Minimalist Tiki

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16-29, 2016): Rum and Tiki event roundup, new Tiki bars in D.C., S.F., photos and event recaps

The Week in Tiki We have lots of news from February on upcoming spring and summer events: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Tiki Caliente, Tiki Kon, and Hot Rod Hula Hop. Tiki bars continue to open across the country – from Washington, D.C., (Archipelago) to San Francisco (Pagan Idol) – with more in the works. Event recaps include The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Naked Tiki’s grand opening in South Beach, and another Modernism Week party with Shag. Quick sips include a James Beard nomination for Chicago’s Lost Lake, the death of Trader Vic’s son, a new study on Easter Islanders, and a new Tiki cartoon. Regular features spotlight South Florida artist Tom Fowner; exotica legend Arthur Lyman; Houston Tiki bar Lei Low; and the Surf Guitar 101 website. The Rum of the Week, Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7, is featured in a storied cocktail, the Hotel Nacional Special.
* 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

EVENT PREVIEWS: Rare rums at Miami fest, Tiki Caliente and Tiki Kon news, Hot Rod Hula Hop announced

Miami Rum Festival adds VIP tasting bar, announces cruise

If sampling more than a hundred of the world’s best rums on a festive 50,000-square-foot convention floor isn’t enough, the organizers of the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival have something special just for you at this year’s event. One of the world’s largest gatherings of rum consumers, experts, and industry professionals will offer a luxury VIP Tasting Bar featuring a special selection of rare, vintage and limited edition rums you can’t find anywhere else at the festival.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival VIP Tasting Bar

Miami Rum Festival and International Trade Expo host Robert A. Burr is opening up his extensive private collecion to special guests partaking in the tasting bar during the April 15-17 event at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. “We want to share with rum fest participants some of the most interesting and exquisite rums that we’ve collected from our travels around the world,” Burr announced. The Burr family home’s Rum Wreck Dive Bar, which is featured in the new Rum Minute online video series, is stocked with more than 2,000 different rums. Burr and his son, Rob V. Burr, will share hosting duties in the VIP Tasting Bar, passing along their knowledge and passion for the select spirits.

“In the course of publishing Rob’s Rum Guide and reporting for the National Rum Examiner, we are privileged to visit most of the great rum distilleries in the world,” Robert V. Burr said. “Along the way, we’re collecting some very special bottles that represent the incredible range of high quality rums from Barbados and Jamaica to Guatemala and Panama; from Nicaragua and Haiti to Martinique and Guadeloupe; from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to Venezuela and Guyana – and beyond.” Rum is a family affair for the Burrs, with Robin V. Burr joining her husband and son as hosts of the festival and organizer of many of the associated events.

Fort Lauderdale's fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year's Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Fort Lauderdale’s fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year’s Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The tasting bar will be open all three days of the festival from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., the same hours as general admission. Two $5 sample tickets for use in the tasting bar come with a $125 three-day VIP pass to the festival. Additional tickets may be purchased at the event. A one-day pass is $75 but doesn’t include the complimentary tasting bar tickets. All Grand Tasting rum and cocktail samples are complimentary. Members of the spirits and beverage trade will receive steeply discounted tickets and will also have access to a special section of the festival featuring exclusive rums for industry and press representatives only. Advance tickets are available online now and will not be sold at the door.

All guests will have access to the full Grand Tasting floor, which includes dozens of booths from both established and up-and-coming rum brands: Cartavio, Diplomatico, Don Q, Fwaygo, Koloa, Mezan, Plantation, Pusser’s, Santeria, Siesta Key, Wicked Dolphin, Yolo, and many more. The festival also hosts the annual International Rum Expert Panel (RumXP) Tasting Competition and awards. [See past winners]
* More info: VIP Tasting Bar | Grand Tastings | Sample rums

Full preview from The Atomic Grog coming soon.
* Official sites: | Facebook
* 2015 Atomic Grog recap | All past coverage

Meanwhile, the next Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise was announced for Nov. 19-26, once again departing from Puerto Rico. An intimate group of guests can enjoy a week of cruising through the Eastern Caribbean on the Royal Caribbean ship Adventure of the Seas, savoring the region’s best rums at seminars, tasting events, and excursions to distilleries. Stops include St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados. Space is limited, so click here to get more info and find out how to reserve your spot.

Tiki Caliente symposiums, more entertainment announced

Tiki Caliente

Additional bands and performers have been announced for the May 12-15 Tiki Caliente, the eighth gathering of mid-century and Tiki enthusiasts in Palm Springs. Guests will enjoy Southern California party band Ding Dong Devils, the electro-lounge mayhem of The Jimmy Psycho Experiment, new Arizona instrumental trio The Surfbroads, the tribal sounds and fire-dancing of South African band Zulluu, the 2-man retro lounge act TikiTronic, and Hawaiian blues-influenced ukulele player Jason Arimoto.

