Support Tiki bars now: Visit their online stores, contribute to fundraisers

Support Tiki bars now: Visit their online stores, contribute to fundraisers

Updated Sept. 24, 2020

With bars and restaurants across the country (and world) forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions, many establishments near and dear to our hearts are going through rough times. Even with many reopenings in May and June, severe restrictions are keeping business to a minimum as the pandemic still ripples across the country, and some are even experiencing a second shutdown.

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

We feel strongly about supporting all of the owners, managers and employees as they face severe turbulence in their chosen profession. Please do all you can to help them out by whatever means possible. One easy way for all of us to do this is to frequent their online stores, buy merchandise and gift cards, and put some cash back in their coffers. Also note that many areas of the country have expanded rules to allow take-out and delivery of alcohol as well as food, so check with your local establishments for more info. It may be their lifeline.

Many establishments have offered food and inventive cocktails to go. These include Archipelago (Washington, D.C.), The Bamboo Club (Long Beach, Calif.), Death or Glory (Delray Beach, Fla.), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), The Jungle Bird (Sacramento, Calif.), The Kon-Tiki (Oakland), Lono (Hollywood, Calif.), Lost River (Detroit), Lun Wah (Roselle, N.J.), Max’s South Seas Hideaway (Detroit), Strong Water (Anaheim, Calif.), The Tiki Terrace (Des Plaines, Ill.), Ventiki (Ventura, Calif.), and The Hub Bar (Tampa). The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale has ramped up their offering from gallons of signature cocktails to wine and a extensive menu of hot appetizers and entrees. Call your local establishments to check, and visit this Facebook group for more info on who’s offering take-out and delivery services.

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.
* Cocktail quarts join gallons as The Mai-Kai expands takeout menu

Below you will find links to many of the Tiki bars and restaurants across the country with merchandise and gift cards for sale online. Below that are links to crowd-sourced fundraisers for employees along with other organizations that are working feverishly to aid bar and restaurant workers. It’s sad, but we’re also compiling a list of bars (still small, fortunately) that have announced permanent closings.

We also remind you to continue to support the many artists and merchants who now depend on direct sales to customers to survive. You can find links to many of them in the right rail of this blog post. With events being closed and postponed, they rely even more on a steady stream of online income. Some of the online events held around the world also include marketplaces and ways to make donations to Tiki establishments

The Tiki Times online events calendar
UPDATED: The Tiki Times: Exclusive 2020 events guide
The Tiki Times calendar features live online meet-ups, interviews and happy hours, plus benefits helping those in need.

SUPPORT TIKI BARS ONLINE

Following are links to bars and restaurants in the greater Tiki scene offering online sales during these trying times. If you find any broken links, please let us know and we’ll update. Also, please send us any additions to this list via email or as a message on our social media pages (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram). There’s also a new Facebook group to join and add comments, find more ways to help.
NEW indicates listings newly added to this page, not necessarily new stores or merchandise.

Aku Aku's Gill-Man Chu Tiki Mug

Aku Aku, Orlando A small and inviting mid-mod Tiki oasis near downtown, Aku Aku has had its ups and downs during the pandemic. They rolled out a robust takeout program, then got the go-ahead to reopen the bar to customers in early June. However, they were forced to shut down again at the end of the month due to Florida’s out-of-control outbreak. In early July, a new Kickstarter campaign was launched to sell the new Gill-Man Chu Tiki Mug, designed by Doug Horne and manufactured by Tiki Farm. Supply is limited, so reserve your mug now. Additional Kickstarter tiers include T-shirts, signed mugs and prints, plus a special hand-painted mug.

