Sven Kirsten The Tahitian Mug Release at Trader Vic’s

The Tahitian is the second of a series of mug/book bundles from Book of Tiki author Sven Kirsten, produced in conjunction with Tiki Farm and Trader Vic’s. The previous Tiki Portraits release was The Modernist tiki (2021) but the Tahitian is a more traditional style mug. Though, as Kirsten documents in the book, the style and proportions of the Trader Vic’s Tahitian tiki was actually a modern interpretation by artist Ahlo Leon of an older style tiki. The 60 page book is a fascinating read adorned with myriad historical color photographs and images.

The hefty mug produced by Tiki Farm comes in a single glaze, perhaps to avoid the FOMO frenzy that became associated with the multiple glazes of The Modernist. It fits well in the hand and is not improperly balanced despite being top-heavy.

The event at Trader Vic’s Emeryville on Friday consisted of a mug and book signing by Kirsten and some cocktails available at the Cook Room’s bar. The Anana Mango Punch being selected by Kirsten for this event. We didn’t try but heard from others it was a delightful mango-forward cocktail.

Retail price for the book and mug bundle was $120 + tax, and I’d expect any unsold inventory to be available at future events hosted by Kirsten in Southern California and in the Trader Vic’s online store.

Kirsten says that the third in the series is expected sometime next year.

Rum Curious Happy Hour at Kon-Tiki

Fun times on Monday with a rum tasting happy hour at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland, hosted by Bryan Inman as part of his Rum Curious Club event series. The rums available for tasting were from Hawai’i’s Kō Hana and Haiti’s Rhum Barbancourt.

This session was a little different than the typical rum tasting at Kon-Tiki where a rum rep usually sets up and is there for maybe a couple hours. For this one the tasting was limited to one hour as were the special $7 cocktails made with the sponsored rums. As such, it was quite the feeding frenzy to get in to taste the rums. I’m not sure this is a better format, but there’s no doubt there was a certain energy in the room, and the Kon-Tiki bar team certainly did a great job keeping up with cocktail orders.

I’ve tried the entire Kō Hana lineup before so I didn’t partake in the rum tasting, but I really loved the Kon-Tiki’s take on the Royal Hawaiian Cocktail made with Kō Hana rum, orgeat, pineapple, and citrus. It was absolutely delightful, featuring the flavorful sugar cane rum made on O’ahu very much in balance with the pineapple.

As for Rhum Barbancourt, I was interested in Haitian Proof, an unaged expression at 110 proof. This was noticeably different than the aged Barbancourt releases which to me don’t have that “sugar cane distillate” taste. Haitian Proof on the other hand definitely has that flavor that you get from other Haitian rums and clairins. Very interesting and retailing for around $30 plus or minus.

Tip Top Proper Cocktails is Possibly the Best RTD Mai Tai

There’s a new entrant in the “Ready to Drink” Mai Tai market, so I was pleased when I received a four pack for review from Tip Top Proper Cocktails. Each single-serving can runs around $5 at retail when packaged in multipacks.

Each can is 100 ml, which means this is a little smaller than the average 1944 Mai Tai. But with 26% ABV, the ratio of rum, lime, orgeat, and orange curacao is set up quite well. The cocktail comes out of the can in a bright yellow color reminiscent of orange juice, but the fragrance indeed will remind the home bartender of fresh Mai Tais you’ve made at home. It is suggested to pour over ice or even to shake with ice and then pour over crushed ice.

Tip Top is a strong contender for best RTD Mai Tai. The mouthfeel is perfect and includes pleasant almond and rum flavors, tangy lime zest, and no artificial tasting notes. When paired with lime and mint for garnish, you’d hardly be aware this came from a can. The tagline for the company is “always balanced, never too sweet” and I agree this strikes a perfect balance.

It always sucks to review a terrible canned Mai Tai, but Tip Top knew they were playing from a position of strength when sending these samples. Definitely one of the best ready to go Mai Tais I’ve ever had.

The Mai Tai appears to be a limited release, though I hope this sells and they continue to market it. If you buy at tiptopcocktails.com through the end of May, 10% of proceeds from online sales will be donated to the Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund, providing assistance to workers impacted by the Maui wildfires.

