The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations

The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations

The Mai-Kai specializes in time travel, taking diners back to the mid-century heyday of grand Tiki temples by creating a spectacularly immersive feast of the senses. So it’s no surprise that the Fort Lauderdale restaurant successfully scared up a vintage Halloween party in 2020, transporting hundreds of Hulaween revelers to a vintage drive-in theater in its expansive parking lot for a physically-distanced celebration like no other.

A pineapple jack-o-lantern sets the scene at Hulaween 2020.
A pineapple jack-o-lantern sets the scene at Hulaween 2020.

The sold-out Hulaweeen Drive-In Movie on Oct. 30 creatively navigated the new pandemic reality, giving the occupants of the 60+ vehicles multiple treats to savor. From the screening of the infamous 1970 B-movie Beast of Blood, to the live costume contest projected onto the 33-foot screen, to the rockin’ pre-movie festivities fueled by classic tropical cocktails, the evening provided a frightening (but safe) good time for all in attendance.
Previous story: See the full event preview

Unfortunately, someone apparently played a trick on The Mai-Kai. After successfully navigating the scary new pandemic reality since late May, the historic restaurant faced a scare of its own just days before the 12th annual Hulaween when a massive storm caused damage that will require an extended, temporary closing for repairs and refurbishment.

Just announced: There will be a Virtual Tiki Bingo event to benefit The Mai-Kai employees on Dec. 10. Click here for info and updates.

MORE: Jump to special features below
Preshow: Appleton Rum’s Joy Spence appears via video
News: Latest on the temporary closing
Photos: Hulaweeen Drive-In Movie scene, costumes
Tribute recipe: Blood Island Green Potion #2
Videos: Selection of Hulaween 2020 music

The sudden closing caused some last-minute scrambling to keep the drive-in movie on track, but The Mai-Kai and the event’s driving force, director of public relations Pia Dahlquist, pulled it off with the usual aplomb. Since guests could not enter the restaurant, drinks were served from a pop-up bar behind the building, and portable restroom facilities were secured. With the kitchen closed, a food truck arrived to fill the need with finger-licking barbecue.

Hurricane Hayward picks up his cocktail quarts as the parking lot fills up.
Hurricane Hayward picks up his cocktail quarts as the parking lot fills up.

But all the innovative plans appeared to be in danger all afternoon as dark clouds literally loomed over the event. An afternoon storm blew through The Mai-Kai property on Federal Highway, but miraculously the entire event remained dry. It was a blustery evening, however, and the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival staff had their hands full keeping the inflated screen stable. The dark and ominous weather was apropos, but not an issue at the end of the day.

The FLIFF crew was indispensable, not only handling the high-tech rear-projection screen but also guiding all the vehicles into parking spots the old-fashioned way. Some of us brought portable chairs, and my hurricane radio came in handy to tune into the FM frequency that broadcasted the clear and crisp audio.

Considering the weather and makeshift logistics of the entire endeavor, the 90-minute preshow video and 90-minute feature film were both professionally presented and easy to enjoy. The evening concluded, as usual, with a kooky costume contest that was up to the same creative standards of past Hulaween parties.

Guests were welcomed with the same high level of hospitality The Mai-Kai is known for. Quarts of cocktails ordered in advance were delivered to car windows personally by Dahlquist in the porte-cochere. Arriving vehicles also received goodie bags that included Beast of Blood swizzle sticks (courtesy of Drive-In-Sanity Films) and complimentary anti-virus masks provided by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association’s Broward County chapter. All 60 Beast of Blood 50th anniversary mugs, created by Thor, sold out in advance.

Annubis & Isis arrive and enter the costume contest.
Annubis & Isis arrive and enter the costume contest.

We brought Mai-Kai mugs from home and a bag of ice from Sonic to enjoy the signature Barrel O’ Rum and special Blood Island Green Potion #2 featuring sponsor Appleton Estate Rum. The food from Iron Butt BBQ was delicious, pairing perfectly with The Mai-Kai’s potent cocktails. More traditional drive-in fare (freshly popped popcorn) was also offered by roving Mai-Kai servers.
TRIBUTE RECIPE: Scroll down for our take on Blood Island Green Potion #2

The Mai-Kai’s refreshment stand served two other popular cocktails – the Jet Pilot and Mai Tai – along with a selection of beer, wine, soft drinks and water.