NEW: Bahi Hut, Sarasota – This historic (est. 1954) but underappreciated Tiki landmark took a while to ramp up online merch, but in September finally launched an online shop. Signature “Big Tim” mugs ( created by Robo Tiki) are now available in sets of two, with more merchandise coming soon. Recognized as the oldest Tiki bar in Florida, Bahi Hut is also site of the annual Tiki Fever event, which unfortunately had to be postponed this year. The bar remains closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, New Orleans The bar and restaurant owned and operated by author and Tiki revival pioneer Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and his wife Annene Kaye is well represented in the BeachbumBerry.com store, including syrups and barware. While you’re there, pick up the Bum’s books so you can make the hundreds of tropical classics at home while we wait for our favorite bars to reopen.
Daiquiri of Hope: Beachbum’s Special Daiquiri

Chopper, Nashville, Tenn. This new robot-themed Tiki bar has gift cards available online along with its to-go service. The bar reopened June 10 with a new summer menu and social distancing rules.

Keko Pupule - Tattoo Monkey Mug, produced by Tiki Farm for Esotico Miami.
Keko Pupule – Tattoo Monkey Mug, produced by Tiki Farm for Esotico Miami.

Esotico Miami In addition to a wide selection of “Tiki Away Cocktails,” this tropical hideaway in the Magic City led by noted Tiki mixologist Daniele Dalla Pola offers unique custom bar tools and mugs. Esotico also has a GoFundMe page that benefits its employees. The restaurant is scheduled to reopen indoor dirning under social distancing restrictions on Aug. 31. Esotico has offered outdoor dining as well as takeout, curbside pick-up and delivery throughout the pandemic as long as Miami has allowed it.

False Idol, San Diego Consortium Holdings, one of the partners (along with Tiki bar guru Martin Cate) in this over-the-top throwback to classic Tiki hidden inside the Craft & Commerce bar, offers False Idol mugs and aloha shirts for sale online. Gift cards are also available. In June, Craft & Commerce announced the reopenings of many of its venues, including False Idol.

Forbidden Island, Alameda, Calif. You can buy apparel, mugs, and gift cards directly from one of the Tiki revivals’s first shining beacons. Forbidden Island also has a GoFundMe page for its staff. After being closed for more than four months, Forbidden Island opened a socially-distant Tiki garden and patio for limited hours in late July.

Foundation Tiki Bar, Milwaukee Grab a Rum Barrel mug, a Mai Tai glass and a few other items from this long-running Tiki revival hotspot.

UPDATED: Frankie’s Tiki Room, Las Vegas A wide variety of mugs, glassware and apparel fill the online store of this beloved Tiki bastion in Sin City. You can also pick up gift certificates and a copy of the 2013 book, Liquid Vacation, which features recipes for 77 of the cocktails served at Frankie’s. Frankie’s reopened to the public on June 3, but it was forced to close again in late July due to local restrictions. Frankie’s reopened again on Sept. 21.

Fuchsia Tiki Bar, New Paltz, N.Y. – This small tropical escape hidden away in Ulster County, around 70 miles north of the Big Apple, is plugging away with merchandise, gift cards and cocktails cocktails to go. On June 25, Fuchsia opened for indoor dining with limited seating capacity. On July 6, new T-shirts went on sale in the online store.

Hale Pele's signature mug in a special edition glaze.
Hale Pele’s signature mug in a special edition glaze.

The Grass Skirt, San Diego This fun Tiki hangout hidden inside Good Time Poke in the scenic Pacific Beach neighborhood has a plethora of merch: Mugs, bowls and glassware; plus a variety of shirts and pins. Also, a portion of gift card purchases go toward helping the staff. The Grass Skirt reopened on May 29.

Hale Pele, Portland, Ore. The Pacific Northwest’s long-running Tiki paradise has an array of merch in its new online store, from mugs to glassware to shirts to pins to gift cards. There’s also a virtual tip jar for the staff. While you’re there, sign up for the email blast to get news and updates.

Hidden Harbor, Pittsburgh The web store at this popular Tiki revival craft cocktail bar offers gift cards, plus exclusive mugs and other merchandise (while supplies last). Sign up for their newsletter and be the first to know about new offerings. Hidden Harbor reopened with limited outdoor sidewalk seating beginning June 12.

