Some sad news out of Portland with the unexpected closing of Trader Vic’s. Meanwhile in South Florida, The Hukilau announces an exciting new symposium. Other event updates include the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Tiki Fest in the Pacific Northwest, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, and Tiki Kon. Quick sips include a Tiki home design show, a new FOM chapter in Atlanta, a space-Tiki lounge in L.A., and a Tiki speakeasy in NYC. Regular features spotlight lowbrow art legend Von Franco; sizzling San Diego surf band Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides; and the Luau, a historic restaurant from Miami Beach’s heyday. Learn about rum at the website of the week, RumJourney.com, before sampling the rum and cocktail of the week: Don Q Cristal and Val’s Daiquiri from New York City’s End of the Century.
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BREAKING NEWS: Fire closes Trader Vic’s in Portland
A March 2 fire at the medical office above the Trader Vic’s location in Portland forced what was originally thought to be a temporary closing of one of the few remaining North American outposts of the venerable Polynesian restaurant chain. But news later leaked out that due to mounting debt and high operating costs, the franchise owner was forced to close permanently, Wilmanette Week reported.
The fire burned through most of the ceiling in the bar and dining room, but a Facebook post on the restaurant’s official page that same day indicated that repairs would be made. After several weeks, however, a manager posted on his personal Facebook account that Trader Vic’s Portland “is now permanently closed” less than 5 years after it opened. In a follow-up, he said that the re-opening would have taken eight weeks and the owner decided to close after struggling to “keep above water” due to the high rent and overhead of the 8,000-square-foot restaurant.
The return of Trader Vic’s to Portland was heralded in August 2011 as the beloved brand joined a burgeoning local Tiki scene that had grown around the annual Tiki Kon and worldwide revival. Portland previously had a longstanding Trader Vic’s in the Bensen Hotel from 1959 to 1996.
The new location in the Pearl District was warmly received by locals and Tikiphiles alike. It was filled with authentic decor, including Tikis, tribal masks, glass floats and outrigger canoes. The food and drinks were also highly regarded, but apparently the costs were too high to stay competitive in one of the country’s top food and beverage cities. The closing leaves only two Trader Vic’s restaurants in the United States: the company-owned flagship location in Emeryville, Calif., and a long-rinning franchise in Atlanta. There are 18 overseas locations in 11 countries.
* Trader Vic’s corporate site
More on Trader Vic’s Portland
* Critiki: News story | Profile, ratings photos
* Tiki Central: Reviews, discussion, photos
* Tiki With Ray: A fire shut Trader Vic’s but that isn’t why it’s closed for good
EVENT PREVIEWS: The Hukilau, Miami Rum Festival, Tiki Fest, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, Tiki Kon
The Hukilau announces new symposium, sponsors
Some of the biggest names in the modern Tiki revival will gather at The Hukilau for a groundbreaking symposium as part of the 15th annual festivities June 8-12 in Fort Lauderdale. “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture” will bring together author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), event promoter Otto von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis), historian Humuhumu (Critiki), author and bar owner Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), artist Crazy Al Evans, acclaimed artist Shag, and event promoter Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White of The Hukilau for a rousing two-part panel discussion hosted by Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog. Author Sven Kirsten (Tiki Pop, The Book of Tiki) will also participate via Skype. Tickets are on sale now for $15 for passholders, $30 for non-passholders. The symposium will take place on Saturday, June 11, at 1 p.m. in the Panorama Ballroom at the host Pier 66 hotel.
* FULL COVERAGE: PREVIEW OF THE HISTORY SYMPOSIUM, MORE
Tiki Kiliki also announced additional rum sponsors who will be providing samples throughout the event. Puerto Rico’s Don Q (Rum of the Week below) and the Caribbean rums from Kenny Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay Rum will join the previously announced Flor de Caña (a previous Rum of the Week) and the Caribbean spiced navy rum from Sailor Jerry.
In addition to the anniversary of East Coast’s largest and longest running Tiki event, The Hukilau will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of The Mai-Kai Polynesian restaurant, recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. Multiple events will be held at the revered Tiki temple, renowned for its mid-century design and decor, acclaimed tropical cocktails, and Polynesian Islander Revue (the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii).
