Minimalist Tiki

The Week in Tiki (Aug. 10-23, 2015): Tiki Oasis soars to new heights, plus D23 thrills Disney fans, The Hukilau 2016, more summer news and events

The Week in TikiAugust was a cavalcade of Tiki news and events, with thousands gathering in California for Tiki Oasis in San Diego. Meanwhile, Disney fans flocked to Anaheim for the D23 Expo. We also have recaps of the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau at Disneyland and the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival in Hawaii. Event previews include the Southern Surf StompFest, Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Mod-Palm Springs, Tiki Mondays With Miller, and the Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise. We also have news on The Hukilau and new Tiki bars in Las Vegas and Toronto. Our regular features spotlight artist Christine Benjamin; the new album from The Tikiyaki Orchestra; the historic Tonga Hut in Los Angeles; and Internet radio site Luxuria Music. The rum of the week, Koloa Dark, is featured in Kahuna Kevin’s Escape Pod cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Thousands have a blast as Tiki Oasis soars into retro space on 15th anniversary

At 15 years old, the world’s oldest and largest Tiki event is now the equivalent of a rowdy teenager. Bursting with energy and ambition but also wild and a bit out of control, Tiki Oasis lived up to its reputation Aug. 13-16 during its annual bacchanal in San Diego, drawing 4,000 people from around the globe for a party like no other. Inspired by the mid-century retro-futuristic theme “Yesterday’s Future Today,” guests and performers alike turned the event into a crazy, Tikified version of a 1960s B-movie.
See below: Browse a Tiki Oasis 15 photo gallery

Modern Caribbean Rum
The Tikiyaki Orchestra headlines the opening-night party at the iconic Bali Hai restaurant. (Photo by Jeff Chenault)
The Tikiyaki Orchestra headlines the opening-night party at the iconic Bali Hai restaurant. (Photo by Jeff Chenault)

The event launched like a Mercury rocket on Thursday night with the Blast Off Party at the Bali Hai smashing previous attendance records, organizer Otto von Stroheim said. More than 1,000 packed into the historic Shelter Island restaurant, topping the previous mark by 200. Live entertainment included King Kukulele, Fono 66, Project: Pimento, and The Tikiyaki Orchestra, who were joined by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.

Friday through Sunday was wall-to-wall fun at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, featuring a 100-vendor marketplace, car show, dozens of live bands and DJs, more than 30 educational symposiums, an art show, a mixology competition, and late-night performances by some of the top names in burlesque. And don’t forget the room parties. Tiki Oasis attendees take this simple concept to another level with elaborately themed and decorated soirees that put all others to shame.

Man or Astro-man? perform at Tiki Oasis on Saturday, Aug. 15. (Photo by Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White)
Man or Astro-man? perform at Tiki Oasis on Saturday, Aug. 15. (Photo by Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White)

For von Stroheim, the highlight was Saturday night’s headlining performance by Man or Astro-man? on the poolside stage. “It was a super rockin’ set that ended with them jumping in the pool with their clothes on, then returning for a two-song encore,” he said. The band rarely does encores, von Stroheim was told, and even then it’s never two songs. The out-of-this-world surf combo from Alabama put on a spectacle, blasting through many of their instrumental classics and even lighting a theremin on fire during the performance.

Many other bands performed over the weekend, including The Phenomenauts, The Chocolate Watchband, The Phantom Surfers, Clouseaux, The Outta Sites, The Neptunas, Els A Phonics, Jason and the R.I.P. Tides, The Rosalyns, and The Ding Dong Devils. Symposium presenters included Don Preston (Mothers of Invention), Rod Roddenberry (Star Trek), Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, Sven Kirsten (Tiki Pop), Charles Phoenix, Jeff Chenault (The Kahiki: Crown Jewel of Polynesian Supper Clubs), and Eric October.

Tiki Oasis is a family affair for organizers Baby Doe and Otto von Stroheim, who fully immersed themselves in the event's theme, "Yesterday’s Future Today." (Tiki Oasis official photo)
Tiki Oasis is a family affair for organizers Baby Doe and Otto von Stroheim, who fully immersed themselves in the event’s theme, “Yesterday’s Future Today.” (Tiki Oasis official photo)

The size and scope of the event is hard to grasp, even if you think you’ve seen and done it all. A comment on the Tiki Oasis Facebook group summed it up best: “There is just so much happening all the time and it all comes together so well. It’s truly amazing! Non-stop symposiums and really educational lectures and on-point DJs and rockin’ bands and book clubs and go-go gals and games and fashion shows and parties and burlesque and cocktails and costumes and dancing and car shows and decorations and mugs and room crawls and volunteers and vendors. I mean, wow, what a wild and crazy weekend! It really is unlike anything else!”

