Modern Caribbean Rum

Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019

Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019

We knew him as the “King of the Surf Guitar,” the 1960s rocker whose version of Miserlou in the film Pulp Fiction revived both his career and the entire instrumental surf genre in the 1990s. But he was so much more than that.

He was an American music icon, the originator of a style and sound that has endured for more than a half-century, and a true hero for fighting medical hardships that kept him on stage and performing into his eighth decade on Earth. Dick Dale left this world on March 16, 2019, at age 81.
More below: Dick Dale in South Florida
* Check out our tribute featuring South Florida remembrances and photos

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Dick Dale, Skinny Jimmy Stingray at Churchill's in Miami in 2012
Skinny Jimmy’s Picks: The all-time top 5 Dick Dale songs

Dick was still performing right up until his death, though the circumstances were less than ideal due to extensive medical bills. His website still lists the dates he would have played had he not succumbed to the diseases that wrecked his seemingly indestructible body. The final show that was posted would have been just this month (Nov. 9), ironically in one of the world’s surfing capitals: Malibu, Calif.

Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, June 13, 2011.
Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, June 13, 2011. (Atomic Grog photo)

He had survived several bouts with cancer and related diseases, including a near-fatal incident in the 1960s that inspired Jimi Hendrix to pen the lyric “we’ll never hear surf music again” in Third Stone from the Sun (1968). But Dick’s final battle was not one he could win.

Heart and kidney failure finally did him in after a lifetime of battling – and overcoming – every physical obstacle that came before him.

Born Richard Monsour in Boston on May 4, 1937, he first learned the ukulele and absorbed the traditions of his Lebanese father and Eastern European mother. He has said that he also learned the trumpet, banjo, piano, organ, harpsichord, trombone, saxophone, harmonica, xylophone and accordion. But once he heard big-band drummer Gene Krupa, it was all over and his course was set. Not on drums, an instrument he also mastered, but as a guitar pioneer.

When his family moved to Los Angeles in the 1954, he dove head-first into Hollywood. His first on-screen role was an uncredited bit as an Elvis Presley impersonator in the Marilyn Monroe movie Let’s Make Love. He started in the music biz in 1955 as a DJ, then played alongside Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry on a country music TV show. The stage name Dick Dale was reportedly given to him by radio/TV host Texas Tiny Cherry.

Dick Dale performs at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013
Dick Dale performs at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013. (Atomic Grog photo)

But surf music became Dick Dale’s claim to fame, a sound he invented to emulate the surge of the ocean. He developed a guitar style featuring melodies that crisscrossed the beat like a surfer on a wave. His intense staccato picking style, combined with Eastern scales from his childhood influences, made for a sonic experience like no other.

“I don’t call myself a guitar player,” Dick told The Atomic Grog in a 2013 interview. “I’m a manipulator of an instrument. I just make a guitar scream with pain or pleasure.”

To match his sonic fury, he needed equipment that didn’t even exist at the time. Electric guitar pioneer Leo Fender joined forces with Dick to build a new instrument – dubbed “the Beast” – that could withstand the onslaught. To complete the package, they developed the first 100-watt amplifier, loud enough to fill any venue Dick Dale played.

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones rode the wave of instrumental rock to the top of the charts. In 1963, he performed Misirlou, an adaptation of a traditional Arabic song, on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the most influential TV variety shows of the day. He was the first rock guitarist invited to perform on that national stage, though he was later eclipsed by The Beatles, who famously made their U.S. debut on that same show.

Continue reading “Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019”

Minimalist Tiki

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. 16-29, 2016): Rum and Tiki event roundup, new Tiki bars in D.C., S.F., photos and event recaps