Hula Hula, Seattle The longtime kitschy karaoke and Tiki bar offers a wide selection of apparel, including multiple styles of shirts and hats. On June 20, Hula Hula reopened for food, cocktails and karaoke under the state of Washington’s guidelines.

The Infermo Room Drum Mug, designed by Ken Ruzic and produced by Tiki Farm.
The Infermo Room Drum Mug, designed by Ken Ruzic and produced by Tiki Farm.

The Inferno Room, Indianapolis Check out the online store for mugs, pins, and hats. On June 8, The Inferno Room reopened at 50 percent capacity.

Kon Tiki, Tucson, Ariz., The venerable restaurant, one of the few Tiki temples dating back to the mid-century, offers a selection of mugs and apparel in its online store. There’s also a staff GoFundMe page. On May 11, the restaurant reopened its dining room in addtion to offering take-out.

Kowloon, Saugus, Mass. – This historic Asian restaurant with Tiki flair has a full-blown online gift shop filled with mugs and bowls, shirts, hats and plushes. You can also buy gift certificates. Kowloon reopened with outdoor seating on June 9. On June 25, the restaurant added drive-in movies and car-hop service for guests to enjoy from their cars along with an outdoor Tiki bar and live music.

Laki Kane, London The acclaimed craft Tiki bar from mixologist and author Georgi Radev has an online shop featuring a nice selection of mugs, plus the bar’s own spiced dry rum. Also, guests who already created a custom rum can reorder a bottle. Note that shipping is available only within the UK. Laki Kane reopened on July 4 by reservation only under strict new guidelines.

Laki Kane's Tropicolada mug.
Laki Kane’s Tropicolada mug.

NEW: Last Rites, San Francisco – Dubbed “Polynesian noir,” this unique and modern take on Tiki with a backstory revolving around a plane crash has had to battle its own takedown by coronavirus. While the bar remains closed, you can buy gift cards and make donations to help the staff.

Lono, Los Angeles There are quite a few items to choose from in the online store for the Umbrella Hospitality Group, which owns this Hollywood Boulevard haunt. You can pick up a gift card, plus signature mugs, glassware, pins, and hats. A selection of cocktails are also available for pickup and delivery.

Lost Lake, Chicago This award-winning craft cocktail bar sadly had to lay off its entire staff, so they created a GoFundMe page with 100 percent of the virtual tips going to their team members. Donors received a special newsletter containing food and drink recipes to make at home, plus other special features. They also received a membership card for priority seating and “special treats” when Lost Lake returns. The bar took the first step in June, when laws were changed to allow takeout cocktails along with food. Lost Lake offers both delivery and a walk-up window.

Lost River, Detroit The Web store of this rum-focused tropical neighborhood bar on Detroit’s Eastside features gift cards, plus a wide assortment of merchandise (tons of mugs and glassware, plus shirts and pins). There’s also an option to “tip your bartender.” According to a Facebook post, Lost River is planning on reopening in August (subject to change).

The Mai-Kai, Fort Lauderdale The Mai-Kai Trading Post is the historic restaurant’s longtime online version of its vast on-site gift shop, offering custom mugs, apparel, jewelry, Tikis, artist prints, menus, and more. Also online, gift certificates and vouchers can be purchased in multiple demoninations. You can also join The Mai-Kai Club, a loyalty program that entitles you to 25 to 50 percent off food, drinks and merchandise. Click here for more info and join the club for just $20 by mail or, for the first time this year, online. The Mai-Kai’s bar and dining rooms reopened to the public under social distancing rules on May 29.
TAKE-OUT SPECIALS: Expanded to-go menu including cocktails, wine, appetizers, entrees

Hurricane Hayward on Inside the Desert Oasis Room
Hurricane Hayward on Inside the Desert Oasis Room
Listen to the “Covid Chronicles” episode recorded live with Adrian Eustaquio as The Atomic Grog blogger makes his way to The Mai-Kai to pick up Gallons to Go. Also available on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.

