Minimalist Tiki

The Hukilau crowns winner of Deadhead Rum Cocktail Contest

When the organizers of The Hukilau, the largest annual gathering of Tiki enthusiasts on the East Coast, asked attendees to come up with a signature cocktail for one of their new rum sponsors, the response was instantaneous and ambitious.

The Hukilau: June 6-9, 2013, at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, Best Western Oceanside, and The Mai-Kai restaurant. Latest updates at and Facebook.

A selection of Deadhead Rum products
A selection of Deadhead Rum products. (Photo courtesy of Lucky the Painproof Man)

Nearly a dozen mixologists answered the call and submitted their entries last month featuring Deadhead Rum, a new craft spirit from Mexico that comes in in a distinctive shrunken head. As one of the lucky judges, I had the pleasure of sampling some creative and tasty cocktails. Even more impressive were the photos. Today’s wave of Tiki home bartenders obviously takes their craft seriously.

The initial field was narrowed to three, and the finalists were provided care packages by Deadhead (see photo at right) so they could fine-tune their final entries. This gold rum, aged at least six years in sherry casks, features both molasses and sugarcane juice from Mexico’s agricultural regions. It’s great as both a sipping rum and a mixer, with a flavor profile that includes cloves, anise and caramel. It’s available in more than a dozen states, including California, but not yet in Florida.

The final entries were posted last week on The Hukilau’s Facebook page, with final judging concluded over the weekend. The cocktails were judged on the recipe, garnish, presentation and the name. When the smoke cleared, the winning drink was Tukupi’s Cup, a simple yet highly flavorful concoction from John Tremain and Matt Anderson.

The winner will receive the following prizes at the 12th annual Polynesian Pop weekender in June:
* A “Headhunter’s Ritual” performed by a special guest.
* A $150 gift certificate from The Mai-Kai.
* A complete set of The Hukilau’s 2013 glassware.
* The winning drink will also be served at the Deadhead-sponsored after party at a time and venue to be announced.

Below are recipes for the winner and two runners-up. If you can’t find Deadhead in your area, just substitute a crisp and dry, similarly aged rum such as Bacardi 8.


TUKUPI’S CUP (winner)
Created by John Tremain and Matt Anderson (Seattle, Wash.)


* 2 ounces Deadhead Rum
* 3/4 ounce lime juice
* 1/4 ounce passion fruit syrup (1:1 mix of passion fruit pulp and rich simple syrup)
* 2 teaspoons maple syrup (grade B)
* 2 dashes Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters (or substitute Angostura)

Shake ingredients with two cups crushed ice and pour unstrained into a double old fashioned glass or vessel of similar capacity. Garnish with three Deluxe Foods sour cherries, an orange twist, and thinly sliced lemon and lime wheels.

The drink name is our nod to Tukupi, legendary shaman and elder from the Shuar clan of the Jivaro tribe. These fierce warriors, who once reigned terror over the jungles of Ecuador and Peru, proclaimed their dominance and appeased their ancestors after battle by shrinking and preserving the heads (tsantsas) of their human conquests.


JUNGLE FOGG (runner-up)
Created by David McCauley (Knoxville, Tenn.)


You’ve only just left the relative safety of the river boat when you begin to feel a light mist developing. The jungle track is no more than a slight gap through the overgrowth, but you press on. As the mist thickens, you begin to hear the tribal drums …

In a shaker, add:
* 2 ounces Deadhead Rum
* 1/2 ounce Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum
* 1/2 ounce Blue Curacao
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed white grapefruit juice
* 1 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
* 1/2 ounce vanilla syrup
* 1 1/4 teaspoons Don’s Mix
   (B.G. Reynolds’ brand, or mix 2 parts white grapefruit juice with 1 part cinnamon syrup)

Add 1/2 cup of crushed ice and shake thoroughly. Pour into highball glass and add crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a long cinnamon stick piercing a quarter lemon wedge (pulp removed).


KULAU KAPU (runner-up)
Created by Lucky the Painproof Man (Pittsburgh, Pa.)


Deep in the jungles of Ecuador, there is a forbidden fruit. The natives of the Jivaro tribe know very well that eating the green coconut is forbidden by tradition. It is reserved only for the guardians of the ancestral caverns: eunuchs chosen through an ancient ritual that divines only the most pure tribesman. Eating the kapu kulau is punishable by death, and, of course, head shrinking. The drink you see made with the kapu kulau is surrounded by the heads of those that dared eat it.

* 1 ounce VSOP brandy (such as Paul Masson)
* 1 1/2 ounces Deadhead Rum
* 1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
* 1 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
* 1 1/2 ounces Coco Lopez

Shake vigorously. Pour into a rocks glass or Deadhead mug with coarsely crushed ice. Garnish with a Deadhead Rum swizzle: Two slices of dried orange, a slice of dried coconut and a dried pineapple slice.


Hukilau links | Facebook page | Facebook group | YouTube | Event photos

Previous coverage
* The Hukilau announces new art show, entertainers, more updates for Tiki fest in June
* The Hukilau releases schedule, updated website for Tiki celebration

One Reply to “The Hukilau crowns winner of Deadhead Rum Cocktail Contest”

  1. Nice writeup, and some great looking drinks!

    Please let us all know the where/when for the Deadhead-sponsored after party. I’m anxious to try the rum as well as the winning cocktail!

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