Minimalist Tiki

The Week in Tiki (Oct. 5-18, 2015): Tiki Mondays with Miller 2015 finale, Hulaween at The Mai-Kai, world’s best bars honored

The Week in Tiki This week’s Tiki update has a New York City and Halloween bent. Get the latest on Tiki Mondays with Miller, Hulaween at The Mai-Kai, and find out which Tiki establishments are among the world’s 50 best bars. We also have details on the future of the iconic mid-century TWA terminal at JFK International Airport, and a recap of Mod-Palm Springs. Regular features honor master carver and sculptor Gecko; the loungy horror sci-fi sounds of The Jimmy Psycho Experiment; New York City Tiki bar Otto’s Shrunken Head; and the Rated R Cocktails website. The Rum of the Week, Hamilton 86, is featured in the Guyanese Zombie from the late Tiki bar PKNY.
* 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

A Bum crashes the Tiki Mondays with Miller party

Tiki Mondays with Miller: Autumnal Equinox Edition

Tropical mixology’s skurvy dogs will host their final event of the year at Pouring Ribbons in New York City on Monday, Oct. 19. Tiki Mondays with Miller: Autumnal Equinox Edition will also feature a very special guest: Author and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry will join swashbuckling barman Brian Miller and company for one last 2015 celebration of rum rhapsodies.

Besides “an assortment of bloody good Tiki tipples,” Miller promises a new limited-edition long-sleeve shirt for this Tiki Monday, emblazened with the motto “Keep Calm & Drink Zombies.” Look for cocktails to include sponsor products such as Rhum Barbancourt, The Real McCoy rum, Atlantico rum, Yaguara cachaca, Black Bottle scotch, Ketel One vodka, and Kappa pisco.

Berry is lingering in the Big Apple after he and Miller helped judge Saturday’s The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival. The Bum was also spotted at the Otto’s Shrunken Head anniversary party (see Tiki Bar of the Week below). We’ll have coverage of the showdown in the next edition of The Week in Tiki.
* Facebook event: Tiki Mondays with Miller: Autumnal Equinox Edition

Appleton Rum specials, cash prizes announced for The Mai-Kai’s 7th Hulaween

Hulaween 2015 artwork by Fred Lammers
Hulaween 2015 artwork by Fred Lammers.

More deadly details have been revealed for the seventh annual Hulaween party at the famous Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, Oct. 30. Sponsor Appleton Rum will provide cash prizes for the costume contest, plus sample cocktails and giveaways. In addition, The Mai-Kai’s mixologists will be creating a special Appleton Zombie cocktail. The event is free, with festivities kicking off with happy hour from 5 to 7, then three sets of retro roots and rockabilly tunes by South Florida’s Slip and the Spinouts.

Around 10 p.m., the always creative costumes will be on parade in The Molokai bar. The judges will award $300 cash plus a $50 gift certificate from The Mai-Kai to the best creation. Second place will get $200 and third $100. Other prizes include a Tiki mug and Big Kahuna Pass from sponsor The Hukilau. The Atomic Grog will host happy hour with a special a playlist of eclectic Halloween tunes, including exotica, surf, and garage rock.

“Hulaween 7 – Night of the Zombie” salutes The Mai-Kai’s iconic cocktail as well as the ubiquitous flesh-eating creatures. Established in 1956, The Mai-Kai has been recognized as the best Tiki establishment in the world. It’s known for vintage tropical drinks and food, plus the Polynesian Islander Revue (est. 1961), the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.

Also on The Atomic Grog: See the full event preview

*** Friday, Oct. 30 – Hulaween 2015 – Night of the Zombie featuring Slip and the Spinouts at The Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. (954) 563-3272. Free admission. Happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. Live music and costume contest in The Molokai bar, 7 p.m.-midnight. Facebook event

Two Tiki favorites make list of world’s 50 best bars

The final ranking of the world’s 50 best bars for 2015, announced Oct. 8 by Drinks International magazine, includes two favorites of Tiki cocktail enthusiasts: The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach, No. 14) and Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco, No. 31). The list includes everything from speakeasies and luxury hotel bars to saloons, clubs and classic drinking dens.

Ron Zacapa cucumber punch at The Broken Shaker
Ron Zacapa cucumber punch at The Broken Shaker. (Facebook photo)

The fifth annual Top 50, which includes bars from 27 cities in 19 countries, is determined by votes of more than 400 international industry experts. London’s Artesian is No. 1 for the fourth year in a row. Dead Rabbit (New York), Nightjar (London), Employees Only (New York), and American Bar (London) round out the Top 5. European bars account for 23 selections, while U.S. bars occupy 14 spots. London is the top city with nine of the best bars, while New York City has eight.

