Modern Caribbean Rum

Exclusive Hukilau updates: 2012 tickets on sale, preview of events announced

Previous posts: Eclectic lineup of bands confirmed for 2012 Hukilau
Annual Hukilau in South Florida moves from June to April | Full Hukilau coverage

Information has been leaking out for months via Facebook but it’s finally now official: has launched for 2012 with a list of activities and info, ticket prices and online ordering. The Atomic Grog is happy to present some exclusive, additional details.

The biggest news for the April 19-22 Polynesian Pop extravaganza: A new host hotel, even more events at The Mai-Kai, and a special Beachbum Berry cocktail symposium. While a new Web designer puts the finishing touches on the 2012 site, Hukilau producer/organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White filled us in on some of the details:

New host hotel: The beachside Best Western Oceanside Inn will offer festival attendees a more affordable and intimate experience, Tiki Kiliki says. It’s located just south of The Hukilau’s longtime party central, the Bahia Cabana Beach Resort. You can make reservations at both hotels now by calling the phone numbers listed on To get the best rooms at special group rates, you must call these numbers now instead of making reservations online.

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Minimalist Tiki

Party like a Zombie this month at The Mai-Kai

More info: | Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide | See all our Mai-Kai posts

Forget New Year’s Eve. For many, the Halloween season is the biggest party time of the year. And the upcoming event calendar at the usually mellow Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale is a prime example.

This mid-century Tiki temple has been known in the past for barely acknowledging holidays. This is a good thing. It’s the perfect place to get away from the annoying mob scene at other establishments during rowdy holidays. But Halloween is quickly turing into The Mai-Kai’s best time of year to let loose, next to The Hukilau of course.

This month’s festivities feature three major parties in the classic Polynesian restaurant’s Molokai lounge, where you’ll still feel like you’ve been taken away to an island paradise despite the surrounding creepy costumes. Just sip a few Zombies, and you’ll be fine.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: The only Rum Julep you’ll ever need to know

Updated Aug. 16, 2014
See below: Our Rum Julep review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari
Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari is the source for Don the Beachcomber's Rum Julep and many other classic recipes.

You’ll find many Rum Julep recipes online, but don’t be fooled by these pretenders. It’s a common name given to a myriad of cocktails that all pale in comparison to the Don the Beachcomber classic, circa 1940. And as you should know from reading this cocktail guide, 40 of the Mai-Kai’s best drinks are direct descendants of Donn Beach originals.

When former Don the Beachcomber bartender Mariano Licudine created The Mai-Kai’s menu in 1956, he used many recipes from his notebook, but tweaked them slightly. These altered drinks also got new names, such as Don’s Swizzle becoming the Mai-Kai Swizzle or the Never Say Die becoming the Oh So Deadly. However, a few kept their original moniker, such as the distinctive Zombie and Kona Coffee Grog.

Still, there were subtle changes in most drinks. Much like the Special Planters Punch, it took quite a few years before I attempted a Rum Julep tribute recipe, as the finer points of Mariano Licudine’s mixology techniques became clearer. And like many of those other cocktails, the Rum Julep is a fine example of tropical drink history that only The Mai-Kai can provide.

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Crazed Mugs CD release party Saturday at The Mai-Kai

There are a flurry of special events upcoming at The Mai-Kai, including three Halloween parties later this month. But before you don your ghoulish attire, chill out this Saturday in your finest island wear during a rare appearance of The Crazed Mugs from Tampa.

Celebrating the release of the new Find Forbidden Island album, the band will be preforming multiple acoustic sets in The Molokai bar. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. with half-price drinks and appetizers, so get there early for a good seat.

Find Forbidden Island includes several songs inspired by The Mai-Kai: Rum Barrel and Mystery Girl. The 12-song CD will be available for purchase from the band for $12, and on Saturday only it will include a bonus sticker.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: Origins of the Malayan Mist no longer a mystery

Updated April 10, 2012
See below: Our Malayan Mist review | Ancestor recipe | Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

The Malayan Mist is sometimes lost amid the many selections on the vast menu of nearly 50 tropical drinks at Tiki’s crown jewel, The Mai-Kai. It may be one of the most notable, however, with origins that date back to the very beginnings of the modern Tiki bar.