Many spirited guests came in full costume, and some bedecked their vehicles with flaming Tiki accouterments. Those who chose to enter the contest were filmed as they arrived. The clips were later edited together, and the resulting video was shown after the movie. A panel of judges picked the top three winners: Dr. Paul Bearer and Dolly, Death By Swizzle, and Annubis & Isis. As usual, the costumes included many movie and TV references (The Witches, What We Do in the Shadows, Spirited Away, The Walking Dead, et al.) as well as just-plain-wacky get-ups.
PHOTO GALLERY: Scroll down to see scenes from Hulaween, plus all of the costumes

Continue reading “The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations”

Minimalist Tiki

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale

NOTE: The Hukilau 2020 was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. A series of online events was held in its place. The 2019 recap below was posted before the pandemic. The Hukilau is returning to a live format in September 2021.

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The Hukilau’s 2020 entertainment lineup will be announced on Feb. 3, when event tickets and passes go on sale for the 19th annual Tiki weekender June 3-7 in Fort Lauderdale. While The Mai-Kai remains the nerve center of the Polynesian Pop celebration for the 18th straight year, most of the festivities will be centered at the B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

After five years as host hotel, the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina closed for a years-long refurbishment and re-imagining on the day after The Hukilau 2019. To give you a preview of what you can expect during the whirlwind weekend, following is a look back at last year’s festivities. While this Top 10 list is nowhere near complete in capturing the diversity of activities that encompassed the five-day bash, it offers a snapshot of some of the more memorable moments.

See below: Bonus cocktail recipes from the Rum Island Pool Parties
Passion Fruit West Indies (Pagan Idol) | Playboy (Tiki Underground)

The Hukilau 2019 was held June 5-9 at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Tikiyaki Orchestra, Tikiyaki 5-0, Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Hula Girls, The Intoxicators, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Swingin’ Palms, Slowey and the Boats, King Kukulele, Brother Cleve, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, and 25 top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram
Previous recap: The Hukilau 2019 photos and video from social media

Mahalo to the venues, the organizers, all the participants and (especially) all the villagers who attended. Special thanks to those who provided photos for use below. Here’s a sampling of what we enjoyed, in no particular order …

Continue reading “Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale”

The Tiki Times: Preview the full 2020 events calendar

The Tiki Times: Exclusive 2020 events guide

NEW: Check out The Atomic Grog’s annual calendar for all the major events across the world of Tiki culture. This list also includes rum events, plus modernism, surf and rockabilly music, Disney and other happenings of interest to the Tiki community. It will be continually updated throughout the year, so check the link below for The Tiki Times main page frequently:
UPDATES: FULL 2020 EVENTS CALENDAR

The Year in Tiki 2019: Recap all the top events with photos and video
2019 in review: Photos, video, recaps of all of last year’s top events NEW
Social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

2020 EVENTS CALENDAR
Updated Jan. 8, 2020

Jan. 3-5 – The Rhythm Collision Weekend #7 in Riverside, Calif.
The Rhythm Collision Weekend #7

Jan. 11 – Tiki Central 20th Anniversary Celebration at Forbidden Island in Alameda, Tonga Hut in Los Angeles, Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas, and Tiki Cat in Kansas City.
Tiki Central 20th Anniversary Celebration

Jan. 12 – The Original Tiki Market Place 8th Anniversary in Garden Grove, Calif.
The Original Tiki Market Place 8th Anniversary

Jan 19-20 – Exotica VIII in The Raines Law Room at the William Hotel in New York City.

Jan. 25 – Central Florida Rum and Food Experience in Lakeland.

Jan 25 – Winter Surf Fest in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Feb. 7-8 – Miami Rum Congress in Miami Beach.
Miami Rum Congress

Atomic Grog coverage: 2019 photo gallery and event recap
Miami Rum Congress 2019

Feb. 13-23 – Modernism Week in Palm Springs, Calif.

Feb. 21 – Taste of Aloha and Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach.
Atomic Grog coverage: Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha in South Beach
Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha at fifth annual Art of Tiki

Feb. 21-23 – Hi-Tide Winter Holiday: Pittsburgh.
Hi-Tide Winter Holiday: Pittsburgh

Continue reading “The Tiki Times: Preview the full 2020 events calendar”

The living dead came to party at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween 2019 luau

Hulaween 2019: Luau of the Living Dead

After 10 years, we know what to expect from The Mai-Kai’s infamous Hulaween party: A night of kooky costumes, rockin’ tunes and many cocktails consumed in the legendary Polynesian restaurant’s Molokai bar. The 2019 bash, held Oct. 25, lived up to those standards.

Slip Mahoney cranks out the rockin' tunes.
Slip Mahoney cranks out the rockin’ tunes.