The Broken Shaker is the East Coast’s only non-New York bar to be honored, jumping up to 14th from 22nd on the 2014 list. Located in the Freehand Miami hotel since 2012, The Broken Shaker was created as an experimental pop-up bar by craft cocktail gurus Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, who recently opened a second location in the Freehand Chicago. The tiny speakeasy meets tropical hideaway was named Best Hotel Bar in America at the 2015 Spirited Awards during Tales of the Cocktail in July.

Smuggler’s Cove has been on the exclusive Top 50 list all five years (it was No. 16 in 2014 and No. 30 in 2013). The Tiki cocktail mecca, established in 2009 by tropical drinks and spirits leader Martin Cate, has also been named one of the best bars in America by Esquire and Playboy, plus it has nabbed numerous awards as best cocktail bar in San Francisco.
* The Atomic Grog’s Tiki Bar of the Week: The Broken Shaker | Smuggler’s Cove
* The World’s 50 Best Bars official site | Drinks International

More coverage
* Broken Shaker ranked No. 14 of World’s 50 Best Bars (Miami New Times)
* Story, photos, list and links for all the bars (CNN)

Last flight for historic JFK terminal

New York’s JFK International Airport opened the doors to its classic TWA Flight Center terminal one last time Sunday, Oct. 18, before the building is turned into a luxury hotel. Opened in 1962, the iconic Expressionist-style building designed by acclaimed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen has been closed since 2001, when TWA went out of business.

The TWA Flight Center building at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2006
The TWA Flight Center building at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2006. (Flickr photo by pheezy via Wikimedia Commons)

Sunday’s event was part of the Open House New York program that allows visitors to tour the city’s landmarks. Among the other sites on the tour schedule is the Tent of Tomorrow, a relic that still stands in the crumbling New York State Pavilion Complex at the 1964’s World’s Fair site at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The JFK terminal, on the other hand, is in much better shape. Hailed as the “Grand Central of the Jet Age,” it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Its dramatically curved, concrete shell design is one iof the most celebrated examples of modernist mid-century architecture. Saarinen died in 1961, before he could see his finished masterpiece.

When it opened, the terminal was a modern marvel, one of the first with enclosed passenger jetways, closed-circuit television, a central public-address system, baggage carousels, electronic schedule board and baggage scales, and the satellite clustering of gates away from the main terminal. It did not age well, however, struggling to handle larger planes and higher passenger volume in the decades that followed.

Even after it was clear the building was no longer able to handle air traffic, it was restored to its former glory and hailed as a local and national treasure. The $265 million redevelopment plan calls for a hotel opening by 2018 with eight restaurants, more than 500 guest rooms, meeting rooms, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck. It will also feature a museum celebrating New York City’s role as the birthplace of the Jet Age of intercontinental travel.
* See the full story, photos from CNN
* Here’s what the hotel at JFK’s iconic TWA terminal will look like (

Re-live Mod-Palm Springs in the Zen Tiki Lounge

The third annual Mod-Palm Springs, held Oct. 8-11 at the Caliente Tropics resort, was such a blast that those party-mongers at Zen Tiki Lounge recorded two special live podcasts surrounding the event:
* Episode 339: Mod-Palm Springs invades Bootlegger Tiki
* Episode 340: Live at Mod-Palm Springs: The Asparagus Surprise

Mod-Palm Springs in the Zen Tiki Lounge

In episode 339, join host Sunshine Tiki and company at Bootlegger Tiki, the new-school Tiki bar with an old-school pedigree. Head bartender Chad Austin joins the party to discuss the site’s history as an original Don The Beachcomber location and its reincarnation as a craft cocktail Tiki joint. In episode 340, Mod-Palm Springs co-hosts Rory “Wildsville Man” Snyder and Shag join the gang live before a festive audience. Members of The Do-Its and The Outta Sites also drop by to talk about their bands and performing at the event.

Mod-Palm Springs is a joint effort by Shag the Store and Snyder, who also produces the annual Tiki Caliente in the desert destination known as the world’s epicenter of mid-century style. Special events included tours of Shag’s desert hideaway and a “Cocktail Climb” with Shag aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Other bands lending their talents were Martini Kings, The Jimmy Psycho Experiment, Marty Lush and Brassiere ’66, Tiki Tronic, and Fono 66.

