Modern Caribbean Rum

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”

Minimalist Tiki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rhum in Portland, Maine

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

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

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

No Bones Beach Club in Seattle

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

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

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

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

The Week in Tiki (Jan. 16-31, 2016): The Mai-Kai mugs and history book, The Art of Tiki updates, Shag events and art, plus more!

The Week in Tiki Exciting news this week for fans of The Mai-Kai with the release of new Tiki mugs and pre-orders for a long-awaited history book. News on The Art of Tiki event in South Beach includes a new rum sponsor and the return of last year’s champ. We recap events from N.Y.C. to L.A., including new Doug Horne Tiki mugs. Upcoming events include a tribute to Steve Crane, South Florida’s Polynesian Cultural Festival, and a new Trader Vic’s seminar. In other news, a tree crashes the party at VenTiki, plus Bacardi and Havana Club duke it out. Regular features spotlight eclectic artist Sam Gambino; groundbreaking exotica ensemble Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica; Brooklyn bar Fort Defiance; and online group Poly Hai. The Rum of the Week, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 15, is featured in the Pineapple Express cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Note: For 2016, The Week in Tiki will remain bi-weekly, but we’ve simplified the schedule. Look for blogs recapping the first and second half of each month.

New Mai-Kai mugs released, history book coming in July

Tiki Diablo's new Mai-Kai mugs come in three glazes: Tobacco Brown, Lagoon Green, and Black Velvet.
Tiki Diablo’s new Mai-Kai mugs come in three glazes: Tobacco Brown, Lagoon Green, and Black Velvet.

As promised, the new mugs inspired by The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale have been released to the general public by California-based artist Tiki Diablo. The mug is available in three different glazes for $75 each and can be purchased online via Tiki Diablo’s store. They should also be available in the restaurant’s gift shop, The Mai-Kai Trading Post, within the next week.

In December, a limited number of artist proofs were released and quickly sold out. The mug, which comes with its own pendant, pays tribute to the historic Polynesian Palace’s iconic Tikis. Tiki Diablo, aka Danny Gallardo, has previously created mugs that pay homage to memorable Tikis at The Mai-Kai in 2014 and 2015 (see story). He’ll also be crafting the official mug for the upcoming book on The Mai-Kai by Tim “Swanky” Glazner.

Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of The Iconic Tiki Restaurant

UPDATE: The book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, will be released Sept. 28. The 176-page hardcover book (11 inches wide by 8 1/2 inches high) is being issued by Schiffer Publishing. It’s available for pre-order online via Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Glazner will be hosting a release party and special events at The Mai-Kai on Sept. 17-18. Advance copies of the book will be available at the release party.

In the book, the longtime Mai-Kai historian reveals never-before-seen photos and stories that he’s gleaned from more than 13 years of research on the 59-year-old Tiki temple, which was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a fascinating story of the brash young men who in 1956 created The Mai-Kai for a million dollars, making it one of the most expensive restaurants of its day. By sparing no expense and creating a one-of-a kind Tiki paradise, Bob and Jack Thornton created an acclaimed playground of celebrities and playboys during the mid-century heyday of Polynesian Pop.

The Mai-Kai's original mystery girl. Find out more in "Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant," coming July 28.
The Mai-Kai’s original mystery girl. Find out more in “Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant,” coming July 28.

Glazner also spotlights the beautiful women who worked there, many who used the experience as a jumping-off point for adventure and fame. The book includes exclusive first-hand stories on more than 400 images, documenting not only The Mai-Kai but the history, allure, and enduring legacy of the original Tiki era. Focusing on 1955 to 1971, the book traces the genesis of the restaurant and its key employees back to Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber. Many of The Mai-Kai’s original key managers and employees came from the Beachcomber outpost in Chicago, where the Thorntons called home. This includes bartender Mariano Licudine, who created the acclaimed bar menu (based on Donn Beach’s original “rum rhapsodies”) that remains intact at The Mai-Kai today.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Jan. 16-31, 2016): The Mai-Kai mugs and history book, The Art of Tiki updates, Shag events and art, plus more!”

