ as The Mai-Kai plans reopening

Like many other bars and restaurants across Florida and the U.S., The Mai-Kai was forced to close its doors suddenly in March when the coronavirus pandemic caused a statewide shutdown. Sadly, the 63-year-old Polynesian palace had no more work for its extensive staff, from the cooks and bartenders to the sarong-clad Molokai Girls and performers in the Polynesian Islander Revue.

The Mai-Kai's Gallons to Go cocktail menu includes the Rum Barrel, Jet Pilot, Mai Tai and Black Magic
The Mai-Kai’s Gallons to Go cocktail menu includes the Rum Barrel, Jet Pilot, Mai Tai and Black Magic.

But the Fort Lauderdale landmark quickly found a unique way to give South Floridians a taste of its historic cocktails: Thirsty patrons hauled away hundreds of “Gallons to Go.” This curbside takeout program was a smash success, leading The Mai-Kai to release a limited edition rum, then later launch an ambitious menu of wines, meats and desserts for Mother’s Day.

Now, with the shutdown approaching eight weeks but with a reopening date on the horizon, The Mai-Kai has ramped up its takeout menu to include many favorites from its regular ala carte menu. You can pair your gallons of Rum Barrels and Mai Tais with hot appetizers, dinners and rice bowls.

Restaurants in Broward County will be allowed to reopen beginning Monday, May 18, but The Mai-Kai has not announced an opening date yet. “We are looking at the entire scenario and planning according to all rules for the safety of our guests and staff,” marketing director Pia Dahlquist said on Facebook. “Meanwhile, please enjoy our takeout food and favorite tropical Gallons to Go! And look for the announcement when we will re-open.”

The Mai-Kai’s takeout menu
Check the official website for the latest updates on pick-up hours plus new offerings.
Cocktails (Gallons to Go) | Food and desserts | Wines
On The Atomic Grog: The latest Mai-Kai news, plus our exclusive cocktail guide with 100+ recipes

With a 50 percent limit on capacity, among other restrictions, The Mai-Kai will certainly look to keep these curbside takeout offerings going even after the reopening. Judging by guest reaction, many hope they will remain permanently.

The Mai-Kai's new to-go menu

Said one comment in the Fans of The Mai-Kai Facebook group: “I am so impressed with what The Mai-Kai has come up with during these tough times. For a restaurant so steeped in tradition, they have surely thought outside the box to keep some revenue flowing. Their creative mindset is as stellar as ever! A lot of businesses could learn from them.”

Dahlquist said the success of the cocktails to go inspired management to increase the offerings. The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend, an exclusive new rum that was scheduled to launch at a special event in April, quickly sold out of its sneak preview allotment when it was added to the menu in April. [Check out our preview of the rum below] Then, on Mother’s Day weekend, bottles of wine (and signature glasses) joined the menu along with select meats and desserts to give Mom a proper holiday feast.

What’s even more impressive than the delicious selection of tropical fare is the fact that the entire operation has been run during the pandemic by a skeleton crew of mangers and owner Dave Levy. Like most others in the hospitality industry, The Mai-Kai faced the agonizing reality of having to let its entire staff of around 100 go. This was especially hard for the family-run establishment that prides itself on the loyalty of its employees, many of whom remain there for decades.

Now you can order Pupu Platters to pair with your Rum Barrels to go with The Mai-Kai's expanded take-out menu
Now you can order Pupu Platters to pair with your Rum Barrels to go with The Mai-Kai’s expanded take-out menu.

While we wait for news on the reopening, it’s a great time to take advantage of the extensive takeout menu and help support the owners and staff as they face another difficult task. We hope that the expanded food and cocktail offerings mean that some of the staff will be back in the kitchen and behind the bar and able to regain their salaries.

We look forward to a day in the not-too-distant future when we can once again enjoy a relaxing one-of-a-kind experience you can only get at The Mai-Kai, from the classic cocktails in The Molokai lounge to a quiet walk in the exotic Tiki garden, to dinner in one of the secluded and mysterious dining rooms, to a thrilling performance of the Polynesian Islander Revue. But in the meantime, we appreciate the ability to take a taste of The Mai-Kai home with us.