Fans of The Mai-Kai will want to be sure to attend the symposium “The Mai-Kai: History, Mystery and Adventure” by Tim “Swanky” Glazner at Pier 66 on Friday, June 10, at 2 p.m. Swanky reports that he’ll put a big emphasis in his presentation on the history and origins of the iconic Mystery Drink, including a look at the exotic and alluring servers who deliver it to guests. He’ll be joined by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, who will serve the ceremonial bowl to a lucky winner of a raffle. “You’ll hear the in-depth story of how the drink came to be, famous people who helped it along and famous and historical women who have served in the role of Mystery Girl, plus lots more teasers from the book,” Swanky posted on Facebook and wrote on his blog.
His upcoming book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant (set for publication in September), Swanky tells story of The Mai-Kai through the people who worked there, along with rare and never-before-seen photos and artwork. The 176-page hardcover book is available now for pre-orders.
Rob’s Rum Guide released in advance of Miami Rum Festival
Just in time for the upcoming Miami Rum Renaissance Festival (April 15-17), the latest edition of Rob’s Rum Guide is hot off the presses and available for anyone looking for a comprehensive look at the best cane spirits. The handy, pocket-sized guide, now in its ninth edition, features tasting notes on more than 700 rums.
You can pick up a copy at liquor stores from West Palm Beach to Key West, as well as at the festival at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. You can also find much of the info from the guide online at RobsRumGuide.com (a past website of the week).
* Click here to download a PDF of the guide
The festival celebrates some of the finest examples of the finest spirit in the world, with a massive exhibition space containing more than a hundred rums available for tasting and sampled in cocktails. New this year: A VIP Tasting Bar featuring rare, vintage and limited edition rums from Robert Burr’s personal collection. The event also features seminars and workshops, a trade expo with industry VIPs from around the world, plus island culture vendors, music, and more. Fancy yourself a rum expert? Correctly answer all the questions in the festival’s Name That Rum Contest and get a discount code good for two VIP three-day passes for the price of one.
The Atomic Grog: See our previous event preview | Full preview coming soon
New event debuts: Tiki Fest in Pacific Northwest
The Ukadelics are hosting Tiki Fest, a fun-filled weekend event in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday, April 16, and Sunday, April 17. The Seattle ukulele band, a fixture at events and luaus throughout the region, specializes in 1960s Hawaiian and hapa-haole. Their shows feature rousing renditions of Tiki and lounge standards, such as Blue Hawaii, Tiny Bubbles and Secret Agent Man.
The event kicks off with preshow drinks at Tacoma Cabana, the acclaimed craft Tiki bar and rum lounge. After proper tropical cocktails are consumed, the action moves to Bob’s Java Jive for live music from The Ukadelics and the TikiGraphs. Out-of-town guests can stay at the fest’s official hotel, the downtown Holiday Inn. Tiki Fest wraps up on Sunday with brunch at the Poodle Dog in Fabulous Fife.
* Facebook: Official event | The Ukadelics
Ohana: Luau at the Lake official mug announced
The 2016 Ohana: Luau at the Lake official mug, designed and hand-made by Dave Cohen (aka Squid), was unveiled on March 10. “Headley” is available for ticket-holders only and must be picked up at the event. Only 121 mugs are being made, and they cost just $50 each. Click here to see the mug and pre-order. A limited number of event tickets are still available here.
The eighth annual charity event hosted by the Fraternal Order Of Moai returns to the historic Tiki Resort in Lake George, N.Y., on June 23-26 for four days of music, art, vendors, room parties, a cocktail contest, mini-golf, an authentic luau, and more. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Easter Island Foundation.
The fun kicks off on Thursday night with “Terror at Camp Tiki,” a twist on the classic summer camp slasher flicks of yore. The event will include live music, food, drinks … and a killer on the loose. The highlight of Saturday is a traditional Hawaiian-style luau with slow-cooked kalua pig. Other returning events include the Ohana Room Crawl, the Ohana Mystery Bowl Auction, and the eighth annual Ohana Cocktail Contest, sponsored this year by Deadhead Rum.
Tiki Kon headliners announced, tickets on sale
Tiki Kon announced the headlining acts for the Friday and Saturday night shows at the Pacific Northwest’s premiere retro-themed event, set for July 8-10 in Portland. On Friday night, it’s the Surf & Turf kickoff show featuring the Hangten Hangmen plus special guests. Also included is a guest appearance by an Elvis tribute artist recreating the sounds of Sgt. Presley’s return from service in the Army in 1960. Supporting acts for the Friday show are still to be announced. On Saturday night, it’s the Tony Starlight Show with a full USO-style variety camp show.
