Modern Caribbean Rum

Mai-Kai update (February 2024): Exterior reimagination up next as $15 million Mai-Kai project plows ahead

Mai-Kai update (February 2024): Exterior reimagination up next as $15 million Mai-Kai project plows ahead

The light at the end of the tunnel is about to become much brighter at The Mai-Kai in South Florida as the historic restaurant prepares for an ambitious transformation of its sprawling 2.7-acre grounds.

Jump below: Latest refurbishment news | Landscape reimagination imminent |outside Update on permits, timeline
* The Mai-Kai at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Preview: The Mai-Kai and The Atomic Grog at Tiki-a-Go-Go

A view of The Mai-Kai from Federal Highway. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2024)
A view of The Mai-Kai from Federal Highway. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2024)

Meanwhile, the artists working in and around the vintage A-frame building have turned the energy level up a notch in anticipation of the home stretch of Phase 1 of the multi-year, multimillion-dollar project. All available information points to a summer reopening, with the most optimistic estimate being June.

Excitement for the reopening was fueled in late February by an article in the Wall Street Journal that proclaims Fort Lauderdale a “cool” destination for “hip, hungry travelers.” While extolling the city’s “booming food scene and throwback architecture,” the article mentions the reopening of The Mai-Kai:

Fans of midcentury design are waiting for June, though, when the Mai-Kai will reopen after a 30-month, $15 million renovation. The Polynesian-style restaurant, built in 1956, was arguably the apotheosis of tiki culture. Partnering with distiller Maison Ferrand to resurrect the high ester rum used in classic tiki cocktails like the Jet Pilot, it hopes to retake that honor.

New owner Bill Fuller is leading the restoration efforts, including the creation of a new signature rum. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
New owner Bill Fuller is leading the restoration efforts, including the creation of a new signature rum. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

The Journal got that information directly from owner Bill Fuller, who assembled the team that purchased The Mai-Kai in September 2021 after a catastrophic roof collapse over the kitchen forced the October 2020 closure that has now stretched past three years. Fuller’s historic preservation firm, Barlington Group, spearheaded the purchase. Another company he owns, Mad Room Hospitality, will operate the restaurant along with the founding Thornton family. The new Mai-Kai Rum No. 1 is a blend of Barbados and Jamaican rums created by master distiller Don Benn at the West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados, where it will will shipped directly to Florida to be bottled.

That $15 million figure is new, a much higher number than we’ve previously seen reported. It speaks not only to the extra time spent on the detailed restoration, but also the unwavering commitment from the ownership group. Back in June 2022 during a presentation at The Hukilau, Fuller told the faithful fans of The Mai-Kai: “If we need to spend an extra million dollars or two, we’re going to do it because we want it to be perfect.” He has obviously doubled down on that promise.

And while a June reopening date is far from certain, it’s a goal that Fuller and his team have set. Like everything else involving this restoration, it doesn’t hurt to set the bar high and reach for the stars.

The entrance to The Mai-Kai is about to receive a total transformation as crews prepare for a new driveway to be installed. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2024)
The entrance to The Mai-Kai is about to receive a total transformation as crews prepare for a new driveway to be installed. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2024)

Recent coverage
* Renovations engulf entire property, reopening estimated for summer (January 2024)
* Mai-Kai refurbishment 2023 year-end recap: Updates, photos, timeline

******************************************

FEBRUARY 2024: Restoration efforts reach new heights, expand in new directions

As detailed in our previous reports in January and February (see links above), we’re limited from showing the exquisite interior renovations during the final stages of work, but we did get a chance to chat in late February with creative director “Typhoon Tommy” Allsmiller, who filled us in on what he and his crew were up to during that month. Fellow Central Florida artist Scott “Flounder” Scheidly shared some images of their work on social media, which you can find below.