The menu of cocktails available for curbside pickup features the Barrel O’ Rum, Mai Tai, and Jet Pilot. Special requests can also be made for the Black Magic, plus the Coconut Barrel (a Barrel with coconut rum) and Vodka Barrel (with house or Absolut). The wine list features 25 different bottles (at 50 percent off regular prices).

And for the first time since closing in March, you can order appetizers and entrees direct from the kitchen. The menu features nine signature appetizers (pupu platter, crab rangoon, friend shrimp, etc.), 11 dinners (from Cantonese Shrimp to Ginger Garlic Lobster to USDA Prime Filet Mignon) and six rice bowls (with chicken, beef, shrimp and veggies). There are also four side dishes and four desserts.

The Mai-Kai's to-go menu includes 50 percent off bottles of wine, several pork tenderloin dishes, and a selection of desserts
The Mai-Kai’s to-go menu includes 50 percent off bottles of wine, several pork tenderloin dishes, and a selection of desserts.

You can also now order and pick up cocktails during an expanded window of office hours, seven days a week. Food is available for pick-up between 4 and 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Go to MaiKai.com for all the info.

Members of The Mai-Kai Club also get the benefit of a 25 percent discount on all take-out food orders. You can join the club now for just $20 and continue your savings (up to 50 percent off food, drinks and merchandise) when The Mai-Kai reopens by clicking here.
* The Mai-Kai gift certificates: Treat the special someone on your list

More coverage below
Photos: Gallons to Go quench South Florida’s thirst for The Mai-Kai
Review: Exclusive new Mai-Kai rum introduced
Social media: Rum Barrel Challenge on Instagram

The Mai-Kai online store
The Mai-Kai Trading Post is the historic restaurant’s online version of its vast on-site gift shop, offering custom mugs, apparel, jewelry, Tikis, artist prints, menus, and more.

The Mai-Kai on social media
Twitter | Facebook: Official page | Friends of The Mai-Kai group
Instagram: Restaurant | The Molokai bar | Trading Post

The Mia-Kai Online Tiki Bingo Benefit
Aid for Mai-Kai employees
On May 7, an online Tiki bingo benefit raised $4,400 for employees of The Mai-Kai affected by the closing due to coronavirus. Players brought $10 bingo cards and played for donated prizes, including a Mai-Kai Club membership and other items from The Mai Kai. The check was presented by the event organizers to The Mai-Kai’s Pia Dahlquist (left) and Kern Mattei (right). (Photos from Facebook)

Support Tiki bars now by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers
UPDATES: Support Tiki bars by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers

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Gallons To Go from The Mai-Kai

PHOTOS & RECAP: Gallons to Go quench South Florida’s thirst for The Mai-Kai

The Mai-Kai’s Gallons to Go take-out cocktail program launched on just one day – Friday, April 3 – and was an immediate success. Orders were received for more than 100 gallons during that initial three-hour pick-up window. Two weeks later, pick-ups were expanded to two days (April 17-18) and orders topped 200 gallons.

Manager Kern Mattei shows off the day's work: A full supply of Mai-Kai Rum Barrels to go. (April 15)
Manager Kern Mattei shows off the day’s work on April 15: A full supply of Mai-Kai Rum Barrels to go. (Mai-Kai photo)

The core offerings were four of the acclaimed bar’s most popular tropical cocktails: Barrel O’ Rum, Mai Tai, Jet Pilot and Piña Colada. Priced from $80 up to $131.50, the gallons are touted as serving around 15 drinks, a great value any way you slice it. A gallon yields more than 25 servings of the small but powerful Jet Pilot, so even at the top price point you’re getting a hell of a deal.

Word leaked out that the Black Magic was also available by special order, pleasing fans of that cult classic. In later weeks, guests could also order more mainstream offerings such as the Coconut Barrel, Vodka Barrel, and a virgin Pina Colada. The current menu is the same with the exception of the Piña Colada, which is temporarily not available.
Gallons to Go official menu: Click here to see that latest offerings

To meet the onslaught of orders, the bar staff had to kick into high gear in just a few days of production. By “staff” we really mean one hard-working bartender, the tireless Miles “Max” Vrahimis, who some readers may remember for his work with Lemon Hart Rum. He’s still a Lemon Hart rep, but Vrahimis has taken on his new role at The Mai-Kai with abandon, as you can see by the photos below.