The Week in Tiki (Jan. 1-15, 2016): New Tikis to rise at The Mai-Kai, Lost Lake honored, Smuggler’s Cove book release, Tiki in South Beach, plus more!

The Week in Tiki The new year is off to a roaring start with comprehensive coverage of the carving and planned installation of two giant Tikis at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau. Chicago’s Lost Lake was named Cocktail Bar of the Year, while Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove announced the release date for his long-awaited rum and cocktail book. In South Beach, “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” sells out, and we receive exclusive news on a new Tiki bar from celebrity chef Ralph Pagano. We also preview an art and rum event in Fort Lauderdale, plus Tiki Caliente in Palm Springs. Quick sips include The Broken Shaker opening an outpost in Los Angeles, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid heating up Las Vegas, and the introduction of Rum Minute videos. Regular features spotlight lowbrow legend Robert Williams; Indianapolis surf band The Madeira; The Rum Line cocktail bar on Miami Beach; and the Imbibe website. The Rum of the Week, R.L. Seale’s 10-year-old from Barbados, is featured in the Winter Daiquiri.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Note: For 2016, The Week in Tiki will remain bi-weekly, but we’ve simplified the schedule. Look for blogs recapping the first and second half of each month.

Giant carved Tikis to be donated to The Mai-Kai in June

Fort Lauderdale carver Will Anders works on a Tiki that will rise in The Mai-Kai's outdoor gardens in June. The log behind him will become the second Tiki. (Photo by Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White, January 2016)
Will Anders works on a Tiki that will rise in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens in June. (Photo by Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, January 2016)

The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is renowned for the massive Tiki carvings that grace its grounds, some dating back a half-century. But in recent years, many have sadly succumbed to the elements. Every year, it seems, you’ll find another tribute mug to one of The Mai-Kai’s fallen Tikis.

A Tiki carved by Barney West in the early 1960s is seen in The Mai-Kai garden in 2005, before it fell victim to the elements. (The Palm Beach Post)
A Tiki carved by Barney West in the early 1960s is seen in The Mai-Kai garden in 2005, before it fell victim to the elements. (The Palm Beach Post)

In June, however, there will be a welcome new sight at the 59-year-old historic landmark. Two monumental Tiki carvings standing up to 10 feet tall will be unveiled in the restaurant’s outdoor tropical garden during The Hukilau, the annual Polynesian Pop celebration that draws enthusiasts from around the world. Marking the project happen were The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and master carver Will Anders, plus several other people whose contributions were indispensable.

Anders began work on the Tikis in November, when two gigantic logs estimated to weigh 4,000 to 6,000 pounds each arrived at his Fort Lauderdale home. By early January, when White snapped the photo above, the first Tiki was already taking shape. She later announced the project on Facebook, calling it a dream come true. “I have to say, when you see a man of 119 pounds carving a 4,000-pound tree into such an amazing work of art, it humbles you,” she wrote.

Using tools including chainsaw and chisel, Anders said he “bangs away for about four hours every morning” on the Florida Black Olive tree trunk that started out 10 feet tall and 3 feet across at the small end. It sits in a special rigging system, a “come along,” to enable him to move and turn the massive log. Once it’s complete, he’ll begin work on the Florida Live Oak and its much harder wood, a task he said he’s not looking forward to. But he’s gladly accepted the challenge.

In late November, two logs weighing 4,000 to 6,000 pounds each await carver Will Anders in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Will Anders)
In late November, two logs weighing 4,000 to 6,000 pounds each await carver Will Anders in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Will Anders)

But the story begins long before chisel hit wood. Saddened by the loss of The Mai-Kai’s massive Tikis, created by legendary carver Barney West in the early 1960s, White made it a mission to replace them. She enlisted the help of Tiki and Mai-Kai loyalists, and remarkably everything fell into place. “It’s a true labor of love for all involved,” she wrote on Facebook.

