Modern Caribbean Rum

Sunshine State emerges as epicenter of Tiki revival in 2024

Sunshine State emerges as epicenter of Tiki revival in 2024

Updated February 2024

While California may still be king of the hill with its abundance of classic and modern Tiki bars, constant events and confluence of Polynesian Pop’s movers and shakers, another sunny state on the opposite side of the country is quickly becoming a must-visit destination for more than its beaches and theme parks.

Worlds collide: The Mai-Kai's manager, Kern Mattei, runs into Don the Beachcomber beverage director Marie King backstage in the cocktail prep area at Tiki Oasis in San Diego in August. They will both be very busy in 2024 with their establishments in Florida. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Worlds collide: The Mai-Kai’s manager, Kern Mattei, runs into Don the Beachcomber beverage director Marie King backstage in the cocktail prep area at Tiki Oasis in San Diego in August. They will both be very busy in 2024 with their establishments in Florida. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

This weekend’s return of Tiki Fever in Sarasota reminds us of all the things that make Florida a hot spot for seekers of a vintage experience. The event takes place at a classic retro resort and the state’s oldest Tiki bar (Bahi Hut). It includes four days of revelry featuring top bands, presenters, vendors, and more. It’s a relatively new event, celebrating its third gathering Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 5-8.

But next year is when it really heats up. A promising new weekender, Tiki-a-Go-Go, will debut in April in Orlando. The state’s vanguard Tiki event, The Hukilau, will return to southeast Florida in June.

Early 2024 should also mark the return of perhaps the state’s No. 1 destination for fans of classic Tiki, the revered Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show. If that’s not enough, Florida is ground zero for the resurrection of the Don the Beachcomber restaurant brand. The Florida-based parent company plans to open at least two new locations in the state between now and the end of 2025.

The Hukilau draws cocktail and Tiki experts from around the world, including David Wondrich (left) and Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / June 2023)
The Hukilau draws cocktail and Tiki experts from around the world, including David Wondrich (left) and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / June 2023)

Sure, we’re still home to the ubiquitous “Florida Man,” often oppressive humidity, and increasingly questionable politics. But for all the reasons above, and more outlined below, Florida deserves to become a must-visit destination for fans of classic Tiki as well as the modern revival.

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FLORIDA TIKI EVENTS

Here’s a preview of the state’s three major weekenders, plus a roundup of other events of interest. (Florida-based artists, musicians and businesses are highlighted throughout the rest of this story with links.)

Continue reading “Sunshine State emerges as epicenter of Tiki revival in 2024”

Minimalist Tiki

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”

Miami Rum Congress is in session: First annual event presents top industry experts

Miami Rum Congress 2019

Updated Feb. 21

Some of the biggest names in the spirits world flocked to South Florida for the first annual Miami Rum Congress, a two-day event featuring tastings and educational seminars dedicated to the burgeoning booze that may finally have outgrown its “party like a pirate” image.
Atomic Grog photo gallery, event recap
NEW: VIPs, connoisseurs of fine spirits flock to first Miami Rum Congress

Feb. 8-9 – Miami Rum Congress at the Ronald W. Shane Center, 6500 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach.
MiamiRumCongress.com: Tickets, schedule, more | ShaneCenter.com
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The Tiki Times: See all the upcoming events

Miami Rum Congress 2019

About Miami Rum Congress

Rum has forever been touted as the “next big thing,” a more economical and (some would argue) tastier alternative to whiskey in the hearts and glasses of aficionados of brown spirits. But, perhaps to its advantage, rum’s popularity has come at a more slow and steady pace, built from the ground up through an expanding group of devotees, event organizers and well-regarded industry loyalists. All of those folks will converge on Miami Beach to network and learn more about the world’s most diverse spirit.

Rum’s diversified, worldwide appeal is what keeps it near and dear to many. Our 2019 events calendar includes rum gatherings around the globe, from Jamaica to Czechoslovakia to The Netherlands to Madrid. And that’s just the next four months. In the United States, the Rum Renaissance Festival (set for May 17-18 in Coral Gables) has been the torch-bearer since launching in 2009 and deserves credit for being ahead of its time and paving the way for what has followed.