The Week in Tiki We have lots of news from February on upcoming spring and summer events: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Tiki Caliente, Tiki Kon, and Hot Rod Hula Hop. Tiki bars continue to open across the country – from Washington, D.C., (Archipelago) to San Francisco (Pagan Idol) – with more in the works. Event recaps include The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Naked Tiki’s grand opening in South Beach, and another Modernism Week party with Shag. Quick sips include a James Beard nomination for Chicago’s Lost Lake, the death of Trader Vic’s son, a new study on Easter Islanders, and a new Tiki cartoon. Regular features spotlight South Florida artist Tom Fowner; exotica legend Arthur Lyman; Houston Tiki bar Lei Low; and the Surf Guitar 101 website. The Rum of the Week, Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7, is featured in a storied cocktail, the Hotel Nacional Special.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT PREVIEWS: Rare rums at Miami fest, Tiki Caliente and Tiki Kon news, Hot Rod Hula Hop announced

Miami Rum Festival adds VIP tasting bar, announces cruise

If sampling more than a hundred of the world’s best rums on a festive 50,000-square-foot convention floor isn’t enough, the organizers of the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival have something special just for you at this year’s event. One of the world’s largest gatherings of rum consumers, experts, and industry professionals will offer a luxury VIP Tasting Bar featuring a special selection of rare, vintage and limited edition rums you can’t find anywhere else at the festival.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival VIP Tasting Bar

Miami Rum Festival and International Trade Expo host Robert A. Burr is opening up his extensive private collecion to special guests partaking in the tasting bar during the April 15-17 event at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. “We want to share with rum fest participants some of the most interesting and exquisite rums that we’ve collected from our travels around the world,” Burr announced. The Burr family home’s Rum Wreck Dive Bar, which is featured in the new Rum Minute online video series, is stocked with more than 2,000 different rums. Burr and his son, Rob V. Burr, will share hosting duties in the VIP Tasting Bar, passing along their knowledge and passion for the select spirits.

“In the course of publishing Rob’s Rum Guide and reporting for the National Rum Examiner, we are privileged to visit most of the great rum distilleries in the world,” Robert V. Burr said. “Along the way, we’re collecting some very special bottles that represent the incredible range of high quality rums from Barbados and Jamaica to Guatemala and Panama; from Nicaragua and Haiti to Martinique and Guadeloupe; from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to Venezuela and Guyana – and beyond.” Rum is a family affair for the Burrs, with Robin V. Burr joining her husband and son as hosts of the festival and organizer of many of the associated events.

Fort Lauderdale's fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year's Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Fort Lauderdale’s fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year’s Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The tasting bar will be open all three days of the festival from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., the same hours as general admission. Two $5 sample tickets for use in the tasting bar come with a $125 three-day VIP pass to the festival. Additional tickets may be purchased at the event. A one-day pass is $75 but doesn’t include the complimentary tasting bar tickets. All Grand Tasting rum and cocktail samples are complimentary. Members of the spirits and beverage trade will receive steeply discounted tickets and will also have access to a special section of the festival featuring exclusive rums for industry and press representatives only. Advance tickets are available online now and will not be sold at the door.

All guests will have access to the full Grand Tasting floor, which includes dozens of booths from both established and up-and-coming rum brands: Cartavio, Diplomatico, Don Q, Fwaygo, Koloa, Mezan, Plantation, Pusser’s, Santeria, Siesta Key, Wicked Dolphin, Yolo, and many more. The festival also hosts the annual International Rum Expert Panel (RumXP) Tasting Competition and awards. [See past winners]
* More info: VIP Tasting Bar | Grand Tastings | Sample rums

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16-29, 2016): Rum and Tiki event roundup, new Tiki bars in D.C., S.F., photos and event recaps”

The Week in Tiki (Dec. 14-31, 2015): Preview new Tiki bars coming in 2016, festive New Year’s events, a new Kon-Tiki voyage, plus more!

The Week in Tiki After an exciting year that saw many new Tiki bars open across North America, lots more are in store for 2016. Preview what’s coming, plus get a quick New Year’s event guide. We have news on a new Kon-Tiki sailing the South Pacific, plus a traditional Hawaiian vessel traveling the globe. Quick sips include the Flor de Caña rum controversy, Santas hanging ten in Cocoa Beach, plus help for an ailing Laramie Dean. Regular features spotlight velvet painting master Edgar Leeteg; Tiki party band Ding Dong Devils; Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel; and the Cocktail Wonk website. The Rum of the Week, El Dorado 5, is featured in the Demerara Flip from The Atomic Grog.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

2016 will welcome new Tiki bars to Pittsburgh, Portland (Maine), Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle

It’s not a stretch to say that 2015 was a landmark year in the 21st century Tiki revival when you look at all the high-profile, authentically themed Tiki bars that opened in North America: Lost Lake in Chicago, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World, The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, and The Shameful Tiki Room in Toronto all burst onto the scene, along with several others that we’ll recap in our year-end special, The Year in Tiki.