The theme for the 15th Tiki Kon is “Tribute to the USO,” a celebration of the early years of the United Service Organizations, the end of World War II, and the return of U.S. soldiers from the Pacific. This year marks the 75th anniversary of both the USO and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The new host hotel for 2016 is the Red Lion on the River, site of most of the weekend happenings.
Tiki Kon includes live entertainment all three nights, symposiums, a banquet dinner, an island marketplace, plus an event mug by VanTiki. Tiki Kon’s signature events are the Iron Tikitender bartending competition and what’s considered the Tiki revival’s longest-running home bar tour.
Tickets went on sale March 13 at a special early-purchase party at the B.G. Reynolds Tasting room in Portland. The party featured music by DJ Cabana, drinks featuring B.G. Reynolds syrups and mixes, food, a silent auction, gifts and goodies, art, barware, vintage aloha wear, vendors, and more. Tickets were released online March 15.
QUICK SIPS: Tiki design show pitched, Atlanta gets FOM chapter, L.A. gets space-Tiki lounge, NYC gets Tiki speakeasy
Tired of all those shows on HGTV and the DIY Network with not a trace of Tiki in them? Two of Tiki’s most notable bar builders – Bamboo Ben and Crazy Al Evans – joined forces with Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid to film a pilot episode of Building Paradise at the home of Spike (of The Hula Girls) and Dinah in Costa Mesa. Call it a “Tiki takeover,” a step-by-step look at the redesign of a homeowner’s designated space into a Polynesian Pop wonderland. The creators, Tampa-based Media Melt Productions, are looking for anyone interested in investing and/or picking up the concept and putting it on the air. For more info on the production, check out this thread on Tiki Central.
See the show: Preview clip | Full pilot episode
* Also from Media Melt: Island People, a show about the Tiki lifestyle (YouTube)
Atlanta has joined the growing network of Fraternal Order Of Moai outposts with the addition of the Tongariki chapter. Headed by writer and rum/Tiki authority Paul E. Senft of RumJourney.com, it’s the non-profit group’s 10th chapter dedicated to the preservation of Tiki, spreading aloha and raising money for charity. As a homage to its place on the U.S. map, it’s named for Ahu Tongariki in the southeast region of Rapa Nui. Check out the chapter’s Facebook page.
* See below: Website of the week: RumJourney.com
Get ready for the April launch of a post-Tiki outer-space themed cocktail bar in the lounge at Honeycut nightclub in the Los Angeles Financial District, according to Eater. The Deep End will be open Sundays through Wednesdays, according to the teams behind the project, 213 Hospitality and Proprietors LLC. Expect some sort of psychedelic, space-age take on Tiki culture, an odd mash-up of Trader Vic and Ziggy Stardust. Honeycut includes an adjacent disco dance floor, so this isn’t likely to be a laid-back experience. But the names behind the project are highly regarded, so this is worth keeping an eye on.
The Shipwreck Lounge, a late-night Tiki speakeasy, has opened in Brooklyn. Hidden away in an industrial area of Bushwick, the space is also used as a set for an “immersive theater and dance experience” called The Grand Paradise. According to the Brooklyn Based blog, Neil Patrick Harris and Jon Hamm have come to check out the theater, and both NPR and The New York Times have written about it. The Grand Paradise “transports visitors to a ’70s island resort, where they explore themes of awakening, liberation, longing and rebirth,” the blog says. When the action shifts to a bar, the audience can order cocktails with pre-purchased tokens. So why not put the bar to better use? On Thursdays through Saturdays, it becomes a speakeasy from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. featuring a menu of creative Tiki cocktails. Alicia Rebensdorf, an area bar owner, has crafted an impressive lineup of drinks, including a smoky Dark and Stormy with scotch, dark rum, Fernet Branca and ginger beer; and a Piña Colada infused with cardamom, mango and coconut milk. Rebensdorf said she tries to add “herbal, bitter, sour and spicy notes” to every cocktail.
