Minimalist Tiki

Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary, The Mai-Kai’s 60th in 2016

The Hukilau will celebrate its 15th anniversary in June 2016 with a historic celebration of Tiki culture and the 60th anniversary of The Mai-Kai, joined by a very special guest artist. Shag, aka Josh Agle, will provide his artistic talents and also participate in several special events at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced today while launching an updated website. It will be “a celebration of epic proportions,” she said.

The Hukilau 2016 featuring Shag

The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Special guest: Shag.
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The Hukilau 2016 featuring Shag

Shag will present a symposium and also host an event called Shag’s SkyLounge in the hotel’s iconic 17th floor rotating Pier Top Lounge, White said. Guests will become totally immersed in the world of Shag, essentially becoming part of a live painting in the mid-century-styled penthouse that overlooks Fort Lauderdale Beach and the nearby port. Shag will also host several signings of his books and new prints for the 15th anniversary.

With a return to the landmark Pier 66, which is also marking its 60th anniversary in 2016, White also confirmed that there will be a reprise of the Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail event. The Hukilau joined forces with Pier 66 for the first time in June 2015, and the special happy hour featuring four of the country’s top Tiki barmen (Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, and Brian Miller) was one of the highlights.
See below: Tiki Tower Takeover recap, cocktail recipes

The Mai-Kai and Pier 66 are both Fort Lauderdale landmarks that date back to 1956.
The Mai-Kai and Pier 66 are both Fort Lauderdale landmarks that date back to 1956.

In honor of The Mai-Kai’s 60th birthday in December 2016, a retrospective of memorabilia will be on display during The Hukilau. Other events confirmed by White include a return of the Sarong-O-Rama Fashion Show, plus a DIY Tiki craft symposium conducted by South Florida artists Will Anders and Tom Fowner.

The Hukilau has been based in Fort Lauderdale and the historic Mai-Kai restaurant since moving from Atlanta after the first event in 2002. Opened on Dec. 28, 1956, by restaurateurs Bob and Jack Thornton, The Mai-Kai has become not only a revered location for Tikiphiles from around the world, but also was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. Still owned by the Thornton family and considered one of the last vintage mid-century Polynesian supper clubs still in existence, The Mai-Kai features a classic A-frame building and sprawling grounds with dining rooms full of artifacts and a topical garden dominated by waterfalls and giant tikis. The tropical drink menu is also considered to be world-class, and is a direct descendant of the orignal tropical drinks created by Don the Beachcomber in the first half of the 20th century.

Pier 66 – built by Phillips Petroleum as a gas station, dock and marina on the Intracoastal Waterway near Fort Lauderdale’s famous beach and port – has also been a fixture in the tourism-driven area for the past six decades. The original hotel building dates back to the late ’50s, and the 17-story tower that dominates the local skyline was added in 1965. The tower’s space-age design is the perfect inspiration for Shag, whose colorful and acclaimed artwork depicts a madcap world of mod hipsters surrounded by retro decor and brooding tikis.

Shag participated in the Sarong-O-Rama Fashion Show at The Hukilau 2010
Shag participated in the Sarong-O-Rama Fashion Show at The Hukilau 2010. (Photo by

Shag was previously a special guest at The Hukilau in 2010, totally immersing himself in the event by creating special merchandise, participating in the fashion show, and judging a cocktail contest. The California artist has become perhaps the most successful and recognizable to emerge from the modern Tiki revival, and he’s also gained much fame for his work for Disneyland and Disney World.
* Past coverage of Shag: Artist of the Week
The Hukilau 2010 | More on Shag

After rotating among a handful of nearby hotels on the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach over the past decade, The Hukilau found a comfortable home last year at Pier 66 on June 10-14. The larger and more extensive facilities, along with top-notch hospitality, made for one of the smoothest and most enjoyable events to date. Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island fame hosted a three-hour cruise from the hotel’s marina. The large ballroom in the main tower was filled all weekend with vendors and rum sponsors presenting their wares and products to eager guests. And the dockside event/meeting space hosted a wide range of educational symposiums and musical performances. Among those on hand were the Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, King Kukulele, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, plus many more.

