The Atomic Grog had the distinct pleasure of serving up cocktails on Aug. 27 for special guests of artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli at the 20th anniversary party for Altered State Tattoo, the South Florida shop that has gained him a worldwide following for his highly creative ink.
See recipes below: Altered State Zombie | Mai Ta-IPA
Respectable Street in downtown West Palm Beach hosted the private bash, which also included a rare performance by Pooch’s hard-rocking band, Ferocious Stones; a lowbrow art marketplace featuring Altered State artists; and a DJ keeping the eclectic tunes flowing during the three-hour party. The Atomic Grog pop-up bar was featured on the back patio along with food by chef Corey Hall.
Pooch opened his modest shop in August 1996 in Lake Worth, funneling his creative energy into a new career as a small business owner. His talent as an artist (and musician) was always evident, with much of his early work centered around his acclaimed hardcore metal band Raped Ape. Pooch quickly became an in-demand tattooist, showcasing his highly original work in national magazines and building a loyal following. A lowbrow art career soon followed, with Pooch’s paintings shown at gallery shows from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York City.
Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)
The artist’s eye-popping surrealist work includes many exotic images, including Polynesian Tikis, Day of the Dead, and his own unique take on roller coasters. Full disclosure: The Atomic Grog home bar and surrounding walls feature a half-dozen Pooch prints, including Franken Tiki Island. Pooch painted a boomerang table that hangs behind the bar and also gave me this rare Tiki piece he painted. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of his work. I even traveled to his 2005 gallery shows in Seattle and Los Angeles.
Not only is Pooch a major talent in the lowbrow and tattoo art worlds, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. A seemingly imposing figure, Pooch is actually a gentle giant, literally and figuratively. Nowadays, we typically meet up for cocktails at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, sharing our affinity for Tiki culture and exotic libations. Mrs. Hayward and I also often join Mike and Stacy (Mrs. Pooch) at the creative gastropub Sweetwater in Boynton Beach.
Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party. (Atomic Grog photos)
Although we’ve both been drawn to Tiki in our middle age, I’ve actually known Pooch for 28 years. We met in 1988, just after he formed Raped Ape and I was a fledgling journalist. I later ended up managing the talented group for six years. It was no surprise to me that Altered State was a smash success. For most of the past 20 years, Pooch’s right hand has been Scott White, another longtime artist and musician whose band I managed back in the day.
Therefore, I knew I had to pull out all the stops in providing the proper exotic cocktails and ambience for the 20th anniversary festivities. The drinks and decor had to match the bold and creative artwork of Pooch and his team. In addition to my ties to Pooch and Altered State, I have a longtime relationship with Respectable Street as a promoter for Slammie Productions. Among the dozens of bands I’ve brought to the club over the past 20+ years are Dick Dale, Dead Kennedys, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Nekromantix, The Adolescents, and many more.
Hurricane Hayward (right) and Max Vrahimis man The Atomic Grog pop-up bar at Respectable Street during Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party on Aug. 27. (Atomic Grog photos)
As my wingman, I called upon Max Vrahimis to assist with graphic design and cocktail prep, and to provide two extra hands behind the bar. He arrived early to start setting up in Respectable Street’s rustic bar in the back patio area next to chef Corey’s team. While the space was a far cry from a tropical oasis, we managed to bring enough flair (and flaming Tikis) to make it respectable.
As for the cocktails, I wanted to present something familiar yet a little off-the-wall, much like Pooch’s art. He suggested a Mai Tai, so I borrowed a very modern take on the Trader Vic’s classic. I knew Pooch is a big fan of whiskey, as well as coffee, in cocktails (The Mai-Kai’s Black Magic is one of his favorites). I took one of my favorites (the Zombie) and infused it with those unexpected flavors. We batched up scaled-down drinks for the party, but here are the full-sized original recipes for your imbibing pleasure:
ALTERED STATE ZOMBIE
(By Hurricane Hayward, The Atomic Grog)
* 1 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1 1/2 ounces white grapefruit juice
* 3/4 ounce passion fruit syrup
* 1 ounce Altered State Zombie Mix (see below)
* 1/2 ounce chilled coffee
* 6 drops of Herbstura (Herbsaint and Angostura bitters)
* 1 ounce white Spanish-style rum
* 1 ounce dark rum (Plantation or Coruba)
* 1/2 ounce Hamilton 151 rum (or Lemon Hart)
* 1/2 ounce bourbon whiskey (Knob Creek 9-year-old)
Combine all ingredients in a blender with a heaping cup of crushed ice. Pulse blend for 6-8 seconds and pour into a Tiki mug or large Zombie glass, adding more ice to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, mint sprig, plus speared cherry and lime wedge. Inspired by Don the Beachcomber’s original Zombie, circa 1930s. Dedicated to Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli and 20 years of Altered State Tattoo.