Out Of This World: A Deep Draught into the Woman Who Named the Mai Tai

David Bartell has posted a new video that’s an incredible deep dive biography of Carrie Guild, the woman who named the Mai Tai (or perhaps the wife of the person who named the Mai Tai). Bartell is a longtime contributor to the Search for the Ultimate Mai Tai, providing Mai Tai reviews back on the original site and contributing the circa-1999 essay “Famous Dirty Stinkers” which is still available.

Here’s the description of Bartell’s video essay:

“Maita’i roa ae! Out of this world, the best!” That’s the legendary phrase that gave the Mai Tai its name, according to Trader Vic. The toast was made by a friend, Carrie Guild, who with her husband Eastham were visiting from Tahiti.

Many of you already know that version of the story, but just who was this woman, and what do we know about the context of her gastronomic enthusiasm? Quite a lot!

In this video you will explore uncharted details about the circumstances surrounding the origin of the Mai Tai cocktail, while sailing around the world with the Guilds. If you read the companion article in the November 2023 issue of Exotica Moderne, get ready for an even deeper dive and a few little surprises for tiki afficionados.

You might catch a cameo of someone familiar toward the end of the video.

Orgeat Heavy Mai Tai Monday

The Mai Tai was made with Yes Cocktail Co. Orgeat and I ended up using a full ounce just to kill the bottle. I bought this a few months back and found it produced some very good Mai Tais, a little sweeter and less toasted than the more widely available Liber Orgeat and a bit milkier than brands like Latitude 29 Orgeat. This is available at craft liquor stores and is a really good option.

I didn’t use any demerara/rock candy syrup in the Mai Tai seeing how there was already plenty of sugar from the orgeat. When you go heavy on the orgeat it really produces a floral Mai Tai. Rums were Myers’s Dark and a bit of Rhum JM Blanc. Delicious.

The glass is from Trader Vic’s, celebrating the company’s founding back in 1934. We will also be celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Mai Tai this year. Look for a huge promotional push as the official Mai Tai Day in late August approaches with events at the Trader Vic’s locations. Bay Area folks should be prepared for an expanded set of Mai Tai Day festivities at the Vic’s Emeryville location this year. Stay tuned.

Rum Curious Club w/Goslings Rum at Forbidden Island

Fun day on the patio at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge for a Rum Curious Club event hosted by Bryan Inman and Emily Gosling. The focus was on Goslings rum, the rum that’s in the Dark ‘n Stormy.

The blended dark rum Black Seal is the most ubiquitous of the Goslings rum expressions, and it topped my dark rum comparison test a few months back. I do like this rum that’s aged 3-6 and is a blend of pot and column rums from various Caribbean islands.

We also got to try the Spirited Seas expression that’s finished in barrels on a ship at sea and issued at 44% ABV. Definitely different with subtler aging notes. The Old Rum is aged for 16-20 years and definitely smooth to drink and the most popular among the attendees. My favorite of the group was the Old Rum finished in Rye barrels, which added even more complexity and spice notes.

Emily and Bryan did a good job giving history of Goslings rum, a big part of Bermuda’s economy and culture, and of the Gosling family. Very entertaining and informative. The blindfolded Dark ‘n Stormy contest was a fun capper.

In addition to the rum tastings, we also had two cocktails made by Forbidden Island’s @miamidavefi and both were really great. It’s too bad the weather wasn’t typical April but the patio tent held firm.

Thanks to Bryan for traveling up from SoCal and to Forbidden Island for hosting.

Michael Thanos from Forbidden Island (left) and Bryan Inman

Post Meridiem Canned Mai Tai

Post Meridiem bills themselves as the world’s best ready-to-drink cocktails, and their Mai Tai is offered in a variety pack. These small cans with a high 25% ABV mean they’re much more like actual cocktails than RTDs that come in 12 oz cans.

The 1944 Mai Tai is certainly comparable to a cocktail, featuring 1½ oz rum, ¾ oz lime juice, ⅔ oz orange curacao, and ½ oz orgeat. There are some pleasant flavors here, though this doesn’t have any lingering mouthfeel like a freshly made Mai Tai would. Definitely boozy, but overall still feels very light.

The Mai Tai was loads better than the flat Margarita but I was surprised I liked the gin-based Southside and the Vodka Gimlet as both were clean and refreshing. All are light leaning but do taste good and aren’t a bad value for the amount of booze and overall flavor.

Thanks to local UMT fan Sean for giving me the heads-up about this.