More on The Hukilau 2015 on The Atomic Grog
* The Hukilau soars at mid-century marvel Pier 66 hotel
* Day-by-day recaps and photos: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday/Sunday
* The Hukilau 2015 full coverage
* Past photo recaps: 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

Recap: Tiki’s top barmen take over the Pier 66 tower

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (right) and Steve Yamada from Latitude 29 in New Orleans crank out the new T.O.T.C. Swizzle cocktail for the first time at the Tiki Tower Takeover. (Atomic Grog photo)
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (right) and Steve Yamada from Latitude 29 in New Orleans crank out the new T.O.T.C. Swizzle cocktail for the first time at the Tiki Tower Takeover. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

One of the highlights of The Hukilau 2015 in June was the Tiki Tower Takeover in the 17th floor Pier Top Ballroom. Imagine the world’s best Tiki bar crawl, but instead of having to navigate from New Orleans to New York City to Chicago to San Francisco, all guests had to do was let the revolving floor whisk them to mini pop-up bars run by four of the most acclaimed Tiki barmen in the country.

Personally mixing up signature cocktails were Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (of Latitude 29 in New Orleans), Brian Miller (of “Tiki Mondays With Miller” in New York City), Paul McGee (of Lost Lake in Chicago), and Martin Cate (of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco). The two-hour event was enjoyed by several hundred participants, who enjoyed the creative cocktails along with live music from Pablus, King Kukulele and Crazy Al Evans while enjoying the spectacular views of Fort Lauderdale.

These were not only some of the biggest names in Tiki mixology, but also respected bars in the cocktail scene at large. Nominated this year for Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail were Latitude 29 and Lost Lake (Best New American Cocktail Bar), plus Smuggler’s Cove (Best American Cocktail Bar). Though none was victorious in New Orleans, Brian Miller did emerge a winner earlier this year at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown, hosted by Emeril Lagasse at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City)
Brian Miller serves up his Pandanarama Daiquiri. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The ballroom was set up with all the bars clustered in the middle of the room as the rotating floor slowly moved around them, a very cool effect. Seats and tables were scattered around the room, and many imbibers took their drinks out onto the observation deck during the perfect late afternoon weather. Attendees included newbies and Tiki veterans alike, plus VIPs such as Jim Stacy of The Cooking Channel.

The drinks were all outstanding and perfectly showcased the respective styles of their creators. There was the avant garde creativity mixed with equal parts traditionalism in Miller’s Pandanarama Daiquiri. The complex yet perfectly balanced Lost Lake cocktail was an impeccable representation of McGee, a veteran master of craft cocktails. From famed Tiki cocktail author and historian Berry came the T.O.T.C. Swizzle, a familiar yet mysterious blend of classic Tiki ingredients. And rum master Cate served up the aptly named Formidable Dragon, which showcased four premium cane spirits in a spicy, potent grog.

Check out the official flyer: Front | Back
Here’s a quick review of all the drinks, plus some exclusive recipes:

The secret ingredient in the Pandanarama Daiquiri is pandan extract, which Miller and Garret Richard added to a classic Daiquiri recipe to infuse a rich green color and a hint of coconut flavor. Miller called it “a Daiquiri that beat up the Pina Colada and took its lunch money.” The garnish, featuring leaves from the tropical pandan plant (used in Southeast Asian cooking), was perhaps the best of the event. I found it sour, tart, well-balanced and very easy to drink. Demerara rum from El Dorado raised it another notch. Try adding a few drops of this extract, available in the spice section of many groceries, to the classic rum-lime-sugar mix to elevate your typical Daiquiri to new heights.