 The signature Hidden Harbor cocktail at the upcoming Tiki bar of the same name, opening in Pittsburgh in January. (Photo provided by Adam Henry)
The signature Hidden Harbor cocktail at the upcoming Tiki bar of the same name, opening in Pittsburgh in January. (Photo provided by Adam Henry)

The good news is this was not a freak occurrence. More great bars are on the way in 2016, according to recent news reports, and all appear to have the same commitment to quality drinks, traditional Tiki decor and theming. The craft food and cocktail community is embracing Tiki in a big way, with no let-up in sight. Here’s what we can look forward to next year:

Opening in Pittsburgh in January, Hidden Harbor will feature a 7-foot custom-made Tiki by Crazy Al Evans and authentic Tiki cocktails (including classics such as a flaming Scorpion Bowl) created by co-owner and cocktail director Adam Henry. “The space and concept will be a bit more contemporary than the typical Tiki bar, with an emphasis on original drinks,” Henry said via email. Henry and his partners own The Independent Brewing Company, which sits next to Hidden Harbor in the Squirrel Hill section of the city. The space is small (50 seats) but features a bar area and more intimate lounge, plus a chef-run kitchen serving small, tropical-themed plates.
* Follow Hidden Harbor: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
* Press coverage: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Pittsburgh Magazine

Farther up the East Coast in Maine, where Tiki is rare, a new bar is set to open this winter. Rhum in downtown Portland “will be a refined take on Tiki with a distinctly Portland, Maine flavor,” restaurateur Jason Loring announced in a press release. “Elegant, modern translations of classic Tiki dishes will be bolstered with an impressive raw bar featuring local seafood.” The bar will also feature “contemporary counterparts, and a large format program for team tippling.” Translation: Get ready for more Scorpion bowls. Rhum will also feature skull-themed Tiki mugs handmade by local artists in a variety of shapes and sizes. Look for Rhum as early as mid- to late January.
* Press coverage from Maine Eater

Bamboo Ben
Bamboo Ben Bassham will be building the new Pacific Seas bar at Clifton’s in Los Angeles.

On the West Coast, a new Tiki bar is in the works at a recently reopened classic establishment. Clifton’s (aka Clifton’s Cafeteria) in downtown Los Angeles, a landmark that originally opened in 1935, has been undergoing a massive $14 million refurbishment since its purchase by new owners in 2010. After being closed for four years, it officially reopened to much fanfare on Oct. 1. The immersive 47,000-square-foot, four-story space retains its original rustic charm, featuring modernized comfort food and updated decor that still pays homage to its roots as an oasis for the everyman. As part of the renovations, the original 1904 building facade was restored after the removal of an aluminum facade that was added in 1963. The revamped Clifton’s includes multiple dining and drinking establishments, some still in the works. A Polynesian-themed Tiki bar is being built on the fourth floor, to be named the Pacific Seas in honor of the original 1931 Clifton’s location. Legendary Tiki bar builder Bamboo Ben Bassham has confirmed that he will be working on the project beginning in January. “It will be heavily Pacific Seas influenced with a ton of Bahooka’s flotsam and jetsam,” Bassham said. “The floor plan is really fun!” Clifton’s Pacific Seas (1939-1960) was a grand, tropical-themed cafeteria with waterfalls, huts, and lots of tropical decor. Bassham’s reference is undoubtedly to Bahooka Ribs & Grog (1976-2013), another classic SoCal Tiki establishment that was known for its expansive nautical decor.
* See all the press coverage from LA Eater

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Dec. 14-31, 2015): Preview new Tiki bars coming in 2016, festive New Year’s events, a new Kon-Tiki voyage, plus more!”