The response from the media was equally glowing. Wrote Lina Lecaro in OC Weekly: “Tiki culture celebrates all things tropical kitsch – from vibrant floral fashion to colorful rum cocktails – but there’s a lot more to this scene than dress and drink. At Tiki Oasis, the biggest gathering of Tiki heads in the country that just took over San Diego’s historic Crowne Plaza this past weekend, music and art were not only highlights, they elevated the annual event to another atmosphere.”

Jon and Don Barnett make an alluring capture (Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid) at the Tiki Magazine & More party at Tiki Oasis 15. The Barnetts designed the room, which won the "best decorated" award. (Photo by Brian Boskind)
Jon and Don Barnett make an alluring capture (Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid) at the Tiki Magazine & More party at Tiki Oasis 15. The Barnetts designed the room, which won the “best decorated” award. (Photo by Brian Boskind)

Tiki Oasis is welcoming to both veterans and newbies alike. After flying in from Hawaii for his first visit, Hawaiian Shirt Dude wrote: “It was the future, it was the past. It was a mish-mash of everything that has come before with what we hope tomorrow will bring us. And there were Hawaiian shirts for as far as the eye could see. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. An ocean of beautiful people in beautiful loud prints. I was finally among my people and all was good.”

Despite the hoopla, guests were still free to relax and enjoy the event at their own pace. Sometimes the small interactions and happenings can be the most memorable. For some, it was the listening party in honor of the late exotica music legend Robert Drasnin, featuring the exclusive premiere of Voodoo III. The album, which Drasnin left unfinished when he died in May, was completed by exotica/jazz producer and composer Skip Heller. Special limited-edition copies were available for purchase and can still be ordered via Dionysus Records. The label will release a Voodoo box set next year featuring all three albums on vinyl.

Crazy Al Evans shows off his 200th carving at Tiki Oasis 15. (Facebook photos)
Crazy Al Evans shows off his 200th carving at Tiki Oasis 15. (Facebook photos)

Artist Crazy Al Evans is a ubiquitous presence and many Tiki events, making the rounds of all the parties and sharing the stage with his musician friends. But at Tiki Oasis 15, his main order of business was showing off a little project that wowed many who saw it. The veteran carver was exhibiting his still unfinished 200th totem, appropriately titled Tiki #200. This landmark carving certainly is a masterpiece, featuring five smaller tikis carved with incredible detail within the larger piece.

If you braved the lines for the most popular room crawl parties, you experienced some far-out decor, drinks and entertainment. The largest ones were hosted by bars and restaurants such as Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach and The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas. (See the news section below for more on the opening of The Golden Tiki.) Winner of best decorated room was the over-the-top party hosted by Tiki Magazine & More that was elaborately themed to the set of the classic TV series Lost in Space, including costumed characters (see photos above and below). Live entertainment was provided by Tikiyaki 5-0 (the stripped-down version of the The Tikiyaki Orchestra) along with Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. As expected, the drinks were also top-notch. Kahuna Kevin took home the best cocktail award for the second year in a row. You can find the winning drink, the Voodoo Nectar infused gin punch, in his latest book, Kahuna Kevin’s Tiki Cocktails Vol. III. (Check out one of his other new recipes below.)

Bartender Anthony Schmidt won the first San Diego Bartenders’ Battle at Tiki Oasis 15. (Tiki Oasis official photo)
Bartender Anthony Schmidt won the first San Diego Bartenders’ Battle at Tiki Oasis 15. (Tiki Oasis official photo)

If you couldn’t get enough rum and cocktail action at the room parties and symposiums, there was a new event on tap this year: the San Diego Bartenders’ Battle hosted by Ram Udwin from the Boy Drinks World blog. Udwin also hosted an informative symposium (Bartending Techniques for the Atomic Age) at which he introduced guests to such molecular mixology techniques as fat-washing rum and creating an egg based foam (see full report). Four contestants competed in two rounds of mixology competitions, with Anthony Schmidt of Fairweather in San Diego edging Travis Nass from Last Drop Bar in Paradise Valley, Ariz., in the finale.

It’s not too early to start working on your outfit or room party theme for next year. Tiki Oasis 16, aka “Monster Island,” has already been announced for Aug. 18-21, 2016, with the theme tied to your favorite classic, kitschy B-movies.

