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Sunshine State emerges as epicenter of Tiki revival in 2024

Sunshine State emerges as epicenter of Tiki revival in 2024

Updated February 2024

While California may still be king of the hill with its abundance of classic and modern Tiki bars, constant events and confluence of Polynesian Pop’s movers and shakers, another sunny state on the opposite side of the country is quickly becoming a must-visit destination for more than its beaches and theme parks.

Worlds collide: The Mai-Kai's manager, Kern Mattei, runs into Don the Beachcomber beverage director Marie King backstage in the cocktail prep area at Tiki Oasis in San Diego in August. They will both be very busy in 2024 with their establishments in Florida. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Worlds collide: The Mai-Kai’s manager, Kern Mattei, runs into Don the Beachcomber beverage director Marie King backstage in the cocktail prep area at Tiki Oasis in San Diego in August. They will both be very busy in 2024 with their establishments in Florida. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

This weekend’s return of Tiki Fever in Sarasota reminds us of all the things that make Florida a hot spot for seekers of a vintage experience. The event takes place at a classic retro resort and the state’s oldest Tiki bar (Bahi Hut). It includes four days of revelry featuring top bands, presenters, vendors, and more. It’s a relatively new event, celebrating its third gathering Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 5-8.

But next year is when it really heats up. A promising new weekender, Tiki-a-Go-Go, will debut in April in Orlando. The state’s vanguard Tiki event, The Hukilau, will return to southeast Florida in June.

Early 2024 should also mark the return of perhaps the state’s No. 1 destination for fans of classic Tiki, the revered Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show. If that’s not enough, Florida is ground zero for the resurrection of the Don the Beachcomber restaurant brand. The Florida-based parent company plans to open at least two new locations in the state between now and the end of 2025.

The Hukilau draws cocktail and Tiki experts from around the world, including David Wondrich (left) and Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / June 2023)
The Hukilau draws cocktail and Tiki experts from around the world, including David Wondrich (left) and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / June 2023)

Sure, we’re still home to the ubiquitous “Florida Man,” often oppressive humidity, and increasingly questionable politics. But for all the reasons above, and more outlined below, Florida deserves to become a must-visit destination for fans of classic Tiki as well as the modern revival.

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FLORIDA TIKI EVENTS

Here’s a preview of the state’s three major weekenders, plus a roundup of other events of interest. (Florida-based artists, musicians and businesses are highlighted throughout the rest of this story with links.)

Continue reading “Sunshine State emerges as epicenter of Tiki revival in 2024”

Minimalist Tiki

UPDATE: New monorail fleet in the works? Disney World denies rumors

The current Walt Disney World monorail fleet, known as the Mark VI design, has been in service since 1989. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2013) The current Walt Disney World monorail fleet, known as the Mark VI design, has been in service since 1989. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2013)

Updated on May 15, 2018

Walt Disney World should soon be getting replacements for its aging fleet of monorails, according to the retired imagineer who designed the original iconic trains for Disneyland as well as the Orlando resort. But officially, theme park officials say there presently are no such plans.

Bob Gurr, an 86-year-old Disney legend who was hired by Walt Disney in the 1950s, appeared to confirm recent rumors during a question-and-answer session at the end of a panel discussion near Orlando on April 28. Later, however, Disney indicated that there are no immediate plans for new trains.

The current fleet of 12 monorail trains at Disney World has been in service since 1989. “I call this the duct-tape monorail,” said Gurr. “When you get up in years, you find a lot of duct tape stuck on yourself to keep you running.”

A monorail train winds through Epcot at Walt Disney World in November 2016. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward) A monorail train winds through Epcot at Walt Disney World in November 2016. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Disney World’s futuristic monorail trains have come under scrutiny after several recent incidents that suggest they may be nearing the end of their life span. In January, video posted on social media by a passenger showed malfunctioning doors wide open while the train was moving. Last June, a large piece reportedly fell off a train into the Epcot parking lot.

“Machines do not last forever,” Gurr said during the April 28 event in Celebration, the Disney-designed town just south of the Kissimmee theme parks. “You typically design them in the transportation industries for 20-year service. We’re close to 30 years of service here.”

