The Mai-Kai and The Atomic Grog are headed to Tiki Oasis! We’re honored to be joined by manager Kern Mattei and creative director “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller at the world’s original and largest Tiki weekender Aug. 2-6 in San Diego.
The 23rd annual event at the Town and Country Resort features live entertainment (Man or Astroman, The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Messer Chups, The New Les Baxter Orchestra, Shorty’s Swingin’ Coconuts, King Kukulele, Medusirena), seminars (Sven Kirsten, Charles Phoenix, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Ian Burrell), artists, vendors, and much more.
Tiki Oasis guests will enjoy five nights and four days of poolside lounging, fashion shows, room parties, live bands and DJs, a curated art exhibit, a gigantic Tiki marketplace, tropical cocktails curated by top mixologists, plus much more.
Click here for event tickets, ranging from $40 for Wednesday to $499 for a deluxe Wednesday-Sunday pass. If you have kids in tow, don’t fret. Tickets cost just $35 for ages 6 to 17. Children 5 under are free.
THE MAI-KAI AT TIKI OASIS
For the first time in event history, South Florida’s historic Mai-Kai will be on hand for not one, but two official presentations. Last year, designer and artist Allsmiller taught a sold-out, two-day shelf-building class shortly after diving into his work restoring The Mai-Kai. This year, he’ll be featuring one of his restored vintage lamps from The Mai-Kai in a lamp show that runs all weekend.
On Friday, Hayward and Mattei will present a seminar on one of The Mai-Kai’s most iconic cocktails, the Derby Daiquiri. On Saturday, they will be joined by Allsmiller for a presentation jam-packed with the latest information on the restoration and reopening.
Here are are more details on the events:
The Derby Daiquiri and Beyond: How to Create Your Own Classic
Hosted by Kern Mattei and Jim “Hurricane” Hayward
2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, $45 [BUY TICKETS]
The Mai-Kai’s Derby Daiquiri was one of the most celebrated cocktails of the mid-century, a simple riff on the Cuban classic by master mixologist Mariano Licudine. Six decades later, it remains one of the most popular drinks on the historic restaurant’s menu. It also provides a case study on how a vintage recipe can be enhanced by just a few simple tweaks, creating something new and exciting. Join The Mai-Kai’s longtime manager, Kern Mattei, and cocktail blogger Jim “Hurricane” Hayward for an examination of Licudine’s genius as they guide you toward creating your own signature classic.
About Kern and Jim
Kern Mattei was born into The Mai-Kai family and has worked there since his youth, from barback and bartender to the past three decades as manager. His father was the GM before him, and his mother performed in the stage show. His unique position makes him intimately familiar with the restaurant’s famous cocktails, their history and the secret recipes. During the current refurbishment, he runs the takeout cocktail program, providing quarts and gallons of classics like the Barrel O’ Rum and Black Magic to thirsty locals. Blogger and journalist Jim “Hurricane” Hayward has covered The Mai-Kai for more than a decade, documenting and recreating the cocktail recipes in exacting detail. As we approach a late 2023 reopening, The Atomic Grog has become a key source of information on The Mai-Kai restoration project.
Seminar sneak preview
Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect during the first-ever official Mai-Kai cocktail seminar at Tiki Oasis:
- Three different Daiquiris will be served by the Tiki Oasis cocktail crew, including the Derby, as we reveal and dissect each recipe.
Rare and never-before-seen images from the archives will be shown, including Mattei family photos.
We’ll take the most detailed look yet at the creation and explosive popularity of the Derby Daiquiri, known as “the $100,000 Drink.”
The seminar will conclude with the premiere of a new recipe created especially for Tiki Oasis and San Diego.
The Derby Daiquiri: The Mai-Kai’s ‘$100,000 drink’ is worth its weight in gold UPDATED
A deep dive into the fascinating history of the cocktail that made The Mai-Kai and its head mixologist famous.
>>> UPDATED HISTORY, REVIEW AND MORE
NEW: Tribute recipe | The Derby Daiquiri on Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour
Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Classic Daiquiri lost favor when Cuba fell, but influence endures UPDATED
Revisit The Mai-Kai’s version of a classic, including a recently unveiled recipe that links back to Don the Beachcomber.
