Modern Caribbean Rum

Dada in Delray Beach embraces rum with new cocktail menu

If I have one complaint about the proliferation of craft cocktail bars, it’s that many of the mixologists tend to shun perhaps the most versatile and tasty base spirit of them all. Of course, I’m talking about rum.
Related: Innovative watering holes fuel rise of craft cocktails

A barrel of small-batch rum at Dada in Delray Beach
A barrel of small-batch rum at Dada in Delray Beach. (Facebook photo)

So when I heard that Dada in Delray Beach – already one of the best spots for mojitos in South Florida (not to mention the award-winning food) – was expanding its bar menu to include new rums and cocktails, I regained my faith in the new cocktail culture. It took a while to get down there to check out the offerings, but on a recent visit I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of the drinks. Pairing them with delicious food and lounging in Dada’s outdoor dining area only enhanced the experience.

Previous: A Taste Of … Dada in Delray Beach (February 2013)

While Dada is often mentioned among the top restaurants to grab a cocktail, and boasts some acclaimed bartenders, it’s typically not mentioned in the same breath as some of the area’s top craft cocktail spots. The mojitos are great, but there was nothing there for those who prefer a classic, or something a little less fruity. That all changed last summer, when Dada released its own line of small-batch spiced rums.

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Minimalist Tiki

The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’

UPDATES: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment (May)
The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015 (April)

With tickets rapidly selling out and Tikiphiles flocking from around the world for the 13th and final edition of The Hukilau, organizers could certainly rest on their laurels. Instead, the annual Tiki event in Fort Lauderdale is getting an injection of new entertainment to add even more value (and fun) to the festivities.

The Sweet Hollywaiians perform at the Bahia Mar during The Hukilau in June 2010
The Sweet Hollywaiians perform at the Bahia Mar during The Hukilau in June 2010. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Get updates on the Facebook page.
Previous post: Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha’ in June

The Sweet Hollywaiians, one of the most memorable bands in the history of the event, will be making the trek from Osaka, Japan, to perform for the second time. The ensemble, formed in 2002 by a group of street musicians, carries on the 1920s and ’30s string band tradition with their all-instrumental arrangements. They seamlessly combine a smorgasbord of vintage styles such as Hawaiian, Swing, Ragtime, Blues, Calypso and Italian. The foursome plays an array of string instruments, such as lap steel guitar, banjo, tipple, ukulele, mandolin, and bass.

The band first wowed The Hukilau faithful in 2010, when they performed at the Bahia Mar and The Mai-Kai. They will return to both venues in 2014, headlining the Friday night Main Event at the hotel and making a special Mai-Kai appearance on Saturday. Previously announced entertainment includes The Left Arm of Buddha from Belgium, The Smokin’ Menehunes from California, and Florida bands The Intoxicators, Skinny Jimmy & The Stingrays, Slip and the Spinouts, and Gold Dust Lounge. Click here for more info on the bands and special guests.

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Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha’ in June, tickets selling fast

UPDATES: The Hukilau says ‘Aloha’ but not goodbye, adds more entertainment (May)
The Hukilau announces return for 14th year in 2015 (April)
The Hukilau adds new band, symposium to lineup for June’s ‘final aloha’ (March)

In just over four months, tikiphiles from around the world will flock to Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau’s 13th and final celebration of authentic mid-century Polynesian Pop culture. If you want to join the party, you might want to act fast. All-access tickets and one special event have already sold out.

The Intoxicators at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in June 2013
The Intoxicators at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in June 2013. The Tallahassee surf band has performed every year since 2005. (Photo by Go11Events.com)

The Hukilau: June 11-15, 2014, at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Get tickets and make hotel reservations now at TheHukilau.com. Get updates on the Facebook page.
Previous post: The Hukilau announces entertainment lineup for ‘final aloha’

The tentative full schedule was just posted on the official website, providing the first day-by-day rundown of all the festivities. Also recently announced was the sellout of author and historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s symposium on the Tiki cocktail de-evolution and revival. “Tiki’s Dark Ages: From Fern Bars To Rebirth” is scheduled for Thursday, June 12, at 1 p.m. in the dining room at The Mai-Kai restaurant.