Continue reading “UPDATE: New monorail fleet in the works? Disney World denies rumors”

The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney Imagineer, Tiki on TV

An artist's rendering of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015 (Atomic Grog photo)

Updated Feb. 8, 2018
Polynesian Pop has always been deeply ingrained in American culture, from Tiki’s mid-century heyday through today. This symbiotic relationship will be explored in colorful detail during special symposiums at The Hukilau, the 17th annual Tiki weekender happening June 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale.

Among the special presentations now on sale at TheHukilau.com are “Travel with Trader Sam” hosted by Disney Imagineer Kyle Barnes and “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with film and video collector Ron Ferrell.

Disney's Kyle Barnes was art director of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World and Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. He also oversaw the 2015 refurbishment of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando. (Contributed photos)
Disney’s Kyle Barnes was art director of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. He also oversaw the 2015 refurbishment of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando (left). (Contributed photos)

The Hukilau: June 6-10, 2018, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram
Quick links: Tickets | Book hotel | Symposiums | Schedule
Previous story: The Hukilau 2018: More bands, more bars, more Tiki!

Guests who buy multi-day passes get first shot at these and other educational activities, including Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes and rum tastings, craft classes with noted artists, plus many other hands-on activities. Also on sale are tickets to the three aquatic performances by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats at The Wreck Bar at the nearby B Ocean Resort.

Previously announced were symposiums by special guests including rum and cocktail luminaries Ian Burrell and Brother Cleve, craft classes with South Florida artists Tom Fowner and Will Anders, “go-go aerobics” with burlesque queen Angie Pontani, a mid-century makeup symposium, plus hula lessons. The symposiums and craft classes range from $10 to $25, with most priced at just $15. This is a reduction from years past intended to offset a slight rise in the price of passes, which run from $175 to $399.

Here’s a preview of the new symposiums and classes:

An artist's rendering of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015 (Atomic Grog photo)
An artist’s rendering of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World from Walt Disney Imagineering, and a photo from the grand opening in March 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)

* “Travel with Trader Sam” with Kyle Barnes (Friday, June 8): What made the Jungle Cruise’s head salesman venture beyond Adventureland? Why open his first cocktail outpost at the Disneyland resort? How did he land on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon at Walt Disney World? Veteran Walt Disney Imagineer Kyle Barnes will answer these questions and share rarely seen details from the design and development of both locations of Disney’s popular Tiki bar concept.
* Related: Say ‘Aloha’ to Disney’s revamped Polynesian resort
* On The Atomic Grog: Trader Sam’s profile | Kyle Barnes at Mahaloween 2014

* “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with Ron Ferrell (Saturday, June 9): An exclusive look at how Polynesia was represented during the golden age of television. See clips and enjoy the commentary as Tikiphile and cinema fan Ferrell shares his collection of film and video of Tiki and Polynesian pop from Hollywood, TV shows, and commercials.

At The Hukilau 2017, villagers had the opportunity to participate in classes ranging from Tiki carving, to cocktails (with Chicago's Three Dots and a Dash), to rum tasting. (Photos by Heather McKean)
At The Hukilau 2017, villagers had the opportunity to participate in classes ranging from Tiki carving, to cocktails (with Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash), to rum tasting. (Photos by Heather McKean)

Updates: The presentation “The Rise, The Fall, The Resurrection, The Redemption” by Boston-based music, Tiki and cocktail pioneer Brother Cleve will be held on Friday. Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell will host his symposium “Who’s Your Daddy? The Pina Colada Paternity Test” on Friday and a rare rum tasting on Saturday. Still to be added to the schedule: A Tiki history symposium in the works from Tim “Swanky” Glazner, author of Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, (2016).

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney Imagineer, Tiki on TV”

Week in Tiki (March 16-31, 2016): Lost Lake fire and more Tiki bar news, event previews, Lemon Hart rum returning?

The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.