The Week in Tiki (Oct. 5-18, 2015): Tiki Mondays with Miller 2015 finale, Hulaween at The Mai-Kai, world’s best bars honored

The Week in Tiki This week’s Tiki update has a New York City and Halloween bent. Get the latest on Tiki Mondays with Miller, Hulaween at The Mai-Kai, and find out which Tiki establishments are among the world’s 50 best bars. We also have details on the future of the iconic mid-century TWA terminal at JFK International Airport, and a recap of Mod-Palm Springs. Regular features honor master carver and sculptor Gecko; the loungy horror sci-fi sounds of The Jimmy Psycho Experiment; New York City Tiki bar Otto’s Shrunken Head; and the Rated R Cocktails website. The Rum of the Week, Hamilton 86, is featured in the Guyanese Zombie from the late Tiki bar PKNY.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

A Bum crashes the Tiki Mondays with Miller party

Tiki Mondays with Miller: Autumnal Equinox Edition

Tropical mixology’s skurvy dogs will host their final event of the year at Pouring Ribbons in New York City on Monday, Oct. 19. Tiki Mondays with Miller: Autumnal Equinox Edition will also feature a very special guest: Author and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry will join swashbuckling barman Brian Miller and company for one last 2015 celebration of rum rhapsodies.

Besides “an assortment of bloody good Tiki tipples,” Miller promises a new limited-edition long-sleeve shirt for this Tiki Monday, emblazened with the motto “Keep Calm & Drink Zombies.” Look for cocktails to include sponsor products such as Rhum Barbancourt, The Real McCoy rum, Atlantico rum, Yaguara cachaca, Black Bottle scotch, Ketel One vodka, and Kappa pisco.

Berry is lingering in the Big Apple after he and Miller helped judge Saturday’s The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival. The Bum was also spotted at the Otto’s Shrunken Head anniversary party (see Tiki Bar of the Week below). We’ll have coverage of the showdown in the next edition of The Week in Tiki.
* Facebook event: Tiki Mondays with Miller: Autumnal Equinox Edition

Appleton Rum specials, cash prizes announced for The Mai-Kai’s 7th Hulaween

Hulaween 2015 artwork by Fred Lammers
Hulaween 2015 artwork by Fred Lammers.

More deadly details have been revealed for the seventh annual Hulaween party at the famous Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, Oct. 30. Sponsor Appleton Rum will provide cash prizes for the costume contest, plus sample cocktails and giveaways. In addition, The Mai-Kai’s mixologists will be creating a special Appleton Zombie cocktail. The event is free, with festivities kicking off with happy hour from 5 to 7, then three sets of retro roots and rockabilly tunes by South Florida’s Slip and the Spinouts.

Around 10 p.m., the always creative costumes will be on parade in The Molokai bar. The judges will award $300 cash plus a $50 gift certificate from The Mai-Kai to the best creation. Second place will get $200 and third $100. Other prizes include a Tiki mug and Big Kahuna Pass from sponsor The Hukilau. The Atomic Grog will host happy hour with a special a playlist of eclectic Halloween tunes, including exotica, surf, and garage rock.

“Hulaween 7 – Night of the Zombie” salutes The Mai-Kai’s iconic cocktail as well as the ubiquitous flesh-eating creatures. Established in 1956, The Mai-Kai has been recognized as the best Tiki establishment in the world. It’s known for vintage tropical drinks and food, plus the Polynesian Islander Revue (est. 1961), the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.

