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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”

Minimalist Tiki

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 (Sept. 21-Oct. 4, 2015): The Hukilau passes going on sale, Hulaween is back at The Mai-Kai, Ohana flock to the sea

The Week in Tiki Get ready to book your trip to The Hukilau 2016: Tickets and rooms could be available as early as this week. The latest news also includes details on Hulaween, The Mai-Kai’s annual Halloween party. Also in South Florida, Ohana: Luau by the Sea just wrapped up its first annual gathering. Event previews include Mod-Palm Springs, Mahaloween at Trader Sam’s, and the UK RumFest. We also look back at a memorial for The Pizz, the Tonga Room’s 70th anniversary, Thee Hot Rod Luau in Huntington Beach, Dapper Day and Tiki Day at Disneyland, and Rome Rumfest. Regular features honor the artist of the week, Eekum Bookum; Northeast surf band 9th Wave; Kreepy Tiki Lounge in Fort Lauderdale; and the Cocktail Kingdom website. Cockspur Fine Rum is featured in The Mai-Kai’s Moonkist Coconut.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Passes, special event tickets and rooms available soon for The Hukilau 2016

It’s time to gear up and make your plans for The Hukilau’s 15th anniversary event, coming June 8-12 to the historic Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Weekend passes and several special event tickets may go on sale as early as this week, along with special room rates, organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White told The Atomic Grog.

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag
The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag.

Keep an eye on The Hukilau’s official website and Facebook page for updates.

In August, White announced the dates and some details on the East Coast’s oldest and largest Tiki weekender, including special guest Shag. The acclaimed artist will be creating a special 15th anniversary print and designing the event mug, White said, along with hosting several signings of his books and art.

But the most anticipated Shag-related activity may be “Shag’s SkyLounge,” an exclusive cocktail party in the 17th floor rotating Pier Top Ballroom at Pier 66. Built in 1965, the space-age tower has already been depicted by Shag in promotional artwork for the 2016 event. “The Pier Top Ballroom will be transformed into a mid-century modern sky lounge,” White said. “Guests will have the opportunity to actually be a part of a live Shag painting.” Shag will also be presenting a separate symposium, his first ever at a Tiki event, White said. He plans to talk about his life and times and art, she said.

Steve Yamada (left) and Jeff
Steve Yamada (left) and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry from Latitutde 29 serve up their signature T.O.T.C. Swizzle at the Tiki Tower Takeover in June 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The other signature event in the Pier Top Ballroom will be a reprise of last year’s Tiki Tower Takeover, which brought together four of the country’s top Tiki barmen for an exclusive happy hour event featuring their signature cocktails. While enjoying spectacular views of Fort Lauderdale, guests were treated to full-sized and fully garnished drinks personally mixed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29), Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove), Paul McGee (Lost Lake), and Brian Miller (“Tiki Mondays With Miller”.

For 2016, Berry is confirmed to return, White said, and he’ll be joined by five more top Tiki cocktail bars from around the world. That expands the lineup of bars (and selection of drinks) from four to six. White said the Tiki Tower Takeover and Shag’s SkyLounge will both take place on Thursday, June 9.
* Atomic Grog recap: Photos, recipes, full report on the 2015 Tiki Tower Takeover

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Sept. 21-Oct. 4, 2015): The Hukilau passes going on sale, Hulaween is back at The Mai-Kai, Ohana flock to the sea”

The Week in Tiki (Sept. 7-20, 2015): Ohana: Luau by the Sea and Mod Palm Springs, plus more event previews

The Week in TikiThe summer may be ending soon, but there’s no shortage of Tiki events, including Ohana: Luau by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale and Mod Palm Springs in California coming in early October. Check out previews of both, plus this month’s Tonga Room 70th anniversary in San Francisco, a Tiki cocktail history seminar in D.C., Tiki Day at Disneyland, and Thee Hot Rod Luau in Southern California. We also have recaps of the recent Fong Fest in Chicago, and Don the Beachcomber’s International Tiki Market Place. Plus news from the Chicago Area Tiki Tour and a possible Tiki bowling establishment coming to Atlanta. Regular features honor the late Florida artist Wayne Coombs; South Florida’s Cutback Surfband; the Bootlegger Tiki bar in Palm Springs; and the Ministry of Rum website. The rum of the week, Coruba Original, is featured in a vintage Planter’s Punch.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Last chance for Ohana: Luau by the Sea tickets

Don’t miss out on the very first Ohana: Luau by the Sea, set for Oct. 1-3 in Fort Lauderdale. Online ticket sales will end at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, Sept. 21, so the organizers can get an accurate head count and prepare for their Saturday night luau at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel, headquarters of the event. There will be no same-day ticket sales.