The Week in Tiki Late March was punctuated by upheaval in the Tiki bar world, including a fire at Lost Lake in Chicago and the confirmed closing of Trader Vic’s in Portland. We also have updates on the upcoming Pacific Seas in Los Angeles and False Idol in San Diego, among others. Event previews include The Atomic Grog’s fifth anniversary party, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, and Tiki Kon. We investigate the rumored return of Lemon Hart, the upcoming Midwest Rum Festival, plus more rum news. Quick sips include Thor joining the Tiki Farm team, a new bar at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, a new Tiki-flavored pulp novella, and the aborted end of a re-creation of the voyage of the Kon-Tiki. Regular features spotlight legendary carver Milan Guanko; longtime Tiki entertainer King Kukulele; the historic Tiki bar La Mariana Sailing Club in Honolulu; and the video series Rum Minute. The rum the week, Sailor Jerry, is featured in the Wicked Wahine cocktail.
* 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

TIKI BAR NEWS: Lost Lake hit by fire, Trader Vic’s Portland closing confirmed; changes coming to South Florida’s Kreepy Tiki, Psycho Suzi’s owner honored

The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.
The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.

A near tragedy struck acclaimed Tiki bar Lost Lake in Chicago on March 27, when what was originally thought to be a small electrical fire in the kitchen ended up causing extensive smoke damage that kept the year-old establishment closed for weeks. “The Chicago Fire Department put out a fire that was moments away from taking our beloved Tiki bar all the way down – not to mention two apartments upstairs,” Shelby Allison, who runs the bar with Paul McGee, posted on Facebook. “There are lots of very scientific cleaning methods happening at Lost Lake this week, but it could have been so much worse.” According to reports on a A GoFundMe page, the kitchen of the adjoining Thank You restaurant and the front entrance “were completely incinerated” while the bar suffered smoke damage that sadly forced the disposal of the bar’s vast rum collection. Lost Lake, which was recently nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award, received an outpouring of support from the entire Chicago hospitality community in the wake of the fire, from bartenders and bar owners to chefs, distributors, and brands. Bars as far away as Los Angeles also held Lost Lake support events. Allison reported that every member of Lost Lake’s support staff received temporary positions, and many bars hosted special pop-ups to keep the tip-based employees afloat. Special T-shirts were printed, with all profits going to Lost Lake bartenders. The GoFundMe page campaign received 309 donations and raised $20,000 for Lost Lake employee aid.
* More coverage online: Critiki | Time Out Chicago | DNAinfo
* Lost Lake: Official website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Don’t miss: McGee and Allison will return to The Hukilau in June, participating for the second year in a row in the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover at the Pier 66 hotel in Fort Lauderdale. [2015 coverage]

Trader Vic's Portland

A fire earlier in March had more devastating effects the Portland Trader Vic’s franchise, as reported in the previous edition of the Week in Tiki. The March 2 fire at the medical office above the 8,000-square-foot restaurant burned through most of the ceiling in the bar and dining room, causing damage that would have closed the restaurant for at least eight weeks for repairs, according to reports. Instead, the owner decided that due to mounting debt and high operating costs, he would close permanently. Weeks went by without an official statement from the franchise owner, but on March 21, J. Clayton Hering posted this on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the decision to close Trader Vic’s in Portland after four and a half years. This is effective immediately. We can be proud that we provided an excellent entertainment venue to our customers, families, and private parties. Our menu for appetizers, food and drink as well as our atmosphere were a unique addition to the Portland restaurant scene. Our customers enjoyed Trader Vic’s return to Portland because of the fun environment we created which was unique to the city and well received. We thank you for your support over the last four and a half years.” There was no word on what became of the extensive Tiki-themed decor, though in past Trader Vic’s closings most of the major art pieces were returned to the Trader Vic’s corporation. A dozen black walnut dining room tables later turned up on Craigslist. Of the 20 remaining Trader Vic’s locations, only two are in the United States while 18 are overseas. The Atlanta franchise is still going strong after 40 years, while the corporate-owned flagship location has been in Emeryville, Calif., for 44 years. The original Trader Vic’s was opened by Victor Bergeron in Oakland in 1937.
* Why Trader Vic’s closed its Portland location (The Oregonian)

Continue reading “Week in Tiki (March 16-31, 2016): Lost Lake fire and more Tiki bar news, event previews, Lemon Hart rum returning?”