ROUND THREE: Now a veteran at batching cocktails, bartender Max Vrahimis can pour multiple bottles of Lemon Hart 151 without even looking. (April 30)
Bartender Max Vrahimis pours Lemon Hart 151 into a batch of Jet Pilots on April 30. (Mai-Kai photo)

That’s not to say he didn’t have help. Owner Dave Levy and his management team were there running the show, and they also helped prep cocktails and orders. Kudos to director of sales and marketing Pia Dahlquist for personally handling all of the orders by phone and email. Manager Kern Mattei looked out-of-place without his usual dapper suit, but he and director of catering John Gelardi kept busy filling orders and helping Vrahimis in The Mai-Kai’s famous back bar.

The secret hidden lair behind the kitchen is also strategically located near the restaurant’s back door, which made production and distribution of the massive amount of cocktails just a bit smoother. After the first round of gallons, the two-week breather became necessary to secure more containers and gear up for the next round.

The reaction was immediate and overwhelming. The Mai-Kai closed its doors after service on March 25, so the ensuring weeks had built up quite a demand from its South Florida faithful. Social media posts boosted interest (see below), with envious fans from around the country inquiring hopefully if they could get gallons shipped to them.

Continue reading “UPDATE: Cocktail quarts join gallons as The Mai-Kai expands takeout menu”

Miami Rum Congress is in session: First annual event presents top industry experts

Miami Rum Congress 2019

Updated Feb. 21

Some of the biggest names in the spirits world flocked to South Florida for the first annual Miami Rum Congress, a two-day event featuring tastings and educational seminars dedicated to the burgeoning booze that may finally have outgrown its “party like a pirate” image.
Atomic Grog photo gallery, event recap
NEW: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress

Feb. 8-9 – Miami Rum Congress at the Ronald W. Shane Center, 6500 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach.
MiamiRumCongress.com: Tickets, schedule, more | ShaneCenter.com
* Facebook:
Main events | Tiki Takeover | After party
The Tiki Times: See all the upcoming events

Miami Rum Congress 2019

About Miami Rum Congress

Rum has forever been touted as the “next big thing,” a more economical and (some would argue) tastier alternative to whiskey in the hearts and glasses of aficionados of brown spirits. But, perhaps to its advantage, rum’s popularity has come at a more slow and steady pace, built from the ground up through an expanding group of devotees, event organizers and well-regarded industry loyalists. All of those folks will converge on Miami Beach to network and learn more about the world’s most diverse spirit.

Rum’s diversified, worldwide appeal is what keeps it near and dear to many. Our 2019 events calendar includes rum gatherings around the globe, from Jamaica to Czechoslovakia to The Netherlands to Madrid. And that’s just the next four months. In the United States, the Rum Renaissance Festival (set for May 17-18 in Coral Gables) has been the torch-bearer since launching in 2009 and deserves credit for being ahead of its time and paving the way for what has followed.

The Rum Lab's 2019 Rum Festival Tour

Miami, always a top market due to its proximity to the Caribbean and historic appreciation for rum, has been a step ahead of the rest of the country. But the word is out. Rum is not only fun, but it’s incredibly diverse and quickly gaining traction as a premium spirit. Smaller boutique festivals have become the norm, appealing to premium tastes.

Enter Federico Hernandez (of TheRumLab.com) and Ian Burrell (the award-winning global “rum ambassador”), who have joined forces to bring South Florida its second major rum festival. It’s clear that the demand is warranted. Tickets are selling briskly and several price points are sold out.

