Minimalist Tiki

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto design, merchandise revealed during Mahaloween event at Disneyland

UPDATES: Disney rushes to finish Polynesian renovations, Trader Sam’s (March 2015)

Fans of the much-anticipated Tiki bar coming soon to the Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World were treated to a sneak preview during the inaugural Mahaloween Luau at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. Disney Imagineers showed off a logo T-shirt and several mug prototypes, along with some insight on the design and theming of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

See below: Tikiman’s Mahaloween recap, photos | Polynesian Village Resort updates
Bonus cocktail recipe: A tribute to the Uh Oa! from Trader Sam’s
Past coverage: Say aloha to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village
See all our updates on the Polynesian refurbishment

A T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam's Grog Grotto logo was displayed at Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29
A T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto logo was displayed at Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29. (Photo by EPCOT Explorer)

The event on Monday, Sept. 29, was a seasonal-themed party that included food and drinks, live music, exclusive merchandise, and a presentation by Walt Disney Imagineering on the past, present and future of Tiki at the Disney parks. Among those in attendance was Steve “Tikiman” Seifert, who keeps fans of the Polynesian Village Resort updated on all the recent changes and refurbishments with his authoritative website and Facebook page. Seifert kept an eye out for news on the Polynesian and the Grog Grotto, and he gave us a full report after the event. Check out his photos and more insights on Mahaloween below. Thanks also to EPCOT Explorer for his photos.

Amid all the construction and re-imagining of the Polynesian, Disney has released very little info about its new Trader Sam’s outpost in Orlando since a big announcement and release of concept art on May 2 [See The Atomic Grog’s story and photos]. And while Imagineers Brandon Kleyla and Kyle Barnes didn’t drop any bombshells, they did provide a few visual and informational treats. Kleyla, in fact, was wearing an orange T-shirt featuring a Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto logo that will likely soon become a merchandise item. A blue shirt was also shown during the presentation. Kleyla, who grew up in Florida and frequented Disney World in his youth, was the Imagineering set decorator for Trader Sam’s in Anaheim, bringing to life an immersive environment that borrows heavily from classic Disney attractions such at the Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room and Adventurer’s Club [See interview].

Veteran Imagineer Kyle Barnes, who had a lead role in the Disneyland Hotel bar’s design, took the mic to talk about the concept behind Disney’s second lounge “owned” by Trader Sam, the infamous “head salesman” on the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland and Disney World. Barnes said that while the Disneyland location celebrates the Jungle Cruise and a 1930s African Queen aesthetic, the Disney World bar will synch up with the Magic Kingdom and feature more of a “technicolor” look and feel.

Modern Caribbean Rum
One of the new mug designs for the Polynesian Village Resort, as seen at Mahaloween Luau at Disneyland
One of the new mug designs for the Polynesian Village Resort, as seen at Mahaloween Luau at Disneyland. (Photo by EPCOT Explorer)

Barnes also confirmed suspicions that have made the rounds since the concept art was released showing a giant squid tentacle behind the bar [See photo]. The Grog Grotto will celebrate the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, “with various props from that attraction,” he said.

A nautical theme makes perfect sense considering a grotto is often a small cave near water. And it will be located just across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom and Adventureland, which includes Trader Sam’s home in the exotic rivers of the Jungle Cruise, as well as the animatronic tikis in the Enchanted Tiki Room. The T-shirt logo also includes a giant squid, so don’t be surprised if the Grog Grotto features a backstory about Sam’s adventures on and beneath the sea.

The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction, based on the 1954 Disney film of the same name, was a Magic Kingdom staple in Fantasyland from 1971 until its closing in 1994. Starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason, it was the only science fiction film produced by Walt Disney himself. It was adapted from a classic 1870 novel by Jules Verne, whose influence is still felt throughout the Magic Kingdom, from the design of Tomorrowland to the steampunk dragon in the new Festival of Fantasy Parade.

The Academy Award-winning film includes scenes set in New Guinea featuring cannibals and human skulls on stakes, conveniently combining both Polynesia and one of Trader Sam’s favorite activities. The iconic Nautilus submarine is later attacked by a giant squid and its captain, Nemo, is ensnared in the beast’s tentacles. The squid is famous for being one of Disney’s early animatronic figures, which later became essential elements of attractions at Disneyland (est. 1955) and Disney World (est. 1971). The Grog Grotto’s squid is an apparent tribute.

