Passes and tickets for The Hukilau 2020 are selling briskly after last week’s announcement of the full entertainment lineup for the 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7 at the B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
Our previous report hinted at many of the headliners and new participants while offering up key details on the East Coast’s largest and longest-running gathering of Polynesian Pop culture enthusiasts. Now, with the launching of The Hukilau’s updated website, we can run down the full list of bands, symposium presenters, guest pop-up bars and more.
The biggest news was the reveal of the musical headliners. Returning for their second appearance at The Hukilau are The Surfrajettes from Toronto, Canada. Rising stars on the instrumental surf circuit, these four women have lived up to the hype after exploding onto the scene in 2015. Viral videos propelled their popularity, but their subsequent live performances and signing with Hi-Tide Recordings have proved that this band is more than just an Internet sensation. We were treated to their blend of classic surf, unique covers, and their own originals at The Hukilau 2018, followed by a special appearance at The Mai-Kai last March. Appearances last year at such high-profile events as Nashville Boogie, the Surf Guitar 101 Convention, and Tiki Oasis solidified their place as an event headliner. Look for a new single on Hi-Tide in April.
Perhaps the best known and most popular band to ever play The Hukilau is Los Straitjackets, who graced the festival in 2009 and 2018. While the masked marvels of instrumental rock won’t be returning in 2020, two of its key members will jam out this June in Fort Lauderdale. Guitarist Eddie Angel, who co-founded Los Straitjackets in 1988, also played The Hukilau with two other bands, The Martian Denny Orchestra and The Neanderthals. The Nashville-based guitarist has also had a longtime career as a sideman and solo artist, appearing on dozens of albums by some of the retro rock scene’s greats, dating back to 1978. At The Hukilau 2020, he’ll perform a solo set at Friday’s High Tide Party, backed the The Hi-Risers. On Saturday at The Mai-Kai, he’ll sit in as a fourth member of the roots rock band from Rochester, N.Y., for a few songs.
The Hi-Risers were formed by guitarist Greg Townson, a member of Los Straitjackets since 2010, and bassist/vocalist Todd Bradley back in 1998. The three-piece band will join forces with Los Straitjackets guitarist Eddie Angel for their first appearance at The Hukilau. For 20 years, the band has been constantly touring, recording and releasing rock ‘n’ roll records with a retro spin. Hi-Tide dropped a new single, Christmas with The Hi-Risers, in December and plans another record before June.
Another Hi-Tide band, Argentina’s Los Freneticos, is making its first appearance at The Hukilau. Founded in 2008, this foursome went against the grain of what was popular in their home country to establish a worldwide following with their mash-up of instrumental rock, surf, spaghetti western, and even a bit of punk. A 2012 debut album, El Playa, was followed by another album and global touring. Hi-Tide put out a third record, Teletransportación, in 2019, propelling the band through a full summer of U.S. festival dates. Another recording is due this spring.
Also new for 2020 is a recently formed “surfxotica” combo, The Manakooras from Charlotte, N.C. Featuring members of surf stalwarts The Aqualads, The Intoxicators, The Penetrators and Satan’s Pilgrims, the band combines their love of exotica, surf, and Hawaiian music by employing distinctive instrumentation including lap steel guitar. The band is joining forces with Hi-Tide to release a record by the time The Hukilau rolls around.
The bands and DJs can be found at the B Ocean on Thursday through Saturday during daily Rum Island pool parties and Friday’s High Tide Party in the hotel’s distinctive Point Room. The Mai-Kai hosts performances during Wednesday’s pre-party, Saturday’s main event, and Sunday’s finale. Performance times will be announced Feb. 15. More below:Symposiums, classes and pop-up bars
While the live performances keep the party rocking, there’s more to The Hukilau for attendees thirsty for “edutainment” covering everything from rum cocktails, to Tiki history, to vintage clothing. A new symposium, Alfred Shaheen: Iconic Hawaiian Textiles ($10), will offer a deep dive into the largest and most innovative mid-century aloha wear manufacturer. Pull Your Head Out of Your Glass! Secret Treasures of Tiki Bars Hiding in Plain Sight ($10) will offer a deep dive “to uncover the wild, weird and wonderful artifacts found in Tiki bars.”
Previously revealed were presentations by music and Tiki historian Brother Cleve (Exotica! The Sound of Tiki, $10), rising New York City bartender Garret Richard (New Traditionalist – Can Cutting-Edge Science Revive Tiki’s Forgotten Cocktails?, $59), and The Atomic Grog’s Hurricane Hayward (How The Mai-Kai Perfected the Modern Tiki Cocktail, $59).