Best posts seen during the event on the Tiki Oasis Facebook group:
* “My husband lost his space gun.”
* “Did anyone take a picture of my jetpack?”
* “So what happened last night? I’m afraid I can’t remember. Did I have fun?”
* “Tiki Oasis is the Burning Man of kitsch, Polynesian, Hawaiian, Tahitian, Fijian, South Pacific, Tiki Gods, Tropical Cocktails and extravagant ’60s inspired costumes and clothes.”

(Photos provided by Tiki Oasis / Photographers include Brian Boskind, Kristena)

More coverage, photos
OC Weekly | The LA Beat | Hawaiian Shirt Dude | The Pineappleman’s Tiki Blog
It’s Always Tiki Time | 5 Minutes of Rum | Boy Drinks World | Yelp

Official sites: | Facebook group | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Jungle Cruise restaurant, Polynesian princess overshadowed by blockbuster annoucements at D23 Expo

The new Jungle Cruise themed restaurant will open by the end of 2015 in Disney World. (Disney Parks Blog)
The new Jungle Cruise themed restaurant will open by the end of 2015 in Disney World. (Disney Parks Blog)

Major news on massive Star Wars and Toy Story expansions coming to Disney parks, along with the usual cavalcade of celebrities and blockbuster movie announcements, dominated the news from the D23 Expo on Aug. 14-16 at the Anaheim Convention Center. But fans of Tiki and classic Adventureland were probably more thrilled with two lesser announcements from the fourth biannual event that drew more than 65,000 Disney fans from around the world.

During a presentation honoring 60 years of the Jungle Cruise, it was officially announced that a new restaurant under construction in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland will indeed be themed to the iconic attraction. The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen will open late this year featuring “world famous jungle cuisine” served to guests by Jungle Cruise skippers in several unique dining rooms. These will include a crew mess hall and a once-hidden secret meeting room of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The restaurant is being built in the former location of the Adventureland Veranda, adjacent to the Jungle Cruise and the Enchanted Tiki Room. The menu will reportedly be inspired by flavors of Africa, Asia, and South America. It’s expected that both lunch and dinner will be offered.
* More coverage: Disney Parks Blog | Touring Plans | WDW Magic | Disney Food Blog


Also falling a bit under the radar among all the major movie announcements was news on the upcoming animated movie Moana and the movie adaption of the Jungle Cruise, both featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The character Moana will become Disney’s first Polynesian princess, and reports from the expo indicate that the film could become another blockbuster hit. Attendees who saw previews were blown away by the quality of the animation and musical soundtrack. The story takes place 2,000 years ago, it was revealed at the expo, and Disney consulted with many experts on the South Pacific in crafting the film. Not only does Disney have a potential huge hit on their hands, but this film could be poised to become the new gateway to Polynesian culture for generations to come. The Rock will provide the voice of demigod Maui, and Moana will reflect the recent trend toward empowered princesses. Johnson has Samoan lineage, and he’s also known to be a fan of Polynesian Pop culture. The former University of Miami football star and wrestling legend has been spotted at The Ma-Kai in Fort Lauderdale on numerous occasions. His appearance at the expo drew a thunderous reaction from fans. Moana is scheduled for release in November 2016. Meanwhile, the week after D23, news leaked that Johnson will star in Disney’s adaption of the Jungle Cruise attraction. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film may be a period piece set in the early 1900s, much like The African Queen, the classic 1951 adventure film (based on the 1935 novel) that inspired the original Disneyland attraction.
* More on Moana: Inside the Magic | US Weekly | MovieWeb

Pixar founder John Lasseter's private collection of movie-themed Hawaiian shirts was on display at D23. (Disney Parks Blog)
Pixar founder John Lasseter’s private collection of movie-themed Hawaiian shirts was on display at D23. (Disney Parks Blog)

One of the highlights of D23 for many fans are the exclusive exhibits of memorabilia from movies and the theme parks. But perhaps the coolest exhibit for Tiki and Pixar geeks was John Lasseter’s Studio Collection, a display of 20 custom-designed, movie-themed Hawaiian shirts owned by the Walt Disney Animation Studio head honcho. [See story and photos] Lasseter, one of the founders of Pixar who is rarely seen wearing anything but an aloha shirt, was given his first custom design in 1999 (commemorating the release of Toy Story 2) and it’s become a tradition. The newest shirt features characters from Inside Out. Lasseter also kicked off the Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios presentation by throwing Pixar-themed Hawaiian shirts into the crowd. The shirts were also a hot seller in the gift shops and could be seen on many fans throughout the expo.