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 1-15, 2016): Aloha to 5 new Tiki bars across the U.S., Shag at Modernism Week, Plantation Pineapple rum, plus more!

Host Shag enjoys a cocktail during the poolside Modernism Week party held Feb. 12 at the Caliente Tropics Resort Hotel. (Photo by Kari Hendler from Poly Hai)

The Week in Tiki Catching up on news from the first half of February, we have reports on the debut of Tiki-themed bars in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach, plus a recap and photos from two of Shag’s parties at Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Quick sips include The Wreck Bar, the Polynesian Village Resort, the Rapa Nui Reef, and Tiki Month on the Pegu Blog. Regular features spotlight California artist Michelle Bickford; Milwaukee surf band The Exotics; New York City craft cocktail bars The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley; and Tiki mug collecting website Ooga-Mooga. The Rum of the Week, Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy, is featured in an original Atomic Grog cocktail, Kilauea Iki.
* 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

New Tiki bars open in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach

It was a banner year for Tiki in 2015 with an unprecedented number of high-profile bars opening across the country. [Year in Tiki recap] It’s too early to know if 2016 will come close to the quality level of new establishments such as Lost Lake, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and The Golden Tiki , but the number of openings could easily top last year. [Previous: See our 2016 preview] And the variety is astounding, from a classic rum den in frigid Maine to the world’s first vegan Tiki bar in Seattle. Already open as of mid-February:

Howie’s Tiki in Spring, Texas. (Facebook photo)
Howie’s Tiki in Spring, Texas. (Facebook photo)

Howie’s Tiki in Spring, Texas: North of Houston, owner Mark “Howie” Voros is aiming for classic Tiki, including lamps from Oceanic Arts, exotic music, and a selection of classic tropical and modern cocktails, according to a Critiki News story. Artwork by California artist Ken Ruzic adorns the walls, with a Big Toe piece coming soon. Communal drinks include the Scorpion Bowl and Blood of the Kapu Tiki.
* Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki

Rhum in Portland, Maine

Rhum in Portland, Maine: A tribute to classic Tiki bars as well as the craft and romance of rum, this full-service restaurant has already made a splash in the heart of winter. “It’s about escapism,” co-owner Jason Loring, who owns several other Portland hotspots, told a Portland area blog. The food is an inventive, modern take on Polynesian-themed cuisine. The cocktails show off the bar’s massive rum collection, running the gamut from the Mai Tai to the Painkiller to the Fogcutter served in unique mugs made by a local artist. Another blogger raved: “It’s what Portland has been missing – a lounge full of escapism with an air of mystery.”
* Official site | Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki

Hidden Harbor's Tropic Thunder. (Facebook photo)
Hidden Harbor’s Tropic Thunder. (Facebook photo)

Hidden Harbor in Pittsburgh: This small “modern Tiki spot” opened Jan. 19 in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood under the guidance of co-owner and cocktail director Adam Henry. There’s a small menu of creative tapas (Deconstructed Tuna Tacos, Lamb Curry, etc.) and some unique takes on tropical cocktails. Ishmael includes clove-infused Jamaican rum, Tropic Thunder features a house five-rum blend, and Josie’s Faraway Vacation employs Arrack (Indonesian rum). You can also find drinks with sake, gin, rye and coconut-washed vodka. But purists shouldn’t fret: Every Tuesday is the Tiki Time Machine, featuring classics such as Don the Beachcomber’s Pearl Diver and Missionary’s Downfall. “It’s clear that the team at Hidden Harbor respects the classic tiki playbook,” according to the Pittsburgh City Paper. “But it isn’t afraid to add some notes in the margins.” The decor is described as minimalist by Tiki standards, with a few distinctive carvings and nautical knick-knacks.
* Official site | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