A powerful take on the classic Zombie packed full of flavors, with notes of coffee and bourbon adding a unique and unexpected twist. The many tart and sweet elements are balanced by the high-octane rums and bitters/anise combo. This goes down very easy, belying its 3 ounces of spirits. Beware of this seductive monster.
Altered State Zombie Mix
* 1 part rich honey mix (2:1 honey to water)
* 1 part grenadine
* 1 part fassionola
* 1 part cinnamon syrup
I played around with different elements and combinations before settling on this perfectly balanced mix that adds a complex yet undefinable sweet element along with the passion fruit syrup. You can simply add 1/4 ounce of each ingredient to the recipe above, or make a larger batch for parties. Rich honey mix is a staple in my repertoire. Shake together the honey and water and keep bottled in the fridge. My grenadine of choice, especially in this drink, is Fee Brothers. You can usually find it on Amazon. The American Beauty version is very rich and adds a bold red color. If using another brand or your homemade variety, make sure it’s not too weak or you’ll end up with a pink drink. Fassionola is a more obscure syrup used here mainly for its intensity of flavor and, especially, color. The Jonathan English brand that I use keeps the Zombie a nice blood red color and also adds more fruit flavors (raspberry, orange). A new option from Cocktail & Sons that just came to market is another option, though I’m not sure it imparts the same rich color. You could double the grenadine and skip the fassionola if you’d like. Finally, a bold cinnamon syrup adds just a hint of spicy sweetness. For this recipe, I made my own rich cinnamon simple syrup using cinnamon sticks, organic sugar and purified water. You can find many recipes online, or just pick up a bottle from B.G. Reynolds.
Ingredient notes: Always squeeze fresh lime juice. In this recipe, I used my special Mai-Kai lime blend. Fresh is best, but a bottled white grapefruit juice is OK if the fruit is out of season. Make sure it’s all natural with no added sugar. I usually make my own passion fruit syrup (using frozen pulp, organic sugar and purified water), but there are many decent brands out there on the market (B.G. Reynolds, Aunty Lilikoi and the more economical Finest Call, which I used at the party). Strong Kona coffee (brewed roughly double strength) is an option, but I ended up using a quality Colombian coffee brewed just slightly strong, then chilled. It wasn’t as bitter and blended better with the other ingredients. Combining Herbsaint (an anise liqueur similar to Pernod) and Angostura bitters in equal proportions in a bottle for easy dashing is a trick I just picked up from Martin and Rebecca Cate’s excellent new book, Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. Be sure to use an eye-dropper so you don’t overdo these intense flavors. If you use the more intense Pernod, you might want to use 2 drops for every 3 of the ubiquitous Angostura. Beachbum Berry’s books are another great resource for syrup recipes as well as hundreds of classic Tiki cocktails.
Spirits: I was on a budget for the party, so I tried to keep my white and dark rums in line with costs, yet provide the best bang for the buck. I went with Flor de Caña white, a quality 4-year-old rum from Nicaragua made in the Spanish style. You could also use any good white rum from Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands, or one made in that style. A clean white rum is best. The dark rum steps up the flavor, with Plantation Original Dark as my choice. The older blend from Trinidad & Tobago is still on the shelves in South Florida, so I used that. There’s a new blend that also includes Jamaican rum, adding a nice funky flavor to an already stellar rum. Either works fine, though I would seek out the new blend if possible (look for the darker label). Another great option would be a flavorful (but not too pungent) Jamaican rum such as Coruba Original. A 151 Demerara rum is essential in any Zombie, so I didn’t cut corners here. Hamilton 151 from Guyana is now readily available at Total Wine stores in Florida, so this was a no-brainer. Lemon Hart 151 has recently returned to the U.S. market, so this is another option if you can find it. Whiskey choices are numerous, but after trying a couple I settled on a premium brand: Knob Creek’s 9-year-old, 100-proof small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. In a small dose, it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the cocktail. And the smooth, sweet, nutty, and oaky flavors are perfectly complementary. You can try other craft bourbons, just make sure they’re on the smooth side.
