Catching up on news from the first half of February, we have reports on the debut of Tiki-themed bars in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach, plus a recap and photos from two of Shag’s parties at Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Quick sips include The Wreck Bar, the Polynesian Village Resort, the Rapa Nui Reef, and Tiki Month on the Pegu Blog. Regular features spotlight California artist Michelle Bickford; Milwaukee surf band The Exotics; New York City craft cocktail bars The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley; and Tiki mug collecting website Ooga-Mooga. The Rum of the Week, Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy, is featured in an original Atomic Grog cocktail, Kilauea Iki.
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New Tiki bars open in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach
It was a banner year for Tiki in 2015 with an unprecedented number of high-profile bars opening across the country. [Year in Tiki recap] It’s too early to know if 2016 will come close to the quality level of new establishments such as Lost Lake, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and The Golden Tiki , but the number of openings could easily top last year. [Previous: See our 2016 preview] And the variety is astounding, from a classic rum den in frigid Maine to the world’s first vegan Tiki bar in Seattle. Already open as of mid-February:
Howie’s Tiki in Spring, Texas: North of Houston, owner Mark “Howie” Voros is aiming for classic Tiki, including lamps from Oceanic Arts, exotic music, and a selection of classic tropical and modern cocktails, according to a Critiki News story. Artwork by California artist Ken Ruzic adorns the walls, with a Big Toe piece coming soon. Communal drinks include the Scorpion Bowl and Blood of the Kapu Tiki.
* Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki
Rhum in Portland, Maine: A tribute to classic Tiki bars as well as the craft and romance of rum, this full-service restaurant has already made a splash in the heart of winter. “It’s about escapism,” co-owner Jason Loring, who owns several other Portland hotspots, told a Portland area blog. The food is an inventive, modern take on Polynesian-themed cuisine. The cocktails show off the bar’s massive rum collection, running the gamut from the Mai Tai to the Painkiller to the Fogcutter served in unique mugs made by a local artist. Another blogger raved: “It’s what Portland has been missing – a lounge full of escapism with an air of mystery.”
* Official site | Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki
Hidden Harbor in Pittsburgh: This small “modern Tiki spot” opened Jan. 19 in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood under the guidance of co-owner and cocktail director Adam Henry. There’s a small menu of creative tapas (Deconstructed Tuna Tacos, Lamb Curry, etc.) and some unique takes on tropical cocktails. Ishmael includes clove-infused Jamaican rum, Tropic Thunder features a house five-rum blend, and Josie’s Faraway Vacation employs Arrack (Indonesian rum). You can also find drinks with sake, gin, rye and coconut-washed vodka. But purists shouldn’t fret: Every Tuesday is the Tiki Time Machine, featuring classics such as Don the Beachcomber’s Pearl Diver and Missionary’s Downfall. “It’s clear that the team at Hidden Harbor respects the classic tiki playbook,” according to the Pittsburgh City Paper. “But it isn’t afraid to add some notes in the margins.” The decor is described as minimalist by Tiki standards, with a few distinctive carvings and nautical knick-knacks.
* Official site | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
No Bones Beach Club in Seattle: Easily the most distinctive of the new offerings is the world’s first vegan Tiki bar and restaurant. This former award-winning food truck and pop-up tent now serves Southern California-meets-Asian tropical treats in the city’s Ballard neighborhood. Highlights of the 100 percent plant-based menu include Sweet Pineapple and Soy Curl Sizzling Lettuce Wraps, tomatillo-avocado salsa-topped Jackfruit Flautas, and Smoked Golden Beet Poke, VegNews Magazine reports. Owner MacKenzie DeVito told Seattle Met’s Nosh Pit that the goal is to make guests in the sometimes dreary city “feel like they’re on a little vacation.” The drinks are made with local spirits and served in Tiki and tropical mugs. The decor includes a large Tiki, bamboo and thatch accents, plus colorful lanterns.