And while much of the news on the massive Start Wars expansion (14 acres!) coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim was a sci-fi geek’s dream come true, there was one particular nugget that also piques the interest of those of us interested in more adult-oriented endeavors. Included in the plans for the immersive land of aliens and space travelers is a “Star Wars Cantina” based on the legendary bar in the original 1977 film. Disney plans to make the entire Star Wars land a total escape into the films, with a storyline that all the restaurants, shops and other establishments are owned and run by the “residents” of a new planet. According to Disney CEO Bob Iger, the Imagineers are “creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever.” If all goes according to plan, we may be in store for a truly unique themed bar/restaurant experience in a galaxy far, far away.
More on D23: Official site | Disney Parks Blog

EVENT RECAPS: Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau, Mai Tai Festival in Hawaii

The special edition Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau  mug. (Disney Parks Blog)
The special edition Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau mug. (Disney Parks Blog)

Disneyland’s beloved Tahitian Terrace made a return for two nights only during a special event hosted by Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar and the Disneyland Hotel. The Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau took place Aug. 10-11 on the hotel’s Magic Kingdom Lawn and featured a special tribute performance with some of the dances and routines from the original show. Imagineers presented a historical overview, and guests enjoyed food and drinks inspired by the original Tahitian Terrace menu, plus special merchandise. The event, part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, paid homage to the restaurant that treated visitors to Polynesian entertainment, culture and food from 1962 to 1993 in Adventureland. If you missed the event, Tiki mugs similar to the special edition given to guests at the luau will be available at Trader Sam’s throughout the Diamond Celebration.
* On the Web: Modern Tiki Lounge | Tiki Central | Dining at Disney | DisGeek Podcast
* Videos: Overview | Tahitian dancers (part 1) | Tahitian dancers (part 2) | Imagineer talk

Justin Park, co-owner of The Manifest in Honolulu, emerged victorious (and $10,000 richer) at the seventh annual Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Royal Kona Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. Last year’s winner, Michael Soo of Bar Crudo in Phoenix, Ariz., placed second and won $5,000. Park previously won the competition in 2012 and finished second in 2013. The all-day festival, which celebrates the legacy of Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber, pitted 21 of the world’s top bartenders in the Mai Tai mix-off.
* More on Justin Park: Bartender profile | Manifest official site

UPCOMING: Southern Surf StompFest, Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Mod-Palm Springs, Tiki Mondays With Miller, Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise

Russell Mofsky and Gold Dust Lounge perform at The Hukilau in June 2015 at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by
Russell Mofsky and Gold Dust Lounge perform at The Hukilau in June 2015 at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by

Following the success of the monthly Southern Surf Stomp concerts (plus the cool blog and podcast), musician and instrumental music promoter Chad Shivers has organized the first Southern Surf StompFest, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 19, in Avondale Estates, Ga. The event will feature some of the region’s best surf, instrumental, and rockabilly bands plus food, drinks, vendors and prizes. The best part: It’s free and open all ages. The venue, Little Tree Art Studios, is northeast of Decatur, just 10 miles from Atlanta. Performing bands include some of the top names from past Southern Surf Stomp shows: Aqualads (Charlotte, N.C.), The Mystery Men? (Atlanta), Gold Dust Lounge (Miami), The Surge (Atlanta), The Beech Benders (Nashville, Tenn.), Caroline & the Ramblers (Atlanta), Ouroboros Boys (Asheville, N.C.), and El Capitan & the Band with No Name (Atlanta). DJ Dusty Booze will be spinning surf, rockabilly, and vintage rock ‘n’ roll between sets.
* Past coverage: Website of the week
* Get updates: Facebook | Twitter

Ohana: Luau by the Sea

The Fraternal Order of Moai has announced more details on Ohana: Luau by the Sea, scheduled for Oct. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are now on sale, and the full schedule has been announced for the first annual event that will feature live music, DJs, symposiums, contests, rum tastings, vendors, auctions, prizes, food and the legendary dinner show at The Mai-Kai restaurant. Most activities will take place at the host Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel. The Thursday kick-off party, themed to a circus sideshow, will take place at the nearby Kreepy Tiki Lounge. Live entertainment includes 9th Wave, the Stolen Idols, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, Cutback, and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. Just added: The Miami Rum Festival will present the Great Rum Challenge, featuring tastings and special competitions. Ohana: Luau by the Sea is a charity event that gives FOM members and friends a memorable escape another time and place. Proceeds benefit the Easter Island Foundation.
* More coverage: Rob’s Rum Guide
* Latest updates: Official site | Facebook page

The Caliente Tropics Resort, site of Mod Palm Springs and mid-century modern mecca.
The Caliente Tropics Resort, site of Mod Palm Springs and mid-century modern mecca.

