Minimalist Tiki

The Week in Tiki (Dec. 14-31, 2015): Preview new Tiki bars coming in 2016, festive New Year’s events, a new Kon-Tiki voyage, plus more!

The Week in Tiki After an exciting year that saw many new Tiki bars open across North America, lots more are in store for 2016. Preview what’s coming, plus get a quick New Year’s event guide. We have news on a new Kon-Tiki sailing the South Pacific, plus a traditional Hawaiian vessel traveling the globe. Quick sips include the Flor de Caña rum controversy, Santas hanging ten in Cocoa Beach, plus help for an ailing Laramie Dean. Regular features spotlight velvet painting master Edgar Leeteg; Tiki party band Ding Dong Devils; Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel; and the Cocktail Wonk website. The Rum of the Week, El Dorado 5, is featured in the Demerara Flip from The Atomic Grog.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

2016 will welcome new Tiki bars to Pittsburgh, Portland (Maine), Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle

It’s not a stretch to say that 2015 was a landmark year in the 21st century Tiki revival when you look at all the high-profile, authentically themed Tiki bars that opened in North America: Lost Lake in Chicago, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World, The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, and The Shameful Tiki Room in Toronto all burst onto the scene, along with several others that we’ll recap in our year-end special, The Year in Tiki.

Modern Caribbean Rum
 The signature Hidden Harbor cocktail at the upcoming Tiki bar of the same name, opening in Pittsburgh in January. (Photo provided by Adam Henry)
The signature Hidden Harbor cocktail at the upcoming Tiki bar of the same name, opening in Pittsburgh in January. (Photo provided by Adam Henry)

The good news is this was not a freak occurrence. More great bars are on the way in 2016, according to recent news reports, and all appear to have the same commitment to quality drinks, traditional Tiki decor and theming. The craft food and cocktail community is embracing Tiki in a big way, with no let-up in sight. Here’s what we can look forward to next year:

Opening in Pittsburgh in January, Hidden Harbor will feature a 7-foot custom-made Tiki by Crazy Al Evans and authentic Tiki cocktails (including classics such as a flaming Scorpion Bowl) created by co-owner and cocktail director Adam Henry. “The space and concept will be a bit more contemporary than the typical Tiki bar, with an emphasis on original drinks,” Henry said via email. Henry and his partners own The Independent Brewing Company, which sits next to Hidden Harbor in the Squirrel Hill section of the city. The space is small (50 seats) but features a bar area and more intimate lounge, plus a chef-run kitchen serving small, tropical-themed plates.
* Follow Hidden Harbor: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
* Press coverage: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Pittsburgh Magazine

Farther up the East Coast in Maine, where Tiki is rare, a new bar is set to open this winter. Rhum in downtown Portland “will be a refined take on Tiki with a distinctly Portland, Maine flavor,” restaurateur Jason Loring announced in a press release. “Elegant, modern translations of classic Tiki dishes will be bolstered with an impressive raw bar featuring local seafood.” The bar will also feature “contemporary counterparts, and a large format program for team tippling.” Translation: Get ready for more Scorpion bowls. Rhum will also feature skull-themed Tiki mugs handmade by local artists in a variety of shapes and sizes. Look for Rhum as early as mid- to late January.
* Press coverage from Maine Eater

Bamboo Ben
Bamboo Ben Bassham will be building the new Pacific Seas bar at Clifton’s in Los Angeles.