1959 Mai-Kai menu
A 1959 Mai-Kai menu.

For a tropical drink that’s been around for at least 55 years, there is precious little information to be found about the mysterious Malayan Mist. Fittingly, it also features a unique sweet flavor profile that’s just as esoteric. Like many of The Mai-Kai’s drinks that have survived a half century of menu updates, the classic artwork remains unchanged (see 1959 menu at right).

That artwork helped us solve the mystery. More than half of the drinks at The Mai-Kai are retooled versions of classic Don the Beachcomber cocktails. Mixologist Mariano Licudine worked for Donn Beach in Los Angeles and Chicago before he was hired away by Mai-Kai owners Bob and Jack Thornton, brothers from Chicago who sought to create the ultimate Polynesian palace in what was then a desolate area west of Fort Lauderdale.

Along with Licudine, they snagged the restaurant’s top chef plus manager Robert Van Dorpe, who provided them with invaluable information. This included the sources for all the glassware and artwork to go with the secret ingredients to make those world famous cocktails. Click here for more on the story of the Don the Beachcomber connection to The Mai-Kai as unearthed by historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: No monkeying around, this is one fine Banana Daiquiri

See below: Our Banana Daiquiri review | Official Mai-Kai recipe
Related: This daiquiri is the real deal, thank you berry much | Mai-Kai cocktail guide

I remember the anticipation vividly. It was mid-2010. My new copy of Beachbum Berry Remixed had just arrived via Amazon, and I tore open the package to find what secrets lurked on its pages. Sure, I had already devoured the Bum’s Grog Log (1998) and Intoxica! (2002), perfecting most of the 150 or so recipes within, but Remixed promised to be more than just a rehash of those classic Tiki tomes.

Beachbum Berry Remixed

It not only completely revised and updated those books, it promised 107 additional recipes, including “41 newly discovered, previously unpublished vintage Tiki drink recipes from the 1930s to 1960s.” To me, this meant only one thing: Another secret Mai-Kai recipe would likely be revealed. Every one of the four previous Jeff Berry titles – most notably 2007’s Sippin’ Safari – had unearthed recipes by The Mai-Kai’s master mixologist, Mariano Licudine.

First, I admired the gorgeous design. Hundreds of vintage color photos and artwork adorn the 248 pages. And the creative drink photos raise the art to a new level. It addition to the recipes, it also contains tons of history and stories, similar to Sippin’ Safari. Appendixes included new drinks by the Bum as well as new recipes from the Tiki revival.

Then, finally, I found it on Page 43 as an added bonus recipe to the Grog Log section on the daiquiri, which Berry calls “tiki’s template.” The Mai-Kai’s legendary … Banana Daiquiri? That’s it? I got myself all worked up over one of the most common tropical drinks ever created? Initially, I was let down. C’mon Jeff, I thought. You can do better than this. Where’s the elusive Jet Pilot or Mutiny?

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Eclectic lineup of bands confirmed for 2012 Hukilau

Previous posts: Annual Hukilau in South Florida moves from June to April
Get Hukilau collectibles | Hukilau weathers many storms in 10 years
Full Hukilau 2011 coverage from The Atomic Grog

The Hukilau

After announcing a date change to April 2012, organizers of The Hukilau have been busy confirming an outstanding lineup of entertainment for the 11th installment of the Southeast’s biggest annual celebration of mid-century and Polynesian pop culture.

The event is scheduled for April 19-22 in Fort Lauderdale and is centered around the historic Mai-Kai restaurant, plus the Bahia Cabana Beach Resort. A new host hotel is expected to be named soon.

While designers are still crafting the official Web site for its upcoming re-launch and promotional press releases are being prepared, announcements are trickling out to followers of The Hukilau’s Facebook page and members of its Facebook group. Become a fan of the page or join the group to stay updated and share your thoughts and ideas.