PHOTOS: Jump to the gallery below

The 11th annual Hulaween, themed “Luau of the Living Dead,” featured South Florida’s favorite roots rock band, Slip and the Spinouts, playing three raucous sets. The dance floor was hoppin’ all night as guitarist/vocalist Slip Mahoney led his three-piece band through classic covers and his own original tunes.

The evening kicked off with The Molokai’s always popular happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. as the 100+ seats filled up fast. Many Shrunken Skulls, Shark Bites and other ominous tropical concoctions were enjoyed by the costumed celebrants.

The bar was decked out in creepy cobwebs and other decor while the signature Molokai Girls got into the spirit while keeping the food and drinks flowing. Halloween tunes got everyone warmed up for the first set by the Spinouts, which also included bassist Noah Hall and drummer Tony Tomei. It was the band’s ninth Hulaween appearance.

Axl and Slash are in the house. Now the party can really start.
Axl and Slash are in the house. Now the party can really start.

By the time the band launched the closing number of their first set, Two Worn Out Boots, the dance floor was packed and the party was already in high gear. Other stand-out originals included 13 Miles and Seven Nights to Rock. These and other songs can be downloaded as mp3 singles from the band’s website. You can also buy CDs and T-shirts from the official Slip and the Spinouts store.

After the band’s second set, it was time for the always creative costume contest, with $600 in cash and prizes to the winners. The Mai-Kai’s manager, Kern Mattei, and marketing director, Pia Dahlquist, presided over the creepy chaos of the costume parade.

Hulaween was once again sponsored by Appleton Estate Rum, the venerable Jamaican brand that not only provided prizes to the winners, but also rewarded attendees with many rounds of free Mai Tais (featuring the signature 12-year-old Rare Blend).

Manager Kern Mattei awards the costume contest grand price to the  clear-cut winners, Mr. and Mrs. Scissorhands.
Manager Kern Mattei awards the costume contest grand price to the clear-cut winners, Mr. and Mrs. Scissorhands.

After careful consideration, the judges narrowed down the costumes to the top three prize winners, plus a fourth runner-up:

* First: Edward and Mrs. Scissorhands ($300 in cash, a bottle of Appleton Estate 21 rum signed by master blender Joy Spence, and a Hulaween 2019 poster signed by artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli).

* Second: Axl and Slash ($200 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster).

* Third: Caveman ($100 in cash, Appleton merchandise, signed Hulaween poster).

Continue reading “The living dead came to party at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween 2019 luau”

The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Atomic Grog presents new class and symposium at The Hukilau 2019

Manager Bob Van Dorpe (left) and head bartender Mariano Licudine (right) show off The Mai-Kai’s rum collection in 1962. Many of those rare and original bottles can still be found in the secluded back service bar (photo from 2017 at right), unseen by guests.

EVENT RECAPS

The Rums of The Mai-Kai, presented by The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2019
Hear The Rums of The Mai-Kai symposium on the Inside the Desert Oasis Room podcast
Mahalo to Adrian Eustaquio and Inside the Desert Oasis Room for documenting the June 9 presentation featuring Hurricane Hayward and Matt Pietrek of Cocktail Wonk live on stage at The Mai-Kai during the closing festivities of The Hukilau 2019.
Click here to listen now

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EVENT PREVIEW

Established in 1956, The Mai-Kai is a national historic landmark with many iconic features that guests see every time they visit, from the Polynesian Islander Revue, to the distinctive design and decor, to the gracious staff.

The Mai-Kai's original mixologist, Mariano Licudine (right), with his rum collection in 1962. Many of those rare and original bottles can still be found in the secluded back service bar (photo from 2017 at right), unseen by guests. At The Hukilau 2019, we'll take a peek behind the scenes
Manager Bob Van Dorpe (left) and head bartender Mariano Licudine (right) show off The Mai-Kai’s rum collection in 1962. Many of those rare and original bottles can still be found in the secluded back service bar (photo from 2017 at right), unseen by guests. At The Hukilau 2019, we’ll take a peek behind the scenes.

But there’s one key element to the experience that you rarely ever see, but almost always taste: The rums of The Mai-Kai. Using tropical drink recipes that can be traced directly back to Don the Beachcomber’s 1930s-era classics, the behind-the-scenes bartenders follow generations-old methods of mixing rum cocktails.

The Rums of The Mai-Kai, presented by The Atomic Grog at The Hukilau 2019
Click here for tickets and more info on The Hukilau 2019

Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog will take guests of The Hukilau 2019 on an virtual journey to the Caribbean to learn about the key rums and styles that have dominated The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed cocktails for more than 60 years. This includes an intimate class for bartenders and enthusiasts at the Pier Sixty-Six hotel, and an interactive symposium on stage at the Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale.