Max’s South Seas Hideaway, Grand Rapids, Mich. Featuring an in-house ceramic studio along with one of the most ambitious build-outs since Tiki’s mid-century heyday, this acclaimed new restaurant originally sold exclusively to its on-site guests. Now, however, they continually stock a vast online store with limited-edition mugs, bowls, clothing, and other collectible merchandise. Gift cards are also available. There’s also a GoFundMe page to aid employees. The restaurant reopened on June 15 and had a special mug release launch on Father’s Day. Since then, they’ve also ramped up their to-go offerings, which now include 26 different canned cocktails, from Mai Tais to Painkillers to Zombies and more.

Special Father's Day mug release from Max’s South Seas Hideaway
Special Father’s Day mug release from Max’s South Seas Hideaway. (Facebook photo)

Continue reading “Support Tiki bars now: Visit their online stores, contribute to fundraisers”

The Hukilau 2019 latest news and updates

Updated Jan. 23, 2020

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale NEW
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at the five days of festivities at Pier Sixty-Six and The Mai-Kai with dozens of photos and many memorable moments, plus two bonus cocktail recipes.

The Hukilau 2019 rewind: Photos and video from social media
The Intoxicators play Friday night's High Tide party at Pier 66 during The Hukilau 2019. (Photo by Hukilau Mike)
>>>> SOCIAL POSTS FROM THE ATOMIC GROG AND VILLAGERS

The Hukilau 2019: Women of Tiki take over the tower
The Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2019
Thursday, June 6, was tropical cocktail heaven during the opening festivities of The Hukilau at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina in Fort Lauderdale. The signature Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party included eight of the world’s top female Tiki bartenders. Between sampling all the delicious drinks, hanging out with friends and enjoying the gorgeous views from the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge, we managed to snap a few photos. Coming soon, a blog recap featuring more photos plus cocktail reviews and ratings.
>>>> CLICK HERE FOR THE FACEBOOK PHOTO GALLERY

MORE RECAPS COMING SOON

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2019 latest news and updates”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiki Kon

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

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

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

The Week in Tiki (Jan. 16-31, 2016): The Mai-Kai mugs and history book, The Art of Tiki updates, Shag events and art, plus more!

The Week in Tiki 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

Tiki Diablo's new Mai-Kai mugs come in three glazes: Tobacco Brown, Lagoon Green, and Black Velvet.
Tiki Diablo’s new Mai-Kai mugs come in three glazes: Tobacco Brown, Lagoon Green, and Black Velvet.

As promised, the new mugs inspired by The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale have been released to the general public by California-based artist Tiki Diablo. The mug is available in three different glazes for $75 each and can be purchased online via Tiki Diablo’s store. They should also be available in the restaurant’s gift shop, The Mai-Kai Trading Post, within the next week.

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.

Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of The Iconic Tiki Restaurant

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.

The Mai-Kai's original mystery girl. Find out more in "Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant," coming July 28.
The Mai-Kai’s original mystery girl. Find out more in “Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant,” coming July 28.

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.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Jan. 16-31, 2016): The Mai-Kai mugs and history book, The Art of Tiki updates, Shag events and art, plus more!”