On the West Coast, a new Tiki bar is in the works at a recently reopened classic establishment. Clifton’s (aka Clifton’s Cafeteria) in downtown Los Angeles, a landmark that originally opened in 1935, has been undergoing a massive $14 million refurbishment since its purchase by new owners in 2010. After being closed for four years, it officially reopened to much fanfare on Oct. 1. The immersive 47,000-square-foot, four-story space retains its original rustic charm, featuring modernized comfort food and updated decor that still pays homage to its roots as an oasis for the everyman. As part of the renovations, the original 1904 building facade was restored after the removal of an aluminum facade that was added in 1963. The revamped Clifton’s includes multiple dining and drinking establishments, some still in the works. A Polynesian-themed Tiki bar is being built on the fourth floor, to be named the Pacific Seas in honor of the original 1931 Clifton’s location. Legendary Tiki bar builder Bamboo Ben Bassham has confirmed that he will be working on the project beginning in January. “It will be heavily Pacific Seas influenced with a ton of Bahooka’s flotsam and jetsam,” Bassham said. “The floor plan is really fun!” Clifton’s Pacific Seas (1939-1960) was a grand, tropical-themed cafeteria with waterfalls, huts, and lots of tropical decor. Bassham’s reference is undoubtedly to Bahooka Ribs & Grog (1976-2013), another classic SoCal Tiki establishment that was known for its expansive nautical decor.
* See all the press coverage from LA Eater

Martin Cate
Martin Cate

Fans of San Francisco’s Martin Cate, owner of the acclaimed Tiki/rum bar Smuggler’s Cove and new gin den Whitechapel, will be happy to see him lending his talents to a new Tiki bar in San Diego. Cate is joning forces with CH Projects (Polite Provisions, Noble Experiment) to launch False Idol, a “hidden Tiki bar” inside the revamped Craft & Commerce restaurant. Opening in the spring in the city’s booming Little Italy neighborhood, False Idol will likely be a multi-layered experience from these award-winning designers of both immersive concepts and state-of-the-art cocktail programs. Already on board are legendary Tiki bar designer Bosko Hrnjak and Paul Basile of Basile Studio, who designed many of the CH Projects bars and restaurants. “San Diego has long been one of my favorite cities, and I’m excited to help bring a fully-realized Tiki project to this thriving community,” Cate said in a press release. “With the operational expertise and fantastic creativity of the CH group, along with the legendary art of tiki pioneer Bosko, we can’t wait to welcome everyone to an unforgettable experience.” The space will reportedly be a unique dual-concept shared by the bar and revamped 2,500-square-foot restaurant.
* Press coverage: San Diego Eater | San Diego Food Finds | NBC 7 San Diego

Tiki artist Crazy Al Evans
Crazy Al Evans is reportedly working on artwork for several new Tiki bar projects, including one in San Francisco.

Although we haven’t seen an official announcement, the scuttlebutt in San Francisco is that an unnamed new Tiki-themed bar will be opening soon inside or adjacent to the hip Rickhouse. Apparently, Crazy Al Evans has been hard at work on Tikis for the new space, which we’ve heard could be ready by early spring. Small, hidden, craft cocktail bars are a new industry trend, best exemplified by the new Milk Room in Chicago that was recently opened by noted Tiki bar guru Paul McGee (creator of Lost Lake and Three Dots and a Dash). It’s unclear if False Idol or the new San Francisco bar will follow this model, but I’d be surprised if they don’t have some elements of this.

Finally, in the works for Seattle: A “Tiki-based cocktail spot” to be called Navy Strength. The collaboration between two of the city’s notable bar owners is scheduled to open in the summer at an undisclosed location. The bar will feature “a broader approach to Tiki, folding in its maritime origins (right down to the name, a reference to the mandatory potency of spirits the British Royal Navy stocked on its ships),” according to a story in Seattle Met. The bar will also include a full-service restaurant, the article says.