For the fourth straight year, The Hukilau will offer hands-on cocktail classes as part of its Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy. Students will be treated to an all-new slate of courses, such as Where’s the Proof? with bartender and Tiki ambassador Oriol Elias of Spain. Death or Glory owner Ayme Harrison will join forces with Tiki TNT owner Todd Thrasher for Punch Up Your Party – Less Work, More Fun. The most ambitious new class is My Zombie Is Killer!, a “cage match” featuring four bars competing to see who has the best Zombie cocktail. Expanding beyond rum is a new class titled Waiter! What is This Tequila/Whiskey/Gin Doing in My Tiki Cocktail? Tickets for all classes are $59. The symposiums by Richard and Hayward will also count as credit toward a diploma from the academy.
More than 100 Tiki explorers took a trip through time, from 1956 to the present day, via the lavish tropical drink menus of the world famous Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale during The Hukilau on Sunday, June 11. “The Menus of The Mai-Kai: 60 Years of Tiki Cocktail History” was an interactive slideshow presentation that examined vintage menus and traced the chronology of the legendary cocktails at this acclaimed mid-century landmark.
This special event in The Mai-Kai’s main dining room took place at 1:30 p.m. as part of The Hukilau’s final day of festivities. The party started at noon in The Molokai bar with live surf music by Skinny Jimmy Stingray and three special “lost cocktails” from The Mai-Kai’s 1956 menu. The Hukilau’s villagers enjoyed drinks and classic pu-pu appetizers all day while Skinny Jimmy performed several high-energy sets, keeping the dance floor hopping. This rare daytime event at The Mai-Kai was exclusive for attendees of The Hukilau.
Pop culture phenomenons are routinely shunned by historians and academics. This is especially true in the case of 20th century Tiki culture, which has been typically dismissed as being kitschy and unauthentic to the native civilizations that inspired it. Of course, this critique entirely misses the point of the artistic movement that peaked in the 1950s and ’60s but has been the midst of a continuing revival during the past several decades.
Luckily for fans of Polynesian Pop history and the current renaissance, we have Sven Kirsten. The contributions by this German-born, longtime Los Angeles film professional and self-proclaimed Tiki urban archaeologist are inestimable. His third hardcover book puts many pop culture historians to shame, exploring in rich and colorful detail the uniquely American phenomenon that permeated fashion, music, eating, drinking, and architecture for decades.
Published in connection with an elaborate exhibit at a museum in Paris, Tiki Pop traces the development of Tiki as romantic vision and cultural appropriation. It takes readers on a journey from James Cook’s first expeditions in the Pacific, through Gauguin’s exotic paintings, to Hollywood’s big-screen fantasies, to the modern “temples” (bars, restaurants, hotels, apartments) built to celebrate Tiki as the god of recreation.
If you’re not sold yet, here are 10 good reasons why everyone with an interest in Polynesian Pop and mid-century culture needs to waste no time in picking up Kirsten’s latest hardcover opus:
The annual gathering of Tikiphiles in Fort Lauderdale is still more than 10 months away, but organizers of The Hukilau event know that some of us are always seeking out cool new mugs and glasses.
This summer, they’ve re-released a classic and introduced something new in their Tiki Icon Series of glassware designs.
The Florida Tiki History Glass debuted at Hukilau 2009 and later sold out. This high-quality double old-fashioned glass features the the original logos and artwork from many current and defunct bars and restaurants, including The Mai-Kai and Julian’s in Ormond Beach, which unfortunately just closed.
This glass has been reissued in a special edition “exotic red” color (the original was brown). It’s just $40 for a set of four glasses. We’ve put our original set to great use over the years and highly recommend it. You’ll find a Hukilau cocktail recipe to fill your new glass below. Check out the artwork:
Of all The Mai-Kai’s legendary tropical drinks, one of the very best was never available to the general public. Rather, the Big Bamboo is believed to have been an exclusive treat for members of the Okole Maluna Society, whose challenge was to try every cocktail on the extensive menu.
Okole Maluna (translation: “Bottom’s Up,” a traditional Hawaiian toast) was a club The Mai-Kai operated in 1958-59 to promote its fledgling new bar, The Molokai, and at the same time gain customer loyalty and goodwill. Prospective club members received a special menu on which they charted their progress, and a membership card when they checked off every drink.
Loyalty clubs were common in Tiki bars of the mid-century, when competition was fierce. “Most places had five to seven high-end Tiki places in their downtowns,” tropical drink guru and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry told Tales of the Cocktail for a recent article. “So how do you keep people coming back to your place as opposed to all of the other places that are trying to compete with you? A loyalty program.”