But you’re not entirely out of luck if you missed out on tickets to Berry’s final symposium at The Hukilau, and perhaps his last for quite a while as he turns his attention to his upcoming Tiki bar in New Orleans. He will be meeting guests and signing books, including his new Potions of the Caribbean, at the Cocktail Kingdom vendor booth in the Tiki Treasures Bazaar at the host hotel, the Bahia Mar Beach Resort.

Continue reading “Schedule announced for The Hukilau’s ‘Final Aloha’ in June, tickets selling fast”

Innovative watering holes fuel rise of craft cocktails in Palm Beach County

The craft cocktail scene in Palm Beach County has come a long way in a very short time. No longer must residents trek south to Fort Lauderdale or Miami to get a wildly creative adult beverage skillfully made by talented mixologists.

Nowhere is this recent explosion more evident than in a list of the Ten Best Bars for Cocktails in Palm Beach County published this week on the food blog Clean Plate Charlie on the Broward/Palm Beach New Times website. Only one of the 10 existed before 2009, a testament to the impact these establishments have had on the local food and drink scene.

The Dead Ringer cocktail (Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Velvet Falernum, fresh lime, Dandelion & Burdock Bitters, plum bitters) at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach
The Dead Ringer cocktail (Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Velvet Falernum, fresh lime, Dandelion & Burdock Bitters, plum bitters) at Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, June 2013)

While such lists are always subjective, I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with writer Nicole Danna’s top picks. I’ve been singing the praises of Sweetwater Bar & Grill (No. 1), Kapow! Noodle Bar (No. 2), and Hullabaloo (No. 4) for the past several years.

And I’m eager to check out No. 3 on the list, HMF, which is technically a new venue (est. in late 2012) but is housed in The Breakers, Palm Beach’s historic hotel originally built by railroad pioneer Henry Morrison Flagler (aka “HMF”) in 1896. The grand hotel’s main bar was re-imagined as a swank cocktail den inspired by mid-century style, classic cocktails and delicious small bites (it was featured in an episode of Emeril’s Florida on the Cooking Channel).

The other three joints are a bit more accessible to the Average Joe, but they all offer spectacular food and drinks that are far from pedestrian. Sweetwater, which opened in 2009, remains my second favorite spot in all of South Florida to indulge in those pleasures (trailing only a certain 57-year-old Polynesian palace in Fort Lauderdale). The food menu may be small, but ingredients are always fresh and the dishes decadent and delicious. I can’t get enough of the tacos (pork or fish), sliders (beef or bison) and flatbreads.

Continue reading “Innovative watering holes fuel rise of craft cocktails in Palm Beach County”

Historic Mai-Kai celebrated, new cocktail menu unveiled at anniversary party

Updated Jan. 20, 2014
NEW: The new cocktail menu made its public debut on Jan. 17. Check out our review and recipe for the new drink, the Tiki Swizzle.

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The Mai-Kai celebrated its 57th anniversary with a customer celebration party that not only recognized the landmark Polynesian restaurant’s storied past, but also looked ahead to the future.
* See below: New tropical drink menu sneak preview

The Mai-Kai's new cocktail menu (right) harkens back to its 1956 original (left), with all the drinks displayed on an impressive centerspread
The Mai-Kai’s new cocktail menu (right) harkens back to its 1956 original (left), with all the drinks displayed on an impressive centerspread. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

There was much to celebrate at the Saturday, Dec. 28, event: The recent historic designation by the city of Oakland Park, the 50th anniversary of a longtime employee, and the screening of a new PBS documentary filmed at The Mai-Kai. But attendees were also given a sneak peak at what’s to come: The first major redesign of the Tiki palace’s iconic cocktail menu in more than 30 years.

