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INTERVIEW: Lynn Calvo On Hula Hut Spirits, Montauk's Only Tiki Bar And More

Nicole Barylski

Hula Hut Spirits' Lé Hukilau, Hula Juice Rum and Lé Tahitian. (Photo: Karen Wise Photography)

Lynn Calvo started with just a Chevy pick-up with an expanded bed, which she converted into a mobile tiki bar. That eventually led to the beloved Lynn's Hula Hut - Montauk's only tiki bar - and now you can create some of the "Zen Den's" tropical concoctions from the comfort of your own home with Hula Hut Spirits. The inaugural three infusions are the top three selling infusions from Lynn's Hula Hut, which include Lé Hukilau, Lé Tahitian and Hula Juice Rum.

We caught up with Calvo to learn about the sensational spirits, how she landed in Montauk, and more.

Tell us about Hula Hut Spirits.

LC: The whole brand started with Lynn's Hula Hut - of which I'm the creator. Hula Hut Spirits, we started growing organically from Montauk to New York. There are three infusions and they're my top three selling infusions from Lynn's Hula Hut. The first one is the Hula Juice Rum, which is a spiced coconut rum and it's 80 proof, but it's so smooth. There are 14 trade secret ingredients. It's made from sugar cane with all natural ingredients. The other two are both vodkas and those are made with American corn, 100 percent American corn. So, they're gluten free out of the gate and then they are six times distilled. They're eight times charcoal filtered. They're very, very smooth, you can drink them straight. One is Lé Hukilau, which is a ginger and lemongrass blend. The other is Lé Tahitian, which is infused with natural Tahitian vanilla bean - and just a hint of pineapple. It's very vanilla forward, so it's a lot more versatile. They don't need a lot of mixers, they're just great on their own. Mixologist love them because of the versatility, they can create some really amazing cocktails with them. So, those are my top three selling at the Hula Hut - and now they're in a bottle.

The Singapore Swing, made with Les Hukilau Vodka. (Photo: Karen Wise Photography)

What initially drew you to Montauk?

LC: My father was a lobstermen in Montauk. I spent every summer out there and several winters, brutal winters. I started bartending in Montauk when I was 18 and then I started traveling to the tropics, because it's really brutal out there in the winter. I fell in love with the South Pacific, the whole Pacific Rim area, and the Caribbean. Then I settled in Colorado. I had a restaurant there and I was designing restaurants there. I got married and was there for quite a few years. And then my mother developed Alzheimer's. She's here in New York, so I had to move fast to take care of her. I had to reinvent myself, because no one knew me as a designer like I was in Colorado. So, I started with a little pickup truck with a palapa top and put flowers in it and said 'Hula Hut, Have Tiki Will Travel.' I catered tiki parties all over the Hamptons and Montauk. And then the owner of the marine basin hired me to do a shark tournament. That's where it all started. I graduated to a converted office trailer, which people have no idea it's an office trailer - all bamboo with beach sand and palms, and it's really beautiful. People are blown away when they find out what it is.

But I became known for my natural infusions. I wrote a cocktail book, which is called Tiki with a Twist, my publisher is Sterling Epicure. The book is in three countries, so that got me a lot of notoriety. One day my attorney said, "You know, Lynn, it's really time you took this to the next level." I thought he was crazy because I knew nothing about bottling spirits. I started traveling to different distilleries and doing a lot of research. Finally, I found one in Florida that could produce a really great product. I was very picky. I wanted something gluten free, all natural, eight times charcoal filtered. They nailed it, we nailed it together, and the product is great. It's a modern fresh twist on tiki.

Why did you feel like Montauk needed a little tiki culture out there?

LC: You know, I wasn't looking at it from that perspective. I just did what came natural to me and what I love, I love the tropics. I remember when I used to serve, I don't so much anymore, but all my friends, all of us, would go away. We'd leave Montauk in the winter and we go to Puerto Rico or Tortola or somewhere tropical. So, everyone in Montauk loves the tropics. They work really, really hard in the summer and save all their money and then they go somewhere warm in the winter. Everybody loves the tropics.

That is for sure.

LC: And now they can have an experience just by going to the liquor store and buying Hula Hut Spirits. One sip and you're in the tropics - without all the sugar.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

LC: If people are looking for Hula Hut Spirits, they can go to our site and also they can go to their local liquor store and just ask for Hula Hut Spirits.

For more information, visit www.hulahutspirits.com.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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