Aloha 2016! A Tiki New Year’s Eve events guide

 Rose-Marie performs in The Molokai bar on Dec. 28 during the 59th anniversary party at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.  (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Rose-Marie performs in The Molokai bar on Dec. 28 during the 59th anniversary party at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The annual revelry of Dec. 31 is usually the antithesis of a great Tiki bar. While your typical New Year’s Eve is full of loud, headache-inducing bashes featuring cheap champagne and overpriced food, most of the world’s Tiki establishments thrive on a quiet, dark environment featuring stellar cocktails and subdued celebrations. Our favorite place to ring in the new year is The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, where New Year’s Eve is just another night in paradise, save for a few party hats and noise-makers. Even though there’s no cover charge, the crowds are minimal and it’s the perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy great cocktails and small plates with like-minded Tiki bar enthusiasts. The Mai-Kai also offers several special New Year’s Eve performances of its famous Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. These dinner shows are popular and sell out fast, but there are other options for a more secluded, romantic NYE dinner in some of The Mai-Kai’s many dining rooms and outdoor gardens. Call (954) 563-3272 for more information or to make dinner reservations. South Floridians who can’t make it to The Mai-Kai and want a vintage musical experience for New Year’s are urged to ease into 2016 with the Stolen Idols at the Mermaid Tavern in Tampa. [Facebook event]

Across the country (and into Canada), many other high-profile Tiki establishments are offering special New Year’s Eve events, some a little more rowdy than others. But all are guaranteed to feature an authentic aloha spirit along with potent cocktails and unique entertainment. Here’s a small selection, moving from the South into the Midwest and partying late on the West Coast:

New Year's Eve at the Shameful Tiki Room in Toronto

* The venerable Trader Vic’s in Atlanta will ring in 2016 on island time with live music from the Disapyramids, who incorporate surf, mod, doo-wop, soul and rock ‘n’ roll into their high-energy beach party. [Ticket info]

* Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago will host a tropical luau with “Tiki classics and inspired cocktails” along with free leis and a guest DJ. [Ticket info]

Another frigid Midwest locale is offering a taste of the tropics: Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in Minneapolis is serving up an all-inclusive Polynesian Passport that includes appetizers, cocktails, live music from Ross Kleiner and the Thrill, unlimited use of the vintage photo booth, and “obligatory champagne toast.” [Facebook event]

New Year's Eve at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach

The new Shameful Tiki Room in Toronto is throwing its first New Year’s Eve party, dubbed “Welcome to the Jungle” and featuring wild and wooly go-go dancers, DJ Swankenstein and live rockabilly from The Greasemarks. The 1960s “pulp exotica” themed bash is free and also features a jungle-themed costume contest and the launch of the bar’s full drink menu, plus “tropical eats” all night. [Facebook event]

In San Francisco, Smuggler’s Cove is joining forces with rum and Tiki bar guru Martin Cate’s acclaimed new gin bar, Whitechapel, for a distinctive new experience. The New Year’s Eve package, which is now sold out, includes a special five-course dinner at Whitechapel followed by a party at the Cove featuring drinks and “actual” champagne toast at midnight, late night snacks, and more. [Ticket info]

Known for hosting the biggest bashes, Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach will not disappoint with its New Years Eve Rockin’ Luau Party featuring three top-notch musical performances: Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys , James Intveld, and The Hula Girls. The spacious restaurant’s Dagger Bar, Longboard Room and Hidden Village Ballroom will each host a different band, and there will be plenty of room to dance to the rockabilly, honkytonk, hulabilly and swing music while enjoying a full Hawaiian luau buffet. [Ticket info]

The Kon-Tiki returns to the South Pacific, Hawaiian canoe headed for NYC

The Kon-Tiki-2 on Dec. 18, after more than a month at sea and before arrving at Easter Island. (Photo from
The Kon-Tiki-2 on Dec. 18, after more than a month at sea and before arrving at Easter Island. (Photo from

A group of voyagers on a balsa wood raft dubbed Kon-Tiki-2 has arrived in Easter Island, nearly two months after setting sail from Peru in an attempt to re-create the 1947 journey of famed Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. But while the original mission sought to prove Heyerdahl’s theory that South Americans settled the Polynesian islands, the modern-day crew is on an environmental mission. A team of scientists is seeking answers to long-disputed questions about climate change and ancient migrations.
Mission updates: See photos and the latest news at

The Kon-Tiki-2 is a faithful re-creation of the rafts that Heyerdahl used on his original voyage. They’re steered by an early marine navigation method called guare boards and powered by a single cotton sail on each. The Kon-Tiki-2 rafts are fitted with 15th century technology to emulate Heyerdahl’s research. But while he effectively proved that such a journey could be completed, DNA testing of Polynesians later indicated that the islands were not settled by South Americans.

