The Week in Tiki (March 9, 2015): Historic bars compete, Vintage Tiki Weekend announced, Rum Fest at The Mai-Kai

The Week in TikiNews this week includes a historic bars contest that features four famous Tiki establishments, plus a sneak peak at The Hukilau’s 2015 event mug. We preview a party at the Tonga Hut, ticket sales for Tiki Kon, and Dapper Day at Disney World. A new event joins the Tiki calendar: Vintage Tiki Weekend at the historic Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, N.J. Also announced was a swap in Dole Whip locations at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, plus the Miami Rum Festival’s annual pilgrimage to The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Our weekly features spotlight artist Crazy Al Evans,, classic exotica artist Gene Rains, and acclaimed Tiki bar Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. The rum of the week, Plantation Jamaican, is featured in the Red Tide cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS (March 9-15, 2015)

Historic Bars Tournament features four classic Tiki establishments

Every year, there are more and more alternatives to college basketball’s bracket mania known as March Madness. Simply match up a long list of anything in multiples of four, and see who makes the Sweet 16 and Final Four. This year, fans of Tiki and its classic watering holes can vote for their favorites during The Big Tap: 2015 Historic Bars Tournament.

A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale
A vintage photo of The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. (From Facebook)

The tourney, which kicked off Monday (March 9), is being run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has lined up 32 historic bars and matched them up in brackets. Among those in the competition are four historic Tiki temples: The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Bali Hai (San Diego), La Mariana (Honolulu), and the Tonga Room (San Francisco). The Mai-Kai, a South Florida institution, was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places.
* Previous Atomic Grog coverage

The four are among the oldest Tiki establishments in the country. The Tonga Room opened in 1945, La Mariana and Bali Hai in 1955, and The Mai-Kai in 1956. Make your vote count in this single-elimination tournament. The voting period for each round ends at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Fridays (March 13, 20, 27 and April 3). There will be prizes for the bars that advance to the Sweet 16 and beyond. Besides the Tiki bars, there are dive bars, sports bars, and many historic watering holes that date back as far as 1733.

The entries were culled from the Historic Bars series, which started last June on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog, PreservationNation. These were determined through the site’s own research, plus public submissions from Facebook and Twitter followers. They then narrowed it down to 32 for the bracket.

Each matchup in the bracket includes links to posts about the competitors, so you can learn about the bars before casting your vote. Matchups were randomly determined by National Trust staff. They also tried to make sure that bars from similar locations, or that similar types of bars, were not matched up in the first round.

See profiles of all the bars | See the bracket and cast your votes

The Hukilau’s Mug Shot Challenge in full swing

A first look at the sculpt for the 2015 event mug for The Hukilau by Tiki Diablo. At right is the original drawing by Basement Kahuna
A first look at the sculpt for the 2015 event mug for The Hukilau by Tiki Diablo. At right is the original drawing by Basement Kahuna. (Facebook photo)

The contest to win the official 2015 event mug for The Hukilau sculpted by California artist Tiki Diablo continues through March 24. Weekly winners are being selected to move on to the finals.

The mug for the 14th annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale is inspired and adapted from a design by artist Dave “Basement Kahuna” Wolfe. It will be available in four different unique glazes. The mug will be limited edition to 400 (100 per glaze).

For more info, follow The Hukilau on Instagram and check the Facebook page. You must have a past mug (or mugs) from The Hukilau and an Instagram account to enter the contest.

The annual Polynesian Pop weekender will be held June 10-14 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Musical guests and performers include 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, and DJ James Brown’s Sweat. Symposium presenters are Arthur Dong, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Brian Miller, Domenic Priore, Jeff Chenault, plus Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener.

Get your wristbands and symposium tickets now at before they sell out. Also don’t miss these two one-of-a-kind events: The Tiki Tower Takeover featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) mixing up special cocktails in the Pier Top Lounge. And a special “Three Hour Tour” cruise with actress Dawn Wells, aka Mary Ann on classic TV show Gilligan’s Island.
* Latest news, previews from The Atomic Grog

Hollywood’s Tonga Hut marks 10 years since rebirth

Tonga Hut 10th anniversary party

While it’s known as the oldest Tiki bar in Los Angeles and dates back to 1958, the venerable Tonga Hut would not exist in all its refurbished glory if it weren’t for a change in ownership in 2005. To honor the 10th anniversary of that important date, the bar is throwing a party on Sunday (March 15) beginning at 2 p.m.
* See the Facebook event

The event will include a coconut-themed art show, parking lot sale, DJ Tonga Tom spinning outside, and ’60s dance party with DJ Dan Moses spinning inside starting at 6 p.m. Owner Jeremy Fleener, who has since partnered with Tiki Magazine & More publisher Amy Boylan, restored much of the bar’s original decor and upgraded the cocktail program to modern Tiki standards. They also recently opened a second Tonga Hut in Palm Springs.