New Polynesian Village Resort mug designs were displayed along with the artwork that inspired them
New Polynesian Village Resort mug designs were displayed along with the artwork that inspired them. (Photo by EPCOT Explorer)

Disneyland used the original sets from the film as a walk-through attraction from 1955 to 1966. The Disney World attraction was a submarine ride that included the giant squid attack. Reasons cited for its closure include its high cost to maintain plus multiple logistical issues. It shut down on Sept, 5, 1994, with the vast swath of property that it inhabited eventually becoming the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland.

At Mahaloween, the Imagineers also showed off several new mug designs for both Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian Village Resort. It appears that at least one distinctive mug and cocktail will be making the cross-country trip to the Grog Grotto. The Uh Oa! and its giant flaming Tiki bowl are slated to be on the menu at the Grog Grotto (See the recipe below). This new bowl is reportedly set to replace the current version in Anaheim when supplies run out.

The two new mugs for the Polynesian that were shown will be available not at Trader Sam’s, but in the resort’s gift shop. Both are based on images from buildings around the resort, including masks on the old Tangaroa Terrace restaurant building. That space is currently used as a cast member break room and training center, but rumors persist that it may be refurbished and used as public space. Perhaps these mugs point to that being more likely to happen.

A view from the Monorail of a mask on the Tangaroa Terrace building at the Polynesian Village Resort in December 2012
A view from the Monorail of a mask on the Tangaroa Terrace building at the Polynesian Village Resort in December 2012. Note Space Mountain in the background. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

You may have seen the Maori-style mask on the brown and beige mug pictured above at various places around the resort. I spotted it behind the valet stand in February 2009 [see photo] and on the Tangaroa Terrace building in March 2011 [see photo]. The smiling guy on the blue mug is also a familiar sight, holding a commanding position on Tangaroa Terrace. I spotted him in February 2009 while walking by the front side of the building [see photo] and in December 2012 on the back side while passing by on the Monorail (see photo at right). This image is probably seen by millions of guests a year, whether they stay at the Polynesian or not.

Also look for a Nautilus bowl in the Grog Grotto and Nemo mugs in the gift shop, according to Seifert. Another interesting piece of concept art on display was a swizzle stick designed for Trader Sam’s that never made it past the concept stage [see photo]. Themed to the piranha pool from the Jungle Cruise, it would make a perfect addition to the Grog Grotto, though this was not specifically mentioned.

The bar will include many similar features as the original Trader Sam’s, such as interactive props themed to different drinks along with animatronics throughout. It’s a concept that has been a rousing success since its debut in 2011. There’s still no official word on an opening date in Orlando, but all indications point to no earlier than February or March. That gives us plenty of time to brush up on our 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea trivia.

Related links
* Trader Sam’s: Official site | Facebook fan page
Talking Tiki – The sublimity of Trader Sam’s
* Jungle Cruise: Disneyland | Disney World
* Enchanted Tiki Room: Disneyland | Disney World | Atomic Grog spotlight
* 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Attraction tribute site | Wikipedia: Film / Book



Steve Seifert of the website attended the first of four seatings of the Mahaloween Luau at Trader Sam’s on Sept. 29. He shared the following overview and photos.

The first Mahaloween Luau was held at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014
The first Mahaloween Luau was held at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (Photo by Steve “Tikiman” Seifert)

The check-in process was slow, apparently the result of some last-minute changes. Part of the event was originally announced as taking part inside Trader Sam’s, but the entire event ended up being contained on the patio area between the bar and Tangaroa Terrace. The inside bar and patio area outside the entrance remained open for normal business. With 100 tickets sold (at $125 a pop), the bar’s small capacity (less than 50) likely make this logistically impossible.

Once inside, Seifert said, he and his party enjoyed the complimentary appetizers and cocktails. Attendees received coupons for two alcoholic drinks, including beer, wine and one of the bar’s signature concoctions, the Zombie Head Punch (reserve and aged rums, tropical juices, falernum, cinnamon). The hors d’oeuvres included chicken lettuce wraps, cones stuffed with ahi poke and avocado, Hawaiian pulled pork sliders, and spicy panko-crusted Chinese long beans. The food was good and the Zombies were excellent, he said, giving props to the hard-working bar staff. All the staff did a great job under the circumstances, he said, despite nagging logistical issues. At 3 p.m., the drinks were served fully garnished in custom glassware, he noted, though folks at the later seatings reportedly received their drinks in plastic cups. But that was the least of the problems.