Tickets are now on sale for the third annual Mod Palm Springs, set for Oct. 8-11 at the Caliente Tropics resort and featuring master of ceremonies Shag. Guests will actually purchase an event wristband, which provides access to all the events at the Caliente Tropics after 6 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This includes eight live bands, DJs, room parties, and a seminar by author Pete Morruzi on Sunday. Bands include the Martini Kings, Marty Lush and Brassiere ’66, Fono 66, the Jimmy Psycho Experiment, and The Outta Sites. Mod Palm Springs is open to the public before 6 p.m. Tickets are also available for special tours of Shag’s desert getaway (including delicious Daiquiris and deviled eggs). Two of the four tours are already sold out, so don’t delay. Also sold out is a one-of-a-kind “Cocktail Climb” with Shag aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, including special cocktails and entertainment. A few rooms at the hotel also still remain. You can also pre-order the official event mug, designed by Shag and manufactured by Eekum Bookum. Mod Palm Springs is a celebration of all things mid-century modern (architecture, fashion, cocktails, art and music), shaken and stirred with retro Tiki culture.
* More info: | Facebook page

Tiki Mondays With Miller returns to Pouring Ribbons in New York City for its “Autumnal Equinox Edition” on Oct. 19. Join Brian Miller and his crew as they celebrate their first anniversary of their events at the East Village cocktail bar.

Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise

The organizers of the annual Miami Rum Festival have announced their latest Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise, scheduled for Nov. 15-22 aboard Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas and including stops at distilleries in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Croix, and San Juan. This ultra exclusive experience is limited to 12 guests. The cruise, which begins and ends in Puerto Rico, also features rum seminars, tasting events, shopping, and excursions to rum distilleries and visitor centers. The first rum cruise was held in November 2011 [see photos], while the festival was launched in 2009. Miami Rum Renaissance Festival – the largest gathering of rum experts, professionals and enthusiasts in the world – returns for its eighth annual event April 15-17, 2016.
* More on the cruise: Rob’s Rum Guide
* On The Atomic Grog: Past coverage of Miami Rum Festival

The Hukilau 2016 featuring Shag

The Hukilau welcomes Shag for 15th anniversary bash in June

In announcing a return to the iconic Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel in Fort Lauderdale in June 2016, The Hukilau appears to be pulling out all the stops in presenting the most authentic Tiki experience for its guests. In addition to celebrating its 15th anniversary, the June 8-12 event will also honor the 60th birthday of the historic Mai-Kai restaurant. If that’s not enough, the guest of honor will be famed artist Shag (aka Josh Agle), whose artwork not only helped define the style of the Tiki revival, but also brought mid-century to the mainstream consciousness through his work for Disney.

Attendees at this year’s event in June, the first to be held at the 59-year-old hotel with its distinctive tower, voted it “best hotel in The Hukilau’s history.” In an announcement sent Aug. 20 to e-mail list subscribers, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White promised an expanded slate of activities, including poolside parties, DIY Tiki craft projects, a fashion show, and more. Tickets go on sale and reservations can be made starting in October, White announced.

The first Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau in June 2015 included bar teams from Lost Lake in Chicago (left), Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City, and Latitude 29 in New Orleans. (Photo by
The first Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau in June 2015 included bar teams from Lost Lake in Chicago (left), Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City, and Latitude 29 in New Orleans. (Photo by

The California-based Shag, who last attended The Hukilau in 2010, is making a rare East Coast appearance. In addition to providing signature artwork for the event (see above), he’ll be available for signings of his book and The Hukilau 2016 official poster, plus he’ll host a rare symposium. And tickets are likely to sell out fast for a very special event at which guests are invited to become a character in a living Shag painting in “Shag’s SkyLounge,” held appropriately in the retro-futuristic revolving lounge in the 17th floor Pier Top Lounge. Tickets for this event also go on sale in October.

The lounge with the spectacular views will also again host the Tiki Tower Takeover, a gathering of Tiki’s top bartenders for a one-of-a-kind cocktail party featuring signature cocktails along with appetizers added to the menu in 2016. In tribute to The Mai-Kai, there will be a showcase of the restaurant’s history, select special events, tours and a collectible Rum Barrel mug.

