Filmed at Tiki events, bars and restaurants across the country and produced by Miami’s award-winning commercial and documentary filmmakers Common Machine, Plastic Paradise has finally been released to PBS affiliates. It was commissioned by Miami affiliate WLRN, where it premieres this Wednesday (Sept. 18) at 8 p.m. It will air again on WLRN on Thursday at 2 a.m., Friday at 7 p.m., and Monday (Sept. 23) at 11 p.m. It will also be carried by WXEL in Palm Beach County beginning on Saturday (Sept. 21) at 8 p.m. WLRN’s Plastic Paradise page also lists air times on PBS stations in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois and Washington. It also encourages you to call your local PBS station if you want to see the documentary in your area.
All of this flesh-eating hoopla has done little, however, to popularize a much less trendy and much more misunderstood Zombie: The infamous tropical drink that rose to infamy in the 1930s and was for decades perhaps the world’s most well-known cocktail. True to its name, the classic drink was shrouded in mystery, later becoming one of the most butchered recipes in cocktail history.
But several people and places have kept this powerful rum concoction alive and kicking, and to them we raise a hearty Zombie glass in tribute this Halloween:
There are few drinking vessels with the mystique of The Mai-Kai’s famous Mystery Bowl. The iconic communal cocktail popularized at the Fort Lauderdale Polynesian palace has been celebrated for a half-century by everyone from Johnny Carson to today’s Tiki revivalists.
Sure, there’s nothing like the unique experience of enjoying this giant drink with friends in the The Mai-Kai’s hallowed bar and dining rooms. At the sound of a gong, the distinctive bowl is delivered by a sarong-clad Mystery Girl, who does a traditional Polynesian dance and rewards the lucky recipient with a lei. The drink itself remains a mystery, a giant 50-something-ounce concoction of fruit juices, rum, and other liquors.
* More on the history of the Mystery Drink in our Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide
But true Mai-Kai nerds long for an authentic Mystery Bowl of their own. The older version made by Dynasty and the current version made by Tiki Farm occasionally pop up on eBay for more than $100. And they also appear in The Mai-Kai gift shop from time to time (see photo above), typically priced just below the century mark.
The annual gathering of Tikiphiles in Fort Lauderdale is still more than 10 months away, but organizers of The Hukilau event know that some of us are always seeking out cool new mugs and glasses.
This summer, they’ve re-released a classic and introduced something new in their Tiki Icon Series of glassware designs.
The Florida Tiki History Glass debuted at Hukilau 2009 and later sold out. This high-quality double old-fashioned glass features the the original logos and artwork from many current and defunct bars and restaurants, including The Mai-Kai and Julian’s in Ormond Beach, which unfortunately just closed.
This glass has been reissued in a special edition “exotic red” color (the original was brown). It’s just $40 for a set of four glasses. We’ve put our original set to great use over the years and highly recommend it. You’ll find a Hukilau cocktail recipe to fill your new glass below. Check out the artwork:
Hundreds of Tikiphiles from around the world gathered in Fort Lauderdale on April 19-22 for the 11th edition of the largest event on the U.S. East Coast dedicated to Polynesian Pop culture. It was a jam-packed four days of informative symposiums, live music, artists and vendors, and – of course – many tropical-themed cocktails.
Here’s a full recap with highlights and first-hand reports. Check back soon for more in-depth features on several of the symposiums, plus a special audio slideshow when all the photos are released.
The party actually started a day early on Wednesday, April 18, when early arrivals migrated to the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant for happy hour and a full evening spent reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. And with the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival holding its Tiki Time event that same evening, there were plenty of cocktail lovers in the house. Rum fest DJ Mike “Jetsetter” Jones provided the tunes in The Molokai bar and a large group enjoyed the authentic Polynesian dinner show, the longest running in the United States.
The 2012 Hukilau will be held Thursday through Sunday, April 19-22, at The Mai-Kai and several Fort Lauderdale beachside hotels. Official sites: TheHukilau.com | Facebook
To the uninitiated, this week’s avalanche of Tiki culture, retro art and music, rum drinks and revelry may be a bit over the top. To the devotees, it’s a Polynesian paradise come to life. If you’re not quite clued in to what’s going on, it can be a bit overwhelming.