Berry, who also owns and operates Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 in New Orleans, first revealed the story of the Okole Maluna Society in his excellent chapter on The Mai-Kai and original mixologist Mariano Licudine in his seminal 2007 book, Sippin’ Safari, which was recently re-released as an enhanced 10th anniversary edition. “You were eligible to join after you’d ordered every one of the 48 drinks on the menu, whereupon you received a personalized bamboo cup filled with a Mariano original called the Big Bamboo – a ‘secret’ drink which he only made for Society members,” Berry wrote.
The Tales of the Cocktail article traces the history of loyalty clubs from the Okole Maluna Society up through popular present-day programs at Tonga Hut in Los Angeles, Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, and elsewhere. “Anything that engages customers and make them feel more special and part of a club is a good thing,” Berry said. “That ‘Aloha spirit’ is very important. That’s what a loyalty program helps foster.”
But while The Mai-Kai is renowned for its outstanding hospitality and service, the Okole Maluna Society was shut down after only two years, most likely because it was too popular. Author Tim “Swanky” Glazner details the creation and quick demise of the club in his much-anticpated book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant (2016, Schiffer). In the chapter “Okole Maluna Society: A Drinking Competiton,” Glazner reveals the lengths to which customers would go to overindulge. Check out this blog post that includes exclusive photos from the book.
In a frenzy to become “president” of the society by being the first to finish the menu, some guests may have gone a little too far, Glazner wrote. One regular camped out at a nearby hotel, completing the task in just three nights. For his accomplishment, he had his portrait painted on black velvet by noted artist Eric Askew and hung as a centerpiece of a display of member mugs behind the Surfboard Bar.
In the interest of keeping interest in the club going, he agreed to keep his accomplishment secret so others could make a bid for the presidency. “I think we killed a few people,” manager Bob van Dorpe told Glazner. Though the society was a huge success for those two years in the restaurant’s infancy and helped boost the popularity of the cocktails, it was decided that perhaps it was not a good idea to encourage guests to consume them so quickly, Glazner wrote in the book.
Glazner’s account of the Okole Maluna Society contains one distinct difference than Berry’s, however. According to his sources, the name of the secret drink given to members upon completion of the regular menu was called the Okole Maluna. It’s unclear if this was a distinctly different drink than the Big Bamboo that Berry revealed in Sippin’ Safari, or perhaps just a different name for the same recipe. Photos and artwork (see below) show a stylized bamboo mug, and the only menus on which the cocktail was featured appear to be the special Okole Maluna Society cards created for The Molokai bar (see above).
One thing is clear, however, as Berry explains in his book: Big Bamboo is the predecessor to one of The Mai-Kai’s signature cocktails, Mara-Amu. Containing most of the same ingredients, the Mara-Amu just a bit milder.
By all accounts, both cocktails were original recipes by Licudine, The Mai-Kai’s “Houdini of the liquids” who created the drink menu when the restaurant opened in 1956. Most of the others were Licudine’s take on classics by tropical drink pioneer Don the Beachcomber, for whom he worked during the prior decades in both Los Angeles and Chicago. Many of these drinks and recipes remain exactly as he left them when he retired in 1979. Licudine passed away in 1980.
So assuming you’ve done your duty and sampled all the other drinks on the menu, you’re now an approved member of the Okole Maluna Society and eligible to enjoy this lost classic.
July 2018 update: The Big Bamboo was one of the last of The Mai-Kai’s “lost cocktails” to come out of retirement when it appeared during a special event at The Hukilau in June. Participants in Hurricane Hayward’s Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy class, “How to Mix Like The Mai-Kai,” were given the exclusive privilege of ordering the drink during the Sunday finale in The Molokai bar.
(Atomic Grog photos, June 10, 2018) Students from The Atomic Grog class not only received the exclusive Big Bamboo, which was being served to the public for the first time since the late 1950s. They earned their own Okole Maluna Society card and a free tour of the restaurant’s historic art and architecture from author Swanky himself (pictured with Hurricane Hayward in The Molokai bar). You can pick up a signed copy of his book in The Mai-Kai Trading Post’s new online store.
Okole Maluna Society review and rating
Flavor profile: Gold and dark rums, passion fruit with bitter and sour nuances.
Review: Very well balanced, sweet and full of big flavors similar to Don the Beachcomber’s 1950 Zombie.
Ancestry: Big Bamboo was believed to be a special Mai-Kai cocktail available only to members of the Okole Maluna Society after they had ordered every other drink on the menu. It evolved into the milder Mara-Amu, which remains a favorite on the menu and features its own distinctive mug.