* Official site | Facebook | Twitter | Critiki
Naked Tiki in Miami Beach: The new restaurant/bar/lounge from celebrity chef Ralph Pagano (Hell’s Kitchen, Pressure Cook) held its soft opening on Feb. 11, with a grand opening Feb. 20. Located in the recently re-branded Stiles Hotel, a historic property in the heart of the Art Deco District on South Beach that dates back to 1936, Naked Tiki is a multi-level space that must blend in with the upscale property, so don’t expect over-the-top decor. But the food is outstanding, from the wings, ribs and bacon-wrapped shrimp rumaki to the handmade dumplings, decadent crab rangoon, inventive buns and signature Bang! Bang! Rice. Pagano obviously knows his way around a kitchen (watch him battle Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America). The cocktail menu is less ambitious but very solid, featuring a nice assortment of classics (Mai Tai, Scorpion, Painkiller, Singapore Sling, Aku Aku). “I have a borderline obsession with rum and tropical drinks,” Pagano told Miami New Times. “I’ve taken basically all that I love and put it under one roof.” The decor and music is more South Beach than South Pacific, but it makes sense in this neighborhood. It will be interesting to see how this space evolves.
* Official site | Facebook page
Shag helps Modernism Week toast legacy of Palm Springs
Modernism Week took over Palm Springs for its 11th annual celebration of mid-century architecture and design with 11 days of events running from Feb. 11 to 21. Artist Shag helped kick off the event with two high-profile parties that showcased Tiki culture and his influential artwork.
On Feb. 12, Shag hosted the cocktail party “Palm Springs Polynesia: Then & Now” at the historic Caliente Tropics Hotel. Like a tropical island in the desert, sleepy Palm Springs played a key role in the history of 20th century Tiki culture. It was an exotic getaway for Angelenos looking to find a respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Unfortunately, that era’s Tiki hotspots are long gone. But the Caliente Tropics (formerly the Tropics Hotel) has survived and is in the midst of a restoration. An appreciation for the history of Tiki in Palm Springs has grown along with the Tiki revival, spawning events such as Tiki Caliente and Mod-Palm Springs (both held at the Caliente Tropics). New Tiki bars (Bootlegger Tiki and Tonga Hut) have come on the scene with an appreciation for the past, adding to the festive environment.
In honor of Modernism Week, Shag the Store “threw a party for Modernists to get primitive and enjoy tropically-inspired party food,” reports Kari Hendler from Poly Hai. Tonga Hut and Bootlegger Tiki provided the libations, while the Martini Kings and DJ Baz provided the tunes. “The charming host this evening was none other than the artist Shag, whose vibrant paintings (and store/gallery in downtown Palm Springs) are the embodiment of current Tiki and mid-century style,” Hendler wrote. Among the VIPs spotted at the special ticketed event were Rory Snyder (Tiki Caliente and Mod-Palm Springs founder/host), Sven Kirsten (Tiki Pop and The Book of Tiki author), Baby Doe von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis co-host), and Peter Moruzzi (author and mid-century preservationist).
* Photos and full recap by Kari Hendler from Poly Hai
Modernism Week press coverage
* Hugely successful Modernism Week highlights Palm Springs resurgence (KVCR)
* LA Weekly photo gallery
* Modernism Week’s international appeal continues to rise (Palm Springs Life)
On Feb. 13, the first of two free events was held at Shag the Store in Palm Springs: A release party for Shag’s “Primal Cuts” limited edition serigraph print. Guests lined up down the block for a chance to pick up Shag’s new, extra large work of art. At 61 inches wide and 24 inches high, it’s Shag’s widest print to date.
* Photos by Kari Hendler
from Poly Hai
* Related: Lions and tigers and pin-ups, oh my! Jungle Drums by Shag
(The Tiki Chick)
Don’t miss: Shag will make a rare East Coast appearance June 8-12 at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, hosting the sold-out Shag’s Skylounge and presenting the symposium “I Learned My ABC’s in Waikiki” about growing up in Hawaii (tickets just $25). He’ll also be participating in signings and providing special event artwork. [Latest Atomic Grog preview]
Quick sips: Wreck Bar renovations under way, new Polynesian Village Resort pool, Rapa Nui Reef rescue, Tiki Month on the Pegu Blog
On Feb. 3, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid posted a video on Facebook detailing the renovations under way at the The Wreck Bar, the iconic Fort Lauderdale lounge located in the beachside B Ocean Resort (formerly the Yankee Clipper). She showed off the new wooden floors and AC system and talked about the work being done to add two more porthole windows that will allow more views of the swimshows featuring her and her pod of aquaticats. The seated bar area will also be expanded, making it twice as large, Marina said.