We also paid a visit to 3599 N. Federal Highway in Oakland Park to document the work on the exterior, briefly chatting with manager Kern Mattei and South Florida artist Tom Fowner, who recently joined the restoration team full-time. Fowner has worked with The Mai-Kai previously, most notably on one of the three Tiki carvings that greet guests near the porte-cochère.

Overall, February was very productive. “I feel that we’ve done more this month,” Allsmiller said. Following are some of his thoughts on what was accomplished, along with what’s still to come.

The addition of Fowner has helped Allsmiller, Scheidly and artist Conrad Teheiura Itchener expand the scope of their work in their central workshop in the Hawaii dining room. “We needed help, and he was free,” Allsmiller said.

Artist Tom Fowner strips all the old material off a vintage lamp that hangs high under The Mai-Kai's A-frame. After the lamp frame is shored up, he will restore the outer materials and it will receive new bulbs and wiring before it returns to its perch. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward, March 2024)
Artist Tom Fowner strips all the old material off a vintage lamp that hangs high under The Mai-Kai’s A-frame. After the lamp frame is shored up, he will restore the outer materials and it will receive new bulbs and wiring before it returns to its perch. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward, March 2024)

Fowner, who recently contributed his Tiki-carving talents to the build-out of the new Don the Beachcomber in Madeira Beach, went right to work at The Mai-Kai refurbishing some of the massive lamps that hang high under the 40-foot A-frame. We caught him out front, stripping everything off one of the well-worn frames. He said they’re trying to restore them “in a similar fashion” to the originals.

Reaching these uppermost areas filled with vintage lamps, many created by Oceanic Arts in the 1950s and ’60s, has been the most challenging. The crew used scaffolding to reach the ceiling in the rear of the building, above the Tonga dining room. Allsmiller said they removed the large signature fish trap and cleaned it up. “It’s ready to go back up,” he said.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai update (February 2024): Exterior reimagination up next as $15 million Mai-Kai project plows ahead”

Minimalist Tiki

The Year in Tiki 2022: Take a trip back to the year’s top events

The Year in Tiki 2022: Take a trip back to the year's top events

The Tiki Times

While the COVID pandemic is by no means a thing of the past, the Tiki events circuit was back to almost full capacity in 2022. This also includes many rum and surf music events around the world that we also documented on The Tiki Times, The Atomic Grog’s ongoing event guide. It was great to see many old standby events back in full force, while new happenings also made their mark. Check below for artwork and links to official sites, plus images and videos from social media.
THE TIKI TIMES 2023: Latest upcoming live and virtual events
Social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

THE TIKI TIMES: 2022 EVENTS RECAP

ONGOING EVENTS

Fridays – Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour hosted by Matt “Spike” Marble of The Hula Girls. Pre-parties on Instagram Live, episodes on YouTube.



2022 LIVE EVENTS

Jan. 7-9 – The Rhythm Collision Weekend #8 in Riverside, Calif.

Jan. 12 – Dram of the Dead: The Bum on his new Zombie rum
Dram of the Dead: The Bum on his new Zombie rum

Jan. 22 – The Original Tiki Market Place 10th Anniversary in Garden Grove, Calif.
The Original Tiki Market Place 10th Anniversary

Jan. 22 – “The Suite of the Future” Fine Art Print Release Party at the Shag Store in Palm Springs, Calif.
The Suite of the Future Fine Art Print Release Party

Jan 28-30 – Inuhele: Atlanta’s Tiki Weekend.
* Past coverage

Feb. 19-20 – Rockabillaque Florida at the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee.

Rockabillaque Florida

Feb. 24 – Trader Vic’s Tonga Fundraiser

Feb. 25 – The Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach.
* Cheers all around: 21st annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival® is a wrap!

Feb. 17-27 – Modernism Week in Palm Springs, Calif.
Modernism Week

March. 11-12 – Miami Rum Congress in Miami Beach.