The biggest news so far is the addition of The Martian Denny Orchestra, presumably as the Friday night headlining act. After performing at The Hukilau in 2009 and 2010 with Los Straitjackets and The Neanderthals, acclaimed Nashville-based guitarist Eddie Angel returns with this new, out-of-this-world project.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: Legacy of this classic drink runs deep

Updated June 21, 2015
See below: Our Deep Sea Diver review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

The Deep Sea Diver, one of the oldest and most distinctive tropical drinks at Fort Lauderdale’s Mai-Kai, can be traced back to the 1930s and tropical drink pioneer Don the Beachcomber’s original cocktail menu. It also features an unusual, rarely used ingredient that remains somewhat of a mystery more than 75 years later.

From a mid-century Don the Beachcomber menu
From a mid-century Don the Beachcomber menu.

Tiki drink historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s excellent 2007 book, Sippin’ Safari, includes a recipe for the Peal Diver’s Punch that you’ll find below as well as an entire chapter on The Mai-Kai’s founding mixologist, Mariano Licudine (1907-1980). Licudine worked behind the bar at Don the Beachcomber restaurants from 1939 until 1956, when he was lured to Fort Lauderdale by The Mai-Kai’s fledgling owners, Jack and Bob Thornton.

Sippin’ Safari remains my favorite of the Bum’s books and perhaps the most influential in fostering appreciation of both the roots of tropical mixology and the history of The Mai-Kai. It details how Licudine took the Don the Beachcomber classics he had been making for years in Chicago and adapted them to The Mai-Kai’s new menu. With the help of Bob Thornton, Licudine tweaked the secret recipes, often elevating them to even greater heights.

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Take 5: Artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli

Related: Pooch brings his surreal world to Howley’s with solo art show

Hurricane Hayward interviews Pooch at The Mai-Kai, July 2011. (Photo by Susan Hayward)
Hurricane Hayward interviews Pooch at The Mai-Kai, July 2011. (Photo by Susan Hayward)

Welcome to the first in a series of short interviews with noted personalities involved in events, music, art, cocktails and Tiki/retro culture. These aren’t intended to be all-encompassing, life-history-spanning interrogations. Rather, we’re aiming for a fun, quick take on the typical interview. Just five questions in roughly 5 minutes, hence the name Take 5.

Our first subject is a longtime friend and associate. He’s truly a renaissance man in the world of lowbrow culture. Just don’t try to pigeonhole him. He’s a fine artist, but he’s also a tattoo artist. He’s intelligent and soft spoken, but he’s also the quintessential heavy metal guitarist. His creativity seemingly has no limits. If you’re not familiar with Pooch’s work, we’ll let his official bio explain it best:

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: Special Planters Punch is tropical drink history in a glass

Updated November 2021
See below: Our Special Planters Punch review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: This Planters lacks the punch of it’s special cousin | Mai-Kai cocktail guide

The prototype of the Planter’s Punch dates back 200 years and could be considered the template for every tropical drink that followed. The Mai-Kai’s strong Special Planters Punch is an overlooked classic on a cocktail menu full of classics. Just don’t confuse it with the medium-strength (and much less flavorful) Planters Punch.

Beachbum Berry Remixed

In his 2010 book, Remixed, Tiki cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry theorized that Donn Beach discovered the Planter’s on one of his rum-running trips to Jamaica during Prohibition. Click on the article at right for Berry’s excellent research on how the Planter’s Punch influenced nearly every 20th century Tiki drink, from the Q.B. Cooler to the Zombie.

Of course, Donn Beach went on to open the world’s first Tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, in 1934 in Los Angeles. He had five versions of the Planter’s Punch on his 1930s bar menu, Berry writes in Remixed. Of those, Don’s Own Planter’s (see recipe below), is most likely the version that inspired The Mai-Kai’s Special Planters Punch. If you’ve been following these reviews, you’ll know that The Mai-Kai’s original mixologist Mariano Licudine was privy to Donn Beach’s recipes during his 16 years working at Don the Beachcomber restaurants in L.A. and Chicago.

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