More on The Atomic Grog
Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary, The Mai-Kai’s 60th in 2016
Official sites: | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram

QUICK HITS: New Tiki bars in Las Vegas, Toronto

The Golden Tiki is a Disney-meets-Vegas bar and club featuring vintage cocktails and decor from some of the Tiki art scene's biggest names. (Official photo)
The Golden Tiki is a Disney-meets-Vegas bar and club featuring vintage cocktails and decor from some of the Tiki art scene’s biggest names. (Official photo)

After soft opening in July, The Golden Tiki held its grand opening Aug. 22 in the Chinatown section of Las Vegas. Managing partner Brandon Powers spared no expense, enlisting A-list artists such as Tiki Diablo (the bar’s main designer), Bosko (who created 24 original pieces), and Doug Horne (who designed the cocktail menu). The venue is truly Disney-esque, with an animatronic talking Golden Tiki, an elaborate back-story and even its own Dole Whip machine. Of course, everything is bigger and more extreme in Vegas, and The Golden Tiki is no exception with different themed areas (Headhunter’s Village, Mermaids Cove, Pirates Lair) spread out over 4,000 square feet. There’s lots more excitement than your typical Tiki bar, with DJs and live entertainment on many nights attracting special guests such as Phil King of The Jesus and Mary Chain, who stopped by for an impromptu DJ set. But the bar is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so those seeking a quieter experience with their classic Tiki cocktails have ample opportunity. Powers, a veteran of the Vegas bar scene, caught the Tiki bug while hosting a weekly lounge event in the early 1990s at The Hanalei Hotel in San Diego. His event, called Taboo, was wildly popular but fell victim to short-sighted management who stripped the hotel of its vintage decor and tropical theme. The experience made such an impression on Powers, he wrote on Facebook, that the giant clamshell waterfall he installed in The Golden Tiki is modeled after the ones he “loved so much at The Hanalei.” Earlier this month, Powers made a triumphant return to The Hanalei, now the Crowne Plaza Hotel and site of the 15th annual Tiki Oasis (see recap above). The Golden Tiki made a spectacular splash with a room party themed to Taboo and featuring many of Powers’ old associates. Get more on The Golden Tiki on the official website and Facebook page.
* Press coverage: Come2Vegas blog | Critiki News

The Shameful Tiki Room

The Shameful Tiki Room in Vancouver has announced that a second location will be opening soon in Toronto. A lease has reportedly been signed for a 1,400-square-foot space that will hopefully open by Christmas. Rod Moore – a hardcore Tiki enthusiast, carver and designer – opened The Shameful Tiki Room in March 2013 with classic Polynesian Pop decor and drinks. It also features food and live entertainment. The bar receives high ratings on the Critiki website, and hopes are high for the same level of quality in Toronto. Get updates on Facebook.
* Pres coverage: Post City Toronto | Critiki News

***** Links of the week*****
* Bartenders on where to drink Tiki cocktails (FED Guides)
* A crash course in Tiki history and its classic cocktails (Food & Wine)
* The pop-up Tiki bar that’s giving rum new life (Details)
* The enduring appeal of stealing Tiki mugs (Vice Food)
* National Rum Month: 9 cocktails to order from Guatemala to Panama City (Latin Times)
* National Rum Day, Florida style (Palm Beach Illustrated)
* Your guide to celebrating National Rum Day (Los Angeles Times)
* Yo, ho, ho! Here’s where to celebrate National Rum Day (USA Today)
* Six super cocktails to celebrate national rum day (Forbes)
* Plantation Rums brings out the rarities at Tales of the Cocktail 2015 (Cocktail Wonk)
* Forget adding Coke. Why it’s time to start drinking rum straight (The Globe and Mail)
* Every recipe you need to throw a Tiki party (Epicurious)
* Wildwood’s Vintage Weekend: Preservation with a Tiki twist (PreservationNation)
* This couple secretly threw a wedding At Disneyland (LAist)
* Ailing surf guitar legend Dick Dale is touring to stay alive – literally (Billboard)

"Dig that Summer Groove" by Christine Benjamin, featured on the cover of the summer issue of Tiki Magazine & More.
“Dig that Summer Groove” by Christine Benjamin, featured on the cover of the summer issue of Tiki Magazine & More.

ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Christine Benjamin
One of the cool things about the Tiki art scene is how it continues to evolve and attract talented artists yearning to express their wildest creations, giving them a platform not found elsewhere. Christine Benjamin is a perfect example. A graduate of San Jose State University, she did freelance work for companies such as Yahoo!, Hitachi, Apple and Hasbro. But her passion is creating dolls, drawings and paintings of Tikis, monsters, aliens, animals and wide-eyed girls. In no time, her art was embraced by the Tiki art community, landing her work at shows in galleries across the country, at Tiki Oasis, and the coveted cover of Tiki Magazine & More, Issue 6. Benjamin, who also teaches and curates shows in the San Francisco Bay area, found her true love in Tiki and mid-century style. Her approach is both familiar and distinctively her own, inspired by mid-century and Tiki themes but peppered with her own idiosyncratic characters. Just three years after her first solo Tiki art show, Benjamin is firmly established as a creative new force in an art community that welcomes fresh new ideas with open arms.
* Find Christine: Official website | Tumblr | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Etsy
* See past artists of the week