“It didn’t take long to get others inspired, and to date we have been successful in getting everything donated – from the giant Tikis, to the trucks to get them to us to the man who has set out to carve them,” White wrote. “All of them have donated their efforts, time and money.” She said the goal is to “keep the spirit of The Mai-Kai alive by replacing the large idols in the gardens” and unveil them at The Hukilau in June.

First, White recruited Anders, who has a longtime relationship with The Mai-Kai that includes a unique artistic role casting dozens of smaller Tikis in cement from their original molds. A mutual friend and former Mai-Kai employee, Lonnie Dryden, donated the heavy equipment needed to transport the logs. And a frustrating search for wood in Florida that was large enough and suitable for carving finally ended when Dryden’s friend, Lee Cicchella of Paradise Found Landscaping, donated the two trees. Pete Ginn donated all the heavy equipment, and the plan was in place.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Jan. 1-15, 2016): New Tikis to rise at The Mai-Kai, Lost Lake honored, Smuggler’s Cove book release, Tiki in South Beach, plus more!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Week in Tiki (Nov. 16-29, 2015): The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover sold out, Trader Vic’s battles critics, Tiki Farm releases 15th anniversary mugs, more!

The Week in Tiki Hot off the presses, we have breaking news on The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover selling out, the inside story of Trader Vic’s in Emeryville facing a noise crackdown, plus the release of open editions of Tiki Farm’s 15th anniversary mugs. You can find holiday Tiki gift ideas, plus previews of seasonal events in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Huntington Beach and Atlanta. Quick hits include news on Ìxtahuele, B.G. Reynolds Syrups and several crowd-funding projects. Regular features spotlight surrealist artist Scott “Flounder” Scheidly; surf guitarist Laramie Dean; Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room; and the Vintage Roadside website. The Rum of the Week, Koloa Gold, is featured in the Unisphere cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

All Tiki Tower Takeover tickets are taken, 5th bartender announced

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag

One of the most anticipated Tiki cocktail events of 2016 is already sold out, a little over a month after tickets went on sale and more than six months before The Hukilau celebrates its 15th anniversary with a five-day celebration in Fort Lauderdale. The second annual Tiki Tower Takeover will be held on June 9 in the revolving 17th floor ballroom atop the historic Pier 66 hotel and will feature five of the country’s top Tiki barmen mixing up signature cocktails.

The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* Buy passes and tickets | Book a room

The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White welcomes Beachbum Berry and Steve Yamada
The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White welcomes Beachbum Berry (right) and his Latitude 29 head bartender, Steve Yamada, to the first Tiki Tower Takeover in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The first Tiki Tower Takeover, held in June 2015, was spearheaded by award-winning author and Tiki bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29 in New Orleans). Berry and his three brethren return in 2016: Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake in Chicago), and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City).

The Hukilau’s producer and organizer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, has also revealed a fifth top bartender who will be joining the event and setting up shop next to last year’s fab four: St. John Frizell, owner-operator of Fort Defiance in Brooklyn and host of The Sunken Harbor Club, the bar’s monthly celebration of Polynesian food and drinks. In October, Frizell beat out an all-star lineup of Big Apple mixologists to win The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the New York City Wine & Food Festival. [Atomic Grog coverage, photos] White will also soon announce the Tiki bar that will be serving the “welcome drink” to guests as they board a private elevator and head up to the exclusive skylounge. In addition to the six cocktails, attendees of the two-hour event (5 to 7 p.m.) will enjoy food and live entertainment while the lounge rotates once every 66 minutes.
Coming soon: A full preview of the second Tiki Tower Takeover
* The Atomic Grog’s recap of the 2015 Tiki Tower Takeover | Photo gallery