The Rum Lab's 2019 Rum Festival Tour

Miami, always a top market due to its proximity to the Caribbean and historic appreciation for rum, has been a step ahead of the rest of the country. But the word is out. Rum is not only fun, but it’s incredibly diverse and quickly gaining traction as a premium spirit. Smaller boutique festivals have become the norm, appealing to premium tastes.

Enter Federico Hernandez (of TheRumLab.com) and Ian Burrell (the award-winning global “rum ambassador”), who have joined forces to bring South Florida its second major rum festival. It’s clear that the demand is warranted. Tickets are selling briskly and several price points are sold out.

Ian Burrell, aka the global rum ambassador, welcomed The Mai-Kai to London in October for a special event leading up to his 12th annual UK RumFest. (Photo by The Mai-Kai)
Ian Burrell, aka the global rum ambassador, welcomed The Mai-Kai to London in October for a special event leading up to his 12th annual UK RumFest. (Photo by The Mai-Kai)

Hernandez and Burrell are on the cusp of the explosion of rum festivals worldwide. In 2007, Burrell founded The UK RumFest, widely considered to be the godfather of all rum events around the globe. In the years since, the charismatic ambassador has been on a one-man crusade, traveling to every continent on Earth on behalf of spirits companies and earning the 2018 Spirited Award as Best International Brand Ambassador. The 13th annual UK RumFest is set for Oct. 19-20.

Meanwhile, Hernandez began eyeing the vast U.S. market after launching the Rum Lab as an educational initiative in Puerto Rico in 2007. He has grown his brand to include five boutique rum festivals across American soil, including San Juan (March 2), Chicago (April 27), New York City (June 15), and San Francisco (Sept. 7).

The next logical step for Burrell and Hernandez in their efforts toward the “premiumization and education of rum” is Miami Rum Congress. “After years of attending and hosting rum events, we are combining our experiences and expertise to bring consumers and tradespeople the finest rum event in the Americas,” said Burrell in a press release. “We are bringing in expert guest speakers from around the world so that Miami Rum Congress attendees will not only have the opportunity to taste a wide array of exotic rums but can interact with and learn from top industry experts and thought-leaders. This unparalleled spirit event will be an exciting moment for the industry and monumental in shaping the modern-day rum landscape.”

Miami Rum Congress is the newest addition and the first event of the 2019 rum festival circuit. It’s not hard to lure anyone to sunny Miami Beach in February, but the lineup of VIPs and experts is nevertheless extremely impressive.

Continue reading “Miami Rum Congress is in session: First annual event presents top industry experts”

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.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

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”

UPDATE: Mixologists take Tiki cocktails to new artistic heights at South Beach Wine & Food Festival showdown

Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their Judges Choice award. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt.

Updated May 17, 2016

Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)
Bartenders Gui Jaroschy (left) and Randy Perez of The Broken Shaker celebrate their victory in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26. Among the prizes was a rare bottle from sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. (Atomic Grog photo)

A hometown favorite took home the top prize at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on Friday, Feb. 26, while an enthusiastic bar team that traveled more than a thousand miles also came away a winner.

The Judges Choice award for best cocktail was awarded to The Broken Shaker of Miami Beach and bartenders Gui Jaroschy and Randy Perez for their crafty Sweet Micky. Hosted by Food Network’s Guy Fieri, the event featured nine of the country’s most acclaimed Tiki bars facing off during a festive event at the oceanside Surfcomber hotel on South Beach.

Some 700 guests enjoyed the many excellent cocktails and cast their own votes for the People’s Choice award, which went to Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room. The entire Porco staff of 18 people made the trip to SoBeWFF, cheering their mixologists to victory with their Alchemy Hour cocktail. The event also featured many top chefs from South Florida serving up Tiki-themed small bites in the spirit of the festival, one of the largest of its kind in the country.