Ohana: Luau by the Sea

Brought to you by the Fraternal Order Of Moai – the same friendly, fez-wearing folks who earlier this year presented the sister event Ohana: Luau at the Lake in upstate New York – this inaugural event is being hosted by the charity organization’s Gumbo Limbo chapter in South Florida.

Attendees can enjoy live music, DJs, seminars, contests, a rum tasting, vendors, auctions, prizes, food and the legendary dinner show at The Mai-Kai restaurant. Tickets are $85, or $135 if you pair it with a limited edition event mug by PopTiki of Colorado.

Your ticket gives you access to three days of Tiki-themed festivities:

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Sept. 7-20, 2015): Ohana: Luau by the Sea and Mod Palm Springs, plus more event previews”

The Week in Tiki (Aug. 10-23, 2015): Tiki Oasis soars to new heights, plus D23 thrills Disney fans, The Hukilau 2016, more summer news and events

The Week in TikiAugust was a cavalcade of Tiki news and events, with thousands gathering in California for Tiki Oasis in San Diego. Meanwhile, Disney fans flocked to Anaheim for the D23 Expo. We also have recaps of the Tahitian Terrace Diamond Luau at Disneyland and the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival in Hawaii. Event previews include the Southern Surf StompFest, Ohana: Luau by the Sea, Mod-Palm Springs, Tiki Mondays With Miller, and the Rum Renaissance Caribbean Cruise. We also have news on The Hukilau and new Tiki bars in Las Vegas and Toronto. Our regular features spotlight artist Christine Benjamin; the new album from The Tikiyaki Orchestra; the historic Tonga Hut in Los Angeles; and Internet radio site Luxuria Music. The rum of the week, Koloa Dark, is featured in Kahuna Kevin’s Escape Pod cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

Thousands have a blast as Tiki Oasis soars into retro space on 15th anniversary

At 15 years old, the world’s oldest and largest Tiki event is now the equivalent of a rowdy teenager. Bursting with energy and ambition but also wild and a bit out of control, Tiki Oasis lived up to its reputation Aug. 13-16 during its annual bacchanal in San Diego, drawing 4,000 people from around the globe for a party like no other. Inspired by the mid-century retro-futuristic theme “Yesterday’s Future Today,” guests and performers alike turned the event into a crazy, Tikified version of a 1960s B-movie.
See below: Browse a Tiki Oasis 15 photo gallery

The Tikiyaki Orchestra headlines the opening-night party at the iconic Bali Hai restaurant. (Photo by Jeff Chenault)
The Tikiyaki Orchestra headlines the opening-night party at the iconic Bali Hai restaurant. (Photo by Jeff Chenault)

The event launched like a Mercury rocket on Thursday night with the Blast Off Party at the Bali Hai smashing previous attendance records, organizer Otto von Stroheim said. More than 1,000 packed into the historic Shelter Island restaurant, topping the previous mark by 200. Live entertainment included King Kukulele, Fono 66, Project: Pimento, and The Tikiyaki Orchestra, who were joined by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid.

Friday through Sunday was wall-to-wall fun at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, featuring a 100-vendor marketplace, car show, dozens of live bands and DJs, more than 30 educational symposiums, an art show, a mixology competition, and late-night performances by some of the top names in burlesque. And don’t forget the room parties. Tiki Oasis attendees take this simple concept to another level with elaborately themed and decorated soirees that put all others to shame.

Man or Astro-man? perform at Tiki Oasis on Saturday, Aug. 15. (Photo by Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White)
Man or Astro-man? perform at Tiki Oasis on Saturday, Aug. 15. (Photo by Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White)

For von Stroheim, the highlight was Saturday night’s headlining performance by Man or Astro-man? on the poolside stage. “It was a super rockin’ set that ended with them jumping in the pool with their clothes on, then returning for a two-song encore,” he said. The band rarely does encores, von Stroheim was told, and even then it’s never two songs. The out-of-this-world surf combo from Alabama put on a spectacle, blasting through many of their instrumental classics and even lighting a theremin on fire during the performance.