No Bones Beach Club in Seattle

No Bones Beach Club in Seattle: Easily the most distinctive of the new offerings is the world’s first vegan Tiki bar and restaurant. This former award-winning food truck and pop-up tent now serves Southern California-meets-Asian tropical treats in the city’s Ballard neighborhood. Highlights of the 100 percent plant-based menu include Sweet Pineapple and Soy Curl Sizzling Lettuce Wraps, tomatillo-avocado salsa-topped Jackfruit Flautas, and Smoked Golden Beet Poke, VegNews Magazine reports. Owner MacKenzie DeVito told Seattle Met’s Nosh Pit that the goal is to make guests in the sometimes dreary city “feel like they’re on a little vacation.” The drinks are made with local spirits and served in Tiki and tropical mugs. The decor includes a large Tiki, bamboo and thatch accents, plus colorful lanterns.
* Official site | Facebook | Twitter | Critiki

The Coconut Daiquiri from Naked Tiki. (Facebook photo)
The Coconut Daiquiri from Naked Tiki. (Facebook photo)

Naked Tiki in Miami Beach: The new restaurant/bar/lounge from celebrity chef Ralph Pagano (Hell’s Kitchen, Pressure Cook) held its soft opening on Feb. 11, with a grand opening Feb. 20. Located in the recently re-branded Stiles Hotel, a historic property in the heart of the Art Deco District on South Beach that dates back to 1936, Naked Tiki is a multi-level space that must blend in with the upscale property, so don’t expect over-the-top decor. But the food is outstanding, from the wings, ribs and bacon-wrapped shrimp rumaki to the handmade dumplings, decadent crab rangoon, inventive buns and signature Bang! Bang! Rice. Pagano obviously knows his way around a kitchen (watch him battle Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America). The cocktail menu is less ambitious but very solid, featuring a nice assortment of classics (Mai Tai, Scorpion, Painkiller, Singapore Sling, Aku Aku). “I have a borderline obsession with rum and tropical drinks,” Pagano told Miami New Times. “I’ve taken basically all that I love and put it under one roof.” The decor and music is more South Beach than South Pacific, but it makes sense in this neighborhood. It will be interesting to see how this space evolves.
* Official site | Facebook page

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 1-15, 2016): Aloha to 5 new Tiki bars across the U.S., Shag at Modernism Week, Plantation Pineapple rum, plus more!”

The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more

The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis
The Year in Tiki 2015, clockwise from left: Shag, the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau, the late Robert Drasnin, The Tikiyaki Orchestra at Tiki Oasis.
It was a year of both sadness and elation, when some legends were lost but the world of Tiki made great strides. As we mourned the deaths in 2015 of musicians Robert Drasnin and Ernie Menehune, plus artist The Pizz, we were bolstered by the fact that a new generation of artists and musicians are taking inspiration from the past and creating an incredible new body of work. And Tiki culture was embraced and celebrated across the country at sold-out events and a whole new wave of bars. After our first year of The Week in Tiki updates, The Atomic Grog takes a look back at the memorable news of 2015.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook | RSS feed | See all the past weeks | Archive
See below: Month-by-month recap | The Year in Tiki 2015 Awards

The year 2015 marked a turning point in the 21st century Tiki scene. If there was ever a time to declare that the “revival” had become a full-blown renaissance, it’s now. It’s been building for some years now, but last year seemed to be the tipping point. Just look at the evidence in our favorite topics: Events, music, art, cocktails, and culture. Then, take a chronological look back at the biggest news of the year, month by month. Finally, find out our selections for the top artist, band, bar, website, rum, and cocktail of 2015 in our first Year in Tiki Awards.

****************** EVENTS ******************

The Alika Lyman Group's performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Atomic Grog photo)
The Alika Lyman Group’s performance at The Hukilau was their only scheduled U.S. mainland appearance of 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Long gone are the days when you spent the entire year planning for Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau. Smaller events, such as Tiki Kon and Tiki Caliente, have risen up to challenge the trend-setters. And the Fraternal Order Of Moai has filled a gap by providing a plethora of regional events from Ohana: Luau At The Lake to the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, and more. All of the above were wildly successful in 2015, with many events selling out in advance.

The top dogs continue to raise their game: The Hukilau moved to the iconic Pier 66 Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach and attracted some of Tiki’s biggest names, most notably the gathering of four of the world’s top bartenders for the Tiki Tower Takeover. Tiki Oasis keeps getting bigger, breaking its own attendance records, while newer events such as Mod-Palm Springs and Ohana: Luau by the Sea have carved out their own niche. Rum and cocktail events – such as Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Tales of the Cocktail – have refined their successful formulas, spreading their message to an even wider audience.

