Texas Tiki Profile: Princess Pupule!
Caroline Pupule: A true Texas Tiki OG, member of The Fraternal Order of Moai, rum enthusiast, organizer of the Ohana Event and Texas Tiki Week in Austin, and now owner of the Moai Ice House. She’s been in the game for quite some time now, dare I say longer than many. Caroline is a decorated traveler having visited a list of Tiki Bars which stretches longer than Heyerdahl’s Pacific voyage and includes virtually every Trader Vic’s in existence. With a mug collection so big that she lost count, her recent down-sizing ebay mug events have created feeding frenzy among collectors. One of my first conversations with her and hubby Rob took place at the vendor area at The Bamboo Bash in 2016. I can say the two are some of the sweetest people in Texas Tiki. She’s been super busy with her home bar and organizing Texas Tiki Week but she took time to answer a few questions for us. So get out your rum and get ready to learn about one of Texas' most prominent tikiphiles...
Princess Pupule. I'm guessing this originated as a tiki central handle? What's the scoop on your tiki name?
I love the Hawaiian song Princess Pupule! My TC name was super boring, so when I joined the FOM (The Fraternal order of Moai) I changed my tiki name to Princess Pupule
What led you to Tiki?
I used to go to The Kahiki in Columbus, OH when I was in college, so that was my first intro - had mugs from there & everything that I moved a bunch of times. My last visit to the Kahiki was for my college graduation party. Fast forward to 2002 when there was an article in the Chicago Tribune (we lived in Wisconsin at the time) that included Hawaiian shirts, tiki cocktails & the Chicagoland tiki venues open at the time. My husband, Rob, sparked to the shirts & he wanted one in the picture, in particular, which we bought & he still has (known as the shirt that started it all…). Then I read the article & the cocktails & bars peaked my interest. We still have a copy of that original article, too! The rest is tiki history, as they say…..
What's the Austin scene like ?
It’s mostly restricted to Home Bars, unfortunately, as the bar community here has been too chicken so far to do a tiki bar. Sigh. Some day!! Other than that, we have a few good bars in town that have (mostly) seasonal tiki menus. drink.well always has a good summer tiki menu & The Roosevelt Room has great tiki cocktails year ‘round. Other bars do some tiki here & there, so you have to keep an ear to the ground for what else might be going on. Then, every August, Austin hosts Texas Tiki Week, which is a great week for Tiki in Austin, with LOADS of bars participating & fun events. I am hearing that this year’s Texas Tiki Week (Sept 11-17) will have some great new surprises & the return of some very fun events (e.g., the bus bar crawl - & Grogs are this year’s theme!). Austin certainly has some tiki good tiki spirit….we just need someone to take the leap on a commercial tiki bar done well.
And - I am hoping that The Moai Icehouse may be able to serve as inspiration for some of our local bar community as well :) We’re supposed to be the Weird city, so what gives??
There's been a lot of buzz around your home bar with Bamboo Ben doing some work for you and the recording of the TV show. What were those experiences like?
It was AWESOME! It was great to have Ben here & working for 10 days on The Moai Icehouse - and being able to be his helpers as our day jobs allowed. We learned all sorts of stuff & getting to know Ben better was fun, too. We had hoped that the TV show recording could happen while Ben was here, but the schedules did not mesh, so they came a bit later in the process. It was a shoot for a sizzle reel for a new show on Mid-century (they shot in our house, too). HGTV took a pass on the series (too out of the bland beige “normal” box - BOO!!!), but it is being shopped to other networks, so you never know….
How many mugs are in your collection?
Lost count…..but about 700 less than used to be after recent ebay, etc. sales. Seriously, I have no clue - have never counted them (actually tried when we moved & I had to pack them all with hashmarks on the studs in the basement of our old house….but lost count - haha!) Oh - and that basement thing……y’all should REALLY get some of those down here - they are great for storing all of your tiki shit!
Which are your most prized mugs and why?
That’s another tough one.
I’d have to say my Tiki Central Ohana Hut & Shecky would be up there. Also all of my FOM mugs, including the event-related & non-event-related mugs. There are so many cool mugs, which are an artist’s vision of tiki awesomeness. It’s REALLY hard to pick (which is what leads to having SO MANY!!!)