Previously announced entertainment includes the Martini Kings, Voodoo Organist, Creepxotica, The Do-Its, Marty Lush, and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. As usual, the host hotel is the historic Caliente Tropics, the Tiki-themed resort built in 1964. Rooms are sold out, but there’s plenty of room at the nearby Motel 6.

Tiki Caliente symposiums feature (clockwise from upper left) by Chad Austin, Marie King,  Martin Cate, and Jason T. Smith.
Tiki Caliente symposiums feature (clockwise from upper left) by Chad Austin, Marie King, Martin Cate, and Jason T. Smith.

Tiki Caliente is also stepping up its symposium offerings with an impressive lineup of rum and cocktail experts. All sessions are limited to 55 seats, so you’re urged to pick up tickets before they sell out.

“From the High Seas to High Tiki: Rum’s Cocktail Voyage” by Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove – A tale of the three-century story of rum as told through the cocktails. Cate is owner of San Francisco’s acclaimed rum and Tiki cocktail haven and author of the upcoming book Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. He’ll help participants understand rum and celebrate its diversity and versatility. The $60 ticket includes four rum samples and three cocktails. Saturday, May 14, 2-3 p.m.
* Pre-order Cate’s book | More on The Atomic Grog

“Thrift Tales From the Den of Sin: Keeping Your Tiki Collection in Flux” by Jason T. Smith – The host of the Thrift Hunters TV show on Spike shares stories and offers tips on buying and selling on Ebay. Smith and show co-host Bryan Goodman show you how to find treasures at flea markets and antiques shops in and around their home base of Las Vegas, plus events across the country. Saturday, May 14, 11 a.m.-noon, $25.

“Finishing Touches” by Marie King of Tonga Hut – The accomplished Los Angeles bartender and rum authority shows you how rum gets its flavor by exploring the world of special cask-finished rum. Sip your way to paradise for $45. Friday, May 13, 2-3 p.m.

A prototype of the official Tiki Caliente 8 mug by Doug Horne and Eekum Bookum.
A prototype of the official Tiki Caliente 8 mug by Doug Horne and Eekum Bookum.

“Punch and the History of the Communal Cocktail” by Chad Austin of Bootlegger Tiki – Just what are these mysterious big-bowl libations, and how can you bring them to the highest level of excellence? The bartender from the Tiki cocktail bar in Palm Springs will show you while serving up samples of three different punches, which are included in the $35 ticket. Thursday, May 12, 2-3:15 p.m.

The official Tiki Caliente 8 mug, a traditional Maori war club resting on a lava rock, was designed by Doug Horne and produced by Eekum Bookum. It’s limited to 225 and available for pick-up at the event only. Click here to order.

* Official sites: | Facebook page

Start your engines: Hot Rod Hula Hop is back

The premiere Tiki event in the Midwest returns to Columbus, Ohio, when the Kahiki Chapter of the Fraternal Order Of Moai hosts the eighth annual Hot Rod Hula Hop on Aug. 5-6. The festivities include live music, hot rods, burlesque, a luau, and plenty of tropical cocktails. Ticket prices and details on the bands and entertainment will be announced soon.

Hot Rod Hula Hop

The Friday night luau, aka “Feast of the Gods,” will be held as usual outdoors at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room. The Saturday party is back at the Sequoia Pro Bowl, a 32-lane bowling center, where guests will enjoy the Miss Hot Rod Hula Hop pin-up contest, a vendor village, retro DJs, and a silent auction during the day. At night, the action heats up with live bands and burlesque. Proceeds from Hot Rod Hula Hop benefit Cure CMD (Congenital Muscular Dystrophy).

Last year’s event featured headliner Unknown Hinson, plus a solid lineup of regional bands such as The Revomatics and the Hellroys.
* Official sites: | Facebook page

TIKI BAR OPENINGS: Archipelago in D.C., Pagan Idol in S.F.