The Atomic Grog’s ratings: Reviews and ingredients for all the competing cocktails
Cocktail recipes: The Broken Shaker’s Sweet Micky | The Mai-Kai’s Pupule Punch
Exclusive photo gallery: Browse images from The Atomic Grog
More below: See the full event preview and participant bios

Bartenders from Cleveland's Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People's Choice award.
Bartenders from Cleveland’s Porco Lounge & Tiki Room are hard at work on the Alchemy Hour cocktail. They took home the People’s Choice award. (Atomic Grog photo)

Also competing were mixologists from Fort Defiance (Brooklyn), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), The Golden Tiki (Las Vegas), Kreepy Tiki Lounge (Fort Lauderdale), The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Slowly Shirley (New York City). He wasn’t part of the competition, but defending Judge’s Choice champ Brian Miller of “Tiki Mondays With Miller” in New York City was a welcome addition, mixing up a special cocktail for sponsor Rhum Barbancourt. All of the night’s drinks included at least one of four expressions of the distinctive rum from Haiti.

Across the board, the cocktails were clearly superior to those at last year’s inaugural event. The rum and other sponsor products greatly contributed to this (absinthe and sherry were other popular ingredients), but the participants also showed creativity and a knowledge of their craft that led to some high-quality creations (check out the reviews and recipes below). But this was Tiki, after all, so fun was the name of the game. The bar stations ranged from whimsical tropical oases to an Egyptian tomb, manned by mad scientists and voodoo priestesses (see photos).

The team of Perez and Jaroschy was considered a favorite after winning the People’s Choice award for The Broken Shaker at last year’s inaugural showdown, and also finishing second on the judges’ ballots. (There was no second place announced this year.) The acclaimed craft cocktail bar – located a mile north of the Surfcomber in the Freehand Miami hotel – is a critical darling, both locally and nationally. The most recent feather in its cap was being named best bar in Florida by Business Insider.

Bartender Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley in New York City prepares his Manta Ray cocktail with assistance from Sean Saunders.
Bartender Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley in New York City prepares his Manta Ray cocktail with assistance from Sean Saunders. (Atomic Grog photo)

Fieri mentioned The Broken Shaker’s acclaim in announcing the Judge’s Choice award during the climax of the event. Jaroschy and Perez were all smiles, graciously accepting the title and a bevy of prizes, including a Mavenhal bar bag and Rhum Barbancourt aging barrel. They proudly showed off the most coveted prize, a rare (unreleasd in the U.S.) bottle of Cuvée 150 Ans rum, released in a very limited bottling in 2012 to commemorate Rhum Barbancourt’s 150th birthday. The only question remaining: Will the popular bartenders be gracious enough to share their booty with their loyal followers?

But even The Broken Shaker’s fans couldn’t top the flood of fan adulation heaped upon Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, who moments earlier enthusiastically accepted the People’s Choice award from Fieri, along with all the same prizes. The Porco crew, led by general manager and head bartender Shannon Smith, posed for photos while basking in the victory. Those who weren’t working behind the bar became an enthusiastic cheering section surrounding the Porco station, urging guests to cast their ballots with tokens given out upon arrival.

Continue reading “UPDATE: Mixologists take Tiki cocktails to new artistic heights at South Beach Wine & Food Festival showdown”

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

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

A Bum crashes the Tiki Mondays with Miller party

Tiki Mondays with Miller: Autumnal Equinox Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also on The Atomic Grog: See the full event preview

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

The Week in Tiki (July 27-Aug. 9, 2015): Tiki Oasis blasts off, plus Summer event recaps, more rum and cocktail news

The Week in TikiThe summer Tiki event season reaches its climax this week with the big kahuna, Tiki Oasis in San Diego. We have a full preview, plus a recap of many other recent happenings: Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop, the Surf Guitar 101 Convention, plus Shag at Disneyland and Tiki Night in Hollywood. There’s also news on the upcoming Mai Tai Festival in Hawaii, a Trader Vic’s rum tasting, and lots more. Our regular features spotlight Tiki mug creators PopTiki; the otherworldly music of Man or Astro-man?; the Bali Hai Restaurant in San Diego; and the website of Americana ambassador Charles Phoenix. The rum of the week, Angostura 5, is featured in The Morning After cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT PREVIEW: Tiki Oasis takes guests back to the retro future

Tiki Oasis

San Diego becomes the center of the Tiki universe when the 15th annual Tiki Oasis presents “Yesterday’s Future Today” on Aug. 13-16 with four whirlwind days of 20 live bands and 20 DJs, 35 educational symposiums, art, mixology, book signings, a 100-vendor marketplace, 20 burlesque performers, comedy, vintage cars, fashion, food, kids events, and more. If you can’t find something to enjoy at Tiki Oasis, you’re following the wrong pop culture subgenre.