Here are the details on both events:

The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Classic Tiki Template
Saturday, June 8, at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina
Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy class in the Commodore Room, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Stephen Remsberg is famous for his private collection of thousands of bottles of rum. (Image by Annene Kaye)
Stephen Remsberg is famous for his private collection of thousands of bottles of rum. (Image by Annene Kaye)

Don the Beachcomber’s groundbreaking use of multiple rums in a single cocktail is crucial to the style that came to be known as Tiki. Nearly 90 years later, that exact same blending of spirits is still practiced today at The Mai-Kai. Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog will guide hands-on lessons on how the flavors from different Caribbean islands are used in concert to create some of the world’s most famous rum rhapsodies. Put these practices to use to make your home bar sing. Special guest “professor” Stephen Remsberg, famed rum historian and collector, will share his knowledge and a few treats from his collection.

Another special treat: Students will shake up cocktails using sponsor rums and actual Mai-Kai ingredients. The restaurant will provide us with ample quantities of several classic drinks, sans rums, for our mixing pleasure. Also, there will be raffles held throughout the class with an assortment of door prizes, including signed books and barware from Cocktail Kingdom’s Beachbum Berry Collection.

All class members are also invited to The Mai-Kai on Sunday for special events that include rare “lost cocktails” from The Mai-Kai’s 1956 menu, plus reserved seats for an on-stage rum presentation by Hurricane Hayward and Matt Pietrek, aka Cocktail Wonk. Select students will participate in the symposium while a group of others will receive an exclusive, private tour of The Mai-Kai’s back bar and historic rum collection. Free shuttle will run betwen The Hukilau hotels and The Mai-Kai from 11:30 a.m. until around 5 p.m.

BUY TICKETS: Class sizes are limited, so act now before this sells out. Tickets for all Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes cost $49 plus fee, and include a special series of barware (rum sippers, spoons, muddlers, strainers, and a flask) created especially for students by Tiki Diablo. Participants get one item per class, plus the many rum samples, cocktails, and door prizes mentioned above.

The Mai-Kai's vintage rum collection attracts industry VIPs from around the world. Joy Spence, master blender of Appleton Rum, paid a visit in November 2018 and found some rare bottles from Jamaica. Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, tasted a few vintage bottles during a tour after his symposium at The Hukilau 2018 last June. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Mai-Kai’s vintage rum collection attracts industry VIPs from around the world. Joy Spence, master blender of Appleton Rum, paid a visit in November 2018 and found some rare bottles from Jamaica. Alexandre Gabriel, owner of Maison Ferrand and Plantation Rum, tasted a few vintage bottles during a tour after his symposium at The Hukilau 2018 last June. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

The Rums of The Mai-Kai: From the Back Bar to Your Glass
Sunday, June 9, at The Mai-Kai
The Mai-Kai Grand Finale, noon to 4 p.m., featuring live music in The Molokai bar by Skinny Jimmy Stingray. Symposium in the main dining room at 1:30 p.m.

Take a deep dive into the historic rum collection of the legendary Polynesian restaurant with Jim “Hurricane” Hayward of The Atomic Grog blog and special guest Matt Pietrek, rum expert and author of the award-winning Cocktail Wonk blog. Discover new information on The Mai-Kai’s connection to Tiki cocktail forefather Don the Beachcomber through the rums they have in common. Includes an interactive, multimedia presentation and rare “lost cocktails” from the archives, as we enjoy The Mai-Kai before it opens to the public.

Continue reading “The Rums of The Mai-Kai: The Atomic Grog presents new class and symposium at The Hukilau 2019”

The Hukilau 2019: Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party sold out – Preview, photos and complete history

Updated Jan. 23, 2020

For the fifth year in a row, the signature event at The Hukilau has sold out months in advance. The Tiki Tower Takeover, held every June in the 17th floor rooftop ballroom at Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale, will have added significance in 2019.

It's hard to beat the view, or the cocktails, in the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau. (Photo by Joanne Galka)
It’s hard to beat the view, or the cocktails, in the 17th-floor Pier Top Lounge during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2018. (Photo by Joanne Galka)

See more below
HISTORY: Event recaps and photos, 2015-2017
PHOTOS: Recap and new images from last year’s Tiki Tower Takeover
RECIPE: Cotton Mouth Killer from Trailer Happiness

The festive cocktail party that spotlights some of the world’s top Tiki bartenders will celebrate Women Who Tiki with eight female mixologists serving their own special creations. With the hotel closing for a massive refurbishment immediately after The Hukilau, it will also be the last Takeover in the tower for at least two years.