Continue reading “The Year in Tiki 2015: Legends lost, but revival becomes renaissance with new bars, music, art and more”

The Week in Tiki (Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 2015): The Mai-Kai anniversary party, The Hukilau updates, Jungle Cruise restaurant at Disney World, Polynesian Resort lights torches, plus more!

The Week in Tiki There’s a lot of news to report in this belated but special holiday edition of The Week in Tiki. We have details on The Mai-Kai’s 59th birthday party on Dec. 28, plus updates on The Hukilau in June. There’s a new restaurant in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland that celebrates the Jungle Cruise, plus more news from the Polynesian Village Resort. Holiday features include event recaps and photos, plus last-minute gift ideas and a special Christmas Day broadcast. Quick sips include 50 days of Fwaygo Rum recipes, a special Aloha shirt from Shag, news on FOM fundraising efforts, plus updates on Tiki bars across North America. Regular features spotlight the master ceramists known as Munktiki; instrumental legends The Ventures; new Las Vegas bar The Golden Tiki; and Professor Cocktail’s website. The Rum of the Week, Seven Tiki spiced, is featured in two seasonal cocktails: the Devil’s Island Daiquiri from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and Hapa Holidaze from The Atomic Grog.
* 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

The Mai-Kai says mahalo with 59% off at Dec. 28 anniversary party

The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is giving back to its loyal fans and followers on Dec. 28 during its annual Mahalopreciation Party. In honor the historic Polynesian restaurant’s 59th anniversary, all guests in The Molokai bar will get 59 percent off most drinks and appetizers starting at 5 p.m. and running all night.

A postcard from the 1960s. The large Tiki still stands on the northeast edge of the property.
A postcard from the 1960s. The large Tiki still stands on the northeast edge of the property.

Voted the best Tiki bar in the world by Critiki.com users and recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, The Mai-Kai is considered to be the mecca of mid-century Tiki culture. It opened on Dec. 28, 1956, on sleepy Federal Highway and has survived decades of changing tastes by relying on its status as one of South Florida’s top tourist dining destinations and its legendary Polynesian Islander Review, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.

Just as crucial to The Mai-Kai’s success is the amazing decor, much if it brought back from the South Seas by original owners Bob and Jack Thornton, and more than 50 tropical drinks that are hailed by some of the world’s top cocktail enthusiasts. The secret recipes are descendants of some of the original drinks created by Tiki cocktail pioneer Don the Beachcomber in the 1930s. Bob Thornton took over the restaurant in 1970, and his family still runs The Mai-Kai to his exacting standards.

Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)
Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)

The Dec. 28 party will include live music by guitarist-vocalist Rose-Marie starting at 6 p.m. The bar typically stays open until midnight, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy classic cocktails such as the Zombie and Barrel O’ Rum while partaking in the many pu-pus (Polynesian Chicken, Javanesian Beef, Spinach Salad) and new sushi rolls. You can easily make a meal out of the “small plates” in The Molokai.

In related news, longtime Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner has announced details on his upcoming book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of The Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Glazner, who has been passionately researching The Mai-Kai for more than 13 years, has channeled all his efforts into this 176-page, hard cover book due out early next year. It includes rare photos and images, plus first-hand stories that document the heyday of the mid-century Tiki era. It tells the story of The Mai-Kai’s creation, and its reign as the playground of celebrities and playboys in the 1950s and ’60s. [See previous Atomic Grog coverage] Swanky reports that the book should be available for pre-order soon. For updates, follow the links above or subscribe to his email list.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 2015): The Mai-Kai anniversary party, The Hukilau updates, Jungle Cruise restaurant at Disney World, Polynesian Resort lights torches, plus more!”