The Tikiyaki Orchestra: Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures

The Tikiyaki Orchestra

If one were to imagine the soundtrack to the 21st century Tiki revival, it likely would sound something like The Tikiyaki Orchestra. Melding classic exotica and jazz with surf and a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility, the band led by guitarist Jim Bacchi burst onto the scene with StereoExotique (2007). Composed of an all-star lineup of contemporary musicians, the band quickly became a favorite at events across the country, releasing two more albums in short order: Swingin’ Sounds for the Jungle Jetset (2009) and Aloha, Baby (2011). Now, after a more extended break from recording, Bacchi is back with a revamped lineup and fourth album, Idol Worship and Other Primitive Pleasures. Available on CD and transparent red vinyl (plus the ubiquitous downloads), the album oozes with a renewed energy and raw production, delving into unexplored territory like spaghetti western (Paniolo) and sci-fi (The Final Transmission). The latter was undoubtedly a hit at the recent space-age-themed Tiki Oasis in San Diego, where the band rocked the house during the opening night party at the Bali Hai and performed a memorable set as the four-piece Tikiyaki 5-0 in the Lost In Space room party (see full report above). Go to the The Tikiyaki Orchestra store to pick up a copy of Idol Worship plus previous CDs, T-shirts, mugs, and more.
* | Facebook | Twitter
* Buy on Amazon: Idol Worship | More digital downloads | Albums
* All past bands/music of the week

The Tonga  Hut was restored to its original glory after owner Jeremy Fleener took the helm in November 2005. (
The Tonga Hut was restored to its original glory after owner Jeremy Fleener took the helm in November 2005. (

Tonga Hut, Los Angeles

The oldest Tiki bar in the city where Tiki bars were born, the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood has come a long way. Not just in the 57 years since its inception in 1958, but most importantly the past decade known as the rebirth. The 10th anniversary of the rebirth was celebrated at a festive event in March in honor of owner Jeremy Fleener, who took over the neglected establishment and turned it around, later partnering with Tiki Magazine & More publisher Amy Boylan in 2011. The bar’s vintage decor was restored and enhanced by local artists and collectors, the cocktail menu was upgraded (first with Kelly “Hiphipahula” Reilly, now with Marie King behind the bar), and the Tonga Hut became one of the go-to spots for Tikiphiles in Southern California. Sundays are set aside for a gathering of the tribe, with DJ Tonga Tom spinning exotica, surf and lounge music. Special events that take over the parking lot outside are a regular occurrence, and the resurgent Tonga Hut has been so successful it spawned a second location in Palm Springs in 2013. One of the most beloved features of the Tonga Hut (besides the vintage decor) is The Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard, an ever-growing legion of regulars who have consumed all 78 cocktails from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s groundbreaking 1998 book, Grog Log (see press coverage below). A newer group activity is the Rhum Rum Club, which features tastings and talks by noted experts. And don’t forget the extensive happy hour (4 to 8 p.m. daily), well-curated jukebox and occasional live bands. From the brink of despair 10 years ago, the Tonga Hut has come back in a big way.
* | Facebook page | Twitter
* Critiki profile, photos | Tiki Central discussion
* Press coverage: The Grog Log: Completed (Stir and Strain)
Tales of the Grog Log: My year-long, 78-drink Tiki marathon (Tales of the Cocktail)
* See past Tiki bars of the week

Luxuria Music

Luxuria Music

While you may think of streaming Internet radio as a hot new trend in the age of tablets and souped-up cellphones, Luxuria Music has been an essential outlet for fans of an eclectic array of musical styles for the past 15 years. There’s a niche for every taste on Luxuria Music: Surf, Bossa Nova, exotica, jazz, Latin, go-go, plus film and TV sounds of the past 50 years, carefully curated and programmed to conjure up a “highly intoxicating and sometimes hallucinatory” experience. Among the many shows of interest to Tikiphiles are Intoxica with Howie Pyro (Tuesdays, 9-11 p.m.), Over Under Sideways Down with Lee Joseph (Wednesdays, 3-5 p.m.), Madly Cocktail with Kat Griffin (Wednesdays, 5-7 p.m.), Fiberlass Jungle with Jonpaul Balak (Saturdays, 2-4 p.m.), and Thrifting for Tunes with John Trivisonno (Sundays, 6-7 p.m.). While physically based in in Glendale, Calif., Luxuria Music transcends time and space to provide listeners with a trip back (or perhaps sideways) in time to a different reality where music really matters. On top of all the great streaming music, the site also features podcasts and blog posts by many of the notable DJs, plus an online store.
* Listen now at | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram
* Luxuria Music proves that free-form eclectic radio is alive and well (LA Beat)
* See past websites of the week