PREVIOUS: Last party at Pier Sixty-Six? Events sell fast as new cocktail classes added

The Hukilau: Wednesday through Sunday, June 5-9, 2019, at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, B Ocean Resort and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Tikiyaki Orchestra, Tikiyaki 5-0, Surfer Joe, The Volcanics, The Hula Girls, The Intoxicators, The Disasternauts, Gold Dust Lounge, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, The Swingin’ Palms, Slowey and the Boats, King Kukulele, Brother Cleve, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, and 25 top Tiki bars and bartenders from around the world.
* TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Instagram

Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale NEW
Photos: 10 highlights from The Hukilau 2019 in Fort Lauderdale
Take a look back at the five days of festivities at Pier Sixty-Six and The Mai-Kai with dozens of photos and many memorable moments, plus two bonus cocktail recipes.
More: The Hukilau 2019 rewind: Photos and video from social media

A view of downtown Fort Lauderdale from the Pier Top Lounge at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2018. (Photo by Scott Broadway)
A view of downtown Fort Lauderdale from the Pier Top Lounge at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina during the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2018. (Photo by Scott Broadway)

In addition to the all-female theme, the 2019 event will feature a significant increase in participants over past years, when no more than five bartenders were included. The Hukilau takes over the Pier Top Lounge from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 6. Prior to boarding the elevators to the tower, villagers can enjoy a welcome drink in the hotel’s ground-floor Windows on the Green.

While individual tickets are no longer available, there’s still one way to gain VIP entry. There are a limited number of South Seas passes available ($399 plus fee) that include exclusive early access at 4 p.m. to the Tiki Tower Takeover plus a custom mug from Tiki Farm. This top-of-the-line pass also gets you admission to all five days of events (not including symposiums and classes). Click here for a rundown on all the ticket options, as well as updates on what’s sold out.

Here’s this year’s all-star lineup of bartenders. All are making their first Tiki Tower Takeover appearance, though two have previously served the welcome drink. No previous events have featured more than five bars, so expect an action-packed (and cocktail-filled) party in the Pier Top Lounge this year.

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2019: Tiki Tower Takeover cocktail party sold out – Preview, photos and complete history”

Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha at fifth annual Art of Tiki cocktail competition at South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the 2019 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Tiki and South Beach: Two great tastes that don’t necessarily go great together. The glitz and glamour of Miami’s most famous tourist strip seems at odds with the laid-back island atmosphere and exotic South Seas vibe that makes Polynesian Pop so endearing.

Bacardi served up four cocktails in its sponsor bar, including a take on the Mai Tai that includes its Anejo Cuatro, a 4-year-old rum
Bacardi served up four cocktails in its sponsor bar, including a take on the Mai Tai that includes its Anejo Cuatro, a 4-year-old rum.

But like diverse ingredients in a complex tropical drink, that awkward juxtaposition may finally be working in harmony if you look closely at the fifth annual “Art of Tiki” cocktail competition during the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Held Feb. 22 at The Surfcomber hotel and featuring mostly up-and-coming Miami bartenders, the festive feast of booze and food made a large leap forward after a disappointing 2018, according to our correspondent. Everything was turned up a notch, from the entertainment to the decor to the food, resulting in a better overall vibe and more successful event. Some credit should go to the event’s second-year sponsor, Miami’s venerable Bacardi rum.

Gui Jaroschy (right) and Anthony Valencia from Driftway at Generator in Miami Beach are hard at work on their GMT 5000 cocktail
Gui Jaroschy (right) and Anthony Valencia from Driftway at Generator in Miami Beach are hard at work on their GMT 5000 cocktail.

In a surprise result, the competition’s Judge’s Choice award went not to a hotshot bartender but to a quiet and unassuming chef whose complex and creative cocktail paid tribute to Cuba. Meanwhile, popular Miami restaurant Beaker & Gray was the People’s Choice, the bar team’s third win in three years. Ted Allen from sponsor Food Network hosted the party, which as usual sold out the large outdoor pool, patio and beach area behind the hotel.

Below you’ll find our full recap, including photos and reviews of all the cocktails. Also check out our photos from the Rhum Barbancourt booth in the SoBeWFF’s Grand Tasting Village, along with a cocktail recipe from New York City’s Brian Miller. We also included a recap and previously unpublished photos from last year’s Art of Tiki, along with a commentary on the history of the event.