Bilge: There’s little information about the special mugs that were used for the Big Bamboo. Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner provided the photo at right that shows the case where it’s believed they were kept. Aside from the photo and artwork above, we’ve been unable to find a trace. It joins the long list of sought-after Mai-Kai collectibles. If you find one, please let us know.
Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice * 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice * 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice * 1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup * 1/2 ounce dark Jamaican rum * 1 ounce gold Cuban rum (or sub Virgin Islands rum) * 2 dashes Angostura bitters * 4 ounces (1/2 cup) crushed ice
Put everything in a blender or spindle mixer and blend at high speed for exactly 5 seconds. Pour into a bamboo mug or tall glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.
From the personal notebook of Mariano Licudine, circa 1960.
We like to make a larger version by just doubling the proportions. For a slightly modified version, check out Chemistry of the Cocktail.
Notes and tips for home mixologists
* As usual, fresh juices are essential. I prefer all-natural white grapefruit juice with no sugar added. When white grapefruit is out of season, The Mai-Kai uses red or pink grapefruit, but always fresh squeezed from nearby Florida groves. The Mai-Kai has always used distinctive Florida citrus, which gives its cocktails a rich and fresh flavor. It’s sourced locally and 100 percent non-pasteurized. The lime juice is a unique blend, with Key lime juice dominating the sour and tart flavor. I recommend a specific blend if you want to duplicate The Mai-Kai flavor. * Tiki Central: Click here for a full guide to the juices used at The Mai-Kai
* Inspired by the artwork included in Sippin’ Safari and shown above, we included a garnish of fresh mint, which adds a great additional element with the smell arousing the senses and enhancing the drink. One other tip: Gently slap the mint against your hand to release its aromatics before inserting into the glass. The Mai-Kai also used mint when the drink made a rare appearance at The Hukilau 2018 (see photos above).
About those rums …
In September 2016, we were honored to be asked by author Tim “Swanky” Glazner to help celebrate the release of his book Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant by making cocktails for his special guests during a party at a Fort Lauderdale hotel. The Sept. 16-17 festivities also included a walking tour and special on-stage presentation by Glazner at the restaurant, plus the return of two lost cocktails (Hanalei Bay and Dr. Fong) that had not been served in decades.
As it turns out, the key to the outstanding flavors in Big Bamboo are the specific rums called for in the original recipe. Unfortunately, neither is currently available. A quality dark Jamaican rum with a bit of funkiness makes this cocktail really shine. Appleton, which is featured in many of The Mai-Kai’s signature cocktails, sponsored the September event and contributed several bottles for the party. While not as bold and funky as some other options, both the Signature and Reserve blends are s full of flavor and complexity, a fine choice for this cocktail. Appleton was recently pressed into service due to the unavailability of Kohala Bay, the direct descendant of the Dagger brand that was likely featured in the original. Click here for the story of Kohala Bay and Dagger, plus many suggested substitutions.
Cuban rum is even harder to find, at least for now. Formerly contraband in the United States thanks to the longtime embargo, it’s now trickling into the states after travel was recently opened up and rum was allowed to pass through customs in small amounts. In the years prior to Fidel Castro’s rule, this superb rum was featured at The Mai-Kai. Check out this photo of historic Cuban rum from the 1950s that still lines the upper shelves of The Mai-Kai’s back bar, spotted during a 2011 bar tour. If you can track down a bottle of Havana Club or another Cuban brand, by all means use it. My supply of Añejo Años (see photo above) is dwindling, but more recently I secured a bottle of Añejo Especial, another outstanding gold rum from Havana Club. For the party, I sought something that replicated those same flavors. There are many gold rums made in the Spanish style similar to Cuban, but the one that made sense in terms of both cost and taste was Ron Barcelo Añejo from the Dominican Republic. Among the many other choices are Virgin Islands rums such as Cruzan Estate Dark, Nicaragua’s Flor de Caña, plus Puerto Rico’s Bacardi Añejo, Bacardi 8, and Barrilito 3 Star. If you have any questions about the quality or taste of rums, a great resource is Robert Burr’s Rum Guide, which includes tasting notes and information on hundreds of fine rums from around the world. Burr also founded and produces the annual Rum Renaissance Festival.
When compared head-to-head, a Big Bamboo containing Kohala Bay and Havana Club is head and shoulders above any other options. While there are many other rum choices, it’s obvious that The Mai-Kai’s “Houdini of the liquids,” Mariano Licudine, knew best when he created this classic.