The mission began Nov. 7 and reached Easter Island on Dec. 19. Among the research topics of the 14 sailors and scientists are the increasing acidity and plastic pollution in the Pacific. The main area of study is the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area between California and Japan that is plagued by land runoff and beach pollution. The Southern Pacific part of this zone has been largely unexplored until now.


Heyerdahl’s journey ended after 101 days with his rafts beached on an atoll in the Tuamotu group of islands, some 4,300 miles from Peru. The Kon-Tiki-2, however, will begin its return trip to Peru in early January after its 3,100-mile journey to Easter Island. The return trip promises much rougher seas, and some experts warn that the odds are against it being completed. Peruvian and Chilean naval vessels are following closely, and a Norwegian rescue center is monitoring via satellite.

Mission leader and Norwegian historian Torgeir Higraff, 42, is no stranger to the South Pacific. In 2006, he led a raft expedition that broke Heyerdahl’s record by 30 days. But the current journey “will be the first time in the modern era that a round trip will be made,” he told the BBC.

The original Kon-Tiki, named after the Inca sun god, inspired Heyerdahl’s 1948 book The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas. The 1950 film Kon-Tiki won the best documentary Academy Award. All the attention made the Kon-Tiki a mid-century cultural touchstone and enduring icon of Polynesia. It had a profound impact on the burgeoning Polynesian Pop movement, providing the name for restaurateur Steve Crane’s popular restaurant chain, as well as apartment complexes and other establishments. The original Kon-Tiki raft is on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo.

* Kon-Tiki-2 press coverage: Living in Peru | Tass | Savannah Morning News
BBC News | Daily Mail

Meanwhile, a working replica of a traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe is on a three-year journey – with no modern instruments or navigational equipment – to draw attention to the effects of climate change, according to a New York Times story. The canoe, known as Hokule’a and built in 1975 by the Polynesian Voyaging Society to promote Hawaiian indigenous culture, is 62 feet long, double-hulled, and has two powerful sails. It has spent most of its time sailing around the Pacific, trying to help settle the debate (started by Heyerdahl) about the origins of early Polynesian settlers. The current journey, which began last year, will cover 60,000 nautical miles and include events along the way to raise awarness about the impact of climate change on the oceans. It’s scheduled to make a grand entrance to New York City in June, traveling down the Hudson River, according to The Times.
Mission updates: Live tracking map, photos and more at

Quick sips: Flor de Caña under fire, Santas surf Cocoa Beach, Laramie Dean battles back

Flor de Caña

Nicaragua’s leading rum producer, Flor de Caña, is facing a storm of criticism following revelations that workers in the sugarcane fields that supply the distillery are dying at an alarming rate. In Chichigalpa, home of the Flor de Caña rum factory, the rate of chronic kidney disease is more than six times the national average, according to the expose by Vice Munchies, a food-oriented online channel from Vice Media. Some bartenders and bar owners responded by dumping all their Flor de Caña rum down the drain and decrying the working conditions in the sugar cane industry. While others took a more measure approach, the revelations re-opened a controversial storyline in the rum industry, the Houston Press reported. In a follow-up article, the Press published a response to the allegations by the Nicaraguan company that provides the molasses used to produce Flor de Caña rum. The company says it has fixed or will be fixing many issues that have been raised, including worker access to rest, shade and hydration. Some noted rum experts also weighed in on the controversy, including Ed Hamilton of the Ministry of Rum. In an even-handed essay titled “The plight of the sugar cane cutter,” Hamilton relates his own first-hand knowledge (including a research stint as a cane cutter) and decades of experience in the industry. He takes a cautious approach to condemning Flor de Caña, which has been family-run by citizens of Nicaragua for more than a century. “This is not a multinational corporation that is exploiting everything and everyone in their path,” he wrote. “They have built an enviable business under very difficult conditions over many years and from my experience are more proactive toward improving the environmental and social impacts of their business than many others in the industry. Is there a lot more work to be done? Absolutely, but I also wish there were more companies like this one in the spirits industry.” Meanwhile, on the Cocktail Wonk blog (our latest Website of the Week), Matt Pietrek covers the issue in depth and also engages various experts in the comments. It’s a complicated issue that certainly demands attention. But as Pietrek and others point out, it deserves more than a knee-jerk reaction.