Friday, Feb. 22 – Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach. A cocktail competition hosted by Food Network’s Ted Allen and featuring Florida bartenders, plus area chefs serving tropical-themed food at The Surfcomber hotel.
SPECIAL FEATURES BELOW
Photos, review: Exclusive images and ratings of all the 2019 cocktails
History: List of hosts, winners and sponsors from 2015-2019
Photos, bonus recipe: Blue Bayou, served by Brian Miller at the 2019 SoBeWFF
2018: Photos, recap from last year’s competition
Commentary: Bartenders, chefs are the true stars of this show

The Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown was back for a fifth year on Friday, Feb. 22, at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach.

The Art of Tiki returned to The Surfcomber for the fourth year in a row and featured another new marquee name. Ted Allen, best known for hosting the Emmy Award-winning chef competition show Chopped since 2009, was the first non-chef to preside over the Art of Tiki (his bio calls him an author and television personality). His TV role made him well suited to judge the cocktails, which ended up being his central role.

Bacardi executive, ambassador and former bartender Adrian Biggs filled the role of master of ceremonies and made most of the announcements to the crowd. To Barcardi’s credit, it seemed like the spirits giant put more money and effort into the event in its second year as title sponsor. New decor and entertainment by the Mareva Tahiti Polynesian Dancers gave the event a much more authentically Tiki atmosphere. It was as if The Mai-Kai – Fort Lauderdale’s historic Polynesian restaurant – was there in spirit, as one speaker noted.

Sponsor Bacardi put its rums front and center at The Surfcomber hotel.
Sponsor Bacardi put its rums front and center at The Surfcomber hotel.

Several Bacardi-owned rums were made available for the 10 contestants, including sponsors Banks, Santa Teresa and Havana Club (the U.S. version, of course). Among those used by the mixologists were Bacardi Anejo Cuatro, Banks Five Island, Santa Teresa 1796, and Havana Club Anejo Blanco. The contestants also challenged the judges’ taste buds with an array of unique house-made ingredients along with fresh juices, syrups, liqueurs and bitters.

In addition to Allen, the judges included journalists Belkys Nerey (Miami’s WSVN-7) and Laine Doss (Miami New Times), plus bar manager Chris Hudnall (Soho House & Co.). While there’s no Tiki in Allen’s background (that we know of), he sure seems like the kind of guy you’d want to drink with at a Tiki bar. He appeared to enjoy the festivities, but looked “more like a spectator than a host,” according to our correspondent.

The 2019 lineup featured just two 2018 returnees (last year’s champs, Jesus Perez and Ben Potts), along with two-time winner Gui Jaroschy plus many new faces:
* Kevin Andrade from Drunken Dragon (Miami Beach)
* David Cedeno, Seth Carter and Roman Naumov from MiniBar (Miami Beach)
* Emiliano Gonzalez from Casa Florida (Miami)
* TJ Palmieri from Madrina’s (Gainesville)
* Jesus Perez and Courtney Lane from The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach)
* Daniele Dalla Pola from Esotico Miami
* Ben Potts from Beaker & Gray (Miami)
* Andres Rairan from The Social Club at The Surfcomber (Miami Beach)
* Jorgie Ramos from Abi Maria Bar & Refuge (Miami)
* Anthony Valencia and Gui Jaroschy from Driftway at Generator (Miami Beach)

Particpiating chefs included: Byron Alabado of SushiSamba (Miami Beach), Adrianne Calvo of Chef Adrianne’s (Miami), Victoria Chediak of Poké 305 (North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, Miami), Brian Mullins of Ms. Cheezious (Miami, Coral Gables), Richard Sandoval of Toro Toro (Miami), and Cesar Zapata of Phuc Yea (Miami).

Continue reading “Surprise winner, new spirit of aloha at fifth annual Art of Tiki cocktail competition at South Beach Wine & Food Festival”

100 Days to The Hukilau: Weekend events at The Mai-Kai to feature The Surfrajettes, preview party

100 Days to The Hukilau: Weekend events at The Mai-Kai to feature The Surfrajettes, preview party

The 18th annual Tiki weekender known as The Hukilau will not invade Fort Lauderdale until June, but local Tikiphiles will get an early taste of the rum-fueled festivities this weekend when two special events kick off the 2019 countdown at The Mai-Kai.

The Surfrajettes will make an exclusive South Florida appearance at The Mai-Kai on Saturday, March 2.
The Surfrajettes will make an exclusive South Florida appearance at The Mai-Kai on Saturday, March 2.