The other special event that went on sale in late October is also likely to sell out soon. Shag’s SkyLounge, a swank “Martini meet and mingle” in the Pier Top Ballroom hosted by acclaimed artist Josh Agle, will follow the Tiki Tower Takeover on June 9, running from 10 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are available now exclusively for weekend passholders for $49, which includes a Martini, live entertainment and the one-of-a-kind experience of being in live Shag painting. Four-day, three-day and two-day passes are available at 2015 prices until early January. Five-day passes are sold out. The full entertainment lineup, more rum and cocktail events, a Beachbum Berry symposium, and more will be announced in early January.
More on The Atomic Grog
* All five-day tickets sold out | Tiki Tower bartenders return, Marina to perform
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary in 2016

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Nov. 16-29, 2015): The Hukilau’s Tiki Tower Takeover sold out, Trader Vic’s battles critics, Tiki Farm releases 15th anniversary mugs, more!”

The Week in Tiki (Nov. 2-15, 2015): The Hukilau and Miami Rum Fest tickets, Makahiki arrives, Wayne Coombs tribute, Tiki bars, galleries and more!

The Week in Tiki Florida tops the latest news with updates on passes and tickets for The Hukilau and Miami Rum Fest, a preview of Makahiki in Orlando, and a special tribute to the late artist Wayne Coombs. In Atlanta, artist Derek Yaniger will talk at Trader Vic’s, and news has emerged on a new Tiki bar. Check out photos from two Los Angeles art events spotlighting Shag and Tiki Farm, plus find out which Tiki and rum bars were rated among the nation’s best. We also have quick hits on the new Beachbum Berry Tiki Cocktail Picks, Tiki bar openings and closings, a Hawaiian War Chant marathon, award-winning Caribbean rum, an album featuring Los Straitjackets playing the Peanuts theme, and the death of Kustom car legend George Barris. Regular features spotlight lowbrow artist Big Toe; simian surf band The Disasternauts; Foundation Tiki Bar in Milwaukee; and the Tales of the Cocktail website. The Rum of the Week, Clément Select Barrel, is featured in Paul McGee’s Three Dots and a Dash.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Event tickets: The Hukilau selling fast, Miami Rum Fest available now

The Hukilau 2016

The Hukilau has announced that all five-day tickets are sold out for the 15th annual Tiki weekender scheduled for June 8-12 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. The last of the Big Kahuna passes was snapped up just one week after all the new South Seas passes sold out. But prospective villagers shouldn’t worry. There are plenty of Aloha (Thursday through Sunday) and Luau (Friday through Sunday) passes available. All passes went on sale in late October at 2015 prices, which will remain in effect until early January. If you buy your pass early, you also get first shot at several exclusive ticketed events on June 9 in the hotel’s rotating 17th floor ballroom: Shag’s SkyLounge (hosted by artist Josh Agle) and the Tiki Tower Takeover (featuring cocktails by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry of Latitude 29, Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, Paul McGee of Lost Lake, and Brian Miller of Tiki Mondays With Miller). Look for an update soon on two more bars joining the Tiki Tower Takeover lineup. Previously announced guests include Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid (MeduSirena), plus Tiki historians Sven Kirsten and Humuhumu. Shag will also be hosting his first-ever symposium at a Tiki event.
* Buy passes and tickets | Book a room
Atomic Grog coverage
* Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders return, Marina to perform in expanded Wreck Bar
* The Hukilau 2016 passes on sale now at 2015 prices
* Shag to help toast The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary in 2016
Official sites: TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram

2016 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Tickets are on sale now for the 2016 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, scheduled for April 15-17 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. The eighth annual event, one of the world’s largest gatherings of rum enthusiasts, will include a trade expo for professionals and grand tasting for the general public featuring new and award-winning spirits from Florida, the United States, the Caribbean and across the globe. Attendees will have the opportunity to sample hundreds of rums, attend expert seminars, see cocktail competitions, browse an island-themed marketplace, plus more. Heading into its fourth year at the spacious convention center, the Miami Rum Festival features 50,000 square feet of exhibit space that annually includes more than 100 exhibitors, two stages and multiple seminar rooms. Experts attending the festival will present dozens of awards in the annual RumXP Tasting Competition. Past festivals have given guests an early taste of some of the industry’s hottest new rums. Hotel rooms typically sell out well in advance of the festival, so it’s a good idea to book early and get the best rates. Miami Rum Fest organizers Robert A. Burr and Robert V. Burr are currently in the midst of hosting the 2015 Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise, sailing Nov. 15-22 with stops at distilleries in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Croix, and San Juan.
* Buy tickets | Book a room
Atomic Grog coverage: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012| 2011 | All posts
Official sites: MiamiRumFest.com | Facebook

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Nov. 2-15, 2015): The Hukilau and Miami Rum Fest tickets, Makahiki arrives, Wayne Coombs tribute, Tiki bars, galleries and more!”

The Week in Tiki (Oct. 19-Nov. 1, 2015): The Hukilau and Wreck Bar news, Halloween recaps, NYC cocktail champ, vintage hotel demolished, and more

The Week in Tiki The Hukilau tops this week’s news with updated info on event passes, Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders, and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s swim shows. October was jam-packed with Halloween events, plus a Tiki cocktail showdown in New York City. There’s sad news on the loss of a Tiki landmark, plus quick hits on an exclusive Mai-Kai serigraph, Martin Cate’s new San Francisco bar, UK RumFest, and a new venue for Tiki Kon in Portland. Regular features spotlight lowbrow artist Pooch; rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts; The Shameful Tiki Room in Vancouver; and the Shag the Store website. The Rum of the Week, Appleton Estate 12, is featured in Martin Cate’s Pampanito.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

The Hukilau: Passes selling fast, Tiki Tower Takeover bartenders return, Marina to perform in expanded Wreck Bar

The Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel's main tower features a revolving ballroom on the 17th floor, the site of two special events at The Hukilau
The Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel’s main tower features a revolving ballroom on the 17th floor, the site of two special events at The Hukilau.

Weekend passes for The Hukilau 2016, which went on sale Oct. 27 at 2015 prices, are off to a roaring start. On Monday, Nov. 9, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White announced that the highest level pass had already sold out, and another was getting close. White also revealed two returning participants in the Tiki Tower Takeover, plus the return of Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in a possibly expanded Wreck Bar.

The top-tier South Seas Pass is no longer available, White said, and you’re urged to act fast if you want a Big Kahuna Pass. Both of these passes include access to events on all five days of the event, scheduled for June 8-12 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

There are plenty of four-day Aloha and three-day Luau passes available, White points out. The reason five-day passes go quickly is because of the relatively small capacity of The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai, site of Wednesday’s opening-night party. But it should also be noted that there is plenty of room in the rest of The Mai-Kai, so guests shouldn’t be shy about making plans to attend all five days of festivities.

Through the end of the year, general passes are priced the same as they were last year: $155 for the Big Kahuna Pass, $130 for the Aloha Pass, and $115 for the Luau Pass. If you buy your pass now, you’re also given exclusive early access to buy tickets for two special events that are expected to sell out: the Tiki Tower Takeover and Shag’s SkyLounge. Introduced this year, the premium South Seas Pass ($349) covers all five days of the event, plus VIP access to the Tiki Tower Takeover including early entry to meet the bartenders, a ticket to Shag’s SkyLounge, special seating at The Mai-Kai during the June 11 dinner shows, plus a special Pier 66 Tower Barrel Mug by Eekum Bookum.
* Buy passes and tickets now

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Oct. 19-Nov. 1, 2015): The Hukilau and Wreck Bar news, Halloween recaps, NYC cocktail champ, vintage hotel demolished, and more”