Besides noted mixologist Marie King, the Hollywood bar’s other draw is The Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard, an exclusive group of patrons. To become a member, you must complete the 78 Tiki cocktails featured in Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s seminal 1998 recipe book, Grog Log. It’s also a favorite hangout of local Tiki scenesters who enjoy its “sophisticated dive” atmosphere and top-notch Tiki drinks.
* Official website | Facebook page

Tiki Kon tickets take off on Sunday

Tickets to the premiere Tiki event in the Pacific Northwest, the 13th annual Tiki Kon, go on sale Sunday (March 15) at 6 p.m. PDT at Tickets consistently sell out for the top-tier weekend passes in a matter of weeks, so don’t delay.

Tiki Kon Air Flight #13 is scheduled for July 10-12 at the Red Lion at the Quay in Vancouver, Wash., plus various venues across the Columbia River in Portland. This year’s theme is an homage to the Jet Age, and guests can expect a rum-fueled retro weekend full of live music, cocktails, art and vendors, and more.

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW (March 2-8, 2015)

Introducing Vintage Tiki Weekend at Wildwood’s Caribbean Motel

The Caribbean is a restored authentic 1957 motel in Wildwood, N.J.
The Caribbean is a restored authentic 1957 motel in Wildwood, N.J.

Retro Roadmap’s Mod Betty on March 2 announced a new event for fans of mid-century culture: A vintage Tiki weekend at one of the most iconic and authentic 1950s motels in historic Wildwood, N.J. The event will run from Friday, May 15, through Sunday, May 17.

Betty promises a weekend packed with “vintage fun and retro adventure, with plenty of time to explore Wildwood, socialize, dance, dine and drink under the faux palm trees at the Caribbean Motel in the mid-century motel mecca of Wildwood.”

Built in 1957, the Caribbean Motel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only motel ever inducted into the Historic Hotels of America. The Caribbean has just 30 rooms, so this event will sell out fast. Related activities include a bus tour of Wildwood, Tiki fashion show, music and cocktails by A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge, happy hours, a pig roast dinner, Polynesian appetizers, and much more.
All related activities are included with the purchase of a room. Prices range from $139 to $199 per night. The Retro Roadmap website is a travelogue hosted by Mod Betty, who has a passion for finding and sharing vintage locations across the country.
* Full event details

Countdown to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto; new spot for Dole Whips

Construction is accelerating around the clock at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in a rush to finish major renovations and the long-awaited addition of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. The latest rumored opening date is March 26, which coincides with the announced April 1 opening of the Disney Vacation Club’s timeshare units at the resort. The refurbishment is being driven by the expansion and addition of the Bora Bora Bungalows off the beach of the resort on Seven Seas Lagoon just outside the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando. For the latest updates, follow Tikiman’s Polynesian Resort Facebook page.
* See the full story and photos from The Atomic Grog

A great spot to enjoy a Dole Whip float is near the exit of the Enchanted Tiki Room
A great spot to enjoy a Dole Whip float is near the exit of the Enchanted Tiki Room. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2015)

Meanwhile, it was announced that two of the most popular food and beverage locations in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland are trading places on March 12. Aloha Isle, longtime home of the popular Dole Whip, will be moving next to the Enchanted Tiki Room in the Sunshine Tree Terrace location. That venue, which recently brought back the Citrus Swirl (a classic Disney Wold treat), will then relocate to the old Aloha Isle spot near the Swiss Family Treehouse.

No reason was given for the change, but it’s likely related to recent reports that the Adventureland Veranda, adjacent to where Aloha Isle has been stationed, will be refurbished into a restaurant. Orlando Weekly is reporting that the new restaurant may have a Jungle Cruise theme. There’s also speculation that the restaurant may serve alcohol (in a table-service setting similar to Be Our Guest), including Tiki cocktails from Trader Sam’s. I would caution that these rumors are highly speculative.

Regardless, the new location for Aloha Isle will definitely be convenient. It wasn’t well publicized, but the Sunshine Tree Terrace recently added the Dole Whip to its menu. I prefer enjoying my pineapple soft-serve treat in close proximity to the Enchanted Tiki Room, like guests at the original in Disneyland. My favorite spot is near the exit doors, where there’s rarely a crowd, and classic Tiki and exotica music can be heard loudly through nearby speakers (see photo above).