Both events will take place in The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai, the historic Polynesian restaurant that opened in 1956 and continues to enthrall Tikiphiles from around the world. Both events are free, but there’s a limited capacity of around 150 for each event, so be sure to get there early. Here are the details:

Saturday, March 2: “100 Days to The Hukilau” featuring live performances by the instrumental surf band The Surfrajettes from Toronto, Canada. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the band performs at 7 p.m. Free general admission, ages 21 and older only.
* Facebook event
See below: Video, photos of The Surfrajettes at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau 2017

Sunday, March 3: Retro Rekindled community gathering featuring early happy hour, giveaways and meet-and-mingle with The Hukilau organizers. Richard Oneslager, The Hukilau’s owner and organizer, will speak and answer questions. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. The event is free but reservations are encouraged.
* Facebook event

The Surfrajettes perform in The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau on June 10, 2017
The Surfrajettes perform in The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau on June 10, 2017.

The Mai-Kai is at 3599 N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, on the west side between Commercial and Oakland Park boulevards. Call (954) 563-3272 for more information or to make dinner reservations. Valet and paid self-parking.

Guests at both events can enjoy the regular daily happy hour in The Molokai until 7 p.m., when most signature cocktails are half-priced. There are also nightly specials that feature two drinks at 50 percent off all evening: K.O. Cooler and Tahitian Breeze on Saturday; and the Zombie and Piña Colada on Sunday.

The Molokai also features a full appetizer menu (half-priced during happy hour) that includes Tiki bar classics (Pupu Platter, Crab Rangoon, et al.) along with sushi, salads and modern tapas (sliders, fish tacos, etc.). The expansive restaurant also has a beautiful outdoor Tiki garden that can be explored, along with plenty of exotic and elaborately themed dining rooms if you’d like to stay for dinner.

The Hukilau's villagers enjoy Mai-Kai's Polynesian Islander Revue in June 2018. (Photo by Heather McKean)
The Hukilau’s villagers enjoy Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue in June 2018. (Photo by Heather McKean)

You can also make reservations in the main showroom to see The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. The restaurant was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Just as historic are the bar’s tropical drinks, which have achieved cult status among Tiki, rum and cocktail devotees.
Related: The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide

The Hukilau is one of the world’s biggest and longest running Polynesian Pop and Tiki cocktail events. Established in 2002 in Atlanta, it moved to Fort Lauderdale and The Mai-Kai in 2003 with live music, symposiums, classes and an ever-expanding schedule of events over a five day weekend. The Hukilau 2019 will take place June 5-9, headquartered at the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina near Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Sunday’s Retro Rekindled gathering is designed to give attendees and potential villagers a chance to learn more about the bands, bars, room parties, and all the other facets of the event, such as the signature Tiki Tower Takeover. In 2019, The Hukilau is spotlighting female mixologists in the festive tower cocktail party, plus special presentations on “Women of The Mai-Kai” and “Women Who Tiki.”

The Hukilau in June will feature a special symposium on the Women of The Mai-Kai by author Tim "Swanky" Glazner
The Hukilau in June will feature a special symposium on the Women of The Mai-Kai by author Tim “Swanky” Glazner.

Oneslager took an ownership role in The Hukilau in 2015. He has been the driving force since 2017, when co-creator and longtime organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White stepped down. Rather than make wholesale changes, Oneslager has kept The Hukilau true to White’s vision while enhancing and adding features such as the Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy. Villagers can learn from the pros as bartenders and mixology experts from around the country teach intimate classes on the finer points of the craft.

Oneslager took a leap of faith across the pond in October 2018, taking The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai to London as part of the annual UK RumFest. Oneslager has said he expects another Hukilau London in 2019. The Hukilau also teamed up with the rum fest’s founder, global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, to sponsor the Tiki bartending competition at last month’s inaugural Miami Rum Congress.
* Recap and photos: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress

Continue reading “100 Days to The Hukilau: Weekend events at The Mai-Kai to feature The Surfrajettes, preview party”

Photos: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress

Miami Rum Congress 2019

The inaugural Miami Rum Congress was an unqualified success, a star-studded gathering of rum industry experts that sold out the cozy and picturesque Shane Center in Miami Beach.
GALLERY: Scroll down to see the photos

Rum ambassador Ian Burrell kicks off The Tiki Takeover bartender battle.
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell kicks off The Tiki Takeover bartender battle.

Hosted by Federico Hernandez of The Rum Lab and global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, the event spotlighted many of the world’s top boutique brands while presenting serious discussion of today’s hottest industry issues. The tasting room featured new and exclusive bottles from a number of the most acclaimed producers and distillers, such as Foursquare’s Richard Seale of Barbados.