***** Links of the week*****
* Like Disneyland for adults: The Golden Tiki – Las Vegas (The Tiki Chick)
* The ultimate guide to completing the Grog Log at the Tonga Hut (Modern Tiki Lounge)
* This LA pop-up turns Tiki into dinner theater (Munchies)
* The SOS Tiki Bar bartender talks booze (Creative Loafing)
* 5 things you’ll love about the Polynesian Resort’s Tambu Lounge (Disney Dining)
* Elvis Tiki: Graceland’s Jungle Room (Critiki News)
* Interview with Daniel Gallardo, aka Tiki Diablo (The Rum Lab)
* 10 instrumental surf rock songs you need to hear now (Guitar World)
* The 10 best daiquiris in NYC (Time Out)
* After visiting Cuba, Manifesto’s Ryan Maybee created this daiquiri (The Kansas City Star)
* How to make the Flaming Skull Punch Bowl from Polite Provisions (Tales of the Cocktail)
* Rum rises: America’s party spirit preps to have its moment (Chicago Tribune)
* Setting the record straight on Jamaican rum’s mystery ingredient (Cocktail Wonk)
* Caribbean rums are positioning themselves as sippers (Beverage Dynamics)
* 15 rums you have to drink at least once (Cool Material)
* Bacardi ramps up Havana Club battle (World Trademark Review)
* These guys claim to create 15-year-old spirits in just six days (Urban Daddy)
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Von Franco
Southern California’s Franco Costanza, aka Von Franco, has come a long way: From “teenage monster shirt painter” in the 1960s to one of the most accomplished artists in the Kustom Kulture and lowbrow art scenes. A disciple of Von Dutch and Big Daddy Roth, Von Franco built his reputation as a master pinstriper and airbrush artist. His hot-rod credentials include designing custom cars and motorcycles, plus his own distinctive model kits. More recently, he collaborated with Levis on a line of signature “Kustom Monster” sweatshirts. Von Franco also has deep ties to Tiki culture, dating back to his years living in Hawaii in the early 1970s. His Tiki paintings and mugs are influenced by his love of exotica and surf music, which also led him to become an accomplished musician. In the 1990s, he played guitar in acclaimed surf band The Bomboras. Von Franco seemingly never sits still, and you can find him at many hot rod and custom car shows, art exhibits and other events, large and small. He puts an emphasis on supporting budding artists, just as he was nurtured in his youth.
* Find Von Franco: Official site | Facebook | Instagram
* Buy Von Franco merchandise: Mugs, prints, stickers, shirts (eBay)
Model kits (Amazon) | Stickers, shirts (Poster Pop)
* Archive of Von Franco Tiki mugs (Ooga-Mooga)
* See past artists of the week
BAND/MUSIC OF THE WEEK:
Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides
A fixture on the West Coast surf and Tiki scenes, San Diego-based guitar-slinger Jason Lee and his tight three-piece band keep the spirit and style of first-wave instrumental surf alive in the 21st century with an emphasis on showmanship and tight musicianship. The R.I.P. Tides (Lee on guitar, Tony Hayse on bass and Josh Herms on drums) are a favorite at many surf, rockabilly and Tiki events due to their energetic and colorful stage presence (along with their ever-present go-go dancers). A highlight of the summer is their annual poolside appearance at their hometown bash, Tiki Oasis. Lee attacks the stage with a laid-back yet aggressive fury, his trademark blonde spike of hair only briefly drawing your attention away from his flying fingers on his trademark Gretsch White Falcon guitar. An accomplished guitarist with more than 20 years’ experience, Lee is a manager at Carvin Guitars and noted instructor with a line of his own YouTube videos for The Next Level Guitar. He also regularly contributes his vintage-meets-modern style to TV shows and movies. The band is working on a new album to be released this year, a follow-up to their self-titled 2014 Dionysus Records debut.
* Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides on Amazon: Vinyl | Digital download
* Official website | Facebook page
* All past bands/music of the week
Don’t miss: Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides will be performing April 17 at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas. Also catch them June 8-12 at The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale at both the Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant. [Get tickets | Atomic Grog coverage]
BAR OF THE WEEK:
Luau, Miami Beach
Remnants are long gone, but Miami Beach was somewhat of a hotbed for Polynesian Pop restaurants during the latter years of Tiki’s mid-century heyday. Along with The Castaways, the Luau was perhaps the epitome of that era’s classic establishments. It was designed by Franklin Hughes (who also worked on the famous Copacabana in New York City) and featured a distinctive exterior with a towering rock wall and “Luau” sign. Giant moai with flaming heads were later added to the exotic atmosphere. Noted Miami artist Lewis Vandercar sculpted tikis and painted an elaborate shipwreck scene behind the bar that included distinctive lighting that changed from day to night. Miami Beach’s Luau was not associated with Steve Crane’s Luau in Palm Springs, Calif., (est. 1953). It was opened in 1955 by Jerry Brooks, and later changed hands to “Trader Syd” Mass in 1960. The restaurant included many popular themes and concepts from the era, including Luau Serving Girls, the Aloha Islanders Revue, and extensive menus of exotic tropical drinks and Cantonese cuisine. The signature drink was the Pina Paradise, served in a hollowed-out pineapple. The Luau closed in 1974 and the building was later razed.
* Critiki profile | Tiki Central discussion | Photos, menus, postcards
* See past bars of the week
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: RumJourney.com
Traveling around the world to sample and write about rum may be a fantasy for many, but it’s a lifestyle for Paul E. Senft. The Atlanta-based blogger (and Georgia Tech employee) documents his passion on the RumJourney.com website, which features expert reviews, interviews, and more (Senft is also an accomplished photographer). His reviews are fair and even-handed, gaining Senft a reputation as a voice of reason in the rum community. His reviews and other features can also be found in Got Rum? magazine. Senft is also very passionate about Tiki, which is what actually led him on his rum journey. He hosts regular seminars on rum and Tiki at Trader Vic’s in Atlanta and also heads up the new Atlanta chapter of the Fraternal Order Of Moai. We’re not sure where Senft’s journey will lead him next, but it will be fun to tag along.
* RumJourney.com | Facebook page | Twitter
* See past websites of the week
Don’t miss: Senft’s next seminar at Trader Vic’s is “Exotcia – The Music of Tiki” on April 30. He’ll also once again be serving as a RumXP judge at the eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival on April 15-17. If you see him on the tasting floor or at one of the many related events, don’t hesitate to say hello. He’s always happy to stop and talk rum and Tiki.
RUM OF THE WEEK:
Don Q Cristal
This venerable brand from Puerto Rico has an extensive line of products. You’ll find 10 Don Q rums available for sampling at the upcoming Miami Rum Festival on April 15-17. And while it’s not the flashiest expression in the Don Q portfolio, the standard white rum (known as Cristal) is perhaps most closely associated with the brand’s 150-year history. Like most producers of Spanish-style rum, Don Q takes pride in its white rum. It was reportedly used in the first Piña Colada when it was invented in the 1950s. The first Cristal rum was launched in 1978 and became essential in Caribbean cocktails such as the Mojito. After falling off the radar of many consumers, the brand was re-launched in the United States in 2006, just in time for the current rum renaissance, snagging numerous awards at festivals and tastings. Aged for 1 1/2 to 5 years in American white oak barrels, Cristal is smooth and a little dry with hints of citrus. It’s also slightly spicy and complex, and it’s a great bargain for the price. All of the above makes it perfectly suited as a workhorse mixing rum in Tiki bars.
* Listen: 5 Minutes of Rum podcast on Don Q Cristal
* Don Q: Official site | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
* See all past rums of the week
COCKTAIL OF THE WEEK: Val’s Daiquiri
(By Valentin González, End of the Century, New York City)
* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
(save a wedge for garnish)
* 1 large strawberry (save half for garnish)
* 1 ounce pineapple juice
* 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup
* 2 ounces rum
Muddle strawberry half with lime juice and pineapple juice. Shake vigorously with syrup, rum and ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge and the other half of the strawberry. Source: The New York Times
Recently named one of the 10 best daiquiris in New York City, this off-the-menu gem is gaining fame for head bartender González (formerly of NYC’s late Tiki haven PKNY). He takes a sometimes bland template and plusses it with an array of compatible flavors. Hints of fresh strawberry provide a clean counterpoint to the rich cinnamon and distinctive pineapple, while the Don Q Cristal (or any other smooth white rum) adds just enough of a kick to keep it interesting to the last drop. Beware: This goes down way too easy.
* 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. 5-6 – Hot Rod Hula Hop, Columbus, Ohio.
* Aug. 13 – Surf 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.)