Judging by the photos online, the room parties were the highlight for many. They included bashes hosted by Zen Tiki Lounge and the town’s two Tiki hotspots, Bootlegger Tiki and the Tonga Hut. The winners in the annual judging were TikiTronic (Best Overall Room), Danger 5 (Best Cocktail), and Flaming Tiki (Best Decor/Theme).
* Mod-Palm Springs Facebook pages: Event | Room crawl

***** Links of the week*****
* Meet Bamboo Ben, professional Tiki bar designer (Tales of the Cocktail)
* Weeki Wachee Mermaids to swim at Audubon Aquarium (Gambit)
* Rebirth of the Aloha Shirt (Hawaii Business Magazine)
* This man invented his dream job … and now travels the world drinking rum (Metro)
* Tiki culture is back, here’s everything you need to know (Uproxx)
* Photos: Tiki-Ti in Los Feliz is the Tiki god of bars (LAist)
* Tiki time: Fruity drinks and flowered shirts are only the beginning (Las Vegas Weekly)
* Golden Tiki goes all in to set Polynesian mood (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
* A Tiki bar is coming to the old Islander space (The Washington Post)
* Tropical Tastes: New York City’s Mother of Pearl (Robb Vices)
* ‘The Rhum Chef’ Paul Yellin brings rum bar to Charleston (Eater)


Oahu-based Gecko is a multi-talented artist, creating everything from carved Tikis, to black velvet paintings, to Tiki bar decor, to wildly creative mugs. A native of Hawaii with Tiki in his blood, Gecko began his art career in 1998, carving Tikis in the traditional styles found in the Marquesas, Tahiti, Rapa Nui, New Zealand and Hawaii. He established Gecko’z South Sea Arts, which provides Tikis for restaurants, bars and individual clients. Gecko branched into sculpting in 2004, and his one-of-a-kind and limited edition mugs and ceramics have become highly-sought-after collectibles. His Fat Lava edition ceramics can fetch $500 or more. Gecko is nothing short of prolific, sculpting his own designs and also collaborating with a who’s who of today’s Tiki art scene (Squid, Doug Horne, Robert Jimenez, et al.).
* Official website | Facebook
* Gecko’z South Sea Arts mugs on Ooga-Mooga
* See past artists of the week

The Jimmy Psycho Experiment

The Jimmy Psycho Experiment

It makes perfect sense, yet also makes no sense at all: Spooky sci-fi punk-rock lounge music. This “experiment” was born in 2011 in Los Angeles from the macabre mind of Jimmy Psycho, a musician/composer/performer/actor from New York who established his horror music cred with theatrical psychobilly band Psycho Charger. Originally composed of loungy horror movie themes, The Jimmy Psycho Experiment song list now includes sci-fi, spy, classic rock, and punk-rock songs, all done lounge style. Live shows (and a debut CD, Mad Monster Cocktail Party) were launched in 2013, featuring a spectacle of over-the-top costumes, audio-visual effects, and burlesque dancers. The album is a cool accompaniment to any swank Halloween party. A new LP, Intergalactic Playboy, was released in April with such classic covers as Space Oddity, Fly Me to the Moon, Telstar, and Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme).
* Facebook | Twitter | Reverb Nation
* Amazon: Intergalactic Playboy download | Mad Monster Cocktail Party CD / Download
* All past bands/music of the week

Don’t miss: The Jimmy Psycho Experiment is in the midst of a busy Halloween season. After performing at Mod-Palm Springs and The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, the band will take part in the Curse of the Tiki Variety Show at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Oct. 30.

Otto's Shrunken Head

Otto’s Shrunken Head

While New York City Tiki bars seem to be an endangered species, lucky 13-year-old Otto’s Shrunken Head remains a bastion of tropical drinks and live entertainment in the East Village. When it opened on Oct. 19, 2002, in the old Barmacy space, Otto’s created a new Tiki bar template by combining traditional decor and potent rum cocktails with live bands and DJs. Many other bars have come and gone in that time, but Otto’s is still going strong with an eclectic assortment of live music, from lounge/exotica, rockabilly, punk, and country to rock, garage, metal, surf and acoustic/singer/songwriter. There are tons of regular events, such as Primativa in Hi-Fi on the third Wednesday and Unsteady Freddie’s Surf-Rock Shindig on the first Saturday of every month, and there’s never a cover charge. The cozy space (posted capacity is just 74) on East 14th Street features many vintage touches, such as pufferfish lamps and hand-carved Tikis (by artists Wayne Coombs and Crazy Al Evans), along with an old-school photo booth. The cocktail menu boasts an assortment of Tiki classics (Mai Tai, Zombie, Suffering Bastard), plus Otto’s originals such as the Shrunken Head (served in Otto’s own Tiki Farm mug), Pang’s Punch, and Naughty Nell. The drinks won’t break the bank and most come in mugs you can take home. Otto’s is a very lively, fun little bar that combines creative events with authentic decor and an enthusiastic staff to create a one-of-kind environment.
* | Facebook page | Twitter | Instagram
* Critiki profile | Tiki Central discussion
* See past Tiki bars of the week

Rated R Cocktails

Rated R Cocktails

Mixologist and blogger Joey Schmidt enthusiastically embraces not only Tiki cocktails in all their various permutations, but also the dark side of pop culture kitsch. As a result, his Rated R Cocktails blog has the feel of a year-round Halloween Tiki party. But it’s during October when the the Alabama-based JFL, as he’s also known, really gets into the spirit of the “Dark Isles” with such spooky gems as Rotenone, Darkness Falls, Hula Ghoul, and The Haunted Hut Daiquiri. The blog also contains a handy cocktail list featuring all of Schmidt’s creepy creations.
* | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
* Tiki Talk with Joey Schmidt (The Whiskey Thief)
* See past websites of the week