Many other bands performed over the weekend, including The Phenomenauts, The Chocolate Watchband, The Phantom Surfers, Clouseaux, The Outta Sites, The Neptunas, Els A Phonics, Jason and the R.I.P. Tides, The Rosalyns, and The Ding Dong Devils. Symposium presenters included Don Preston (Mothers of Invention), Rod Roddenberry (Star Trek), Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove, Sven Kirsten (Tiki Pop), Charles Phoenix, Jeff Chenault (The Kahiki: Crown Jewel of Polynesian Supper Clubs), and Eric October.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Aug. 10-23, 2015): Tiki Oasis soars to new heights, plus D23 thrills Disney fans, The Hukilau 2016, more summer news and events”

The Week in Tiki (June 15-28, 2015): Summer events in full swing with The Hukilau, Ohana: Luau At The Lake, more

The Week in Tiki The year’s two major East Coast events, The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale and Ohana: Luau At The Lake in upstate New York, dominate June’s news. We also have an update on the ill-fated Rapa Nui Reef in Deerfield Beach, plus news on October’s Ohana: Luau by the Sea. Also announced for October: Mod-PalmSprings and The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown in the Big Apple. Regular features spotlight the artist Squid, exotica ensemble Waitiki, the venerable Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles, and the Fraternal Order Of Moai website. The rum of the week, Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star, is featured in the 1862 Rhum Punch.
Note: Updates are now being published twice a month, but don’t worry. We won’t miss any of the latest news.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Tiki bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

The Hukilau soars at mid-century marvel Pier 66 hotel

Close to a thousand fans of Tiki and mid-century culture from around the world gathered in Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau on June 10-14, with events centered around the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant. The 14th annual event seemed fresher than ever thanks to the vintage charm and modern amenities of Pier 66. Here’s a day-by-day recap:

Gold Dust Lounge from Miami play a rousing set of instrumental surf. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Gold Dust Lounge from Miami play a rousing set of instrumental surf. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Wednesday, June 10: Registration opened at Pier 66 and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid (Medusirena) performed her first exclusive swim show only for guests of The Hukilau at The Wreck Bar at the nearby B Ocean Resort, the former Yankee Clipper on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The reserved-seat, ticketed event was a hit with guests, who all had clear views of Marina and her pod of aquaticats as they performed their “Aquacade Swimshow” featuring special guests Crazy Al Evans, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and more. The evening party moved to The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai, featuring live surf music from Miami’s Gold Dust Lounge. Emcee King Kukulele kept thing lively, and the bar was filled with guests and VIPs, including the crew from the upcoming Tiki Tower Takeover and food TV celeb Jim Stacy (Offbeat Eats with Jim Stacy).
* The Atomic Grog’s photo recap: See more images from Wednesday

The Tiki Tower Takeover's all-star cast of bar professionals joins The Hukilau's Christie "Tiki Kiliki" White (center) for a group photo
The Tiki Tower Takeover’s all-star cast of bar professionals joins The Hukilau’s Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White (center) for a group photo. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* Thursday, June 11: Registration at Pier 66 got a little more interesting thanks to The Real McCoy rum, who provided tastings and cocktails from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. One of this year’s signature events, the Tiki Tower Takeover, was held from 4 to 6 in the 17th floor revolving Pier Top Ballroom. Four of the country’s most recognized Tiki cocktail barmen set up shop for a very special happy hour: Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (“Tiki Mondays With Miller”, New York City). The lively party lived up to expectations, providing guests a one-of-a-kind opportunity to enjoy full-sized, fully-garnished signature cocktails personally made by these acclaimed mixologists all at one event. Pablus, King Kukulele and Crazy Al Evans provided the entertainment, and the drinks were all outstanding: The rummy Formidable Dragon from Martin Cate, the mysterious and exotic T.O.T.C. Swizzle from Beachbum Berry, the complex yet perfectly balanced Lost Lake from Paul McGee, and the creative yet accessible Pandanarama Daiquiri from Brian Miller. You know you’re tasting some of the best drinks in the business when just before the event three of the four were nominated for Spirited Awards by Tales of the Cocktail: Smuggler’s Cove (Best American Cocktail Bar) and both Latitude 29 and Lost Lake (Best New American Cocktail Bar). After The Hukilau, it was announced that both Smuggler’s Cove and Latitude 29 had survived the cut and made the final four. The winners will be announced at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans on July 18.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (June 15-28, 2015): Summer events in full swing with The Hukilau, Ohana: Luau At The Lake, more”