>>> UPDATED HISTORY & REVIEW | NEW: AUTHENTIC RECIPE
Tiki History Reimagined: The Restoration and Reopening of The Mai-Kai
Jim “Hurricane” Hayward with “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller and Kern Mattei
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, $20 [BUY TICKETS]
The Mai-Kai is a miraculous survivor. The South Florida historic landmark endured a near-catastrophic roof collapse in late 2020 but found new owners with deep pockets and an ambitious vision to preserve it for generations to come. When the restoration of the 66-year-old Polynesian palace is complete, it will be meticulously returned to its former glory and also include millions of dollars in enhancements that respect the past and charge boldly into the future. In this multimedia presentation, embedded journalist Jim “Hurricane” Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog will take you behind the scenes at The Mai-Kai. He’ll be joined by two key members of The Mai-Kai team: Creative director “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller will offer unique insights into the painstaking restoration efforts, while longtime manager Kern Mattei will provide up-to-the-minute news on the renovation project, along with his unique perspective on Mai-Kai history.
About The Mai-Kai team
Jim “Hurricane” Hayward is a veteran journalist and blogger, best known for The Atomic Grog blog – covering Tiki events, music, art cocktails and culture since 2011. Along with its popular Mai-Kai cocktail guide, the blog has become the go-to source of information on the landmark restaurant’s closing, sale, restoration, and reopening. Typhoon Tommy is a multiple Thea Award-winning scenic artist with 13 years of experience in the theme park industry. After turning his talents full-time to creating magical escapes in the world of Tiki, he became creative director and designer for The Mai-Kai renovation project in 2022. Kern Mattei grew up at the historic restaurant during its heyday and now leads the efforts to modernize the infrastructure while maintaining as much of its original beauty as possible. He has been general manager since 1993, following in the footsteps of his father, Kern Mattei Sr. (1964-1991).
Seminar sneak preview
The seminar will be filled with many new and exciting details and insights. Here are a few special surprises guests can expect:
- An authentic Mai-Kai cocktail featuring the restaurant’s proprietary rum blend will kick off the festivities.
New images from Mattei and his family archives will be shown.
Exclusive photos and video from inside The Mai-Kai will include brand new footage being shot this week.
- A detailed look at plans for the reimagination will be explained by the key people on the ground.
Details on the reopening’s two phases will be explained.
Guests well get a peek at The Mai-Kai’s new cocktail menu, merchandise and signature rum.
Both seminars are sponsored by Puerto Rico’s Don Q Rum, one of those used in the original Derby Daiquiri.
Attendees will receive Mai-Kai gIveaways during both seminars. Brand new merchandise will be available for purchase afterward.
We hope to see you there!
More on The Atomic Grog
* The Mai-Kai renovations, May-June 2023: Historic restaurant’s new infrastructure begins to take shape
* Meticulous attention to detail is hallmark of The Mai-Kai restoration project (May-June 2023 update)
* Latest updates and social media posts | Past stories
TIKI OASIS HIGHLIGHTS
The O.G. of modern Tiki events is a non-stop smorgasbord of retro-themed entertainment, educational opportunities, live music, pool parties, vendors, artists, plus lots more.
Event organizers Baby Doe and Otto Von Stroheim are known for their longtime support of artists, so we won’t miss their 14th annual Tiki Oasis Art Show featuring more than 50 artists. Also high on our agenda: The 13th annual Sip ‘n Shop and three-day marketplace featuring more than 150 vendors.
The nightly live music showcases are hosted by Tiki event mainstay King Kukulele and include an eclectic array of bands. Another Tiki Oasis staple is the late-night room parties, aka “Official Suite Soirees,” which kick off Friday and Saturday nights at 10 p.m.
A linchpin of Tiki Oasis is its wide range of events, from the late-night burlesque performances to the annual Miss/Mr/Mx Tiki Oasis contest. The organizers pride themselves on promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.
Below are just a few of the happenings that caught our eye on the official schedule. There are plenty of other festivities for Polynesiacs with wide-ranging interests.