As a testament to the popularity of Tiki Oasis, it’s pretty much sold out. Organizers announced Monday that limited tickets will be available for Thursday night’s Bali Hai party starting at 6 p.m. And those with hotel room reservations will still be able to buy two tickets if they haven’t already. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. However, the festival marketplace, car show, and an assortment of other activities are free and open to the public.

King Kukulele leads kids in a sing-along
King Kukulele leads kids in a sing-along. (Tiki Oasis photo)

Thursday’s’s Meet and Greet takes place at the legendary Bali Hai Restaurant on Shelter Island, while ground zero for the rest of Tiki Oasis is the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly The Hanalei Hotel). Though it has suffered through renovations, the hotel still features waterfalls, lava rock pools and eight-story glass elevators, plus classic tikis featured in Sven Kirsten’s The Book of Tiki.

In keeping with the theme, many events are centered around mid-century modern primitivism (think the jet age meets Tiki). Musical acts include spacy surf band Man or Astroman?, out-of-this-world rockabilly band The Phenomenauts, and ’60s garage legends The Chocolate Watchband. Other notable bands include The Phantom Surfers, Tikiyaki Orchestra, Clouseaux, and Project: Pimento.

Symposium educators include original Mothers of Invention keyboardist Don Preston, Rodenberry Entertainment CEO Rod Roddenberry, author and Tiki historian Sven Kirsten, and mid-century historian and entertainer Charles Phoenix. The art show features more than 30 top Tiki artists from around the world. The first San Diego Tiki Bartenders Challenge will be held during a beefed-up Sunday schedule that also features a special garage band showcase.

Don the Beachcomber room parties at Tiki Oasis

Guests always get in on the fun, so look for lots of retro and mod fashion, and appropriate Tiki space age decor for the famous room parties. Of course, everything is bigger at Tiki Oasis, including the Friday-Saturday room crawl. For example, Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach is hosting a two-night bash featuring live music from The Hula Girls and the Jimmy Psycho Experiment. New Las Vegas bar The Golden Tiki will also host a massive room party with live music and the owner himself DJing in his suite at the Crowne Plaza. Branden Powers is actually no stranger to the hotel, having DJ’d a weekly lounge event called Taboo 20 years ago when it was still the Hanalei Hotel.

Tiki Oasis is also a collector’s and shopper’s paradise, with some 100 vendors selling hand-crafted Tiki art, vintage clothing, records, collectibles and more. The marketplace is free and open to the public for most event hours Friday through Sunday at the Crowne Plaza. The vintage car show, also free, is held Saturday and Sunday in the hotel parking lot.

Here’s a day-by-day preview of all the headlining entertainment:

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (July 27-Aug. 9, 2015): Tiki Oasis blasts off, plus Summer event recaps, more rum and cocktail news”

The Week in Tiki (July 13-26, 2015): Your guide to all the sizzling summer events, from Hot Rod Hula Hop to Tiki Oasis

The Week in Tiki There’s no such thing as summer doldrums in the world of Tiki with plenty of major events spanning coast to coast this summer. We take a look back at July’s Tiki Kon and Tales of the Cocktail and preview August’s Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop in Ohio, plus the Surf Guitar 101 Convention and Tiki Oasis in Southern California. Also upcoming are the Trader Vic’s Portland anniversary party, Tiki Monday With Miller in New York City, and the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau at Disneyland. Our regular features spotlight the artwork of Ken Ruzic; the fuzzed-out sounds of Davie Allan and the Arrows; the Grass Skirt Tiki Room in Columbus, Ohio; and the Dionysus Records Empire website. The rum of the week, Denizen Merchant’s Reserve, is featured in an original creation, the Merchant’s Mai Tai.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT RECAPS: Tiki Kon, Tales of the Cocktail