The Week in Tiki (June 29-July 12, 2015): Tiki Kon and Tales of Cocktail event previews, Tiki Diablo invades Home Depot

The Week in Tiki July’s event schedule features two of the most distinctive gatherings of the year, Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest and Tales of Cocktail in New Orleans. We have previews of both, plus news on acclaimed artist Tiki Diablo’s new merchandise deal with Home Depot. Quick hits include news on Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, a special Wicked Dolphin rum, a new Trader Vic’s seminar, and the release online of the Plastic Paradise documentary. Regular features spotlight the artwork of VanTiki; SoCal “hulabilly” band The Hula Girls; the Don the Beachcomber restaurant/bar in Huntington Beach, Calif.; and the B.G. Reynolds website. The rum of the week, El Dorado 8, is featured in the Demerara 80 Swizzle.
Note: Updates are now being published twice a month, but don’t worry. We won’t miss any of the latest news.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Tiki Kon takes off for 13th annual Northwest flight

While the larger Tiki events such as Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau tend to get more attention, Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, which will hold its 13th annual gathering on July 10-12, can claim to be just as influential and respected. And, more importantly, just as much fun. Held in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., the event features an eclectic lineup of live music and entertainment, cocktail and history symposiums, art and vendors, plus the signature Iron Tikitender contest.

Tiki Kon

The theme for 2015 is Tiki Kon Air Flight #13, a salute to the Jet Age of the 1950s and ’60s, and includes a special event mug by artist of the week VanTiki. Presented by Hale Pele and B.G. Reynolds (see website of the week below), the Iron Tikitender is not only an over-the-top bartending contest that takes over the main stage on Saturday night, it also includes informative seminars for both novices and bar professionals. Competing in this year’s showdown are Mike Treffehn from the Rum Club in Portland, Sierra Kirk from Hale Pele in Portland, and Justin Wojslaw from The Diller Room in Seattle. The winner earns a $1,000 cash prize after three rounds of competitions including making the most Mai Tais, and “garish garnish.”

The Friday Night Kickoff Show features live music, a DJ, cocktails, and dancing under the stars on the Columbia River at the host hotel, the Red Lion at the Quay in Vancouver. The historic hotel is minutes from downtown Portland, home to a vibrant cocktail and Tiki scene. Bands performing Friday are Don and the Quixotes, Rat City Brass, and The Satin Chaps. There will also be burlesque and a vintage fashion show.

Iron Tikitender

Saturday will see the opening of the Island Marketplace featuring vendors from around the world selling their vintage wares. A pool party, TikiTender classes and a “First Person Tiki” symposium by Humuhumu, creator of the Critiki website, will be held throughout the day. The hotel’s Quay Restaurant will host the banquet dinner and show, featuring The Ukadelics. The evening is capped off by the Iron Tikitender Showdown and Saturday Night Gala on the hotel’s river deck featuring live music, dancing, a DJ, and more. Entertainment includes Paradise, Johnny Astro, and a taiko drumming and fire exhibition by Roy and Marina Anderson. You may know Ms. Anderson as Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.

Tiki Kon concludes Sunday with brunch and all-day bar tour of some of the area’s best home and commercial Tiki establishments. Tour stops include Hale Pele, brunch at Trader Vic’s, plus four home bars. The Finale Party is hosted by the Bamboo Craftsman Co., a studio and nursery in North Portland, and features live music by Lagoon Squad.
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* Press coverage: Tiki Kon Air takes flight this weekend (The Oregonian)
Tip your hat to the Tiki gods at Iron TikiTender (Seattle Weekly)

New Orleans hosts the world’s best and biggest cocktail party

Tales of the Cocktail

The movers and shakers of the cocktail industry are throwing a party for 20,000 of their friends on July 13-19 in New Orleans, a bacchanalia better known as Tales of the Cocktail. There’s also a serious side to the 13th annual gathering, which includes hundreds of events at bars and venues throughout the Big Easy. The learning opportunities are endless at seminars, tastings, product launches, competitions, networking events and more.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (June 29-July 12, 2015): Tiki Kon and Tales of Cocktail event previews, Tiki Diablo invades Home Depot”

The Week in Tiki (April 27-May 3, 2015): Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto grand opening

The Week in Tiki The arrival of new signature Tiki mugs marks the official opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort this week. Also in the news is a seminar at Trader Vic’s in Atlanta, the new Tiki Magazine, the New England Tequila & Rum Festival, and a list of the 150 best bars in America. Weekly features spotlight artist Basement Kahuna, the Exotic Tiki Island website and podcast, exotica supergroup Tiki Joe’s Ocean, and the adventurous Oakland bar and restaurant Longitude. The rum of the week, Plantation Barbados 5-year-old Grande Reserve, is featured in Julie Reiner’s Plantation Mai Tai.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Mugs arrive: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto now officially open

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto has been entertaining guests since March 28 at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, but it didn’t “officially” open until Monday, April 27, when the Tiki bar’s custom mugs finally arrived.