Ian Burrell, aka the global rum ambassador, welcomed The Mai-Kai to London in October for a special event leading up to his 12th annual UK RumFest. (Photo by The Mai-Kai)
Ian Burrell, aka the global rum ambassador, welcomed The Mai-Kai to London in October for a special event leading up to his 12th annual UK RumFest. (Photo by The Mai-Kai)

Hernandez and Burrell are on the cusp of the explosion of rum festivals worldwide. In 2007, Burrell founded The UK RumFest, widely considered to be the godfather of all rum events around the globe. In the years since, the charismatic ambassador has been on a one-man crusade, traveling to every continent on Earth on behalf of spirits companies and earning the 2018 Spirited Award as Best International Brand Ambassador. The 13th annual UK RumFest is set for Oct. 19-20.

Meanwhile, Hernandez began eyeing the vast U.S. market after launching the Rum Lab as an educational initiative in Puerto Rico in 2007. He has grown his brand to include five boutique rum festivals across American soil, including San Juan (March 2), Chicago (April 27), New York City (June 15), and San Francisco (Sept. 7).

The next logical step for Burrell and Hernandez in their efforts toward the “premiumization and education of rum” is Miami Rum Congress. “After years of attending and hosting rum events, we are combining our experiences and expertise to bring consumers and tradespeople the finest rum event in the Americas,” said Burrell in a press release. “We are bringing in expert guest speakers from around the world so that Miami Rum Congress attendees will not only have the opportunity to taste a wide array of exotic rums but can interact with and learn from top industry experts and thought-leaders. This unparalleled spirit event will be an exciting moment for the industry and monumental in shaping the modern-day rum landscape.”

Miami Rum Congress is the newest addition and the first event of the 2019 rum festival circuit. It’s not hard to lure anyone to sunny Miami Beach in February, but the lineup of VIPs and experts is nevertheless extremely impressive.

Continue reading “Miami Rum Congress is in session: First annual event presents top industry experts”

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”

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

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

The Hukilau 2015

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

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

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

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

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

The Week in Tiki (May 4-10, 2015): The Hukilau news and updates, plus summer Tiki festival season kicks off

The Week in Tiki The summer Tiki event season is heating up, and we have the latest news on The Hukilau coming to Fort Lauderdale in June, plus updates on this month’s Tiki Caliente. There’s also news on Tiki Oasis tickets and the just-announced Hot Rod Hula Hop, plus the scoop on the temporary closing of the Tiki-Ti. Weekly features spotlight artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker, A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge blog, acclaimed lounge band Martini Kings, and the vintage Trader Vic’s location in Atlanta. The rum of the week, The Real McCoy 3, is featured in the Vicious Virgin #3.
* 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

The Hukilau gears up for 14th annual Tiki weekender, exclusive events

With the 30-day countdown for the East Coast’s premiere Tiki weekender quickly approaching, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White has released a flurry of news and information about The Hukilau, coming June 10-14 to Fort Lauderdale. Here are the latest updates on the event, which will be headquartered for the first time at the historic Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel:

The four different glazes of The Hukilau's official 2015 mug by Tiki Diablo
The four different glazes of The Hukilau’s official 2015 mug by Tiki Diablo.

* Photos of all four glazes of the 2015 event mug by Tiki Diablo have been released. A limited run of 400 mugs will be produced, 100 per glaze. The four styles are Ocean, Fire, Sand and Volcano. The mug was inspired and adapted from a design by artist Dave “Basement Kahuna” Wolfe. Tiki Diablo, aka Southern California artist Daniel Gallardo, is an in-demand craftsman and mug designer whose past projects include The Hukilau 2012 mug and a special 2014 Mai-Kai mug. Also look for pendants based on the mug to be available during an upcoming pre-sale. To reserve The Hukilau mug, email christie@thehukilau.com. Coming soon: More info on other merchandise available at the event.

* Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats will perform two special swim shows at the nearby B Ocean Resort for attendees of The Hukilau only. These will be in addition to the regular Friday and Saturday shows at 6:30 p.m. that can be viewed from the resort’s historic Wreck Bar. The exclusive new shows at the former Yankee Clipper hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, White said. To ensure clear sightlines for everyone, The Wreck Bar will not be filled beyond its seated capacity. Tickets for the additional mermaid shows are $10 each and are on sale now.

The Tiki Tower Takeover team, clockwise from left: Beachbum Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee and Brian Miller
The Tiki Tower Takeover team, clockwise from left: Beachbum Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee and Brian Miller.