Other brands and distillers in attendance included Appleton and Wray & Nephew, Banks, Bounty, Caliche, Damoiseau, Deadhead, Don Q, English Harbour, Gosling, Habitation Velier, Hamilton, Hampden Estates, Mezan Rum, Montanya, Monymusk, Mount Gay, Plantation, Pusser’s, Rhum Clément, Rhum J.M., Ron Abuelo, Ron Barceló, Ron Brugal, Ron Centenario, Ron del Barrilito, Ron Diplomatico, Rum Fire, Rum-Bar, Saint Benevolence, Smith & Cross, Santa Teresa, The Scarlet Ibis, Tanduay, and Worthy Park

Author and Latitude 29 owner Jeff "Beachbum" Berry treats guests to a presentation packed with information (and rum cocktails): "Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers - The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch"
Author and Latitude 29 owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry treats guests to a presentation packed with information (and rum cocktails): “Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers – The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch.”

In addition to the wonderful Foursquare “Exceptional Cask” rums, I was intrigued and excited to get my first taste of outstanding spirits from Plantation (including the elusive Xaymaca), Jamaica’s Monymusk (coming soon to the U.S. market), Hamilton (the rebranded West Indies blend), Venezuela’s Ron Diplomatico (look for the new Distillery Collection), Saint Benevolence (a Caribbean blend that directs all profits to the needy island of Haiti), and Martinique’s Rhum J.M. (the 1996 vintage was perhaps the best rhum agricole I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting).

I caught several informative seminars, capped off by the South Florida return of author and Latitude 29 barkeep Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, regaling us with “Brigands, Barons & Beachcombers – The Many Faces of Planter’s Punch.” Meanwhile, importer and Ministry of Rum founder Ed Hamilton followed up his first-ever rum tasting at The Mai-Kai on Thursday with a no-holds-barred look at changes in the rum market over the past 25 years. We’ll be posting expanded coverage of both of these talks soon.

Continue reading “Photos: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress”

Photos: Demerara rum flows at The Mai-Kai’s magical retro event featuring The Atomic Grog

The Atomic Grog was pleased to present a special happy-hour talk about “Demerara Rum: The Mai-Kai’s Secret Weapon” during The Mai-Kai Takeover event on Jan. 19, presented by the Magical Tiki Meet-Up and Retro Rekindled.

SEE BELOW: Event photo gallery | Previous: Atomic Grog event preview

Armed with a Zombie, Hurricane Hayward is ready to get started with his talk on Demerara rum
Armed with a Zombie, Hurricane Hayward is ready to get started with his talk on Demerara rum.

A big thanks to sponsor Lemon Hart & Son rum and brand ambassador Miles Maximillian Vrahimis for all the assistance, including the photos below plus the promo materials featured at the event as well as a special Blackpool spiced rum package that was presented to a lucky charity raffle winner. The raffle raised $275 for the Humane Society of Broward County.

The event kicked off at 4 p.m. with an extra hour of happy hour that included our talk in The Molokai bar. There was a full house of close to 100 people on hand for the 30-minute presentation, plus two sample cocktails featuring Lemon Hart’s two traditional Demerara rums.

Lemon Hart 151 is a legendary Tiki cocktail ingredient and one of the world’s most distinctive rums. The Mai-Kai features it in seven of its most flavor-packed (and strong) cocktails, including the Jet Pilot and Zombie. Guests at the Jan. 19 event were treated to a mini version of the 151 Swizzle, a classic that showcases the rich and smoky overproof rum.

Demerara Float samples make the rounds
Demerara Float samples make the rounds.

As a special treat, we also sampled the long-lost Demerara Float, perhaps the best of all the drinks from the 1956 menu that have been retired over the decades. It’s served only at special events, so it was a unique opportunity to try this Don the Beachcomber creation (originally known as the Demerara Dry Float) using Lemon Hart’s 80-proof rum, aka Original 1804.

Historically, this is the rum used by Don the Beachcomber and The Mai-Kai in their mid-century masterpieces that you can still taste at the Fort Lauderdale Tiki temple. Be sure to check out the Yeoman’s Grog (aka Navy Grog), S.O.S. (aka Three Dots and a Dash) and Bora Bora (aka Donga Punch). These days, The Mai-Kai employs the 86-proof Hamilton rum from the same distillery as Lemon Hart, the famed Demerara Distillers in Guyana.

Attendees received my handy checklist documenting all The Mai-Kai cocktails featuring Lemon Hart 151 and Hamilton 86, with the strong warning that I don’t advise trying all 13 in one sitting. Or two. Or three. Take your time and savor them.
RELATED: See all the cocktails featuring Demerara rum at The Mai-Kai

Here are some nuggets of info from the 30-minute talk:

Continue reading “Photos: Demerara rum flows at The Mai-Kai’s magical retro event featuring The Atomic Grog”