This year continues to see a surge in new Polynesian-themed lounges opening across the country with two high profile openings in the second half of February:


Archipelago in Washington, D.C.: The nation’s capital finally has a full-blown modern Tiki bar to call its own with the opening of Archipelago, the city’s first legitimate Polynesian-themed establishment since the closing of Honolulu in 2004. Longtime D.C. bartender Owen Thomson conceived the two-room tropical oasis, which includes items salvaged from a local Tikiphile’s home bar that had to be removed. These include chairs and bar stools, hula girl and pufferfish lamps, framed Elvis and Don Ho records, plus more. There’s also a shrine to Tom Selleck, considered the “patron saint” of the bar, according to a story in The Washington Post. The four owners did most of the build-out of a former Caribbean restaurant themselves, and they’re also the only employees on the payroll, according to a Washington City Paper blog. They’re also all bartenders, so you know cocktails will be a priority. The libations include multiple rums, homemade ingredients, and elaborate garnish. For example, The Lonely Mermaid includes overproof and aged rums plus buttered pineapple syrup, and it’s served in a special glass with a three-dimensional mermaid sculpted on it. The space holds around 100 comfortably, with an overflow patio scheduled to open in a few months. The food menu includes crafty pupus such as shrimp toast with bacon and hot ham-and-cheese sandwiches on miniature King Hawaiian sweet rolls.
* More news coverage, photos: Popville blog
* Official site | Facebook page | Instagram
* Critiki reviews, photos | Tiki Central discussion

Pagan Idol

Pagan Idol in San Francisco: When you open a Tiki bar in a city with such a rich history of both Tiki and cocktails, you better get things right. Oh boy, did they ever get things right at Pagan Idol. One of the world’s most knowledgeable Tiki bar experts, Humuhumu of Critiki, declared that she loves Pagan Idol, calling it “a dream of a Tiki bar.” She raved about the “amazing” cocktails, “heavenly” soundtrack of exotica and hapa-haole, and “joyous” service. Thrillist called it “the most epic Tiki bar in the country” featuring “balanced, fruity drinks in ridiculously fun glassware” that will “likely change your notion of how Tiki drinks can taste.” The bar already has an outstanding 9.7 rating on Critiki. The Future Bars group (owners of some of the hottest cocktail spots in the city) did their homework, traveling to the country’s best Tiki bars for inspiration and taking a year to build this Tikiphile’s dream. They brought in experienced staff (from Tonga Room and Trader Vic’s, among others) to serve up creative original cocktails such as the Daywalker, Witch Doctor and Rum Monkey (plus classics available upon request). And last but not least, they created an immersive 1,900-square-foot space that likely sets a new standard for 21st century Tiki. It’s intended to show the evolution of Tiki, from Captain Cook to today. Guests enter the nautical-themed Captain’s Quarters (a ship’s hull complete with porthole views of underwater scenes), then make their way through a skull-and-bone graveyard into a tropical island paradise complete with private Tiki huts, a twinkling evening sky and erupting volcano. Among the other details: Two giant Tikis, including one carved by Crazy Al Evans; and giant squid lighting fixtures by artist Ivan Mora.
* More news coverage, photos: San Francisco Chronicle | Eater
* Official site | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
* Critiki reviews, photos | Tiki Central discussion


More Tiki bars in the works: In Milwaukee, Wauwatiki has experienced construction delays that pushed its opening into April. Lono – the Tiki god of fertility, music and peace – will be the bar’s symbolic image, appearing on the logo and throughout the space, according to an story. The cocktail menu will include a classic Mai Tai and large communal bowls that serve up to eight, the story says. The owners plan to serve lunch and dinner, the latter featuring Polynesian and Caribbean small plates (pupu platter, wings, etc.). Photos and updates on the official Facebook page are tracking the progress. … Look for a new Tiki-themed speakeasy in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego in the fall, according to Eater. The secret speakeasy, to be called The Grass Skirt, will be “fronted” by a casual daytime restaurant, Good Time Poké, the article says. Some notable names in the San Diego restaurant scene are behind the project, including an acclaimed chef. And initial descriptions of the “dark, Tiki wonderland” sound encouraging. … The Bali Hai Restaurant in Lynnfield, Mass., an old-school Chinese-Polynesian establishment that dates back more than 50 years, is reportedly for sale for a cool $2.5 million. The price includes the 1.4-acre lot along with the business, which continues to operate just off of Interstate 95 north of Boston. The Boston Restaurant Talk blog reported the news Feb. 17 and included a link to the listing. Still under the original ownership, the building includes a distinctive A-frame entrance. Reviews are mixed, but the restaurant is known for its standard Cantonese fare and strong Tiki cocktails served at reasonable prices. Signature Tiki mugs and plenty of kitschy decor are also a key part of the experience.
* More on Bali Hai: Official site | Facebook | Critiki

Previous: New Tiki-themed bars in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach

EVENT RECAPS: Tiki mixologists face off, South Beach gets Naked, another Shag shindig

Tops in Tiki: Miami, Cleveland mixologists awarded at South Beach cocktail showdown

Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)
Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)

A hometown favorite took home the top prize at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26, while an enthusiastic bar team that traveled more than a thousand miles also came away a winner.