* The highest-level event tickets have sold out. Big Kahuna passes – which includes admission to all five days, not including symposiums and special events – are no longer available. But you can still pick up an Aloha Pass (Thursday-Sunday) and Luau Pass (Friday-Sunday), or single-day tickets. Buy tickets now before they sell out. Big Kahuna, Aloha and Luau passholders will also receive swag bags containing an exclusive commemorative coffee mug, White said. If you plan on attending, it’s also a good idea to book a hotel room sooner rather than later. Also sold out is the first Saturday night dinner show at The Mai-Kai, the 58-year-old Polynesian palace that’s the nerve center of the event. You can still get into the second seating to see the famous Polynesian Islander Revue (est. 1961), the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. Call The Mai-Kai at (954) 563-3272 to make reservations.

* Also likely to sell out are two special events that you won’t find anywhere outside of The Hukilau. On Thursday, June 11, guests will be able to enjoy a one-of-a-kind happy hour in the 17th floor Pier 66 revolving cocktail lounge overlooking Fort Lauderdale Beach. The Tiki Tower Takeover will feature four of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki cocktail masters together in one room, personally mixing up their own signature drinks. Attendees can enjoy full-sized, fully garnished cocktails from Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City). Click here for tickets and more info.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (May 4-10, 2015): The Hukilau news and updates, plus summer Tiki festival season kicks off”

2015 Miami Rum Festival spotlights explosion of new brands

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival has always been a unique opportunity to sample some of the best new cane spirits before they gain widespread distribution across the country. But this year, festival organizers have taken that coming out party to a new level with dozens of emerging rum brands from South Florida, Georgia, Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname, Austria, Denmark, Japan, the Philippines and India all making their U.S. debut.

Miami Rum Festival

There will be 35 new rums making their U.S. debut at the festival, said Robin Burr, who organizes and hosts the event with husband Robert A. and son Robert V. Burr. In addition to those, another 28 rums will be making their Miami Rum Festival debut, giving attendees plenty of new products to peruse during next weekend’s Grand Tasting events. [See the full list of new rums below]

Considered the largest rum festival in the world, the event will also feature celebrity seminars, live music and entertainment, island lifestyle vendors and interactive cocktail demonstrations. It’s a rare chance for enthusiasts to meet and mingle with rum experts and professionals to learn about rum, cocktails and the surrounding culture.

2015 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival: Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 19, at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Tickets, hotel and more info at MiamiRumFest.com and Facebook. Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week is Monday, April 13, through Sunday, April 19, at venues throughout South Florida. More info at MiamiCocktailWeek.com and Facebook.
2014 Atomic Grog recaps: Cocktail Week | Rum Fest | Photo gallery | All past coverage

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $50 for Sunday general admission, $75 for a Saturday VIP pass, and $100 for a three-day VIP pass. In a change from past years, tickets must be purchased in advance via MiamiRumFest.com or by phone at (877) 855-3378. No tickets will be available at the door. Parking at the convention center is $5 per day, including in and out. Rooms at the Doubletree are sold out, but there are still rooms available at host hotels on Miami Beach.

Here’s a rundown on all the week’s activities:

MIAMI RUM FESTIVAL COCKTAIL WEEK

Now in its second year, Cocktail Week features special rum cocktails and activities for VIPs and rum enthusiasts spread over seven venues in seven nights, from Fort Lauderdale to Coconut Grove.

* Monday, April 13: Tiki Horror Night at the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, Coconut Grove. Enjoy Tiki cocktails while watching a kitchy horror movie.