- Mysterious Magical Tiki Oasis Opening Night Meet ‘n Mingle (5-10 p.m.) featuring photo booths and other surprises.
- Tiki Oasis Art Show and Lamp Show premiere (10 a.m.-4 p.m.).
Mysterious Marriage of Coffee & Tropical Cocktails with Egor Polonskiy (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) – The west coast manager of trade education and mixology for Patrón Tequila will break down coffee cocktails, from Don the Beachcomber’s Kona Coffee Grog to The Mai-Kai’s Black Magic and explain why they work.
- Growing a Jungle at Disneyland with David “Dr. Skipper” Marley (1-2:30 p.m.) – The former Disneyland Jungle Cruise skipper and history professor will share tales from his Skipper Stories series of books.
The Torrid Story of Fassionola with Martin S. Lindsay and Gregorio Pantoja (4-5 p.m.) – Take a culinary and cultural history tour of mixology’s most mysterious ingredient with the authors of an upcoming book on the “taste thrill of the century.” They will be joined by noted mixologist Doc Parks, who will create some special libations for the occasion.
Thursday Night Showcase hosted by King Kukulele, featuring The New Les Baxter Orchestra (8:45 p.m.).
- Beach Bohemians of the 20th Century – The History of Beachcomber Style with Sven Kirsten (9:30-10:30 a.m.) – The author and godfather of the Tiki revival will reveal a plethora of unpublished Polynesian Pop eye candy and explain some of the intricacies of the style.
- The Legend Returns: Don the Beachcomber with Adrian Eustaquio (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) – The host of the Inside the Desert Oasis Room podcast and vlog will be joined by Tim “Swanky” Glazner (author of an upcoming Donn Beach biography); Max Well (co-director of the upcoming Donn of Tiki documentary); adviser Sven Kirsten and artist Daniel “Tiki Diablo” Gallardo; plus several key members of the team bringing back the legendary restaurant chain: Marc Brown, Marie King and Justin Peterson.. Expect a panel full of news, sneak peeks, surprises and more – along with some classic Don the Beachcomber cocktails.
Craft Your Own Bitters Workshop with Tiki Lindy (12:30-1:30 p.m.) – The veteran bartender, consultant and author teaches you about a key cocktail ingredient and how to craft your own at home.
Marketplace Preview and Sip ‘n Shop (3-8 p.m.).
- The Secret life of Vincent Price, Tiki Collector with Cammo (10-11 a.m.) – Learn about the Oceanic, African, and ancient South American antiquities collected by the actor best known for starring in classic horror films. Cammo (aka Cam MacMillan) is the author of a Tiki children’s book, Pineapple Poet and the Curse of the Smoothie Man, and lived three doors down from Price during the 1960s.
Paranormal Pacific with Deb Marley (noon-1 p.m.). Learn about the fascinating myths and legends of the Pacific islands with the host of Marley’s Ghosts, a storytelling podcast of vintage spooky tales.
Under the Sea with Disney with Robert Short (1-2 p.m.) – Go behind the scenes to look at the making of two of Disney’s underwater classic films, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Splash, with a visual effects and makeup effects expert.
The History of Rum with Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell (1:30-2:30 p.m.) – Embark on a tropical journey with the award-winning spirits expert as he tells the story of rum through the eyes of a few cocktails.
- Thrillas from Manila: Famous Filipino Tiki Barmen with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (3:30-5 p.m.) – The author of seven acclaimed books on Tiki cocktails and owner of Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 in New Orleans will reveal the stories of the unsung heroes of the golden age of the Polynesian restaurant craze.
Polynesiacs: Navigating a Home Tiki Bar with Tiki Tom-Tom (4-5 p.m.) – The author of Polynesiacs: Tiki At Home shares insights from his cross-country trip to visit 75 escapist and immersive home spaces across the continental United States.
- DJ Big Tiki Dude (9:30 a.m.-noon).
Catalinaland with Charles Phoenix (10-11 a.m.) – The classic and kitschy pop culture expert will sweep you away on a time travel adventure exploring the island’s classic landmarks, legends and lore.
9th Annual San Diego Bartender Battle (2:30-4 p.m.).