What is your holy grail mug?
That’s easy - The Kahiki Mystery Bowl
You guys have made a bar top made out of crushed mugs. Did you really break that many? How did you decide which mugs to sacrifice?
It was the last big project before we could move all of our stuff in to the bar & it was a BEAST of a job because the bar top is 1” thick & you can only pour ⅛” at a time. As far as the mugs go, we had been planning this for a bar top for a number of years, so we had put out the word with friends, mug makers & bar owners that we’ll take their broken mugs - don’t throw them away! So many were donated over a 3+ year period. Others were cracked, so that made for an easy decision on those as well. & We have LOTS of extra mug shards - we’re thinking about throwing them in the rock landscaping going in around The Moai Icehouse :)
Beer in the shower? Please Explain.
Not just beer - Lone Star!! NOTHING BETTER after working on the landscaping around the Moai Icehouse in July in Texas!!! Or after Bamboo Ben had us helping him all day on a Saturday!
What are your most valued tiki possessions ?
Oh boy - VERY hard to say. I’ve got a lot of tiki history in our bar - table tops from the Kahiki & Trader Vic’s Chicago, Tikis & carvings from Trader Vic’s all over the world, lights from the Kahiki. Those that came out of historic tiki establishments would be top of the list, I think. Probably along with the Leeteg we found for $22, a custom Kahiki Mosiac & a Witco Longhorn (PERFECT for an Austin Tiki Bar!), which was found thrifting by a friend in Massachusetts.
What's your favorite Tropical Cocktail? Favorite rum?
Favorite Rum??? It’s tiki - the world of cocktails with multiple Rums - and, therefore, multiple favorite rums!
- Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva - always in one of my flasks
- Coruba - Best mixing dark rum out there & SO under-rated!
- Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Cask - nice sipper
- Pusser’s Gunpowder - awesome overproof - along with Plantation OFTD, of course…..
- Four Square - Port Cask finish - also a nice sipper
Hard to say on a favorite tiki drink as well, but a well made Navy Grog is a wonderful thing & it generally my first stop on a good tiki menu these days. It used to be a MaiTai, but I’ve evolved & the MaiTai usually ends-up being 2nd or 3rd drink ordered now.
Which Tiki events have you attended? Which was most memorable? Why?
We’ve been to a few Tiki Oasis’ - including back when it was in Palm Springs, which was awesome! Also the Hula Hop, The Chicago Area Tiki Tour, The Northeast Tiki Tour, The Tiki Central Tiki Crawl, Ohana Luau by the Sea, Ohana Luau at the Lake & other assorted tiki events. And, I’m totally biased since I’m one of the organizers of Ohana Luau at the Lake in Lake George, NY (as well as the CATT in Chicago), but Ohana is the most memorable by far - so much fun & wild wackiness, good times, good people, good music, good cocktails - and all held at The Tiki Resort - a throwback tiki themed resort from the 1950’s!
Which tiki bars have you visited? Which is your personal favorite?