Paul McGee and Shelby Allison, Lost Lake
Paul McGee mixes while Shelby Allison garnishes the signature cocktail from Lost Lake in Chicago. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Lost Lake, created for the opening of McGee’s new classic Tiki bar in Chicago earlier this year, was the only drink at the event that was previously available, yet it didn’t disappoint. Assisted by Shelby Allison, McGee put out an impeccably solid cocktail, sour and bitter (thanks to the perfect amount of Campari) but also sweet and full of Jamaican rum goodness and a delicious house-made passion fruit syrup. In addition, the garnish (expertly handled by Allison) was up to McGee’s usual flamboyant standards.
* Previous review and recipe for the Lost Lake

Fans showed much love for the T.O.T.C. Swizzle, judging by the long lines at the bar manned by Berry and his Latitude 29 head bartender, Steve Yamada. Berry is a favorite of The Hukilau, a longtime symposium presenter who joined forces with Miller later in the event for a fascinating look at the Planter’s Punch. His featured cocktail was a new spin on another classic.

Based on the 151 Swizzle (yet containing only 80-proof Demerara rum), the T.O.T.C. Swizzle served at the Tiki Tower Takeover had all the hallmarks of a great Tiki drink: Sweet, sour and very complex. It amazingly pulled off the same flavor profile of its more potent cousin while going down very easy. While the exact ingredients were not released, I took a stab at a tribute recipe that you’ll find in a previous post:
* Previous review and recipe for the Demerara 80 Swizzle (tribute)

Martin Cate, Smuggler's Cove
Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco pours his signature Formidable Dragon during the Tiki Tower Takeover at the Pier 66 hotel during The Hukilau in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Last but not least was the rummy grog served up by Cate and his wife, Rebecca. Created especially for the event, the Formidable Dragon is named for the term British Admiral Edward Vernon used to describe drunkenness in his 1740 decree that ordered the watering of rum rations and the birth of grog. [See more on Vernon and grog] It was formidable indeed, featuring four rums and a heavy molasses backbone.

The drink has all the characteristics of a classic grog: Spicy, sour and sweet flavors perfectly mingle with the symphony of rums. The four distinct rums unite to create a totally new flavor, much like a classic navy rum. The next time you’re at Smuggler’s Cove, ask about the Formidable Dragon. I believe Cate planned to roll it out there after The Hukilau. For those mixing at home, check out the tribute recipe below.

The teams from the four bars were not the only ones busting their butts during the event. A big thanks must also go to those behind the scenes who made it happen: The Hukilau’s spirits coordinator, Dean Hurst, and the expert bar team from Florida’s Straw Hat Barmen.

More Tiki Tower Takeover photos: The Atomic Grog | Go11 Events


Tribute to the Formidable Dragon

(Orignal by Martin Cate, interpretation by Hurricane Hayward)

Martin Cate's Formidable Dragon at The Hukilau's Tiki Tower Takeover, June 11, 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)
Martin Cate’s Formidable Dragon at The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover, June 11, 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)

* 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 3/4 ounce white grapefruit juice (fresh if possible)
* 1/2 ounce molasses syrup *
* 1/8 ounce cinnamon simple syrup *
* 1/4 teaspoon Don’s Spices #2 (or pimento dram) *
* 3/4 ounce Coruba dark Jamaican rum
* 3/4 ounce Angostura 1919 rum
* 1/2 ounce Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum
* 1/2 ounce Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star rum

Shake heartily for 5-10 seconds in a shaker full of ice and strain over crushed ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with fresh mint and an orchid.

* Notes: Don’s Spices #2 is an old Don the Beachcomber secret ingredients featuring equal parts vanilla syrup and pimento dram (aka allspice liqueur). Straight allspice liqueur would add a little more spice (St. Elizabeth is the easiest brand to find). Cinnamon syrup is common in old Tiki recipes. You can find DIY recipes online, or pick up a bottle from B.G. Reynolds. You can find the Smuggler’s Cove molasses syrup recipe here. Cate confirmed the molasses and rum lineup, but the rest are educated guesses. The result is very close to what we tasted at the Tiki Tower Takeover. Okole maluna!

More on The Atomic Grog
* Martin Cate recipes: 2070 Swizzle | Mai Tai | The Undead Gentleman | Tiki Oasis Punch
* Beachbum Berry gadgets, recipes: Barware | Ice Cone | Red Tide | Restless Native
* Take 5 interviews: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry | Martin Cate

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