Koloa Hawaiian Rum made a splash with three awards at the 2014 Miami Rum Festival: Koloa Dark, Koloa Coconut, and Koloa Gold. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Koloa Hawaiian Rum made a splash with three awards at the 2014 Miami Rum Festival: Koloa Dark, Koloa Coconut, and Koloa Gold. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Hand-crafted from Hawaiian “tall cane” sugar and Kauai’s pure water sources, Koloa Dark is one of the award-winning, premium, single-batch Hawaiian rums produced at the beautiful distillery near the town of Kalaheo. It won a gold medal at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in 2014, where I first noted its distinctive flavor. It’s actually darker in the bottle than its taste would imply, milder than most dark rums but still a fine mixer in cocktails. It’s sweet but not cloying, with caramel, vanilla and molasses flavors dominant along with hints of spice. This unique product should appeal to both connoisseurs and casual drinkers who might normally prefer spiced rum. Check here for retailers in your area.
* Koloa Rum: Official site | Facebook | Twitter
Pintrest | Instagram
* Related rum of the week: Koloa Coconut
* See all past rums of the week

Kahuna Kevin's Escape Pod, featuring Koloa Dark rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2015)
Kahuna Kevin’s Escape Pod, featuring Koloa Dark rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2015)

Escape Pod

(From Kahuna Kevin’s Tiki Cocktails Vol. III)

* 2 ounces coconut juice/water
* 1 1/2 ounces Hawaiian dark rum (Koloa)
* 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce rich sugar syrup (2:1 sugar to water)
* 1/2 ounce pineapple juice
* 1/4 ounce Grand Marnier
* 2 dashes Angostra bitters
* 1 dash cinnamon powder
Shake with a heaping cup of crushed ice for at least 10 seconds. Pour into a coconut mug or Tiki mug, adding additional crushed ice as needed. Garnish with plenty of mint, plus a skewered orange peel and pineapple wedge.

Kahuna Kevin proves that mild Tiki cocktails don’t need to be cloyingly sweet or lacking in flavor with this creative creation from his new recipe book, Kahuna Kevin’s Tiki Cocktails Vol. III. Koloa Dark shines brightly as the centerpiece flavor, balanced by sour, bitter and sweet nuances. The classic Angostura bitters and Grand Marnier orange liqueur are icing on the cake.

Note: You can pick up Kevin’s new book via his official website. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter for special deals, such as a free bottle of his new small-batch cocktail bitters. He also has mugs (by Tiki Diablo) and other merchandise. The renegade mixologist was also just honored with a second consecutive “best cocktail” award during the Tiki Oasis room crawl (see story above).
* See all past cocktails of the week

SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events

Fong Fest

***** In Florida *****
* Oct. 1-3 – Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Fort Lauderdale. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* April 15-17, 2016 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* June 8-12 – The Hukilau, Fort Lauderdale. [Atomic Grog coverage]

***** On the Eastern Seaboard *****
* Oct. 17 – The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival.
* June 23-26, 2016 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y. [Atomic Grog coverage]

Makahiki: A Night of Tiki

***** Across the U.S. *****
* Sept. 11-13 – Denver Modernism Show.
* Sept. 12 – California Rum Fest, San Francisco.
* Sept. 12 – Fong Fest at Chef Shangri-La, Chicago.
* Sept. 18-19 – Dapper Day Expo, Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim.
* Sept. 19 – Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Indianapolis, Ind.
* Sept. 23 – Tonga Room 70th anniversary, San Francisco.
* Sept. 26 – Thee Hot Rod Luau at Don the Beachcomber, Huntington Beach, Calif.
* Oct. 8-11 – Mod Palm Springs, Palm Springs, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Dec. 4 – Midwest Rum Fest, Louisville, Ky.
* April 14-17, 2016 – Viva Las Vegas
* May 12-15 – Tiki Caliente, Palm Springs, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* July 8-10 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Aug. 18-21 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]

***** Worldwide *****
* Sept. 26-28 – Rome Rumfest, Italy.
* Oct. 3-4 – German Rum Festival,, Berlin.
* Oct. 17-18 –
UK RumFest, London.
* Nov. 6-7 – Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival, St. Maarten.

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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