Also on The Atomic Grog: See the full event preview

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Oct. 5-18, 2015): Tiki Mondays with Miller 2015 finale, Hulaween at The Mai-Kai, world’s best bars honored”

The Week in Tiki (Sept. 7-20, 2015): Ohana: Luau by the Sea and Mod Palm Springs, plus more event previews

The Week in TikiThe summer may be ending soon, but there’s no shortage of Tiki events, including Ohana: Luau by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale and Mod Palm Springs in California coming in early October. Check out previews of both, plus this month’s Tonga Room 70th anniversary in San Francisco, a Tiki cocktail history seminar in D.C., Tiki Day at Disneyland, and Thee Hot Rod Luau in Southern California. We also have recaps of the recent Fong Fest in Chicago, and Don the Beachcomber’s International Tiki Market Place. Plus news from the Chicago Area Tiki Tour and a possible Tiki bowling establishment coming to Atlanta. Regular features honor the late Florida artist Wayne Coombs; South Florida’s Cutback Surfband; the Bootlegger Tiki bar in Palm Springs; and the Ministry of Rum website. The rum of the week, Coruba Original, is featured in a vintage Planter’s Punch.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Last chance for Ohana: Luau by the Sea tickets

Don’t miss out on the very first Ohana: Luau by the Sea, set for Oct. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale. Online ticket sales will end at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, Sept. 21, so the organizers can get an accurate head count and prepare for their Saturday night luau at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel, headquarters of the event. There will be no same-day ticket sales.

Ohana: Luau by the Sea

Brought to you by the Fraternal Order Of Moai – the same friendly, fez-wearing folks who earlier this year presented the sister event Ohana: Luau at the Lake in upstate New York – this inaugural event is being hosted by the charity organization’s Gumbo Limbo chapter in South Florida.

Attendees can enjoy live music, DJs, seminars, contests, a rum tasting, vendors, auctions, prizes, food and the legendary dinner show at The Mai-Kai restaurant. Tickets are $85, or $135 if you pair it with a limited edition event mug by PopTiki of Colorado.

Your ticket gives you access to three days of Tiki-themed festivities:

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Sept. 7-20, 2015): Ohana: Luau by the Sea and Mod Palm Springs, plus more event previews”

The Week in Tiki (May 11-17, 2015): Robert Drasnin, master of exotica, dead at 87

The Week in Tiki Sad news this week with the passing of Robert Drasnin, the exotica pioneer who composed the seminal Voodoo album. Other news includes special cocktail flights at The Mai-Kai, Tiki Kon’s Iron Tikitender competition, and Angry Birds fly the coop to a tropical paradise. Weekly features spotlight artist Miss Fluff, the Retro Roadmap website, El Capitan & the Band with No Name, and Tiki bar Forbidden Island in Alameda. The rums of the week, Gubba Silver and Gold, are featured in Trader Vic’s Molokai Mike cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Website | Band/music | Tiki bar | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Exotica legend Robert Drasnin dies at 87

robert-drasnin

Robert Drasnin, one of the last greats of the mid-century exotica music scene and a prolific composer of TV scores, passed away on Wednesday, May 13, at age 87. Drasnin is perhaps best known for his seminal Voodoo albums released nearly 50 years apart.

Voodoo, which came out in 1959, was a touchstone of the mid-century exotica genre. After a new generation of listeners discovered Drasnin’s music in the early 21st century, he amazingly released a follow-up, Voodoo II, in 2007. A composer and performer (sax, clarinet, flute), Drasnin is considered to be one of exotica’s early masters, along with Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. His songs, such as Chant of the Moon, evoke an almost otherworldly vibe that transcends time and place.

When the Tiki revival brought a new generation of fans to Drasnin’s music, he embraced the attention. He performed at The Hukilau in 2005 and 2007
[Watch: Video1 | Video2] and at Tiki Oasis in 2008 [Watch: Video1 | Video2]. After his 2005 performance at The Hukilau, which included a 16-piece orchestra performing Voodoo for the first time since 1959, he was inspired to write and release Voodoo II.

Voodoo by Robert Drasnin

The outpouring from fans on Facebook was immediate:

“He was so wonderful, talented, selfless and a great friend,” said The Hukilau’s co-founder and organizer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White. “I’ll miss him and knowing he’s a part of this world. I’m glad The Hukilau made you smile … one of the greats.”

Vocalist Alice Berry, who sang with Drasnin and his orchestra during his revival shows, posted that it was “hard to express how meaningful it was for me to get to be Robert Drasnin’s vocalist. He lived 87 amazing years, filled with music and love ’til the end – which came all too soon yesterday.”