But first, the highlights: Seifert said he and many others enjoyed the authentic Hawaiian music performed by a duo who are regulars on the bar’s entertainment schedule. He and others were also pleased to see a special appearance by King Kukulele, the longtime host of The Hukilau and other Polynesian Pop events. He peppered his ukulele strumming with his trademark quips and led the audience through a rendition of the Hawaiian War Chant.

Authentic Hawaiian music set the mood on the patio outside Trader Sam's during the Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29
Authentic Hawaiian music set the mood on the patio outside Trader Sam’s during the Mahaloween Luau on Sept. 29. (Photo by Steve “Tikiman” Seifert)

It was more than halfway through the hourlong event before everyone made it through the gates and the Imagineers made their presentation. Seifert said that while Brandon Kleyla and Kyle Barnes were difficult to see and hear, it was very informative and especially of interest to those who are fascinated by the relationship between Disney and Tiki. They traced the evolution of Disneyland’s Adventureland and showed vintage artwork and photos.

They talked about “how the Polynesian themes have worked their way through the parks,” Seifert said. Details of Trader Sam’s were discussed, along with the evolution of the Shrunken Zombie mug. Artwork and plans for the Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World got the most excited reaction from fans, Seifert said. Some “went nuts,” he said, and apparently were not previously aware of the plans for a second Trader Sam’s location. This part of the presentation is covered in depth above.

For many, the appeal of such a high-priced ticket is the complimentary and exclusive merchandise. Apparently this was a mixed bag at best [see photo]. On the plus side, most were very happy with the Shrunken Zombie mugs. Paid guests received a special edition available only at the event, stamped “Mahaloween” on the bottom and featuring a unique green glaze on the inside. This is the mug that was touted and pictured on the Disney Parks Blog. Guests also received two vouchers allowing them to buy the second edition of the Shrunken Zombie mug (with orange glaze inside) that was to be made available to the public the next day, but the price was reportedly no better than what the general public would pay. Other complimentary items in the goodie bag included a canvas print of Trader Sam holding the mug, buttons, and a Panama-style hat.

Bartenders are hard at work mixing up Trader Sam's Zombie Head Punch.
Bartenders are hard at work mixing up Trader Sam’s Zombie Head Punch. (Photo by Steve “Tikiman” Seifert)

Artists Marcus Gonzales (who did the print) and Tim Wollweber (who designed the mug) were available to sign their handiwork, which definitely added some value to the event. The merch almost immediately appeared on eBay, but its worth was hotly debated on Disney and Tiki message boards. Many also complained about the disorganization of the event.

Seifert was a bit more ambivalent, saying he enjoyed the event mainly because of the friends he was with and the exclusive info he was able gather from new contacts he met. It was disorganized, he admits, and seemed like it was the victim of last minute changes. He was also disappointed that there was no opportunity to hang out inside Trader Sam’s with the Imagineers and hear them talk about the surrounding designs and artifacts. (Steve also credits Jay at Love the Mouse Travel for making his trip happen.)

Will Mahaloween survive the critiques and return in 2015? Perhaps, but it seems like a bit more organization and attention to the guest experience would definitely go a long way toward making it viable for the long term.

Mahaloween 2014 photo gallery
All photos by Steve “Tikiman” Seifert
(click on thumbnails to see larger images or to view as slideshow)

More coverage online
Twitter | Instagram | Mice Chat | The DisGeek Podcast | Atomic Redhead blog



The Polynesian Village Resort has undergone many refurbishments in its 43-year history since opening on Oct. 1, 1971, along with the Contemporary Resort as Disney World’s first luxury accommodations. But none has been as contentious as the current construction project that began a year ago and is still perhaps a year away from completion. The rabid interest by fans of the resort is fueled by several controversial and high profile changes, most notably the addition of Disney Vacation Club (DVC) timeshare rooms and the removal of the iconic water feature in the grand lobby known as the Great Ceremonial House.

Since our last update in May announcing the planned addition of Trader Sam’s, work has progressed pretty much as expected:

The new sign also includes a water feature
The new sign also includes a water feature. (Photo from

* The Great Ceremonial House remains a construction zone since the removal of the waterfall and work began on the massive skylights. The counter-service restaurant Captain Cook’s was relocated, then moved back to its refurbished old location in August. Trader Sam’s will soon be arriving nearby. The Wyland Gallery is long gone, replaced in August by the Pineapple Lanai, an outdoor walk-up window for Dole Whip treats.