Miami Rum Congress 2022 kicks off full schedule of worldwide rum events
Miami Rum Congress 2022 kicks off full schedule of worldwide rum events
Industry VIPs and rum enthusiasts gather for seminars, tastings and special events at the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach.
Social media recap: Photos, coverage of Miami Rum Congress 2022

Continue reading “The Year in Tiki 2022: Take a trip back to the year’s top events”

The Year in Tiki 2019: Recap all the top events with photos and video

The Year in Tiki 2019: Recap all the top events with photos and video

The Tiki Times

Once again, The Atomic Grog documented an entire 12 months of events in 2019, following the top Tiki and rum events, plus mid-century modern, surf and rockabilly music, Disney and other happenings of interest to the Tiki community. Check below for official artwork and links to the official sites along with our own unique coverage. Under many events, you’ll also find images and videos from social media plus links to news sites.
NEW EVENTS: UPDATED 2020 CALENDAR
Social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

THE TIKI TIMES: 2019 EVENTS RECAP

Jan. 12 – The Original Tiki Market Place 7th Anniversary in Garden Grove, Calif.
* Atomic Grog event preview
The Original Tiki Market Place 7th Anniversary print by Clee Sobieski

Jan. 17 – Tiki Bingo at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale.
* Atomic Grog event preview
Tiki Bingo at The Mai-Kai

Jan. 19 – The Mai-Kai Takeover in Fort Lauderdale.
Special event: ‘Demerara Rum – The Mai-Kai’s Secret Weapon’
Demerara Rum: The Mai-Kai's Secret Weapon on Jan. 19, 2019, at The Mai-Kai The Atomic Grog was pleased to present a special happy-hour talk during The Mai-Kai Takeover event on Jan. 19, presented by the Magical Tiki Meet-Up and Retro Rekindled. Click here to check out our full event recap, including photos and highlights of our Demerara rum discussion.

Continue reading “The Year in Tiki 2019: Recap all the top events with photos and video”

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”

The Tiki Times – December 2017 Events Calendar: Spirited holiday happenings in California and beyond

Shag the Store Holiday Party

The Tiki Times
The Tiki Times: Archive of past events, monthly recaps
Social media: Follow our Facebook page for updates | Pinterest

DECEMBER 2017 TIKI EVENTS CALENDAR
Ongoing events | Upcoming events

Forbidden Island events

Dec. 2 – Holiday Party & Print Release at Shag the Store in West Hollywood. Artist Josh Agle will be on hand to sign the new “Duet for Two Cats” prints as well as merchandise. Wear a leopard print and get a special gift. Complimentary cocktails, plus DJ Wyatt Magnum spinning an all-vinyl, holiday-themed set.
Duet for Two Cats by Shag

Dec. 2 – The Art of Tiki Book Signing Party with author Sven Kirsten at Trader Vic’s in Munich. The new book by Kirsten and Otto von Stroheim documents the 21st anniversary Art of Tiki show in Los Angeles. The author will also be signing any of his previous books.
The Atomic Grog: Coverage of the show at La Luz De Jesus Gallery
The Art of Tiki

Dec. 3 – Tiki Wonderland 12 at Tonga Hut in Los Angeles. The city’s oldest Tiki bar celebrates its 12th annual holiday event featuring a parking lot sale and art show with holiday tunes provided by Big Tiki Dude. Inside, High Tide will play The Ventures iconic Christmas album in its entirety.
* More on Tiki Central
Tiki Wonderland 12

Continue reading “The Tiki Times – December 2017 Events Calendar: Spirited holiday happenings in California and beyond”

The Tiki Times – October 2017 Events Calendar: Historic art show in L.A., world’s biggest rumfest in London, Circa Caliente in Palm Springs, Halloween happenings

The Tiki Times
The Tiki Times: Archive of past events, monthly recaps
Social media: Follow our Facebook page for updates | Pinterest

OCTOBER 2017 TIKI EVENTS CALENDAR
Spotlight events: UK RumFest (Oct. 14-15) | Circa Caliente (Oct. 20-23)
Ongoing events | Upcoming events