The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more

The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis
The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis.
It was a year of both sadness and elation, when some legends were lost but the world of Tiki made great strides. As we mourned the deaths in 2015 of musicians Robert Drasnin and Ernie Menehune, plus artist The Pizz, we were bolstered by the fact that a new generation of artists and musicians are taking inspiration from the past and creating an incredible new body of work. And Tiki culture was embraced and celebrated across the country at sold-out events and a whole new wave of bars. After our first year of The Week in Tiki updates, The Atomic Grog takes a look back at the memorable news of 2015.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook | RSS feed | See all the past weeks | Archive
See below: Month-by-month recap | The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards

The year 2015 marked a turning point in the 21st century Tiki scene. If there was ever a time to declare that the “revival” had become a full-blown renaissance, it’s now. It’s been building for some years now, but last year seemed to be the tipping point. Just look at the evidence in our favorite topics: Events, music, art, cocktails, and culture. Then, take a chronological look back at the biggest news of the year, month by month. Finally, find out our selections for the top artist, band, bar, website, rum, and cocktail of 2015 in our first Year in Tiki Awards.

****************** EVENTS ******************

The Alika Lyman Group's performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)
The Alika Lyman Group’s performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Long gone are the days when you spent the entire year planning for Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau. Smaller events, such as Tiki Kon and Tiki Caliente, have risen up to challenge the trend-setters. And the Fraternal Order Of Moai has filled a gap by providing a plethora of regional events from Ohana: Luau At The Lake to the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, and more. All of the above were wildly successful in 2015, with many events selling out in advance.

The top dogs continue to raise their game: The Hukilau moved to the iconic Pier 66 Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach and attracted some of Tiki’s biggest names, most notably the gathering of four of the world’s top bartenders for the Tiki Tower Takeover. Tiki Oasis keeps getting bigger, breaking its own attendance records, while newer events such as Mod-Palm Springs and Ohana: Luau by the Sea have carved out their own niche. Rum and cocktail events – such as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Tales of the Cocktail – have refined their successful formulas, spreading their message to an even wider audience.

Continue reading “The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more”

Artists pay tribute to The Mai-Kai with one-of-a-kind mugs

The Mai-Kai Mug by Tiki Diablo
The Mai-Kai Mug by Tiki Diablo comes in a choice of glazes and includes a resin toucan.(From TikiDiablo.com)

Updated June 21, 2014

Just in time for The Hukilau, two of the most acclaimed artists in the Tiki scene created hand-crafted mugs that pay tribute to The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale and its iconic imagery.
See below: Now, a chance to take a Molokai Maiden home
Related: Missed The Hukilau? Mugs are the next best thing

Southern California’s Tiki Diablo (aka Danny Gallardo), who created the 2012 and 2013 official mugs for The Hukilau, has a new Mai-Kai Mug based on an old fallen carving from the restaurant’s tiki garden (see photo below).

Featuring a distinctive toucan perched on its head, the original tiki was among the many giant carvings at The Mai-Kai by Barney West, a legendary mid-century artist. Barney West tikis that are still standing at The Mai-Kai were the inspiration for Gallardo’s 2013 mug, plus the 2008 official mug for The Hukilau by Munktiki. Another famous tiki by West that fell in 2009 was transformed into The Huiklau’s 2010 mug, also by Munktiki.

Continue reading “Artists pay tribute to The Mai-Kai with one-of-a-kind mugs”

Mai-Kai cocktail review: Drink like a native with the deadly Shrunken Skull

The Mai-Kai's Shrunken Skull, from ancestor to tribute

Updated May 2019
See below: Our Shrunken Skull review | NEW: Ancestor recipe | Official recipe
UPDATE: Tribute recipe | Bonus recipe
Related: The history of 151 rums at The Mai-Kai
Demerara Rum – The Mai-Kai’s Secret Weapon | Mai-Kai cocktail guide

Our expedition through the mysterious tropical drink selection at The Mai-Kai takes a dangerous turn with another mid-century classic from the menu’s “STRONG!” offerings.

The Shrunken Skull, served in the Abelam mug in May 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Shrunken Skull, served in the Abelam mug in May 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Tongue-in-cheek drinks lionizing primitivism were common during Tiki’s golden age. The ominous Shrunken Skull and its variations were among the most infamous. The idea was to conjure up a sense of danger lurking in your local tropical getaway. Classic Tiki bars offer the ultimate escape from the mundane day-to-day existence, and every island adventure needs a little bit of macabre yet kitschy risk-taking.