* A new entry marquee and water feature, reflecting the name change from Disney’s Polynesian Resort, has been unveiled. The entire front the resort is getting an overhaul, forcing the closure of the long-running nightly torch-lighting ceremony [See video].

* The resort’s volcano-themed pool closed in July and is not expected to reopen until March or April at the earliest. The volcano is being downsized and the entire area reconfigured. The nearby Gathering Place will reportedly host the torch-lighting and other activities.

Work continues on the bungalows over the water on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon
Work continues on the bungalows over the water on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon. (Photo from

* DVC construction continues at full speed, with a 20 exclusive bungalows nearing completion on Seven Seas Lagoon. Work is progressing on timeshare units in two converted longhouses with an expected completion date in 2015. The DVC program has become a cash cow for Disney, fueling speculation of new units on the drawing board at several other resorts.

The best place to keep up with all the latest news on construction, closings, openings and discussion of the future of the Polynesian is Steve “Tikiman” Seifert’s website,, and accompanying Facebook page. Seifert is tireless in his quest to provide the most accurate and balanced news on the Polynesian, but he’s also not afraid to insert his opinion and debunk unsubstantiated rumors. Followers of the Facebook page share a continuous flow of photos from the resort, including exclusive shots not seen anywhere else. Look for Seifert to feature some interesting breaking news on the resort’s future, coming soon.
* Tikiman Pages: Latest news | DVC updates | Polynesian history

Also, be sure check out Tikiman’s recent report on his trip to Oceanic Arts in Whittier, Calif. Run for nearly 60 years by Bob Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz, this iconic Polynesian decor and design company has outfitted a who’s who of Tiki restaurants, hotels and theme parks around the world. Their handiwork graces Trader Sam’s, the Polynesian Village Resort, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, and many other vintage South Seas-themed establishments.

Related links
* Polynesian Village Resort debuts waterfall marquee
* Pineapple Lanai opens: Disney Food Blog | Touring Plans | Tikiman Pages
* Refurbished Captain Cook’s: Disney Food Blog | WDW Magic | Tikiman Pages
* EPCOT Explorer: Polynesian potpourri: A pictorial tour of the Village
* From Pearl Harbor to Disney World: Auntie Kau’i’s journey

Past Atomic Grog coverage
* Say aloha to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
* Disney World announces refurbishment schedule for Polynesian Resort
* Trader Sam’s could be key part of Disney World’s Polynesian Resort refurbishment
* Trader Sam’s one of many changes likely coming to Polynesian Resort
* See all our coverage of the Polynesian Village Resort



Uh Oa! on the Trader Sam's menu in Disneyland

One of the most popular, and interactive, drinks at Trader Sam’s is Uh Oa! – a large communal concoction that triggers a Disney-esque thunderstorm and chants of “Uh Oa!” along with a flaming garnish that lights up the dark bar. You can find many videos of the spectacle on YouTube, including this one featuring John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The arrival of the Uh Oa! at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto makes perfect sense, not only because it’s a mainstay on the menu. It has a unique link to Disney World and the Magic Kingdom, and concept art released in May shows it with a prominent spot in the new bar (see image below). Guests can be seen sitting around the flaming bowl while Uh Oa – the Polynesian goddess of disaster from the old “Under New Management” version of the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disney World – looms over them. Of course, this is the origin of the “Uh Oa!” chant [See video].
* More from The Atomic Grog on the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disney World

Concept art released in May shows Uh Oa, the Polynesian goddess from the old version of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at the Magic Kingdom, on the wall of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Concept art released in May shows Uh Oa, the Polynesian goddess from the old version of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at the Magic Kingdom, on the wall of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

But what about the drink itself? The menu tells us that it includes light and dark rums; orange, passion fruit, guava, and grapefruit juices; falernum; cinnamon; and freshly squeezed lime juice. The menu warns us that “Whoever is brave enough to conjure up this concoction cursed by Uh Oa, the tiki goddess of disaster, must be forewarned: When you mess with Polynesia, the tiki gods will squeeze ya (often with a lime)!”

It’s recommended for two or more guests and served in a souvenir tiki bowl. The bowl has holes for up to four straws and also includes four tikis with repositories that allow guests to grab a pinch of cinnamon, throw it on the flames and create a mini firestorm. This is a theatrical trick popularized at Tiki bars of yore and revived recently and most notably by Martin Cate at Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. But, naturally, Disney takes it to a new level at Trader Sam’s.