About the event
Tiki Oasis began in 2001 in Palm Springs, Calif., as an extension of the backyard luau parties hosted by Otto Von Stroheim, publisher of the groundbreaking Tiki News. It quickly expanded and became the model for all Tiki weekenders that would follow. Moving to San Diego in 2006, the event spent the next 14 years at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where its annual themes became just as legendary as its parties and performers. The Von Stroheims also branched out, launching Arizona Tiki Oasis in 2019.
After navigating the 2020 pandemic year at an alternative venue, Tiki Oasis regained its footing at the Town and Country in 2021. With a new venue and second generation of Tiki enthusiasts flocking to the annual festivities, Tiki Oasis is creating a whole new round of memories for fans of classic (and classy) retro fun.
* Tiki Oasis history | Past coverage on The Atomic Grog
SOCIAL MEDIA UPDATES
LATEST NEWS ON THE MAI-KAI
The Mai-Kai renovations, May-June 2023: Historic restaurant’s new infrastructure begins to take shape EXCLUSIVE
Crucial work was completed over the past two months in the multimillion-dollar restoration project.
>>> LATEST NEWS, PHOTOS AND OFFICIAL INFO
Detailed updates: Chronology of work | Timeline and permits
EXCLUSIVE: Meticulous attention to detail is hallmark of The Mai-Kai restoration project (May-June 2023 update)
When guests re-enter the Polynesian palace, it will be like stepping into a time machine set for 1973 thanks to a talented team of artists and craftspeople.
>>> EXCLUSIVE NEWS, PHOTOS AND INSIGHTS
Detailed updates: May-June chronology | Design projects in depth
MORE EVENT COVERAGE
UPDATES: The Tiki Times: Exclusive events guide
Check the calendar for all of the major happenings around the world, from Tiki weekenders to rum festivals to marketplaces and music fests.
>>> SEE ALL OF THE TOP 2023 EVENTS
The Hukilau highlights: Photos and memories from Tiki weekender
The 21st annual event featured four days of nonstop music, cocktails and education on modern and historic Polynesian Pop at the oceanfront Beachcomber Resort in South Florida.
>>> IMAGES FROM THE HUKILAU 2023
RELATED: The Hukilau 2023 live coverage, photos and video from social media
PAST MAI-KAI COVERAGE FROM THE ATOMIC GROG
The Mai-Kai renovations, April 2023: Bora Bora building comes down as restoration efforts pick up steam
The structural footprint of the historic South Florida restaurant changed dramatically with the demolition of a long-dormant building. Meanwhile, work accelerated restoring the vintage dining rooms and rebuilding the back of house.
>>> EXCLUSIVE NEWS, PHOTOS AND VIDEO
Detailed recaps: Bora Bora Room removed
Dining rooms return to vintage glory | Work begins on new bar and kitchen
EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Behind the scenes at The-Mai-Kai as restoration ramps up in 2023
With work accelerating on the exterior, craftsmen meticulously restore the historic South Florida restaurant’s elaborately themed interior guest areas in exacting detail.
>>> LATEST NEWS ON THE RENOVATIONS
>>> REBUILDING PARADISE: Typhoon Tommy leads restoration efforts
The Mai-Kai officially begins work on first phase of $8.5 million renovation projects
With three key building permits in hand, the new ownership group is finally moving full-steam ahead on major construction projects that will restore and reshape the historic Polynesian restaurant.
New details on The Mai-Kai renovations, new merchandise revealed at Inuhele 2023 in Atlanta
New images and renderings of the historic restaurant’s multimillion-dollar refurbishment unveiled during presentation at Tiki weekender. Attendees also got a sneak preview of new mugs and other merchandise along with a new signature rum.
Historic preservation board approves The Mai-Kai’s renovation plans, clearing way for project to move forward
Landmark Polynesian restaurant allowed to remove old building, make other enhancements in sweeping plan to reimagine 66-year-old, 2.7-acre property.
Okole Maluna Society: The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide
Hurricane Hayward reviews and rates the historic restaurant’s current and past tropical drinks, plus reveals a treasure trove of ancestor and exclusive tribute recipes.