The Judges Choice award for best cocktail was awarded to The Broken Shaker of Miami Beach and bartenders Gui Jaroschy and Randy Perez for their crafty Sweet Micky. Hosted by Food Network’s Guy Fieri, the event featured nine of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki bars facing off during a festive event at the oceanside Surfcomber hotel on South Beach.

Some 700 guests enjoyed the many excellent cocktails and cast their own votes for the People’s Choice award, which went to Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room. The entire Porco staff of 18 people made the trip to SoBeWFF, cheering their mixologists to victory with their Alchemy Hour cocktail.

Bartenders from Cleveland's Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People's Choice award.
Bartenders from Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People’s Choice award. (Atomic Grog photo)

Also competing were mixologists from Fort Defiance (Brooklyn), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), The Golden Tiki (Las Vegas), Kreepy Tiki Lounge (Fort Lauderdale), The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Slowly Shirley (New York City). He wasn’t part of the competition, but defending Judge’s Choice champ Brian Miller of “Tiki Mondays With Miller” in New York City was a welcome addition, mixing up a special cocktail for sponsor Rhum Barbancourt.

Full Atomic Grog coverage: Recap, reviews, recipes, photos and more

Polynesia invades South Beach at Naked Tiki

Ralph Pagano is bringing a taste of Polynesia to South Beach with the opening of his new restaurant and bar, Naked Tiki. During the Feb. 20 grand opening party at the historic Stiles Hotel, the acclaimed chef’s full range of flavors was on display.

Pagano’s decadent and creative dishes were the highlight. Leaving his TV celebrity chef status behind, Pagano has established himself as creative force on the Miami dining scene with his Naked Taco and Naked Lunch concepts. He raises the bar even higher at Naked Tiki, with mouth-watering reinventions of classic Tiki bar food. The Crab Rangoon was a mouth-watering bite of fresh crab in a deep-fried wonton, served with a perfect spicy mustard sauce. The wings were tender and flavorful, the ribs thick and meaty, the poke fresh and full of complex spices.

The Naked Tiki's Pupu Platter includes chicken wings, BBQ spare ribs, Crab Rangoon, tuna poke, and Steak Negimaki.  (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Naked Tiki’s Pupu Platter includes chicken wings, BBQ spare ribs, Crab Rangoon, tuna poke, and Steak Negimaki. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The shrimp “Rumaki” is a good example of Pagano’s creativity, swapping out the chicken with shrimp in this traditional bacon-wrapped small bite. The steamed dumplings, all hand-made in-house, were moist and bursting with flavor. Last but not least, the buns were simply off the hook. Pagano takes this trendy bar bite to a new level with five different takes (pork belly, chicken, brisket, shrimp, duck) that all attack the taste buds with unexpected surprises. Everything we sampled was a rich, savory, sweet and spicy party in your mouth. The food was top-notch, just as you’d expect from the former competitor on Hell’s Kitchen and host of Pressure Cook.

The cocktail menu was more modest but effective. The Mai Tai was traditional and well-constructed, while the Aku Aku was full of fresh citrus and rum flavors. It’s a unique take on the classic from the 1960s restaurant of the same name in Las Vegas, and also the chef’s favorite. Likewise, the Barrel of Monkeys is a homage to the Painkiller containing the traditional pineapple-orange-coconut flavors but with a “barrel aged monkey rum.” The small menu also includes a flaming Scorpion Bowl and several original cocktails.

Polynesian dancers perform at the grand opening of the Naked Tiki restaurant and bar at the Stiles Hotel on South Beach on Feb. 20. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Polynesian dancers perform at the grand opening of the Naked Tiki restaurant and bar at the Stiles Hotel on South Beach on Feb. 20. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The ambiance and decor were a little more hit-and-miss by Tiki standards, but you have to remember where you are (the heart of South Beach on Collins Avenue). The Stiles Hotel is a historic property that dates back to 1936, so large-scale renovations are out of the question. The look and feel remains unquestionably Art Deco, so Pagano had to work within those limitations. The layout is also sprawling, starting at the front of the hotel and winding through the lobby and out to the pool. It’s hardly dark and immersive, but the layout allows for a wide variety of experiences, whatever suits your fancy. There’s the large airy patio facing Collins, the large Coconut Room bar off the lobby, the comfy downstairs Bamboo Lounge (named for the Polynesian bar in Goodfellas), the smaller Shark Bar and lounge behind the pool, plus a large lanai area with poolside views.