New Iron Tikitender Sierra Kirk is crowned by Blair Reynolds, owner of Hale Pele and B.G. Reynolds' Syrups
New Iron Tikitender Sierra Kirk is crowned by Blair Reynolds, owner of Hale Pele and B.G. Reynolds’ Syrups. (Facebook photo)

The summer event season got into high gear in July with the 13th annual Tiki Kon in the Pacific Northwest, themed to mid-century air travel. “Tiki Kon Air” was held July 10-12 at the Red Lion Hotel in Vancouver, Wash., and included a tour of commercial and home bars in nearby Portland, Ore. Festivities included eclectic live music and entertainment, symposiums, art and vendors plus the action-packed Iron Tikitender contest. Emerging as the new champion was Sierra Kirk from Hale Pele in Portland. Beginning Friday, Aug. 1, Tiki Kon merchandise will be available in the online store for those who weren’t able to attend. Tiki Kon has already announced plans for the 2016 event, which will return July 8-10 to the Red Lion with a World War II theme. Follow the Facebook page for updates.
* Inside the magical world of Tiki Kon (Punch)

Some of the rum and Tiki events at Tales of the Cocktail, as posted on Pintrest.
Some of the rum and Tiki events at Tales of the Cocktail, as posted on Pintrest.

While Martin Cate’s Smuggler’s Cove (Best American Cocktail Bar nominee) and Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (Best New American Cocktail Bar nominee) did not take home Spirited Awards, the 13th annual Tales of the Cocktail held July 13-19 in New Orleans certainly did not disappoint. The gathering of 20,000 bar professionals, industry reps and enthusiasts offered a little something for everyone with hundreds of events and seminars, many touching on Tiki and rum topics. Miami Beach’s tropical-themed craft cocktail oasis, The Broken Shaker in the Freehand Miami hotel, was honored with the Spirited Award for Best American Hotel Bar. Bar partners Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, who recently opened a second Broken Shaker in the Freehand Chicago, accepted the award to “thunderous applause,” according to press reports. They had been nominated for the award in the past, but this was their first victory. See all the winners on a special Pintrest page.
* More on The Broken Shaker’s win: Miami New Times | Sun-Sentinel
* Tales of the Cocktail press coverage: New Orleans Times-Picayune
Wall Street Journal | The Daily Beast
* Blog coverage: A Mountain of Crushed Ice | Cocktail Wonk

EVENT PREVIEWS: Texas Tiki Week, Hot Rod Hula Hop, Surf Guitar 101 Convention, Tiki Oasis

Texas Tiki Week

One of the lesser known events on the Tiki calendar rolls into Austin on Aug 2-9, which has been declared Texas Tiki Week. Now in its fourth year, the event is geared toward bar professionals across the state and is organized by members of the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Many events, such as educational classes and a bus tour, are for USBG members and industry trade only. But others, including a Lost Lake pop-up bar and other cocktail events, are open to the public. Check the schedule for more info. Sponsors include a host of rums and spirits, including Appleton, El Dorado, Flor de Caña, Mount Gay, Plantation, Zacapa, and B.G. Reynolds. Get updates on the Facebook page.

Hot Rod Hula Hop

The Midwest’s biggest summer Tiki weekender, Hot Rod Hula Hop, is revving up for its seventh annual bash Aug. 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio. Presented by the Kahiki and Kon-Tiki chapters of the Fraternal Order Of Moai, the event features two days and nights of live music, hot rods, a luau dinner, and a burlesque show. Friday’s “Feast of the Tiki Gods” luau will be held at the Grass Skirt Tiki Room, this week’s Tiki bar of the week. Saturday’s festivities and climatic “rock ‘n’ bowl show” headlined by Unknown Hinson will be held at Sequoia Pro Bowl, a 32-lane bowling center. Other performers include an assortment of regional surf and country rockers, including The Revomatics (Wisconsin), the Hellroys (Arkansas), Hypnotide (Ohio), The Whiskey Daredevils (Ohio), and The Digs (Ohio). A portion of the proceeds will benefit Cure CMD. Click here for ticket info and get updates on the Facebook page.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (July 13-26, 2015): Your guide to all the sizzling summer events, from Hot Rod Hula Hop to Tiki Oasis”