* The Wreck Bar on Facebook
* Review, photos of the Wreck Bar’s mermaid show (The Tiki Chick)
* 10 places for mermaid-spotting in America (Travel + Leisure)
At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando, the opening of the new Oasis Pool area inched toward completion. As we reported back in December, work has been ongoing for nearly a year on the new second pool as part of multi-year refurbishments at the iconic Disney World resort. In mid-February, both WDWMagic.com and Mouse Steps posted photos of the new amenities seemingly nearing completion. But Polynesian Resort authority Steve “Tikiman” Seifert posted on his Tikiman Pages site that the conversion of the former East Pool would not be done until later in March. The pool area will also feature its own bar and grill, Seifert wrote, but it may not open until after the pool. Unlike the bar at the main Volcano Pool, it will be limited only to resort guests, he noted. Mahalo to Steve for the nice Atomic Grog shout-out in his news report. Also be sure to check out his news on an upcoming Polynesian event scheduled for July. Follow Tikiman’s Unofficial Polynesian Resort Pages on Facebook for the latest updates and photos.
* Related: What’s new at the Polynesian (A. Panda's Tiki Lounge)
February saw the return of an annual tradition: Tiki Month on the Pegu Blog. Ohio-based cocktail writer Doug Winship has, for the eighth straight year, pulled together a great assortment of content from across the blogsphere as well as his own vast repertoire. The intent is to make the winter just a little bit more bearable, and there’s probably no better way than a whole lot of Tiki drink recipes and related musings. In honor of the great heights to which Tiki has soared during the past seven years, Winship focused his attention this year on “the state of the modern art of Tiki.” This year also features an enhanced and spiffy new blog design.
A video posted on YouTube on Feb. 1 shows the Easter Island Moai statues that crashed to the ocean floor last June in an ill-fated reef project off Deerfield Beach in southeast Florida. The heads appear to be intact, and the video’s description says the Rapa Nui Reef dive site is being improved by raising the statues to the top of the upside-down barge. “Volunteers are slowly bringing the Rapa Nui back and making a great dive site,” according to the poster, Dixie Divers. They’re also asking for volunteers in the hopes of finishing the project before the summer.
* Facebook: Recreate Rapa Nui Reef | Previous Atomic Grog coverage
***** Links of the week*****
* How many vintage Tiki bars are still around? (Critiki News)
* Shameful Tiki takes its classic Polynesian cocktails east (Georgia Straight)
* Las Vegas bar turns Tiki drinks into tropical gold (About Travel)
* Livin’ the Tiki life: No clocks and plenty of booze (Florida Today)
* The greatest estate sale ever (The Hula Girls blog)
* Congress scrutinizes Havana Club ruling (The Spirits Business)
* Meet the man with the world’s largest private rum collection (Tales of the Cocktail)
* Does rum have more sugar than other spirits? (VinePair)
* Are rum festival relevant for brands? (The Rum Lab)
* In the Mix: Our guide to great rum drinks (New Orleans Magazine)
* Who says Daiquiris are only for summer? (Liquor.com)
* Video: Make a GFY with Lost Lake’s Paul McGee (Chicago magazine)
ARTIST OF THE WEEK:
A former graphic designer, this prolific California artist combines her passions for mid-century modern, science fiction art, and soldering irons into an impressive body of work. Dating back at least eight years, Bickford’s signature pieces are abstract, three-dimensional objects that immediately take you back to the Atomic age. Much of her art contains an element of whimsy, as bold sculptural shapes mingle with modern cityscapes, spaceships and other unexpected touches. Bickford created 35 pieces for her November show at La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, where her work was paired with Mondo Tiki, the Tiki Farm 15th anniversary celebration (see photos). She also contributed a new Tiki decanter to the massive mug display. “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” was her second feature exhibition at the influential gallery. You can also find her work at Disney’s Wonder Ground Galleries and Miami’s Harold Golen Gallery.
* Official sites: MichelleBickford.com | Blog | Facebook page
* See past artists of the week
Don’t miss: Bickford’s art will be featured in Laluzapalooza, the 30th annual group show at La Luz De Jesus that opens on March 4 and runs through March 27. The exhibit features more than 270 pieces from more than 100 artists, selected from tens of thousands of submissions. Other participating artists include Big Toe and Ken Ruzic. The opening night party will feature libations and other surprises.