It’s a tough space to decorate, regardless of the genre, but Tiki is particularly difficult. It definitely could have benefitted from more authentic and/or original carvings and Tikis. Instead, Pagano went for a personal touch with many items from his personal collection. In a nod to Miami, there’s a wall that pays tribute to Scarface. The music also fell a little short, with a DJ spinning lots of club music and not much Tiki or exotica. I guess it’s hard to escape from South Beach. Yet the highlights of the grand opening were the performances by Polynesian performers and musicians, including a fire dancer. The authentic entertainment made the opening grand, serving as the perfect accompaniment to the exotic delicacies on the menu.
* Official site | Facebook page

Record-setting Modernism Week culminates with another Shag party

A framed Shag print at the Feb. 20 party at Shag the Store in Palm Springs. (Photo by Kari Hendler from Poly Hai)
A framed Shag print at the Feb. 20 party at Shag the Store in Palm Springs. (Photo by Kari Hendler from Poly Hai)

Modernism Week in Palm Springs, the 11th annual celebration of mid-century architecture and design that ran from Feb. 11 to 21, had its biggest year ever. There were a record 77,500 attendees, an increase of more than 30 percent from last year. Organizers said the festival generated an estimated $28.6 million in revenue for local businesses, with more than $1 million going directly back to local organizations, another record.

This year featured a celebration of Tiki and its influence on the desert oasis, including multiple parties hosted by the popular artist Shag. On Feb. 12, the cocktail party “Palm Springs Polynesia: Then & Now” at the historic Caliente Tropics Hotel helped toast the town’s role in the history of 20th century Tiki culture with a star-studded bash. On Feb. 13, Shag the Store in Palm Springs hosted a release party for the artist’s “Primal Cuts” limited edition serigraph print, Shag’s widest to date.
* Past coverage: Full report, photos from both events

Shag with Rory Snyder (Tiki Caliente, Mod-Palm Springs) at the Feb. 20 party at Shag the Store. (Photo by Kari Hendler from Poly Hai)
Shag with Rory Snyder (Tiki Caliente, Mod-Palm Springs) at the Feb. 20 party at Shag the Store. (Photo by Kari Hendler from Poly Hai)

On Saturday, Feb. 20, retro enthusiasts flocked back to Shag the Store for a print-release party featuring the return of dozens of classic reproductions from previously sold-out numbered editions. These artist-proof prints depict masterpieces by famous architects, such as Donald Wexler and Frank Lloyd Wright. Also released were new Shag-designed “Welcome to Palm Springs” table lamps. Shag was on hand signing prints, and there was also free cocktails and musical entertainment.
* Photos by Kari Hendler from Poly Hai

Modernism Week has grown into an 11-day celebration that boosts appreciation of mid-century architecture and design featuring hundreds of events, including the Modernism Show, home tours, films, lectures, double-decker bus tours, parties, walking and bike tours, vintage fashion, live music, and more. Next year’s Modernism Week is scheduled for Feb. 16-26, with a fall preview event set for Oct. 21-23. Check the official sites for ticket info and updates.
* Modernism Week: Soaking up sun, fun, design and cocktails (California Home + Design)

Official sites: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Don’t miss: Shag will be a guest of honor 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: Lost Lake honored, Trader Vic’s son dies, peaceful Easter Islanders, new Tiki cartoon

Paul McGee at Lost Lake
Paul McGee at Lost Lake.

Chicago’s Lost Lake, the acclaimed pre-Tiki tropical lounge open just a little more than a year, has been named as a semifinalist for a James Beard Award Outstanding Bar Program. The nomination places the craft cocktail bar led by mixologist Paul McGee in the same company as some of the best in the country, such as Anvil Bar & Refuge (Houston), Arnaud’s French 75 Bar (New Orleans), Clyde Common (Portland), Polite Provisions (San Diego), and The Varnish (Los Angeles). “To say I am proud of the entire staff at Lost Lake is an understatement,” McGee posted on Facebook. “In 26 years of being in this business I have never witnessed a tighter group of folks!” The winner will be announced not far from Lost Lake, when the 2016 James Beard Awards Gala comes to the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 2. McGee rewarded his hard-working staff with a six-day rum research trip to Martinique, but Lost Lake kept its doors open thanks to fellow a fellow James Beard nominee. Owner Bobby Heugel and some of the Anvil Bar & Refuge staff stepped in to host a pop-up event called Texas Tiki Disco. Imagine an alternate 1970s universe in which Tiki and disco united in harmony, with a bit of Texas twang thrown in for good measure. Drinks included the Midori Sour garnished with edible disco balls; and the Light Emitting Diodes featuring pineapple and Jamaican rums, plus an embedded L.E.D. disco light. Click on the previous links for more info, and check out this report featuring photos and the full menu.