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (May 11-17, 2015): Robert Drasnin, master of exotica, dead at 87”

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 20-26, 2015): Rum fest invades Miami, South Florida’s underwater Easter Island, Shag goes to ‘The Twilight Zone’

The Week in Tiki As expected, the Miami Rum Festival dominated the news this week, but an unlikely story about giant Easter Island-style moai being sunk off the coast of South Florida certainly piqued our interest. Also worth noting is the return of the Chicago Area Tiki Tour, plus the upcoming release of a limited-edition print by Shag that pays tribute to The Twilight Zone. Weekly features spotlight artist Dawn Frasier, the Bahama Bob’s Rumstyles blog, the exotica and hapa haole sounds of Kinky Waikiki, and Miami Beach cocktail bar The Broken Shaker. To enhance your reading enjoyment, try some Pusser’s British Navy rum in the classic Painkiller.
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Rum aficionados gather for 7th annual Miami festival

Thousands of enthusiasts, experts and VIPs congregated in Miami last week for the seventh annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. The Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center was ground zero for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday grand tastings, with hundreds of rums exhibited, tasted and judged.

Plantation Rums from throughout the Caribbean won a festival-best eight awards
Plantation Rums from throughout the Caribbean won a festival-best eight awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Many new rums were on display in what seemed like a transition year for the both the industry and the festival. Bigger producers were absent, but smaller labels filled the gap with some serious innovation and commitment to quality. Also, the festival itself seemed to take itself more seriously, with a concerted effort to cut back on the party atmosphere of some past events.

Not that the rum fest was not a blast, as usual. In addition to the many rum company booths on the 50,000-square-foot convention floor, there were entertaining and educational seminars daily, plus live entertainment and merchandise vendors. There were also evening events throughout the week marking the second annual Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week, ranging from Tuesday’s Tiki Night at The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale to Thursday at The Broken Shaker in Miami Beach.

A big part of the festival remains the RumXP Competition, the annual awards determined by a panel of rum experts from around the world. Sequestered for three days of judging 127 rums in 14 categories, the experts faced a wide array of new rums in addition to old standbys. There were 35 rums making their U.S. debut in Miami, with another 28 appearing at the festival for the first time.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (April 20-26, 2015): Rum fest invades Miami, South Florida’s underwater Easter Island, Shag goes to ‘The Twilight Zone’”

The Week in Tiki (April 13-19, 2015): Miami Rum Festival and Cocktail Week, Tiki Mondays With Miller, Ohana: Luau at the Lake

The Week in TikiThis week’s highlights are Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week and Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. We also have a preview of Tiki Mondays With Miller’s Spring Equinox Edition, plus news on June’s Ohana: Luau at the Lake selling out. Weekly features spotlight artist Doug Horne, website Inu a Kena, surf guitar legend Dick Dale, and Chicago’s Lost Lake. The rum of the week, Plantation Original Dark, is featured in Trader Vic’s Tutu Rum Punch.
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Miami Rum Festival and Cocktail Week is here

The seventh annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and second annual Miami Rum Fest Cocktail Week are in full swing this week as some of South Florida’s top bars host nightly events and enthusiasts gather for weekend grand tastings at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

The Cocktail Week events are free. Check MiamiCocktailWeek.com for dates, times and venues. Tickets for the convention center main events are $75 for Saturday, $50 for Sunday, and $100 for a three-day VIP pass, which includes Friday’s International Trade Expo for industry representatives. Note that tickets must be purchased in advance via MiamiRumFest.com or by phone at (877) 855-3378. No tickets will be sold at the door.

This year’s focus is new rums: 35 are making their U.S. debut, and another 28 are making their Miami Rum Festival debut. Nearly 200 expressions will be available for tasting at the convention center, where you can also learn about rum at 10 seminars by industry experts and scholars. There’s also live music and entertainment, island lifestyle vendors and interactive cocktail demonstrations.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ATOMIC GROG’S FULL PREVIEW

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (April 13-19, 2015): Miami Rum Festival and Cocktail Week, Tiki Mondays With Miller, Ohana: Luau at the Lake”