* 1 ounce fresh lime juice
* 3/4 ounce orgeat
* 1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
* 1 ounce white rum (Plantation 3 Stars)
* 1/2 ounce Demerara rum (Hamilton 86)
* 1/2 ounce Smith & Cross dark Jamaican rum
* 1 1/2 ounces IPA (Due South Category 5 or Cigar City Jai-Alai)
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with a cup of ice cubes. Shake for 8-10 seconds, then strain into a double old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a spent lime shell, mint sprig, and speared cherry. Inspired by Trader Vic’s original Mai Tai, circa 1940s. Sources: Cocktails on Tap: The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer and 5 Minutes of Rum.
A surprisingly reverential take on the classic Mai Tai, with lots of potent flavors that play together in perfect harmony. Both sour and sweet, like any good Mai Tai, it spotlights all the traditional elements. Believe it or not, the beer hits you only on the back end, adding a nice kick. Meanwhile, the distinctive rums join forces to bring out the best in the trademark lime-orgeat-curacao combination.
Pooch requested a Mai Tai, so I sought out something different while not straying far from the classic recipe. included in Jacob Grier’s 2015 book on beer cocktails, the Mai Ta-IPA was tweaked by Kevin Upthegrove on his 5 Minutes of Rum podcast in June 2016. I used Upthegrove’s recipe pretty much as designed, subbing out two of the rums and the IPA.
Ingredient notes: Again, fresh-squeezed lime juice is essential. I also used my Mai-Kai lime blend, which adds key lime juice, in this drink. A good orgeat is not easy to find, and many Tiki enthusiasts make their own. Check the Web for recipes, or order highly-regarded brands such as Orgeat Works, Small Hand Foods, and B.G. Reynolds. A good budget option is Finest Call, which I used at the Altered State party.
Spirits: Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao is hard to beat, standing head and shoulders above most other curaçaos. I swapped out the white and Demerara rums from Upthegrove’s version, replacing El Dorado 3 with the funkier Plantation 3 Stars. It was more a matter of availability, but I also thought this rum blend from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad brought a bit more flavor to the table. Hamilton 86 from Guyana is a cheaper option than El Dorado 12, with a higher proof and much of the same flavor. But feel free to go with the older, richer ED12. Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum was a great addition by Upthegrove, and I saw no reason to change this. In fact, this pungent yet irresistable rum is the star of this cocktail. Many IPAs will work well, so go with your favorite. You want something on the hoppier end of the spectrum so it holds up against the rums and curacao. The California-based Upthegrove went with a local brew (Ballast Point Scupin), so I did the same. The cocktails at the party featured South Florida’s Due South Category 5, but I also found Tampa’s Cigar City Jai-Alai to be quite tasty.
After serving around 100 cocktails, we caught some of the 45-minute set of heavy rock from supergroup Ferocious Stones. Pooch (lead guitar and backing vocals) was joined by former Raped Ape bandmate JC Dwyer on drums, along with JC’s brother Dylan Dwyer on bass (both now sling axes in JC Dwyer and the Blackbirds). Rounding out the band is frontman Kenny 5 (the charismatic leader of ’80s glam-metal heroes Tuff Luck), plus rhythm guitarist Rick Bentley (who joined Raped Ape for their 2013 reunion).
As the event drew to a close, the Altered State hosts (artists Pooch, Scott White and Dean Piekara) shared a giant anniversary cake with their tattooed guests. It was, quite literally, the icing on the cake of a celebratory evening that marked a milestone for one of South Florida’s most creative ink masters.