OMG!!!!! Full list would be holy moly! OK - I’ll try, but I’m sure I’m missing some…… Damn good thing I have most of them organized in iPhoto by venue! & this list includes only Commercial bars - not home bars
- TV London
- TV Chicago (original)
- TV Chicago (v2.0)
- TV Beverly Hills (original)
- TV MaiTai Lounge Beverly Hills
- TV Destin, FL
- TV Munich
- TV Emeryville
- TV Palo Alto
- TV Tokyo
- TV Scottsdale
- TV SanFrancisco (v2.0)
- TV Berlin
- TV Los Vegas
- TV Hamburg
- TV Palo Alto
- TV Atlanta
- The Kahiki - Columbus, OH
- TikiCat - Kansas City, MO
- Tiki Farm Mugoomba (v1.0)
- Hala Kahiki - Chicago
- Rock-a-Tiki - Chicago
- Tiki Terrace - Chicago
- Haiflischbar - Augsburg, Germany
- Bamboo Hut - SFO
- Kona Club - SFO
- Trad’r Sam’s SFO
- Trader Sam’s (Disney) - Anaheim
- Royal Hawaiian - Laguna Beach
- Sam’s Seafood - now Don the Beachcomber - OC
- La Mariana - Honolulu
- Tahiti Nui - Kauai
- Tiki’s Bar & Grill - Oahu
- Kon Tiki - Nurnburg, Germany
- Kon Tiki Tucson
- Bikini Lounge - Phoenix
- Drift Lounge, Scottsdale
- Tiki Tiki - Tokyo
- Waikiki - Munich
- Tabou Tiki Room - Berlin
- London South Pacific
- Tonga Room - SFO
- Tonga Hut (LA)
- Conga Lounge
- New Tiki - MA
- Tiki Island - MA
- Malahini Terrace - Chicago
- Tong’s Tiki Hut - Chicago
- Tropical Bistro - Columbus, OH
- Kokomo’s - Mpls
- Psycho Suzi’s - Mpls
- Bahai Hut - FL
- The Foundation - MKE
- Damon’s - LA
- Puka Bar - LA
- Bahooka - LA
- Tiki Ti - LA
- Forbidden Island - SFO
- Golden Tiki - Vegas
- Frankie’s Tiki Room - Vegas
- Tahiti Joe’s - Las Vegas
- Bali Hai - MA
- Bali Hai - San Diego
- South Pacific - MA
- Kowloon - MA
- Bali Hai - Santiago, Chile
- The Galley - LA
- Purple Orchid - LA
- Mahkik - London
- Sugar Cane - London
- Trailer HAppiness - London
- Chin’s - Livonia, MI
- Smuggler’s Cove
- Pagan Idol - SFO
- Tiki Resort - Lake George, NY
- Chef Shangri-la - Chicago
- Jardin Tiki - Montreal
- Tahiti - Montreal
- New China Tea - Chicago
- The Breakers - Chicago
- Kona Kai - Chicago
- South Shore Tiki Lounge - CO
- The Castaways - CO
- The Rendez’vous - Kenosha, WI
- Adrift - CO
- Sip’n Dip - MT
- Lei Low
- Grass Skirt - Columbus, OH
- Three Dots & a Dash
- Lost Lake
- Hu Ke Lau - MA
Whew! Ok - that’s at least the lion’s share of them!!
Favorite? Yeah right. You try to pick a favorite when you’ve been to that many. LOTS of great ones in that list!
Zombie or Mai Tai?
MaiTai early in the evening. But then I often cap the night off with a Zombie to ensure a good night’s rest ;)
Who is your favorite Tiki Artist?
Ah! a VERY tough question for me. A great example is that 8/9 years ago, I wanted to have tiki barstools carved & I could not decide what artist I wanted to carve them. So, my solution was to have a different artist carve each one :) The first was by Tiki tOny, then I had Crazy Al, Bosko & Tiki Diablo round out the first 4. The last 2 were carved by Ken Pleasant & Polynesiac. They are each fabulous & play well with their “brothers” :) So, no, I do not have 1 favorite tiki artist, but many! By the numbers, you’ll see a lot of Ken Ruzic & Shag in our house/bar, but so many other fun ones, too!
What do your prefer to listen to create the mood while imbibing?
A good mix or surf, exotica & other tiki music is perfection. Not too much of any of them to mix it up a bit. & Then throw in some other random stuff like the audio tour of Elvis’ jungle room & the Tiki Room song in Japanese - then it’s time to tiki. I most often just put the iPod on my “Tiki” music list with 10,198 songs on it & hit shuffle to create the right mood.
What are your thoughts on the Texas Tiki scene?
TEXAS needs MORE Tiki! (Duh, right??) There are a good number of tiki lovers in Texas. The challenge with Texas, of course, is that we’re really spread out in the different cities, so, while that can be good for spreading the tiki love, it makes it more challenging to have any real mass. It’s a very home grown scene, which is terrific, but there are limited tiki places to gather - and pretty much limited to Houston (lucky Houstonians!!!!!)
Where would you like to see the Texas Tiki scene go from here?
A LOT of bartenders - at least in Austin - like & “get” tiki. I do think this applies to many Houston bartenders as well as San Antonio, too. So I’d like to think of that as a harbinger of tiki things to come on the commercial bar front……a matter of time?? More tiki establishments with great cocktails, decor, music & hospitality is a gaping hole in most of Texas & the void is just begging to be filled!