The celebrating actually started on Friday night, with a rare South Florida performance by instrumental surf band The Novarays in The Molokai bar. The Orlando band ripped through three sets of classic covers and original tunes. On Saturday, the bar was nearly full at 1:30 p.m. for an early happy hour to kick off the day’s special events.

The several hundred guests then filled the main dining room, which sits beneath the original, awe-inspiring A-frame structure built in 1956 by brothers Bob and Jack Thornton, a couple upstart restaurateurs from Chicago who envisioned the world’s grandest Polynesian palace in Tiki’s mid-century heyday.

Continue reading “Historic Mai-Kai celebrated, new cocktail menu unveiled at anniversary party”

The Mai-Kai, now officially historic, celebrates its 57th anniversary with style and special events

UPDATED (Jan. 4, 2014): See the event recap

Long considered a “Tiki temple” by its fans and followers of timeless mid-century Americana, The Mai-Kai can now stake a claim to being an official South Florida landmark. And to honor its 57th anniversary this month, the venerable Polynesian restaurant has scheduled several special events.

The Mai-Kai
(Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Mai-Kai events
* Friday, Dec. 27: Surf rock party with The Novarays, 6-9 p.m. in The Molokai bar.
* Saturday, Dec. 28: Customer celebration party, 1:30-4 p.m., featuring a showing of the PBS documentary Plastic Paradise.
Where: The Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, between Commercial and Oakland Park boulevards. Valet and paid self-parking. Call (954) 563-3272 or go to MaiKai.com.

In November, The Mai-Kai became the first commercial property to receive historic designation by the city of Oakland Park. While the restaurant is typically listed as being in Fort Lauderdale, it sits in the southeast corner of the small city to the north of its larger South Florida neighbor. The designation by the city’s Historic Preservation Board was in honor of The Mai-Kai’s history and architectural character. A national historic designation is also being sought.

Continue reading “The Mai-Kai, now officially historic, celebrates its 57th anniversary with style and special events”

Photos: Halloween partygoers, band raise hell at The Mai-Kai’s fifth annual Hulaween

The Mai-Kai’s Molokai bar was filled with costume-clad revelers on Friday, Oct. 25, for the historic Polynesian restaurant’s frighteningly festive Halloween bash known as Hulaween. South Florida surf band Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays performed three sets of retro classics and choice originals, there were many creative entries in the costume contest, and a good time was had by all at the fifth annual event.
See below: Browse 20 photos from the event

Skinny Satan (Jimmy) & the Stingrays get the crowed revved up at the fifth annual Hulaween at The Mai-Kai
Skinny Satan (Jimmy) & the Stingrays get the crowed revved up at the fifth annual Hulaween at The Mai-Kai. (Atomic Grog photo)

The bar opened at 5 p.m. for happy hour and exotic Halloween tunes programmed by The Atomic Grog. The band hit the stage after 7, cranking up the energy as Skinny Jimmy channeled Satan himself. The rest of the band took on the personas of famous Halloween characters as they ripped through instrumental surf hits from the past 50 years, including such appropriate songs Moonlight Surf, Dark Eyes, Jack the Ripper, Ghost Riders, and the Munsters TV show theme.

A Mexican wrestler and a pirate, better known as Mai-Kai manager Kern Mattei and marketing director Pia Dahlquist, once again hosted the costume contest and awarded the grand prize to a creative couple who came to the party as a pair of Tikis. Runners-up included several artistic Day of the Dead couples, the scary Sleestak and a confused Rastafarian Scotsman.

The band kept the party rockin’ until midnight as attendees enjoyed The Mai-Kai’s legendary tropical drinks in the nautical-themed lounge. Sponsor Captain Morgan also presented rum and cocktail samples featuring its tasty Captain Morgan Black.