Surfing Santas

Celebrating the winter holidays in Florida is a truly unique experience. We have many odd rituals, but perhaps the coolest is the annual Surfing Santas event in Cocoa Beach. At the seventh annual gathering on Dec. 24, hundreds of surfers dressed as Santa rode the waves to raise money for two local non-profit organizations, Grind for Life and the Florida Surf Museum. Entertainment included a ukulele player who led hundreds of people in singing Christmas carols.

Laramie Dean at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, June 13, 2011
Laramie Dean at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach in June 2011 opening for Dick Dale. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Los Angeles-based surf guitarist Laramie Dean, a recent pick as our Band of the Week, is a true disciple of the legendary Dick Dale. Not only do they both play blisteringly good surf rock, both have unfortunately had their share of serious health issues. While Dale’s battle with cancer has become major news, Dean’s troubles are not as well known. After struggling with a serious staph infection that led to 24 surgeries, he’s now healthy enough to start performing again, making a triumphant return to the stage Dec. 11 in Hollywood to debut his new EP and short film (Laramie Dean Plays Guitar from Outer Space and Surf 9 From Outer Space). But Dean had to sell his extensive collection of guitars and most of his gear to pay medical bills. Friends loaned him equipment to pull off the concert, he recently revealed on Facebook. “At the urging of my family, who have helped with tens of thousands of dollars to help me over the past few years, I started a page to help with all the medical expenses I’ve had,” Dean wrote. “The support has been great, and encouraging. … Looking forward to being back on the road this year!” If you’re interested in helping out, click here for the GoFundMe page.
Past Atomic Grog coverage
* Photos: Laramie Dean and Jimmy Dale in South Florida
* Surf guitarst Laramie Dean, inspired by mentor Dick Dale, overcomes similar hurdles

***** Links of the week*****
* Introducing: The Shameful Tiki Room, a Polynesian paradise in Parkdale (Toronto Life)
* Tiki makes comeback with the opening of Rum Rok (The Sacramento Bee)
* An easy fix for your Tiki drinks: Tweaking your shake (Critiki News)
* Interview with Peter Holland of The Floating Rum Shack (The Rum Lab)
* The rum brands to watch in 2016 (The Spirits Business)
* Cienfuegos releases Cuban cocktails recipe book (New Times Broward-Palm Beach)
* Haiti’s Rhum Barbancourt Distillery offers hope to Port-au-Prince (Tales of the Cocktail)

Leeteg of Tahiti book

Widely known simply as Leeteg, this early 20th century artist is considered to be the father of American velvet painting. Born in St. Louis in 1904, he moved to Tahiti in 1933 with no more than a few brushes and paint to his name, creating his own distinctive style by using the island’s native women as models. He sold his seductive paintings to visiting sailors, gaining fame as the “American Gauguin.” Leeteg’s colorful paintings of young wahines (and some kanes) on black velvet became de rigueur in Polynesian bars and restaurants around the world during Tiki’s mid-century heyday. Leeteg died in a 1953 motorcycle crash in Papeete at age 49. During his lifetime, his paintings were sold for thousands of dollars, but critical acclaim alluded him. Nevertheless, Leeteg scoffed at the art establishment. “Call my paintings beautiful,” he said. “Don’t call them art.” Leeteg originals peaked in value in the 1960s, when they reportedly fetched up to $20,000. They’re worth considerably less today, but Leeteg’s iconic images are no less cherished by fans of authentic Polynesian Pop.
* Find Leeteg: Books, art on Amazon | Tiki Central discussion, photos
Art, photos on Museums Of Wonder | Images on American Gallery
* See past artists of the week

