Many Orlando residents opine that the only thing the city’s missing is a beach. But what it lacks in sparkling South Pacific swells can be made up for with potent Planter’s Punch (and your tackiest tropical togs) amid the delicious retro/fun atmosphere of downtown’s newest rum hut: Aku Aku.
A sampling of Aku Aku's era-appropriate glassware — Photo courtesy of Aku Aku
Tucked neatly into cozy confines just above Stardust Lounge (and perched conveniently on the edge of Lake Eola Park, ideal for a pre- or post-punch stroll), Aku Aku reanimates America’s fascination with tropical pop culture, a trend that peaked in the 1940s and ‘50s. Those who have been to Fort Lauderdale’s Mai-Kai (still going strong with its island dinner shows – it opened in 1956!) will get the gist.
Though Aku Aku is a lounge, not a supper club, its theme is fully immersive. Tiki art and whimsical, wonderful barware set the stage for seriously exotic, seriously strong drinks, the likes of which you may have only read about on Chinese restaurant placemats back in the ‘70s.
Trader Vic's in Central Florida? Indeed, that's the vibe — Photo courtesy of Aku Aku
Rum figures prominently, natch; in many of the drinks, it’s poured in threes or fours. Some libations are limited to two per patron, so mind your consumption. Groups of up to four – yes, you read that right – will enjoy the festive and fiery nature of Aku Aku’s Volcano Bowls. With six different rums and a fruit-juicy amalgam that does quick work of masking the potency, it’s topped with 151 and set aflame to set that sultry, South Pacific vibe swinging.
Such potent drinks can come with a slightly higher price tag, but one sip will tell you it’s going to take fewer of them to get you to Bali Hai. Even so, Aku Aku’s already offering specials to take the sting out of its Scorpions, so to speak.
On Mondays, specialty cocktails are half off, and Tuesday brings $5 Fu Manchus (a gingery concoction featuring Sailor Jerry rum), and those aforementioned Volcano Bowls are $10 off on Thursday nights. Island Time Wednesdays offer additional specials and reggae tunes. For you work-minded weekday teetotalers, Sunday’s happy hour lasts all day long.
You don't need one sip of rum punch to feel like you're in a time warp - but it helps — Photo courtesy of Aku Aku
Word on the web says that Aku Aku’s first annual luau is already in the works, and summertime is nearly upon us. Why not get in the mood? Hit a vintage shop for something era-appropriate, or just don a grass skirt and tuck an orchid behind your ear. Aku Aku understands the longstanding principle that tourism professionals have counted on since the industry’s heyday: everything, from body parts to rum cocktails, is more festive in a coconut.