Lynn Bergeron, the son of Tiki bar pioneer Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron and longtime chief executive of the worldwide restaurant chain, passed away Feb. 25 at age 74. Under his leadership, Trader Vic’s Worldwide expanded to many overseas locations, which continues to be the trend for the company. His father opened the first Trader Vic’s in Oakland in 1937, transforming what was formerly his Hinky Dinks restaurant into a tropical-themed oasis. There are currently 20 Trader Vic’s locations in 12 countries. The family-run company is currently headed by Peter Seely, a grandson of Trader Vic and son of Lynn Bergeron’s late sister, Yvonne B. Seely. Mr. Bergeron is survived by his wife, two children and five grandchildren. He also leaves one remaining offspring of Victor Bergeron, sister Jeanne B. Hittell.
* See the San Francisco Chronicle obituary

Easter Island moai
Easter Island moai (Wikimedia Commons)

Research now shows that the inhabitants of Rapa Nui were not annihilated by war as previously thought. Further study of the thousands of sharpened objects scattered on the island suggests that they were tools used for peaceful tasks, not weapons of war. The authors of a new study argue that the inhabitants of the isolated island community deliberately made the tools inefficient as weapons in an effort to avoid lethal internal battles, a National Geographic story says. While the land of imposing moai statues that later became known and celebrated as Easter Island was devastated by deforestation and environmental degradation, the story says, the only “collapse” occurred following contact with outsiders, who brought disease and slavery.

The husband-and-wife animation team of Fuzzy & Leemsie has released a short but sweet cartoon that every Tikiphile should relate to: Three Dots And Dashed. It features a seemingly deserted island Tiki bar that comes to life during a tropical storm. It could be considered a tribute to The Hukilau’s run-in with Hurricane Jeanne in September 2004, when a hotel evacuation forced attendees to hunker down at The Mai-Kai. See the video below or on YouTube.

***** Links of the week*****
* The heartbreak of televisions in Tiki bars (Critiki News)
* Sipping the South: The other Derby drink (Creative Loafing)
* All in the details: Exploring Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (Disney Parks Blog)
* Las Vegas bar turns Tiki drinks into tropical gold (About Travel)
* Why Frankie’s Tiki Room is one of Sin City’s hidden treasures (Haute Living)
* The best Tiki bars in San Francisco (Time Out)
* Chef thinks it’s time Charleston got back to its rum roots (Charleston City Paper)
* The myth (and history) of the cocktail umbrella (Tales of the Cocktail)
* 10 great rums under $30 (Eater)
* Pernod confirms Havana trademark renewal (The Spirits Business)
* The real Mai Tai: a classic Tiki cocktail (Rob’s Rum Guide)
* Rum, the Old Fashioned way (Robb Vices)
* Delving into the Daiquiri: Havana’s favourite drink (Rough Guides)

South Florida artist Tom Fowner shows off one of his tiki masks carved from a palm frond during The Hukilau in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
South Florida artist Tom Fowner shows off one of his tiki masks carved from a palm frond during The Hukilau in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

A soft-spoken carver who has quietly become one of South Florida’s most recognized Tiki artists, Tom Fowner enjoys creating a variety of tokens and totems: Pendants and necklaces, poles, muddlers, pepper grinders, et al. He carves out of many different exotic and native woods, including fallen palm fronds, combining traditional Polynesian Pop and Florida styles into his own unique creations. Born in Hawaii, he ended up in Panama City as a surfing and skatebording teen, and now lives the tropical lifestyle with his wife and two teenage daughters in Deerfield Beach. A graphic artist by trade, Fowner discovered carving in the early 2000s and joined the Tiki Central community to show off his wooden pens, which grew from a longtime interest in woodworking. “From there, it kind of exploded,” he says now. Because carving is a hobby, he says, it allows him to experiment. “I look at Tiki as a retirement plan,” he says, imagining a future of nothing but surfing and carving. Despite his hobbyist status, Fowner has had his work shown in multiple shows and galleries, and he’s been a fixture in The Hukilau’s Tiki Treasures Bazaar since 2005. He has several pieces on display at Kreepy Tiki Lounge in Fort Lauderdale, and is now working on a new carving that may soon be in installed at The Mai-Kai.
* Find Tom: Deviant Art site | Facebook | AlohaStation on Tiki Central
* See past artists of the week

Don’t miss: Tom will present a special symposium, “DIY – Make your own Float Lamp Necklace,” on Saturday, June 11, at 10 a.m at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are available now for $20, including supplies.