Continue reading “Photos: Halloween partygoers, band raise hell at The Mai-Kai’s fifth annual Hulaween”

Video clips guaranteed to get you in the Hulaween spirit

Updated Nov. 1, 2013
RECAP: See photos from Hulaween 2013

*** Friday, Oct. 25 – Hulaween 2013: The Horror of Party Beach featuring Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays at The Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. (954) 563-3272. Free admission. Valet and paid self-parking. Happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. Live music and costume contest in The Molokai bar, 7 p.m.-midnight. [MaiKai.com | Facebook event]
* Event history: Oct. 25 marks five years of frightening fun at Mai-Kai’s Hulaween party
* Full preview: Beware the ‘Horror of Party Beach’ at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween

Hulaween 2013

The fifth annual Hulaween at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale will feature a lot of classic elements, from the surf music of Skinny Jimmy & the Stringrays to the cocktails, food and decor at the 56-year-old Polynesian palace. One additional classic element for 2013 is a theme centered around a classically bad B-movie.

The Horror of Party Beach is a 1964 horror film intended to be “a take-off on beach parties and musicals.” What it ended up being is one of the 10 worst films of all time, according to The Book of Lists. It was also among the films in the 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

Shot in black & white on a miniscule budget in Connecticut, the film stars laughable creatures that are said to be derived from water plants and dead human tissue mutated from radioactive waste. The monsters become humanoid by attaching themselves to skeletons in a shipwreck, then proceed to hunt down and kill a series of comely young women. The official trailer:

Continue reading “Video clips guaranteed to get you in the Hulaween spirit”

Oct. 25 marks five years of frightening fun at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween party

Updated Nov. 1, 2013
RECAP: See photos from Hulaween 2013

*** Friday, Oct. 25 – Hulaween 2013 featuring Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays at The Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. (954) 563-3272. Free admission. Valet and paid self-parking. Happy hour 5 to 7 p.m. Live music and costume contest in The Molokai bar, 7 p.m.-midnight. [Official website | Facebook event]
* Full preview: Beware the ‘Horror of Party Beach’ at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween
* Video: Clips guaranteed to get you in the Hulaween spirit

Hulaween 2013

The 56-year-old Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale hosts many signature events throughout the year, such as The Hukilau in June and the legendary Polynesian restaurant’s anniversary party in December. But perhaps the most distinctive (and frighteningly festive) is Hulaween every October.

Marking its fifth anniversary on Oct. 25, Hulaween has become one of South Florida’s most authentically fun Halloween bashes. No fancy gimmicks or wacky concepts, just a good old-fashioned costume party in The Mai-Kai’s nautical-themed Molokai bar featuring some of South Florida’s best retro-themed bands.

Deerfield Beach surf band Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays will be making its Hulaween debut this year, providing the perfect soundtrack of classic instrumental tunes from the ’50s and ’60s, plus their exceptional originals. Once again, The Atomic Grog will dig up 50+ years of rockin’ Halloween tunes to play between sets. Expect the dance floor to again be filled with zombies and monsters of every persuasion.

Continue reading “Oct. 25 marks five years of frightening fun at The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween party”

The Hukilau presents the perfect way to serve up Tiki history in a glass

The Hukilau, the annual Polynesian Pop festival that invades Fort Lauderdale every June, is known for its authentic and eye-catching event merchandise, particularly the mugs and glassware. But when the event is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up some cool retro-themed goodies.
See below: Bonus recipe and winning photo from The Hukilau’s glassware photo contest

Tiki History Glasses (pink/orange) from The Hukilau
Tiki History Glasses (pink/orange) from The Hukilau.

The latest in a series of double old-fashioned glasses featuring historic Tiki locations has just arrived and has begun shipping to those who pre-ordered. They’re available in sets of two ($22) or four ($42).
* Click here to order yours today on TheHukilau.com Web site

This new limited-edition glassware features logos and artwork from these historic Tiki-themed hotels, bars and restaurants: The Hanalei Hotel in San Diego, Luau 400 in New York City, The Mainlander in St. Louis, Johnny’s Tiki Hut in Salt Lake City, and the Inter-Island Resorts in Hawaii. The Hukilau’s co-founder and producer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, has once again done a great job along with Stacie Herndon of Heelgrinder Design in assembling some classic images for the latest in a series of vintage glasses. [See more photos on the Facebook page.]

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