But the best part about The Hukilau and all the related events happening this week in and around Fort Lauderdale is that it’s set up like a buffet. You can sample as little or as much as you like. Just make sure to have a designated driver if you’re really going for the gusto. Below is a daily rundown on what to expect and a little guidance from a veteran. Or Click here for the full schedule. TheHulilau.com also offers these tips from the natives.
With Hukilau 2012 fast approaching, we have a couple late updates from the organizer of this annual Polynesian Pop celebration, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White:
We reported earlier that the folks at Common Machine Productions will present a sneak peek of their upcoming documentary, Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession, during Hukilau 2012. But more details have been announced, including the exclusive showtime.
The sneak preview will be shown just before the first dinner show at The Mai-Kai on Saturday, April 21, and will begin promptly at 5 p.m. You must have dinner show reservations to see the film. We’ve heard it’s more than just a short clip so you won’t want to skip this opportunity. The early happy hour begins at 4 p.m. If you haven’t made reservations, call now: (954) 563-3272.
The documentary, which will hit the film festival circuit later this year before being shown on PBS in 2013, tells the story of Tiki culture’s original rise and fall, and its subsequent rediscovery by a new generation of Polynesian Popsters. Filmed in Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale — much of it on location at The Mai-Kai during Hukilau 2011 — Plastic Paradise features interviews with many of the Tiki scene’s creative forces, such as Sven Kirsten, Beachbum Berry, Tiki Kiliki, Otto von Stroheim, Swanky, Shag, and many more.
In the latter years of the 20th century, there were two eras: B.B.B. and A.B.B. Before Beachbum Berry, it was the dark days, when tropical drink mixology was still mired in the depths of decades of misunderstanding and neglect. But After Beachbum Berry, that all changed.
A screenwriter and director formerly known as Jeff Berry took his obsession with finding the most authentic and painstakingly-crafted exotic cocktails of the early and mid-20th century to the masses. His five books – from Grog Log in 1998 through Beachbum Berry Remixed in 2009 – have redefined how we view Tiki drinks.
Sure, mixology probably still would have enjoyed its current and ongoing renaissance without him, but it would surely be a lot less colorful and fun place. But beyond the campy humor and aloha shirts, Berry takes his craft and research seriously. He spent 10 years tracking down the authentic recipe for the Zombie, perhaps the most elusive cocktail of its time.
You can view, and taste, the results of his research in a special symposium at the 11th annual Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, April 21. “Revenge Of The Zombie: The Tale of Tiki’s Deadliest Drink” will explore the development of one of history’s most infamous cocktails, from the 1930s to the present.
With the U.S. East Coast’s largest celebration of Polynesian Pop culture quickly approaching, more details have been released about the April 19-22 event in Fort Lauderdale. Centered at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant and two beachside hotels, the 11th annual Hukilau is shaping up to be a tikiphile’s paradise.
The latest news from Hukilau headquarters:
2012 COMMEMORATIVE MUG
Designed by Danny Gallardo, aka Tiki Diablo, this limited-edition drinking vessel was inspired by Milan Guanko, Hukilau organizer Tiki Kiliki’s favorite historic carver. When Gallardo sent her a photo of a Tiki from carver Richard Ellis that was made for the Tradewinds Restaurant in Oxnard, Calif., she immediately knew it was what she wanted: “This Tiki had everything we wanted and more. Danny has done an amazing job – we love it!”
The Mai-Kai: History, Mystery & Adventure By Hurricane Hayward and Tim “Swanky” Glazner, February 2012
The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, now in its 56th year, is widely acclaimed as perhaps the last perfectly preserved mid-century Polynesian restaurant with its incredible vintage decor, acclaimed cocktails, authentic South Seas stage show, vast Asian-inspired menu and an ambience that makes you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.
But not many are aware of The Mai-Kai’s direct links to Tiki’s forefather, from the concept to the cocktails to the decor.
In 1933, a small tropical and nautical themed bar in Hollywood, Calif., called Don the Beachcomber was one of many thousands that opened the day after Prohibition ended. Who would have imagined that former rum-runner Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, who later changed his name to Donn Beach, had invented a new genre of mixology and a bar/restaurant concept that would be copied across the globe for decades to come.
Of course, we’re talking about the classic Tiki bar and its exotic tropical drinks. At the dawn of the cocktail era, Donn Beach was the undisputed king of tropical mixology. In an era of drinks with two or three ingredients, his secret recipes included up to a dozen, including two or three rums, resulting in drinks the world had never seen before.