* More on the exhibit
BAND/MUSIC OF THE WEEK:
This classic instrumental surf band recently marked its 20th anniversary by releasing a career retrospective album, Twangy Surf & Spy Themes, on CD and vinyl. The album includes new, remixed, and classic tracks from the band’s back catalog, including the acclaimed 1996 debut, Go Go Guitars. Featuring founding members Jon Ziegler (bass) and Don Nelson (drums), plus guitarists Brandt Zacher and Paul Wall, the band has performed at major events across the country, including South by Southwest in Austin, the Surf Guitar 101 convention and Tiki Oasis in California, and The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale (see video). Throughout their career, The Exotics have shared the stage with such legendary names as Dick Dale, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Los Straitjackets. They even appeared with Garrison Keeler on A Prairie Home Companion. The Exotics also play regularly at Milwaukee’s Foundation Tiki Bar, where Nelson is manager. The band has a clean, vintage sound with simple yet sophisticated arrangements on their impressive original songs.
* Surfing with The Exotics: Milwaukee band marks 20 years (Shepherd Express)
* Bandcamp: Stream and buy Twangy Surf & Spy Themes | Facebook page
* All past bands/music of the week
Don’t miss: The Exotics will be performing at Viva Las Vegas, the annual celebration of rockabilly and retro music, cars, and culture scheduled for April 14-17 at The Orleans Hotel and Casino.
BAR OF THE WEEK:
The Happiest Hour / Slowly Shirley
Since opening in the fall of 2014 in Greenwich Village, The Happiest Hour and its accompanying subterranean den Slowly Shirley have quickly made a splash on the competitive New York City cocktail scene. Everyone from The New York Times, to Bon Apetit, to The New Yorker to Playboy has praised the whimsical bars and full-service restaurant. Evoking bygone California and Florida resorts, The Happiest Hour’s sophisticated mid-century modern and tropical vibe stands in contrast to Slowly Shirley’s classic art deco décor and old-school Hollywood feel. The music and cocktails perfectly match each space. At The Happiest Hour, bartenders in aloha shirts serve up classic cocktails with a tropical twist (and your choice of gin, rum or tequila) in a lively atmosphere punctuated by rock and soul music. Meanwhile, downstairs you’ll hear relaxing exotica and space-age jazz while you sip on Manhattans, Martinis, and Old Fashioneds. This two-story feast of the senses is the creation of veteran NYC bar owner Jon Neidich (Acme, Tijuana Picnic) and bartender Jim Kearns (Pegu Club, The Nomad Bar). The food is “elevated diner-style fare” including a much-lauded burger.
* How NYC’s Slowly Shirley revived a forgotten Tiki elixir (Eater)
* Previous cockail of the week: Pineapple Express from The Happiest Hour
* Official websites: The Happiest Hour | Slowly Shirley
* Facebook: The Happiest Hour | Slowly Shirley
* See past bars of the week
Tiki throwdown: Noted Tiki mixologist and Slowly Shirley bartender Garret Richard competed in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. He previously participated in the same event at the New York City Wine & Food Festival in October. [Atomic Grog recap, photos]
* Full recap and preview of The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at SoBeWFF
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: Ooga-Mooga
An essential resource for not only Tiki mug collectors, but anyone interested in Polynesia Pop art and culture, Ooga-Mooga is a sister site to Critiki, our website of the year for 2015. The handiwork of noted Tiki historian Humuhumu, Ooga-Mooga is essentially a database containing photos and information on Tiki mug collections dating back more than a decade. The vast depth of content is a tribute to its users, as well as several volunteers who Humuhumu credits with making the site what it is: Tiki-Kate, who sadly passed away several years ago; and Tom Morgan, who continues her efforts. You’ll see a tribute to Tiki-Kate on the homepage.The site lets users track their collection while showing it off to others. You can check prices to find out how much mugs are worth, and trade with other users. The homepage features a collection of the day, mugs for sale and trade, plus all the latest additions and comments. Registered users get other cool tools, like a “drink matcher” to find out what cocktails best fit your mugs, and an automated notification when a mug on your wish list comes up for sale or for trade. At last count, Ooga-Mooga includes more than 1,000 collections featuring more than 50,000 mugs (nearly 8,000 of them unique). The highest valued mug is a rare first-edition Mystery Bowl from The Mai-Kai, circa 1959, recently listed at $1,226. The total estimated value of all the mugs in Ooga-Mooga is approaching $2 million. Who says Tiki mug collecting is a silly hobby?