Arthur Lyman

Arthur Lyman

Born in Hawaii in 1932, Arthur Lyman was raised on American jazz music and learned the marimba at an early age. He performed with his father and brother at U.S. Army bases and turned pro at age 14. While working as a hotel desk clerk, a chance meeting with Martin Denny set the 21-year-old Lyman on a path to becoming one of the pioneers of exotica. He joined Denny’s original group, performing a groundbreaking new form of jazz augmented by exotic instruments and bird calls (provided by Lyman). He played vibraphone on Denny’s 1957 debut album, Exotica, which spawned the influential hit Quiet Village. Lyman then formed his own group, becoming Denny’s rival and performing throughout the Hawaiian islands into the 1990s. He played an impressive number of instruments, including vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, congas, bongos, guitar, ukulele, and percussion. Beginning with Leis of Jazz, the Arthur Lyman Group released some 30 albums of new material plus numerous compilations during exotica’s commercial heyday, which lasted through the mid-’70s. He also released a staggering number of singles, nearly 400. Three albums went gold, including Taboo (1958), which reached No. 6. on Billboard’s album chart and sold 2 million copies. He turned an obscure Haitian song into a Hawaiian-flavored instrumental classic, Yellow Bird, which peaked at No. 4 in July 1961. Lyman’s albums are revered for their pristine quality, with many recorded live in a state-of-the-art geodesic dome auditorium in Honolulu. Before Lyman passed away in 2002, he saw a new generation discover his music via the lounge and Tiki revivals. In 2014, great-nephew Alika Lyman joined forces with modern exotica musicians to form the Alika Lyman Group and release a loving tribute, Leis of Jazz, Vol. 2.
* Buy Arthur Lyman music on
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Lei Low

Located in a nondescript strip shopping center in the Sunset Heights section of Houston, this small “rum and Tiki lounge” doesn’t look like much from the outside. But as soon as you enter you’ll find a suburban Tikiphile’s dream: Authentic decor (including Tikis and framed artwork), island music, and impeccably garnished rum cocktails made with fresh juices and house-made syrups. Open since February 2014, the bar recently celebrated its second anniversary to much fanfare (the anniversary mug by Eekum Bookum quickly sold out). Lei Low has been an instant hit with the Tiki community in Texas, who have been clamoring for such an establishment. Russell and Elizabeth Thoede (formerly of Houston’s Down House restaurant) must have been listening, because this Tiki power couple left out no detail. A lot of their personal collection went into the interior. They installed green booths for guests as a tribute to the old Trader Vic’s in Houston, which closed 30 years ago. And regulars can keep their Tiki mug behind the bar with their name on it. The seasonal menu includes both classic tropical cocktails and Lei Low originals, made with exacting precision. A huge A-frame dominates the bar, and decor details include vintage Witco and a Tiki mug display (plus absolutely no televisions). Lei Low is first and foremost a Tiki bar, but it’s also a craft cocktail bar with a staff that takes pride in its work. With a kitchen reportedly in the plans for the future, there’s a bright future ahead for Lei Low.
* Official website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
* Critiki profile | Tiki Central discussion
* See past bars of the week

Surf Guitar 101

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: Surf Guitar 101
There are many acknowledged eras in the history of instrumental surf music, commonly referred to as waves. Some would say we’re currently riding the fourth wave, its longevity and resilience due in no small part to a very dedicated global underground community. The central meeting place for this small army of musicians and fans who keep the spirit and sound of reverb-drenched instro rock alive is the Surf Guitar 101 website, also known as simply SG101. With origins dating back to a Yahoo group in 2001, the full-blown website was launched 10 years ago by software engineer and surf music fanatic Brian Neal. The centerpiece of Surf Guitar 101 are the robust forums that allow members to post upcoming gigs, ask questions about gear, discuss the history and future of the genre, and much more. Many of the 8,850+ members are extremely passionate … and prolific (Neal alone has nearly 17,000 posts). One loyal member, Jeff Hanson (aka Bigtikidude – 20,750+ posts) launched the annual Surf Guitar 101 Convention in Southern California in 2008, booking legends and up-and-coming bands from around the world. The SG101 site also features news and calendar sections, plus links to hundreds of bands and other websites. Become a member and you’ll have access to your very own master surf guitar instructor (Alex Anthony Faide of Los Twang! Marvels) as well as archives of hundreds of downloads and an excellent podcast. Just don’t forget to make a donation to keep the ad-free SG101 jamming for years to come.
* | Twitter
* See past websites of the week

Don’t miss: The ninth annual SG101 Convention is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 13, with bands and a venue to be announced. As usual, there will be pre- and post-show concerts throughout SoCal and NorCal, all leading up to the 16th annual Tiki Oasis in San Diego on Aug. 18-21.
* Official SG101 Convention thread | Facebook page

Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7

Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7

Sitting at the top of the vast “slow-aged collection” from the 126-year-old Nicaraguan distillery is this 7-year-old premium gold mixing rum that is both citrusy and spicy, with just enough dryness to make it perfect in sweet tropical drinks. Aged in charred oak barrels previously used by Jack Daniels whiskey, it’s also complex enough work well as a mid-level sipper or in a simple rum Old Fashioned. You can’t go wrong with any of the aged gold mixing rums from Flor de Caña, including the 4- and 5-year-old expressions that will be featured in upcoming reviews. Note that recently the labels of Flor de Caña’s slow-aged rums have been changed to downplay the age statement. It still says “7” (and 4 and 5) on the label, but the actual age is now ambiguous. From what I understand, the number is now considered an average age of the blend. By all accounts, however, the taste hasn’t changed much.
* Ministry of Rum: More on Flor de Caña, video review of Grand Reserve 7
* Flor de Caña: Official site | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
* Previous rum of the week: Flor de Caña white
* See all past rums of the week

Don’t miss: Flor de Caña is one of the rum sponsors at The Hukilau, the annual Tiki weekender in Fort Lauderdale on June 8-12. Enjoy tastings, special cocktails and more. Ticket info | Atomic Grog coverage

COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK: Hotel Nacional Special
(By Charles H. Baker, The Gentleman’s Companion; adapted by Erik Adkins)

Hotel Nacional Special featuring Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 2016)
Hotel Nacional Special featuring Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 2016)

* 1 1/2 ounces aged rum
* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 3/4 ounce pineapple syrup
* 1/2 ounce apricot brandy
* 1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel. Source: The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique by Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

A vintage cocktail from Cuba flawlessly reinterpreted for modern tastes. Rich and full of flavor thanks to the pineapple syrup and apricot brandy. The aged rum punches through with the perfect amount of bold and comforting warmth. Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7 does the trick nicely, or try any dry, Spanish-style aged rum.

The Exotic Drinking Book volume of Baker’s seminal 1939 opus calls the Hotel Nacional Special “one of three finest Bacardi drinks known to science.” That recipe features Carta de Oro Bacardi, lime juice, pineapple juice, and dry apricot brandy. Baker correctly notes that a gold rum is needed to cut through the rich drink. Tiki cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry delves into the equally rich history of the cocktail and the Hotel Nacional in his book, Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them, publishing an alternate version attributed to a different Havana barman.

The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique

The cocktail, which dates back to 1931-1933, entered the craft cocktail lexicon when David Wondrich included it in his 2004 book, Esquire Drinks. Another influential writer, Paul Clarke, enthusiastically picked up the mantle in 2009 with this extensive blog about the Hotel Nacional Special, including what appears to be the genesis of the reinterpreted recipe above. Also take note of his take on apricot brandy.

It turns out that this amped up version featuring pineapple syrup and a dash of bitters was the handiwork of Erik Adams, bar manager of The Slanted Door in San Francisco. When Adams made the drink for his friend Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the craft cocktail writer and acclaimed mixologist at Clyde Common in Portland was blown away. Morgenthaler later included it in his 2014 book, praising Adams and his twist on this classic.

Pineapple syrup: Trim a 1-pound pineapple and cut into small chunks. Combine with 12 ounces of simple syrup in a large bowl and leave to macerate for 24 hours in the refrigerator, stirring periodically. Pour into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the pineapple to extract the liquid. Bottle and refrigerate. For lots more detail on this recipe (plus photos), check out this Tempered Spirits blog post, which also includes the Adams recipe and more on Morganthaller’s informative book.
* See all past cocktails of the week

SAVE THE DATE: Upcoming events

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag

***** In Florida *****
* 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 – 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.

Viva Las Vegas

***** 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. 5-6 – Hot Rod Hula Hop, Columbus, Ohio.
* Aug. 13Surf Guitar 101 Convention, California.
* Aug. 18-21 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, Calif. [Atomic Grog coverage]
* Sept. 10 – California Rum Fest, San Francisco.
* Sept. 17 – Makahiki: A Night of Tiki, Indianapolis, Ind.

***** Worldwide *****
* April 2-4 – Rhumfest Paris
* May 19-21 – Surf O Rama Festival, Valencia, Spain.
* May 29 – St. Croix Rum Festival
* May 30 – June 2 – International Rum Congress, Madrid, Spain.
* June 16-19 – Surfer Joe Summer Festival, Livorno, Italy.
* Oct. 15-16 – German Rum Festival,, Berlin.
* 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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