Eat and Drink This Now! 320 Main’s Tiki Throwdown

Robotic Kelly Merrell guest bartending at 320 Main. “But he looks so real!” Photo Greg Nagel

We’re probably years away from robotic bartenders, but if any place could pull it off, it would probably be a tiki bar. Imagine thatched roofs, tiki mugs and a team of Westworld-like Don the Beachcomber robots blending tropical juices and rums, stopping periodically to oil up the joints of a Trader Sam’s Kelly Merrell animatronic clone several times per night. Over at the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach, a femme-bot version of Brittany Vanhooser might perform a special trick such as magnetically attaching a cocktail shaker to her hip, then swiveling violently like a hula dancer until its contents are mixed to perfection.

The possibilities are endless.

On Aug. 27 in Seal Beach, 320 Main’s annual Tiki Throwdown returns, this time themed as a “Robot Uprising,” in which “the only good human is a dead human.” I hope my fate comes by way of Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew rums mixed with Java, C++ and maybe even Visual Basic to create something like sparks in a BattleBots fight.

I got to spoon with Jason Schiffer of 320 Main once. He’s so cuddly. Photo Geoffrey Kagy

Six of OC’s tiki-cocktail pros will be pop-locking chilled shakers to the beat of Kraftwerk-inspired space exotica spun by DJ Ken from the Cocktail Syndicate. Alongside the aforementioned Brittany and Kelly will be’s Matt Robold, who will no doubt sport a solar-powered fez; Club 33’s Matt Ellingson, who might mimic Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln; and the Blind Pig’s Ryan Autry, who may just strut across the bar like the Alien-inspired alien in a top hat from Spaceballs, mouth-pouring shots along the way.

Did I mention all drinks are ten bucks?

I asked 320 Main co-owner Jason Schiffer what a robot-uprising-inspired tiki drink resembles, and he replied, “I’m not sure yet, but mine will probably involve a trip to Fry’s Electronics for various LED lights and resistors.” For food, he and wife Rebecca will offer delicious space dogs for $6. Each drink variation costs $10.

In addition to participating in raffles, guests can vote on their favorite drink. New this year is a panel of industry judges (myself included), and the bartenders themselves will vote on their drink of choice. Up for grabs is a slew of prizes, including a tiki cruiser bike, perfect for evading robots in style.

Although the modern craft-cocktail movement has thrust tiki culture back into the forefront of various menus, I, for one, welcome our new tiki robot overlords. After all, the only real cure for the day’s news is overproof rum and a blend of tropical fruit drinks. “Resistance is futile,” as the Borg say.

320 Main, 320 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 799-6246;

Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!

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