Ding Dong Devils

Ding Dong Devils

This Los Angeles-based quintet perfectly encapsulates today’s Tiki scene, mashing up a potent mix of surf, exotica, lounge, rockabilly, burlesque and garage rock into a festive package that’s impossible to ignore (or sit still for). The band’s latest self-released album, Space Fezcapade (2014), is a fun yet complex musical cocktail that includes guitar and steel guitar, mandolin, ukulele, electric and upright bass, organ, drums and percussion. Packed with 16 songs equally split between instrumentals and vocal tunes, the LP features a vintage sci-fi vibe and a wonderful cover that plays off the classic Les Baxter album Space Escapade. Previous album releases include Hello Little Olives! (2012) and Tassels, Mai-Tais & Mischief (2010). The lyrics in songs such as The Mai Kai and Tiki Kon also target Tikiphiles with many subtle and not-so-subtle references to Polynesian Pop and Tiki culture. Naturally, the band has a high-energy stage show that has made it a regular on the Tiki event circuit, from Tiki Oasis to The Hukilau.
* Official band Facebook page
* Buy Space Fezcapade from Dionysus Records: CD | Red vinyl LP
* Buy Ding Dong Devils music: CD Baby | Amazon | iTunes
* All past bands/music of the week

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel

BAR OF THE WEEK: Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland

When Disney imagineers first pitched the idea of a full-blown Tiki bar that combines elements of the iconic Enchanted Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise attractions, including animatronics and elaborately themed decor, the powers that be were allegedly skeptical. The Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim would be just fine with a generic tropical bar, they thought. Be thankful that they changed their mind and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar became a reality in 2011. Now a West Coast staple, Trader Sam’s quickly shed the “Disney bar” stigma to become one of the most authentically fun Tiki bar experiences in the world. From the impeccably detailed design, to the whimsical cocktails, to the interaction by the bartenders and automated props, Trader Sam’s is a completely immersive experience. Some top Tiki designers – including Oceanic Arts and Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily – contributed their talents. The background music is full of both modern Tiki and classic exotica tunes. The menu includes some tasty small bites, and the drinks (HippopotoMai-Tai, Shrunken Zombie Head, Uh Oa!, et al.) served in flamboyant Tiki Farm mugs are much better than you’d expect from Disney, thanks to some dedicated bartenders and a commitment to authentic, quality ingredients ( B.G. Reynolds syrups, 151 Demerara rum, etc.). The success of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar not only guaranteed it a spot on many top Tiki bar lists, it spurred Disney to double-down on the concept and open an East Coast counterpart, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, in 2015.
* Holiday drinks at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (Disney Food Blog)
* Official site | Facebook fan page | YouTube video: Overview | Drink recipe
* Critiki profile, ratings | Tiki Central discussion
* Past Atomic Grog coverage: Mahaloween 2014 recap, photos | All Trader Sam’s posts
* Atomic Grog tribute recipes: Uh Oa! | Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum
* See past Tiki bars of the week

Cocktail Wonk

The Cocktail Wonk is Matt Pietrek, a Microsoft Windows programming expert who wrote a number of books on that subject before turning his “wonky” attention to the much more lively topics of spirits, cocktails, mixology, and bars. Pietrek satisfies his natural curiosity on all of these matters (and his readers reap the rewards) with highly authoritative blog posts that include the latest news, reviews, and his own expert opinions on hot-button issues. Pietrek is not afraid to tackle such issues as the recent controversy regarding the death rate of Nicaraguan sugar cane harvesters who work for the Flor de Caña rum distillery. Nor is he in over his head when he explores in depth the cutting-edge efforts of the Lost Spirits Distillery, providing perhaps the most comprehensive coverage of this subject anywhere online. Pietrek also has a passion for rum and Tiki, and his posts on those topics show the same attention to detail. Minimalist Tiki: What you truly need to make the classics at home is must-reading, and one of many highlights of 2015 on Cocktail Wonk.
* | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
* See past websites of the week