The bar at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
The bar at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 31, 2015)

You can now take home the new Tiki mugs after drinking the Shrunken Zombie Head, Uh-Oa!, Krakatoa Punch, and Nautilus at the immersive, interactive bar and adjoining Tiki Terrace. The first three drinks were imported from Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Anaheim, along with the mugs. The new mugs are slightly different than their Disneyland brethren.

The giant Nautilus mug is unique to the Grog Grotto and is now for sale for the first time. The drink – a massive concoction featuring Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appleton Estate Reserve rum, Combier Creme de Peche de Vigne Liqueur, tropical juices and falernum – is a tribute to the infamous submarine in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea film and extinct attraction. Also available for the first time are the shot glasses that accompany the rum flight (Bacardi 8, Pyrat XO Reserve, Ron Zacapa Centenario 23).

You can also still pick up unique vessels that have been available since the soft opening with the Polynesian Pearl (a Grog Grotto original) and HippopotoMai-Tai (a favorite from the Disneyland bar that opened in 2011). The new mugs will likely only keep the crowds flocking to the intimate 50-seat bar designed by Disney’s Imagineers to pay homage to 20,000 Leagues, the Polynesian Resort, and mid-century Tiki culture.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (April 27-May 3, 2015): Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto grand opening”

The Week in Tiki (April 6-12, 2015): Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows open, Miami Rum Festival coming up

The Week in TikiThis week’s top news is the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, plus the latest on Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Cocktail Week. Also noted are The Hukilau’s 2015 mug, and the death of Polynesian performer Ernie Menehune. Weekly features spotlight artist Thor, website The Floating Rum Shack, exotica pioneer Martin Denny, and Tucson’s Kon Tiki. The rum of the week, Flor de Caña white, is featured in the Pieces of Eight cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Disney World celebrates grand opening of reimagined Polynesian Village

A dancer performs during a celebration of the grand opening of Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows on March 31, 2015
A dancer performs during a celebration of the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows on March 31, 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Disney’s Polynesian Village, one of the Orlando resort’s original flagship hotels, has unveiled an expansive two-year renovation designed to lure visitors with lavish new rooms, refreshed lobby and pools, and an interactive Tiki-themed lounge.

April 1 was the grand opening of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, the latest Disney Vacation Club (DVC) addition to the sprawling Disney World property. The 360 deluxe studio rooms are being added to the 39-acre resort’s 11 existing South Seas themed longhouse buildings, while the 20 bungalows were built over the water on Seven Seas Lagoon with scenic views of the Magic Kingdom.

Disney held a media preview event on March 31, with tours of all the new additions as well as a grand-opening ceremony that included a torch-lighting and traditional fire-dancing by a performer from the resort’s Spirit of Aloha dinner show. Ken Potrock, the executive who oversees Disney Vacation Club, called the Polynesian “the third jewel in our monorail crown,” joining the nearby villas at the Grand Floridian and Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort.

The new Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort are furnished in mid-century modern style
The new Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are furnished in mid-century modern style. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 31, 2015)

The Bora Bora Bungalows are the most spectacular addition, providing a unique and luxurious experience for guests. With two bedrooms, two baths and full kitchen, these freestanding huts inspired by traditional Polynesian structures sleep up to eight guests. Despite the stylistic similarities, these are not primitive accommodations. Disney’s bungalows include three giant flat-screen TVs, a TV embedded in the master bathroom’s mirror, a surround-sound entertainment system featuring invisible speakers in the wall, a washer and dryer, and many artistic touches that harken back to the history of Disney and the Polynesian Village.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (April 6-12, 2015): Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows open, Miami Rum Festival coming up”