* Ooga-Mooga.com | Facebook page
* See past websites of the week
RUM OF THE WEEK:
Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy
An intoxicating mash-up of Plantation Original Dark rum with Queen Victoria pineapples, Stiggins’ Fancy (the name is a homage to a Dickens character) has become one of the few flavored rums universally praised by purists who wouldn’t be caught dead sipping anything with a pirate on the bottle. Much of this is due to the production methods of the venerable brand and its award-winning rums (see links below). The rum’s greatness is achieved by steeping the ripe pineapple flesh in the aged dark rum for three months. The pineapple rind (containing much of the essential oil) is macerated in Plantation 3 Stars White rum, then distilled. The two rums are then blended and left in a barrel to age. The result is perhaps the best flavored rum ever produced, a rich and vibrant 80-proof spirit that’s not too sweet and tastes completely natural. Stiggins’ Fancy is a collaboration between spirits and cocktail author/historian David Wondrich and Pierre Ferrand, the French beverage giant that owns Plantation. [See video] This style of rum actaully has a historic pedigree in the Caribbean, dating back to at least the late 1700s. It was intended as a one-time bottling for Tales of the Cocktail in July 2014, but demand was so high the plan was changed and the official commercial release began a year later in summer 2015. Since the pineapples from France’s Reunion Island are seasonal, delivery is expected to be April/May and July/August each year. The rum’s appeal is broad, from mixologists who use it in Daiquris and Old Fashioneds, to the novice looking for a quality flavored product. Its flavor is stunning, making it an essential rum in any collection.
* A new pineapple rum, with a nod to Dickens (The New York Times)
* Reviews: Drink Spirits | Good Spirits News | Rum Examiner | The Floating Rum Shack
* Plantation Rum: Official site | Facebook | Twitter
* Previous Plantation rums of the week: Jamaican | Original Dark
Barbados 5-year-old Grande Reserve | 3 Stars White
* See all past rums of the week
COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK: Kilauea Iki
(By Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)
* 2 ounces Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy
* 1/2 ounce fresh pineapple juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup
* 1/2 ounce jalapeno simple syrup
* 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Pulse blend with 3/4 cup of crushed ice for 4-6 seconds and strain into a frozen specialty glass with optional ice shell. (If not using a frozen glass or ice shell, add crushed ice to keep drink ice cold.)
Kilauea Iki is a lava lake next to the main summit caldera of Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea is the most active of the five volcanoes on the island. A 1959 eruption created Kilauea Iki, where lava has cooled on top but is still hot underneath. The site is a popular trail at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
True to its name, Kilauea Iki is cool and satisfying on the surface, but a smoldering underlying heat makes it very interesting. It’s icy and refreshing with hints of heat and a potent kick from Stiggins’ Fancy. The pineapple and jalapeno flavors mingle nicely, with some back-end sour lime and sweet passion fruit notes adding to the complexity and balance. Use a premium passion fruit syrup such as Aunty Liliko’i from Hawaii, or try making your own from frozen pulp and organic sugar. Adjust the amount of jalapeno syrup to add or reduce heat to taste.
Jalapeno simple syrup: Heat 1 1/2 cups organic sugar and 1 cup purified water until sugar is dissolved. Add two fairly large jalapenos, sliced thinly. (Don’t remove seeds and pith, which contain most of the heat.) Bring to a low boil, then quickly reduce to low heat. Simmer and let reduce for 10 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and let steep for 1-2 hours. Strain out all traces of jalapeno, bottle and refrigerate. Recipe yields about 8 ounces.
* See all past cocktails of the week
SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events
***** Across the U.S. *****
* 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 *****
* April 2-4 – Rhumfest Paris
* May 30 – June 2 – International Rum Congress, Madrid.
* June 16-19 – 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.)