In this case, the danger lies in the strong rums that permeate this deadly concoction. The Shrunken Skull is one of only two current Mai-Kai drinks that feature a rum floater (a shot of rum added to your drink as it’s served). Not coincidentally, the other also comes with an element of danger attached to its name: the Shark Bite.

The Shrunken Skull is also one of only a handful of Mai-Kai cocktails to come in its own custom mug, originally a vintage shrunken head design that can fetch more than $100 on the open market. It was replaced by a modern version that is not quite as rare but can still reach $50 or more for older versions.

The Shrunken Skull mug, as seen in The Mai-Kai online store
The Shrunken Skull mug, as seen in The Mai-Kai online store.

The above links and info come courtesy of Ooga Mooga, the premiere website for Tiki mug collectors. This highly recommended resource lets users track their mug collection while showing it off to others. Loaded with photos of great vintage mugs, it’s worth checking out even if you don’t register as a collector.

The Shrunken Skull also often comes in an Abelam mug (average price: $30), which features a mask-like design of the Abelam people who live in the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. A vintage Abelam mug is typically priced in the $100 range.

All of the above mugs have a handle, which is atypical of most Tiki mugs. It’s usually an indication that the mug does double-duty on the dessert menu as a vessel for hot coffee drinks. At The Mai-Kai, the current Abelam mug also can be enjoyed with an after-dinner classic, the flaming Kona Coffee Grog. The shrunken head mug is also used for the Tahitian Coffee.

I picked up both mugs in the gift shop, aka The Mai-Kai Trading Post. I’ll be monitoring their prices on Ooga Mooga like any good mug investor.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai cocktail review: Drink like a native with the deadly Shrunken Skull”

Mai-Kai cocktail review: Mara-Amu is a second generation classic

Updated September 2016
See below: Our Mara-Amu review | Official recipe
Related: The Big Bamboo features big flavors, unique history | Mai-Kai cocktail guide
‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai

The Mara-Amu is one of the most popular of the 47 tropical drinks on The Mai-Kai’s vast menu, due in part to the fact that it’s the only one that comes in a Tiki mug you can take home after quaffing your cocktail (others require a special trip to the gift shop). The mugs have remained generally the same over the decades, but occasionally you’ll discover a different glaze or an entirely different design (see bottom photo).

Artist Will Anders spruces up the Mara-Amu Tiki in The Mai-Kai's outdoor gardens. (Photo by Tiki Kiliki, September 2015)
Artist Will Anders spruces up the Mara-Amu Tiki in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens. (Photo by Tiki Kiliki, September 2015)

Since they’re given away with the drink, Mara-Amu mugs aren’t especially rare or hard to find. Check the Ooga-Mooga mug collectors site for recent prices and lots of photos. The mug is iconic, however, and inspired a Tiki that now stands in a prominent spot in The Mai-Kai’s famous outdoor gardens.

The Mara-Amu Tiki is unique, created by South Florida artist Will Anders when he was toying with the idea of making Tikis from foam. The idea was they could withstand the elements better than wood, and be easy for people to install in their outdoor pools and Tiki bars. They ended up being more difficult and costly to carve (and also susceptible to lots of superficial damage inflicted by unrespectful guests), so the idea never took off.

One of Anders’ claims to fame is his role in restoring the smaller Tikis in The Mai-Kai’s gardens. He was given access to molds created by late owner Bob Thornton from the original wooden Tikis, and over the years has re-created many of them in concrete. As you meander through the lush tropical paths in the gardens, much of what you see are re-creations by Anders. He also carved a giant new wooden Tiki, dubbed King Kai, that stands near the Mara-Amu in the gardens. See the full story and photos of the creation and installation of this 10-foot icon in May 2016.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai cocktail review: Mara-Amu is a second generation classic”