Also at Disney World this week, Dapper Day arrives at the parks on Saturday, March 14, giving guests a good excuse to put away their cargo shorts and dress in their retro finest. Dapper Day events are meant to showcase guests looking their best, much like visitors did in the 1950s and ’60s. All manner of elegant attire is encouraged, from vintage-inspired classic to chic contemporary. There are meet-ups scheduled throughout the day at attractions all around the Magic Kingdom. The day will be capped off with cocktails from 9 p.m. to midnight at Mizner’s Lounge at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
* Check the Dapper Day schedule

Miami Rum Festival announces annual gathering at The Mai-Kai

Miami Rum Festival

Organizers of the annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival have announced the date of the fest’s annual Tiki Night at The Mai-Kai, scheduled for Tuesday, April 14. The entire week leading up to the April 17-19 festivities at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center is once again being promoted as Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week. Expect nightly events at venues throughout the area featuring top rum brands and some of Miami’s best mixologists. [See our 2014 recap]

Thousands of rum fanciers and industry insiders will gather for the Friday-Sunday events at the convention center, including tastings of hundreds of rums, seminars, international
trade expo, lifestyle exhibit and live music, plus the respected RumXP competition and awards. In a change from past years, tickets will not be available at the door. You must purchase a one-, two- or three-day pass in advance via or by phone. If you’re planning on staying the night, it’s also a good idea to reserve a hotel room before they sell out. Organizers Robert A., Robin and Robert V. Burr have sold out the host hotel in advance the past four years. This is the festival’s third straight year at the Doubletree by Hilton.
* The Atomic Grog: Take a look back at last year’s rum fest

***** Links of the week*****
* Rum Bahamas exceeds expectations (The Bahamas Weekly)
* History runs deep, but fun comes first at Latitude 29 (New Orleans Advocate)
* A search for the perfect Tiki bar in Los Angeles (BBC)
* Small-batch rum comes to Fort Lauderdale (New Times)
* The Global Rum Masters 2015 results (The Spirits Business)
* Spiridom World of Rum: Trying to make sense of it all (The Floating Rum Shack)
* New recipe and design for aged Havana Club rum (Bar magazine)
* Video: The battle for a Cuban rum brand (Bloomberg)
* Tiki ‘ohana: The chroniclers (A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge)

Tiki artist Crazy Al Evans and the inspiration for his Molokai Maiden tribute mug at The Hukilau in June 2014
Tiki artist Crazy Al Evans and the inspiration for his Molokai Maiden tribute mug at The Hukilau in June 2014. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

A fixture in Southern California and at Tiki events across the country, Crazy Al Evans is a prolific artist known for his carvings, mugs and all manner of Tiki art. He’s also a musician/performer/emcee and one of Tiki’s most flamboyant yet down-to earth ambassadors. A former toy sculptor who has done work for Warner, Disney and Star Wars, Evans caught the Tiki bug in 1990 and hasn’t looked back. His sculptures can be found from Hawaii to New York, at Tiki bars and restaurants such as Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas (a past Tiki Bar of the Week). Evans has shared his knowledge and carving style, which can be best described as a fusion of authentic design and modern concepts, in a regular column in Tiki Magazine. His limited-edition mugs, such as the recent Mai-Kai Molokai Maiden, are collected worldwide. You can also find him on stage as frontman of the band Ape, perhaps even carving a Tiki during a performance. Now that’s crazy.
* Visit Crazy Al at and Facebook
* Past coverage: Take a Molokai Maiden home with you
* See past artists of the week

A self-described “California girl chronicling modern Tiki culture,” The Tiki Chick provides an refreshingly positive yet honest look at various Tiki topics near and dear to our hearts, from reviews of her favorite bars and restaurants, to explorations of Disneyland and Disney World, to building her own home Tiki room. Recent posts include a journey to find a rum-infused Dole Whip at Disney World, and an inside look at the Tiki treasures that were on display before Disney’s recent auction. She’s also active on Facebook and Twitter, so follow here there.
* Visit The Tiki Chick at | Facebook page | Twitter
* See past websites of the week

Far Away Lands: The Exotic Music of Gene Rains

Gene Rains

A contemporary of Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman in Hawaii, the Gene Rains Group released just three albums between 1960 and 1962. Rains is an enigma whose whereabouts after the early 1960s are unknown. But the music was never forgotten, and the records became rare collector’s items during the Tiki revival. Unlike many other classics, the Rains back catalog was never released on CD or as digital downloads. That all changed last July, when Real Gone Music put out Far Away Lands: The Exotic Music of Gene Rains, a compilation CD featuring 19 tracks, a large portion of each of the three LPs. Lacking master tapes, the label teamed with Mark Riddle of the Quiet Village (last week’s Website of the Week), who supplied pristine vinyl to make a new master for the compilation. The result is a rare glimpse back into exotica history, nicely packaged with the original artwork and liner notes, plus a special guest on the cover (Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid). Standout tracks include Hana Maui, Africa, Jungle Drums, Caravan, Tiki, and Song of Delilah.
* Buy Far Away Lands: The Exotic Music of Gene Rains (CD): Amazon | Real Gone Music
* See past bands/music of the week

Martin Cate at Smugger's Cove on The Cooking Channel
Martin Cate at Smugger’s Cove on The Cooking Channel.

Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco

A nautical-themed rum bar deeply steeped in Tiki history, Smuggler’s Cove (est. in December 2009) is among the world’s elite craft cocktail bars of the 21st century. This perennial award-winner is the creation of rum and Tiki cocktail guru Martin Cate, who pours his expansive expertise into a menu of more than 400 rums and 70 cocktails. Sample more than 300 rums and you’ll earn the honor of Master of the Cove in the Rumbustion Society. The cocktails run the gamut from traditional Caribbean drinks, to Prohibition-era Cuban classics, to exotic Tiki mainstays, to Cate’s expertly crafted originals. Can’t make it to the Cove? Pick up Cate’s book about his bar, rum, and the Tiki revival, coming in the fall. And don’t miss the maestro mixing up cocktails with fellow Tiki bar luminaries Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (New Orleans), Paul McGee (Chicago) and Brian Miller (New York City) at the Tiki Tower Takever, a special event on Thursday, June 11, at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. Click here for tickets and more info. [Preview]
* Smuggler’s Cove: Official website | Facebook: Page | Group
* YouTube video: Smuggler’s Cove on Foodography (The Cooking Channel)
* Critiki profile, photos | Tiki Central discussion
* The Atomic Grog interviews Martin Cate (with recipes)
* See past Tiki bars of the week

Red Tide featuring Plantation Jamaica 8
Red Tide featuring Plantation Jamaica 8. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

RUM OF THE WEEK: Plantation Jamaican rum
The rums from Plantation are something special. Cognac Ferrand’s boutique rums often dominates the awards at industry festivals around the world, including eight at last year’s Miami Rum Festival. The wide range of aged rums stands out on the shelf with its straw-wrapped bottles and labels that highlight the country of origin (Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, etc.) These rums achieve their excellence via a double-aging process. After barrel-aging in their respective countries, the rum is transported to France for further aging in the distiller’s own cognac casks. Many of Plantation’s rums are also constantly changing and released in a vintage series. While Plantation Jamaica 2001 is currently listed on the website, previous releases include Jamaica 2000, and Plantation Jamaica 8. I still have a bottle of the 8-year-old gold rum and love its funky flavor with hints of fruit and wood. It’s sharp and spicy, making for a great mixer in classic Tiki cocktails that call for gold Jamaican rum. I highly recommend any of Plantation’s Jamaican rums for mixing.
* See past rums of the week

(By Jeff Berry, from Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log and Remixed)

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce pomegranate syrup
   (aka real grenadine)
* 1 ounce gold Jamaican rum
Shake with ice cubes and strain to a chilled cocktail glass or champagne coupe.

An oldie but goodie from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s first book in 1998. He admitted later in Remixed (2010) that his original concoction bears a striking resemblance to the Bacardi Cocktail, circa 1936. Regardless, this is a great showcase for a bold and flavorful Jamaican rum such as Plantation’s vintage releases. The rum really makes the drink pop with its funky yet nuanced flavors. It makes for a cocktail with the perfect balance of strong, sour and sweet. Be sure to squeeze your limes fresh and use a quality pomegranate syrup or grenadine with as few artificial ingredients as possible.
* See past cocktails of the week

SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events

The Hukilau

***** In Florida *****
* April 17-19 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. The ultimate rum festival and trade expo. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* June 10-14 – The Hukilau at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant, Fort Lauderdale. The world’s most authentic Tiki event. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Oct. 1-3 – Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Fort Lauderdale. A weekend of ohana in sunny South Florida.

***** On the Eastern Seaboard *****
* May 15-17 – Vintage Tiki Weekend at the Caribbean Motel, Wildwood, N.J.
* May 15-17 – Instro Summit, Chapel Hill, N.C.
* June 25-28 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y.
* July 15-19 – Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, La.

Tiki Oasis

***** Across the U.S. *****
* April 11-13 – Mojave Oasis, Newberry Springs, Calif.
* April 24-26 – Chicago Area Tiki Tour
* May 14-17 – Tiki Caliente, Palm Springs, Calif.
* July 10-12 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.
* Aug. 8Surf Guitar 101 Convention, Los Alamitos, Calif.
* Aug. 13-16 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif.

***** Worldwide *****
* May 23-25 – RhumFest Paris, Paris, France.
* June 18-21 – Surfer Joe Summer Festival, Livorno, Italy.
* Oct. 3-4 – German Rum Festival,, Berlin
* Oct. 17-18 –
The RumFest: London, United Kingdom

Keep us informed: If you have news or events to report, simply e-mail [email protected] and let us know what’s happening, along with any appropriate links. Feel free to send photos and flyers. You can also send a message via the Facebook page. If you post news or updates on a regular basis, let us know how to follow you (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

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