Some months ago, Tikiman and I executed a trade in which I received an Uh Oa! bowl in exchange for a mug from The Mai-Kai. I’ve been eager to try out the drink, but unfortunately a trip to Disneyland has not been possible, so I’m forced to improvise. Since the ingredients are listed on the menu, there are plenty of references online to Uh Oa! recipes, but none that I could find gives exact proportions. As Tiki cocktail aficionados well know, recipes need to be precise to ensure a consistent, well-balanced drink. If anything is out of whack, it can ruin the drink. Tropical mixology is more akin to baking a cake than making a pot of stew.

Following is a tribute to Uh Oa! based on the ingredient list and my knowledge of Tiki and Disney drinks. Hopefully the goddess of disaster will be pleased.

A tribute to UH OA! by The Atomic Grog
(Based on the drink from Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar)

Tribute to Uh Oa! by The Atomic Grog, before lighting the flame
Tribute to Uh Oa! by The Atomic Grog, before lighting the flame. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, October 2014).

* 2 ounces silver Puerto Rican rum
* 2 ounces Myers’s Original Dark rum
* 3 ounces POG (passion fruit/orange/guava) juice
* 1 1/2 ounces white grapefruit juice
* 1 1/2 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
   (save shell for garnish)
* 3/4 ounce falernum
* 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup
* Sugar cubes and 151 rum for flaming garnish

Pulse blend with 2 cups of crushed ice for no more than 10 seconds. (Note: Pulse blend means to flip the blender switch on and off, rather than holding it down continuously; we don’t want a slushy drink.) Pour unstrained into an Uh Oa! bowl, or other large Tiki bowl or mug (around 12-ounce capacity) and fill with more crushed ice. Add powdered cinnamon to the bowl’s appropriate receptacles or just keep in small containers nearby. Garnish with maraschino cherries and half of a squeezed lime wedge. Insert 2-3 sugar cubes into the wedge. When serving, douse with 151 rum and light. Sprinkle pinches of cinnamon over the flame to conjure up the Tiki gods.

I came up with these proportions based on the size of the Uh Oa! bowl and an educated guess on the flavor profile. It’s light yet flavorful and exotic. Not a Tiki classic, to be sure, but very good for a Disney drink. It packs a punch but goes down very easy, which makes it a perfect communal cocktail. Just beware if you’re taking on Uh Oa! by yourself. The dominant flavors are the falernum, dark rum, cinnamon and lime juice. The POG and grapefruit balance out the strong and spicy flavors and keep everything in sync.

A flaming Uh Oa! tribute by The Atomic Grog
A flaming Uh Oa! tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, October 2014).

Notes and tips for home mixologists

* Trader Sam’s currently uses Bacardi Silver rum but may be changing soon to Don Q [see story]. That’s an improvement, but I prefer Cruzan from the Virgin Islands or Flor de Caña from Nicaragua. They’re the same Spanish style white rum but quite a bit better. Feel free to use your favorite white rum. But stick with Myers’s as the dark rum since it gives the drink a distinctive flavor.

* POG juice was discussed in depth in my recipe for the Backscratcher at the Polynesian Village Resort. Check there for some tips and suggestions. You can probably find the juice at retail outlets on the West Coast (and definitely in Hawaii), but the rest of the country isn’t as fortunate. My solution was to combine equal parts of 100 percent natural unconcentrated orange juice, passion fruit cocktail (or nectar) and guava nectar. The nectars contain added sugars, but that helps sweeten up the juice and makes it similar to the product used at Disney parks (a Minute Maid juice that’s not available to the public). Fresh is preferred, but bottled or canned grapefruit juice is OK. Just make sure it’s 100 percent natural with no added sugar. And white, not pink.

* Falernum and cinnamon syrup are exotic flavors that you’ll find in a lot of classic tropical drinks. This blog contains lots of references to these (search: Falernum | cinnamon), along with links to various brands and stories on how to make your own at home. If you’re not so adventurous and want to duplicate the Trader Sam’s taste exactly, just pick up a bottle of each from B.G. Reynolds’ Bar Store, a favorite of Tiki mixologists and supplier of all of Trader Sam’s exotic syrups.

More Trader Sam’s and Polynesian drink recipes from The Atomic Grog
* The Trader’s Polynesian Aloha Grog by The Atomic Grog
* Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum at Trader Sam’s
* The Backscratcher at the Tambu Lounge

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