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When I was at the Mod Weekend event last weekend in Fort Lauderdale, I was talking with other fans of vintage modern and thought it would be great to document these places on a map so other people can find them easily. I have taken out of town guests on tours myself a few times. The map would allow people to guide themselves.
I came home and have explored the idea. The first effort is HERE. Vintage Knoxville. I started it tying it into my website pages, but am expanding to add various cool spots.
If you’d like to help with the project, drop me a line. Do this for your own city! It is not hard, just takes time.
Now if there was a mobile app for this to drop a pin on the map as we drive, that would be super!
Just a bump so you know I finally added images of this fantastic Lustron home here in Knoxville.
In 1933, Don Beach’s place was one of many thousands of bars that opened the day after Prohibition ended. No one knew then that his bar would invent a whole new genre and be copied across the globe for the next 30+ years. “Don the Beachcombers” set the bar by which not just restaurants were judged, but cocktails especially. It was the dawn of the cocktail era, and Don Beach was the undisputed king of tropical mixology. In an era of cocktails of 2 or 3 ingredients, his secret recipes were mixed with 2 or 3 rums and 8 more ingredients to create drinks like the world had never seen before or since.
In 1956, the brothers Bob and Jack Thornton of Chicago set out to open their own Polynesian restaurant. These brash young men were well versed in the ways and tastes of “Don the Beachcombers” as well as his imitators Trader Vic and Steve Crane’s “Kon Tiki” restaurants. Their ideas would far surpass those from whom they drew inspiration. When they teamed up with Robert Van Dorpe, the inside man at Don’s place in Chicago, they got an ally that went beyond their imagination. With his help, they not only hired away a top chef and bartender from Don’s, but also got the source for all the glassware, artwork, kitchen equipment and most importantly, secret ingredients to make those world famous cocktails. When the Mai-Kai opened in late 1956, at a cost $350,000, it was the most perfect copy of Don’s plan imaginable, but taken to new heights.
The Mai-Kai quickly outshined its predecessor. The Mai-Kai earned all the prestigious awards like Don the Beachcomber, but also became the biggest seller of rum in the nation. It was the haunt of celebrities such as Johnny Carson and Jackie Gleason. The Mystery Girl – a Mai-Kai invention – made her way onto Johnny’s “Tonight Show,” twice!
In 1989, both Don Beach and Robert Thornton, who bought his brother Jack’s portion in 1970, passed away. In Don’s case, the last of his restaurant empire closed soon afterward. The Polynesian Pop era was all but gone. In the next 2 decades, almost nothing survived except the Mai-Kai. By the year 2000, there were only two places on earth to get Don’s “Rum Rhapsodies” made the way he created them, and only the Mai-Kai still had the grandeur of Don’s golden days.
Today, the craft cocktail is coming back. Those in search of great concoctions are returning to the master Don Beach and finding nothing to compare. They are in awe of his ability to make deep, balanced, incredible masterpieces of rum and flavorings. And they are returning to the cocktail Mecca that is Mai-Kai. There they can taste the drinks as they should be, and served in the specialty glasses with ice shells or fresh pineapples and seasonal coconuts. In the Mai-Kai, it is as if Don and the Thorntons never left. Carefully made, complex drinks are served with wonderful food and the utmost gracious service. All this is done in the most reverie inducing environment on earth.
It is time travel.
On Saturday March 16th, Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner will give a presentation on the people and stories of this great place. The very people of the Mai-Kai who witnessed and made 55 years of its history will be on hand for a Mai-Kai Family Reunion.
The Molokai will open at 2PM for the event with Happy Hour and my presentation will be at 3PM.
It will also be a reunion of the Mai-Kai veterans, the living history of the greatest Tiki Temple on earth. Last year we had Molokai girls, perfomers, Maitre d’s and others who had worked there as long ago as the 50s.
Please join us for a greater understanding of the Mai-Kai’s place in Polynesian Pop history and an appreciation of the 80 year legacy they represent. This is your chance to hear the stories first hand.
Also check out Mod Weekend occuring that weekend as well. I will be giving a guided tour of the Mai-Kai Sunday moring as part of that event.
IMO, you can fit all you need to make many of the best Tiki drinks in a milk crate. Granted, these are for making Don the BEachcomber’s recipes…
- Light Rum
- Gold Rum
- Dark Rum
- 151 Lemon Hart
- 80 proof demerara (you may drop this and sub dark rum for space)
- Allspice dram
- Lime juice
- White Grapefruit juice
- Pineapple juice
- Orange juice
- Honey syrup
- Simple syrup
- Cinnamon syrup
- Passionfruit syrup
- Pernod or Herbsaint
- Soda water
Measuring devices (spoons and jigger, etc.)
Granted, the size of your containers will dictate whether it all fits in one crate.
Ice, glasses and a blender and you are set!
