Alohaland – Retro Hawaiian Slideshow with Charles Phoenix


Who needs a DeLorean when you have the ever-entertaining Charles Phoenix to take you on a time-traveling adventure? At the Alohaland event at Don the Beachcomber in March, the “Ambassador of Americana” transported us decades back with a slideshow composed of vintage slides taken by tourists on Hawaiian vacations in the 1950s and ‘60s.


We all lined up for our wristband and drink ticket then headed in to the Hidden Village section of the restaurant. After securing our seats for the slideshow, we collected our complimentary Mai Tai from the Coconut Bar. (If you were still thirsty you could order additional drinks for $9 each.) The Smokin’ Menehunes and Polynesian Paradise hula dancers entertained the crowd until Charles Phoenix took the stage at 8 p.m.


He took us on a hilarious romp filled with fabulous mid-century architecture, hideously amazing hotel décor, cabs turned into thatched tiki hut shacks and buttoned-up visitors donning leis and grass skirts.


He kicked things off with some images of epic backyard luaus on the mainland. The volcano-shaped dessert in this slide gave him an idea for something special to create at this event…


Behold, the P.U.D.Cano! (aka Pineapple Upside Down Cake Volcano) Charles Phoenix is famous for his over-the-top Test Kitchen creations, like the Cherpumple and Tiki Turkey Meatloaf (recently immortalized in mug form by MP Ceramics.) Frosty the Cheeseball Man tends to make appearances at our holiday gatherings.


This pièce de résistance was brought out with much fanfare and everyone cheered when it “erupted” with smoke and maraschino cherry lava. (In this photo we have Charles Phoenix in all his splendor on the left, and his friend Terry who helped make the P.U.D.Cano a reality.)


Slices of warm, delicious pineapple upside down cake were served as a sweet finale to the evening. (We didn’t actually consume any of the volcano — it’s a showpiece.) We had such a fun time at this event and met some wonderful fellow tiki fans too.


Alohaland will return to Don the Beachcomber on June 27, 2015, at 7 p.m. and tickets ($49) are available at The first two events both sold out so don’t miss out!

For more information on upcoming retro slideshows from Charles Phoenix, visit

Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde Book Review


The Mai Tai may be the drink most closely associated with tiki bars these days, but the Zombie is really where it all started. It was the mixological masterpiece of Don the Beachcomber (Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt), who also pretty much invented the concept of a tiki bar (i.e. a Polynesian-inspired place serving rum concoctions). Made with a blend of rums, citrus, spices, Pernod and bitters, the Zombie was mysterious, complex and potent.

It was so popular that opportunists began creating their own Zombies, some bearing little resemblance to the original article. Don the Beachcomber went to great lengths to keep his recipes a secret, so nobody really knew what went into the original Zombie until decades later when Jeff “Beachbum” Berry embarked to uncover it through exhaustive research and interviews. (His book Sippin’ Safari: In Search of the Great “Lost” Tropical Drink Recipes… and the People Behind Them was one of the main influences that really got me into all things tiki).

Now, David J. Montgomery (aka Professor Cocktail) has added another chapter to this intoxicating narrative with his recently published e-book Professor Cocktail’s Zombie Horde: Recipes for the World’s Most Lethal Drink. He unearthed and assembled more than 80 recipes for the Zombie, starting with the real deal and its earliest imitators in the 1930s on through the decades. Helpful “Professor’s Notes” accompany many of the recipes and warn readers as to which drinks are duds and which ones are worth recreating at home.

My favorites are the reinvented versions of the Zombie collected from today’s top tiki bars like Smuggler’s Cove, Mahiki and Frankie’s Tiki Room. And it’s not just tiki bars that are represented but also craft cocktail spots around the country, including PDT, Bar Agricole, Caña Rum Bar and Drink. It should also be noted that 10 of these recipes are Zombie Horde exclusives that have never before been published.

Zombie Horde is available as an e-book for $2.99, but there’s a paperback version ($13.46) if you’re old-school. The author has also just released another new e-book for imbibers: Professor Cocktail’s Holiday Drinks: Recipes for Mixed Drinks and More.

Related Posts:
Best Tiki Bars in America
Kahuna Kevin’s Cocktail Book Review

Modernism Week – Palm Springs Architecture Bus Tour

IMG_6952One of the most popular events during Palm Springs Modernism Week seemed to be the architectural double-decker bus tours. They were scheduled twice a day throughout the week and some sold out fairly quickly since there were only about 50 spots on the top level. (We got our tickets about a month in advance.)

IMG_6904You could venture out to some of these places on your own by purchasing the map produced by the Palm Springs Modernism Committee (available online and at the visitors center for $5). However, you wouldn’t have the higher vantage point where you can peek into walled yards with impeccable pools and mod furniture.

IMG_6910JR Roberts (Boccardo Roberts Architecture and Design) was an invaluable skipper on our three hour tour. Our weather was anything but rough, though. It was 80-something degrees by the time we departed at 9 a.m.

IMG_6916One of our early stops was the iconic Kaufmann house from 1947, designed by Richard Neutra. The history of its restoration is fascinating, including the re-opening of a quarry in Utah to match the original stone. (Sidenote: A print of Slim Aarons’ photo of a 1970 pool party at the house hangs at Hula’s Modern Tiki in Phoenix.)

IMG_6915The Alexander House was dubbed “The House of Tomorrow” by Look magazine in 1962, but it’s more famously known as Elvis Presley’s “honeymoon hideaway.” (The restored estate is open for guided tours — and you could even be like The King and rent it out for a honeymoon.) William Krisel designed it as a series of circular spaces, and it was originally built to be the personal residence of Robert Alexander of the Alexander Construction Company.

IMG_6956The Alexander Construction Company built more than two thousand mid-century modern homes in the Coachella Valley with Krisel’s architectural firm Palmer & Krisel, who designed many more in California and Nevada. Krisel has even consulted on recent restorations, like this Twin Palms house. Apparently that groovy geometric garden was part of the original plans! (Check out the inside on Design Furnace’s blog.)

IMG_6963Our guide was very entertaining, relating celebrity gossip and greeting people at yard sales as we passed. He even showed off a wicked sense of humor when an ambulance drove by with its sirens blaring and he said something like: “Looks like another mid-century house will be on the market soon.”

I was very pleased that he pointed out these three tiki torches on Palm Canyon Drive, which are all that remains of the Palm Springs branch of Don the Beachcomber that opened in 1953. (Jeff Berry‘s book Sippin’ Safari has some great stories about it, like gold-plated chopstick cases for the celebs.) The Royal Hawaiian Estates and the large A-frame of the Caliente Tropics hotel could have been other tiki points of interest, but our route just barely bypassed them.

IMG_6965We’re house-hunting in Los Angeles now, and I’m afraid Palm Springs totally spoiled me with all of its amazing architecture. Even the fast food joints are located in some striking buildings. This one is a KFC!