The Grapefruit Julep, created by The Mai-Kai for the Miami Rum Festival featuring Fwaygo Rum, grapefruit juice, grenadine and bitters
The Grapefruit Julep, created by The Mai-Kai for the Miami Rum Festival featuring Fwaygo Rum, grapefruit juice, grenadine and bitters. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Tuesday, April 14: Tiki Night at The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, featuring happy hour cocktails in The Molokai bar followed by the famous Polynesian Islander Review dinner show . Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Rum Fest attendees get half off the show charge and a complimentary Fwaygo Rum cocktail, the Grapefruit Julep. There will also be bus transportation between the Doubletree and The Mai-Kai for $25. Rum Fest guests must RSVP in advance by calling the restaurant at (954) 563-3272.
Related: The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide

* Wednesday, April 15: Havana Night at The Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale Hotel (Miami Beach), 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Continue reading “2015 Miami Rum Festival spotlights explosion of new brands”

The Week in Tiki (Jan. 19, 2015): Tickets on sale for The Hukilau, Miami Rum Fest; Lost Lake opens in Chicago

The Week in TikiAloha, and welcome to a new feature on The Atomic Grog spotlighting the latest news and information on the Polynesian Pop revival and wide world of retro-themed entertainment. Every Monday, look for a new blog post that previews what’s coming up and looks back at the highlights of the previous week. The Week in Tiki will attempt to cover all the major happenings across the world, with a focus on our home base, Florida and the U.S. East Coast. In keeping with the theme of the blog, look for updates on events, music, art, cocktails and culture, along with our obsession with Disney World. We’ll also celebrate our favorite spirit, rum, and spotlight a different cocktail recipe every week. Sit back, relax … and enjoy!
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Subscribe to the RSS feed | See past weeks
* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW (Jan. 12-18, 2015)

It was a very busy week in the Tiki universe. Here’s a look back at the highlights. Click here or scroll down for info on how to keep us in the loop.

The Hukilau tickets include six symposiums on Tiki culture
The Hukilau 2015
It’s time to book your room and secure your tickets for the 14th annual gathering of Polynesian Pop devotees in Fort Lauderdale on June 10-14. A new, temporary website launched on Tuesday (Jan. 13) with an impressive lineup of symposiums covering an assortment of fascinating mid-century icons, such as Disney World’s original Polynesian Village Resort (by Disney artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily), Florida’s Tiki Gardens, and Southern California’s Pacific Ocean Park. In addition, Tiki cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry will join forces with New York City’s Brian Miller to present an in-depth analysis of the Planter’s Punch. Also announced was an entertainment lineup featuring some new (Alika Lyman Group) and old (The Intoxicators, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid) faces. The Hukilau will be hosted for the first time by the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel, with additional events at the venerable Mai-Kai restaurant.

Coming soon, more details and tickets for a”Tiki Tower Takeover” by Berry, Miller and two other stars of the modern cocktail scene: Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove) and Paul McGee (Lost Lake). The special event will take place on Thursday, June 11, in the hotel’s 17th-floor, revolving Pier Top Ballroom.
* Get your event passes and tickets | Reserve a hotel room
* Full coverage from The Atomic Grog

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Jan. 19, 2015): Tickets on sale for The Hukilau, Miami Rum Fest; Lost Lake opens in Chicago”

Miami festival showcases a never-ending variety of rums, but what does the future hold?

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival celebrated its fifth birthday last month, drawing thousands of industry reps and enthusiasts to a weeklong celebration of one of the world’s most popular spirits.

The April 15-21 event marked the occasion with an impressive new venue, some informative and entertaining expert speakers and, of course, hundreds of product samples available at the weekend Grand Tasting events.

Some of the many product samples awating the expert judges at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April 2013
Some of the many product samples awating the expert judges at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April 2013. (Official event photo by Tatu Kaarlas, RefinedVices.com)

The tastings were the big draw, attracting large crowds to the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC) for every rum under the sun, from Abuelo (Panama) to Zaya (Trinidad & Tobago). It’s this great diversity that has always made rum special, as devotees well know. Unfortunately, a dark cloud threatens to mar rum’s renaissance, but we’ll save that buzzkill for later. First, a few highlights of The Atomic Grog’s experiences during the fest.

The first five days featured the VIP parties and product judging that draw the bulk of the rum industry movers and shakers to South Florida. I caught some of Tuesday’s party at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale and rubbed elbows with a few notables from the Tiki world. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it down to Miami Beach for one of the Broken Shaker’s daily happy hours. This highly acclaimed bar in the Freehand Miami hostel is on my short list of South Florida cocktail hotspots I need to explore in depth.

Continue reading “Miami festival showcases a never-ending variety of rums, but what does the future hold?”