Hamilton 86

RUM OF THE WEEK: Hamilton 86
One of the most highly anticipated new rums by Tiki cocktail connoisseurs, Hamilton 86 was released in early 2015 along with a companion 151-proof rum from Guyana, meeting an urgent need for a traditional Demerara-style mixer. The brainchild of rum expert and importer Ed Hamilton of the Ministry of Rum, Hamilton 86 is a blend of aged pot still and column still rums (up to 5 years old) from Demerara Distillers in Guyana, imported and bottled at 86 proof in New York. It’s equally smoky and sweet, with a rich woody flavor that can hold its own with any Demerara rum on the market. Subtle dried fruit and tobacco notes add complexity, and the slightly higher proof kick provides a raw and potent edge that shines in complex tropical cocktails, including the Navy Grog, Three Dots and a Dash and more.
* More on Hamilton rums from Guyana at The Mai-Kai
* 5 Minutes of Rum podcast review
* See all past rums of the week

Guyanese Zombie featuring Hamilton 86 and 151 rum from Guyana. Sam's Shrunken Head mug by Sam Gambino for Tiki Farm (2005). (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, October 2015)
Guyanese Zombie featuring Hamilton 86 and 151 rums from Guyana. Sam’s Shrunken Head mug by Sam Gambino for Tiki Farm (2005). (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, October 2015)

Guyanese Zombie

(As served at PKNY, New York City, circa 2013; created by Helena Tiare Olsen of A Mountain of Crushed Ice)

* 2 ounces Demerara rum (Hamilton 86)
* 1 ounce fresh Pineapple juice
* 1 ounce honey syrup (mix equal parts honey, water)
* 1 teaspoon coconut cream (Coco Lopez or Coco Real)
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce 151-proof Demerara rum (Hamilton 151)
Dry shake everything excpet the 151 rum, then pour over crushed ice in a goblet or appropriate mug. Float the 151. Garnish with Demerara sugar, a lime wedge, and a brandied cherry.

This version of the recipe is from the short-lived but influential Big Apple Tiki bar PKNY (2010-2013), as published in Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde: Recipes for the World’s Most Lethal Drink, the 2013 book by David J. Montgomery. [See review, more recipes] It’s rich and savory, a great showcase for the Hamilton rums from Guyana. Pineapple, coconut and honey are all perfect foils for the Demerara rums, which pack a punch but are tempered by the sweetness.

The “dry shake” (without ice), a PKNY signature technique, keeps cocktails from becoming too diluted. Float more than 1/2 ounce of 151 rum if you desire a more deadly drink. Shake with ice if you seek more dilution. But the Guyanese Zombie is pretty outstanding as is, one of the best new recipes in Professor Cocktail’s book. The Guyanese Zombie was actually created by rum and Tiki cocktail blogger Helena Tiare Olsen as the Guyana Zombie, first published on her A Mountain of Crushed Ice blog in 2009 [See recipe]. It reappeared in her 2013 reveiw of Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde.
More Zombies on The Atomic Grog
* Mai-Kai cocktail review: A near-perfect Zombie, the classic deadly cocktail
* Zombie alert: 5 crucial things you need to know about the deadly cocktail
* We be Jammin: Rum Renaissance Zombie fest at The Mai-Kai
* See all past cocktails of the week

SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag

***** In Florida *****
* Oct. 30 – Hulaween, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Dec. 28 – 59th Anniversary Customer Appreciation Party, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
* April 15-17, 2016 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* June 8-12, 2016 – The Hukilau, Fort Lauderdale. [Atomic Grog coverage]

***** On the Eastern Seaboard *****
* June 23-26, 2016 – Ohana: Luau At The Lake at The Tiki Resort, Lake George, N.Y. [Atomic Grog coverage]

Curse of the Tiki 2

***** Across the U.S. *****
* Oct. 30 – Curse of the Tiki Variety Show, Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach
* Dec. 4 – Midwest Rum Fest, Louisville, Ky.
* April 14-17, 2016 – Viva Las Vegas
* May 12-15, 2016 – Tiki Caliente, Palm Springs, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* July 8-10, 2016 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Aug. 18-21, 2016 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]

***** Worldwide *****
* 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.)

3 Replies to “The Week in Tiki (Oct. 5-18, 2015): Tiki Mondays with Miller 2015 finale, Hulaween at The Mai-Kai, world’s best bars honored”

  1. btw the dry shake was not in the original recipe, I wonder how much difference it makes? have you tried both recipes? it makes me curious…

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