Oct. 1 – Tiki Day at Disneyland. The sixth annual gathering that celebrates the love of Tiki includes meet-ups in the park, group rides and meet-and-greet at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.
Tiki Day at Disneyland


Oct. 1 – Tiki Safari in Australia, a celebration of Tiki culture featuring live music, DJs, merchandise, food and carver Tiki Bob plying his trade.
Tiki Safari

Oct. 3-7 – El Floridita’s 200th anniversary celebration in Havana, Cuba. Tales of the Cocktail presents a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to celebrate the bicentennial of the legendary cocktail bar with special events, tours, tastings, competitions and more.
El Floridita's 200th anniversary celebration

Oct. 5 – Tiki bar launch at Death or Glory in Delray Beach, Fla. A party celebrating the opening of the South Florida restaurant and craft cocktail den’s new Tiki bar, featuring live performances by Skinny Jimmy Stingray and Polynesian Proud Productions. Proprietor Ayme Harrison (formerly of Kreepy Tiki Lounge in Fort Lauderdale) will also be launching a new Tiki mug designed by Tiki Diablo.
Death or Glory's Tiki bar launch

 

Oct. 6 – The Art of Tiki: Exhibition opening party and book release at La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Hollywood, Calif. The launch of the 21st anniversary Art of Tiki show (curated by Otto von Stroheim), which runs through Oct. 29, along with the accompanying book by author Sven Kirsten (Tiki Pop, The Book of Tiki). The original Art of Tiki exhibition in 1996 ushered in the postmodern Tiki era, introducing new art by such acclaimed artists as Mark Ryden, Shag, Mitch O’Connell and The Pizz. The new exhibit brings back some artists from the original show (Shag, O’Connell, Von Franco, Crazy Al Evans, Jeffrey Vallance, Mary Fleener) plus artists from around the world – Bai (France), Danielle (Australia), Mookie Sato (Japan), and Dr. Alderete (Mexico). The show includes 30 of today’s top Tiki artists, including Bosko, Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker, Thor, Kevin and Jody, Tiki Diablo, Tiki Tony, Doug Horne, Big Toe, Ken Ruzic, Gecko, Michael Uhlenkott, Joe Vitale, Donella Vitale, Derek Yaniger, Scott Scheidly, and Eric October. If you can’t make it to the show, you can order the book online. As a special bonus, the exhibit includes “The Art of Tiki: No False Idols,” billed as “the world’s first and most comprehensive public offering of original, mid-century Tiki decor.” It will feature commercial carvings, fixtures, furniture and lighting from some of the most famous and obscure mid-century Tiki temples. Items for sale include those from such notable establishments as Trader Vic’s, Kona Kai and Kon Tiki culled from the private collection of Jordan Reichek. Artists represented include LeRoy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts, Barney West, William Westenhaver, Jim Casey, Milan Guanko, Richard Ellis and Andres Bumatay.
More from Critiki News: Interview with Otto von Stroheim
Jordan Reichek’s collection of rare mid-century Polynesian Pop
A sneak peek at Sven Kirstens latest book
Press coverage
* You can own a piece of mid-century Tiki history at this gallery show
The Art of Tiki: Exhibition opening party and book release
The Art of Tiki: Exhibition opening party and book release




Oct. 7 – Voices of the Xtabay: A Tribute to Yma Sumac at the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles. A free event featuring Latinx vocalists and musicians reimagining the songs of legendary Peruvian singer Yma Sumac, whose vocal range was said to be well over five octaves. The concert honoring the queen of exotica was inspired by the Hammer exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985” and features a band led by Alberto López of Jungle Fire.
Voices of the Xtabay: A Tribute to Yma Sumac

Continue reading “The Tiki Times – October 2017 Events Calendar: Historic art show in L.A., world’s biggest rumfest in London, Circa Caliente in Palm Springs, Halloween happenings”