With this you can make:
- Navy Grog
- Jet Pilot
- Test Pilot (almost, Cointreau)
- Rum Barrel (almost, grenadine)
- 151 Swizzle
- Big Bamboo
- Cobra’s Fang
- Demerara Cocktail
- Derby Daiquiri
- Jasper’s Jamaican
- Nui Nui
- Q.B. Cooler
- Zombie Punch (almost, grenadine)
- Shark’s Tooth (almost, maraschino cherry juice)
- 2070 Swizzle
The drinks that may be missing a small ingredient are passable and your host may have what is needed or you can easily take it with.
So next time you are invited to a cocktail party, or a room party at an event, show up prepared!
After a few weeks on a strict low carb diet, I wanted to celebrate with a classic cocktail by Don the Beachcomber. I wasn’t about to blow the diet, so I did some research. I opened The Grogalizer and removed some high sugar ingredients and came up with a starting list of favorites. We found sugar free honey online and it mixes like honey syrup. Davinci sugar free syrup is good. These tools allowed me to make my own cinnamon syrup, falernum and allspice dram all sugar free!
I calculated some carb counts of favorites not using my home made syrups, just the SF honey and Davinci SF syrup:
Jasper’s Jamaican using SF syrup – 3 carbs
Navy Grog - 4 carbs
2070 Swizzle made my way with SF honey syrup – 6 carbs
Black Magic - 7 carbs
Nui Nui - 7 carbs
Outrigger – 8 carbs
1934 Zombie Punch - 8 carbs
Jet Pilot - 9 carbs
Test Pilot - 9.5 carbs
Rum Barrel - 11 carbs
Putting my other home made syrups to use can lower the carb counts even more!
You can’t go crazy, but you can certainly celebrate being good on your diet with a drink that won’t make you regret drinking it.
NOTE: Recent studies show that sugar free mixers mean higher blood alcohol levels. The same person drinking a Rum and Coke vs. a Rum and Diet Coke can expect their blood alcohol level to be 60% higher! So if you make sugar free drinks, be very careful. You can get much drunker than you expect. Be VERY careful!
The event will be March 15 – 17th and is centered around the Modern design of the Fort Lauderdale area. One of the architects celebrated will be Charles McKirahan. Besides designing several Modern buildings in the area of the event near A1A, he also worked with Bob and Jack Thornton to design the modern primitive Mai-Kai in 1956.
As part of the activities there will be a double-decker bus tour of buildings and the first stop is the Mai-Kai. I will act as docent and lead a tour, highlighting the design elements and designers who left their imprint upon the place and the genre.
I hope you can join us!
As a public service, let me bring to your attention the fact that the year 2013 is exactly the same as the year 1963. So you can re-use that 1963 calendar this year, and you can print out the 1963 Mai-Kai calendar for this purpose from my site!
For this year I included the calendar pages.
See it HERE.
p.s. You can also use the 1974 calendar this year, but that actual calendar part is not on the site.
In 2002 when we were planning the first Hukilau and thinking about a second, Dante’s was a location we greatly wanted to include. It is a really unimaginable themed restaurant in Atlanta’s Buckhead area. An 19th century ship is inside and you can dine on various levels in it, and around it is an entire port village. It was a yearly pilgramage we made, just to have a cocktail at the bar to start the evening or end it.
It appears the development of Buckhead, a very treandy area, has meant a huge increase in their property taxes. Started in 1970, this is about to be their end.
Find a way to go see this place while you can. There is no set closing date yet. And when you are there, wander around outside as well, including the garages under and behind the building. Even the bathrooms are interesting.
HERE is the news.
HERE is their website
If you don’t yet own the Mini Mai-Kai Mystery Bowl, well, go get one HERE. Follow along regardless.
To make the ice volcano that goes in the center of the Mystery Drink, here is my plan. If you have your own, great! This is how I tackled it.
First you need finely crushed ice. I have sworn by my vintage Oster Snoflake for years and it still is the champ as far as I know.
I have found them in antique, vintage and thrift stores, but they are also on Ebay.
The result is a tray full of fine crushed ice.
Perhaps the more difficult aspect is finding the best sized vessel to form the ice volcano. The inner ring in the mini bowl is 2 inches. So you need something that tapers and is smaller than 2 inches at the top of the volcano form. I went through the cabinet and picked some small juice glasses. I had pilsners, but they had too steep an angle and the top would have been too small for the fire container.
I lightly packed the ice into the glass with s spoon as scoop about 3 inches deep. The quicker you do this, the better. Any melting can make the bottom of the glass fill with water and become a very smooth slick surface.
Then put them in the freezer for maybe 15 minutes to freeze your forms.
When they come out they will be frozen to the glass. You can just set them on the counter for a minute or two until they thaw enough to slip out. I can’t wait, so I use my hands to try to warm the glass. Then carefully slip them out and set them in the inner ring of the bowl.
Pour in a nice Scorpion Bowl recipe.
For the final touch, and to do it like the Mai-Kai, cut the end off a lemon and mash it with a juicer to make a “bowl”. I also cut the tip off to make it flatter. Pour some 151 proof rum in it and set it on the volcano. Light, serve and enjoy!
As the drink begins to melt the volcano, it may tip. Just press it back down and you can make the base flat again.
They are on sale now at the Swank Pad Productions website and next week in the Mai-Kai gift shop!