El Dorado 5 is one of many outstanding rums from Demerara Distillers in Guyana. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2015)
El Dorado 5 is one of many outstanding rums from Demerara Distillers in Guyana. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2015)

RUM OF THE WEEK: El Dorado 5
It’s hard to beat this award-winning gold rum from Guyana for its combination of low price and big flavor. Overshadowed by the older cask-aged rums from the venerable Demerara Distillers, famous for its rich and smoky flavor profile that defines the Demerara rum subcategory, the 5-year-old rum (aged in bourbon oak barrels) can stand on its own as an essential mixer in Tiki cocktails as well as a budget sipper. Just ask Ed Hamilton of the Ministry of Rum, who listed it among his essential bottles in a recent Imbibe magazine article. A blend of aged rums from two of the distillery’s legendary stills, El Dorado 5 is dry and buttery with smoky, sweet and bitter elements creating a very complex flavor. Vanilla, coconut and fruit add to the well-balanced, robust profile.
* Official sites: Demerara Distillers| El Dorado | Facebook
* Related rums of the week: El Dorado 8 | El Dorado 12
* See all past rums of the week

(By Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)

Demerara Flip. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2015)
Demerara Flip. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, December 2015)

* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
* 1/2 ounce rich Demerara simple syrup
* 2 ounces Demerara rum
* 1 teaspoon pimento liqueur (aka allspice dram)
* 1-2 dashes Angustura bitters
* 1 whole egg
Dry shake (without ice) for 12-15 seconds. Add a cup of ice and shake again for 8-10 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Top with fresh grated nutmeg.

Sweet and creamy yet well-balanced by the smoky Demerara rum and spicy pimento liqueur, this eggnog riff is a sure holiday party pleaser. But it can also serve as a year-round treat, much like a traditional milk punch. Inspired by the many seasonal eggnog recipes, I sought to create a festive rum cocktail with both Tiki and historic cocktail roots. The “flip” is a traditional style that dates back to the early days of mixology, usually involving egg and simple syrup. A rum flip featuring Jamaican rum appeared in the seminal 1862 bar guide, How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon-Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas. I spiced up this classic template with several Tiki cocktail staples: Demerara rum (and syrup) plus allspice dram (such as the St. Elizabeth brand), which also adds another seasonal flavor along with the dusting of nutmeg. (To make rich Demerara simple syrup, heat 2 parts Demerara sugar with 1 part water, then cool.) El Dorado 5 is the perfect rum for this rich small sipper, providing a melange of familiar flavors without overpowering the comforting, noggy creaminess.
* Previous holiday recipes: Devil’s Island Daiquiri | Hapa Holidaze
* More El Dorado cocktails: Demerara 80 Swizzle | El Dorado Mai Tai | Rum Pot
Martin Cate’s Mai Tai
* See all past cocktails of the week

SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag

***** In Florida *****
* Feb. 20-21, 2016 – Polynesian Cultural Festival, Fort Lauderdale.
* Feb. 26 – The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown, South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Miami Beach.
* April 15-17 – Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* June 8-12 – 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]
* July 20-24 – Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans, La.

Tiki Caliente

***** Across the U.S. *****
* Feb. 11-21, 2016 – Modernism Week, Palm Springs, Calif.
* April 14-17 – Viva Las Vegas.
* April 21-24 – Mojave Oasis, Newberry Springs, Calif.
* April 30 – Midwest Rum Festival, Chicago, Ill.
* May 12-15 – Tiki Caliente, Palm Springs, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* July 8-10 – Tiki Kon, Portland, Ore. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Aug. 18-21 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Sept. 17 – Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Indianapolis, Ind.

***** Worldwide *****
* June 16-19, 2016 – Surfer Joe Summer Festival, Livorno, Italy.
* Oct. 22-23 – The RumFest: London, United Kingdom.
* Nov. 4-5 – 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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