Pagan Idol was a quick stop on our way to dinner, so we just shared a Mai Tai. Unlike the version at sister bar Zombie Village, this flavorful Mai Tai leaned into the Martinique rhum as the most forward flavor. Thus, more of those grassy notes that this style of rhum is famous for. Not my personal preference but it might be right for you and in either case it is nice to see each place doing their thing.
One thing that’s a lot better at Pagan Idol is that back bar is visible and you can scan the myriad bottles of rum. And what did my little eye spy? Not one, but two (!) bottles of the famed Foursquare 2004 Exceptional Cask Series rum. This is one of my all-time favorite rums and in my opinion the best of all the ECS releases. If you sometimes find Barbados rum to be mild or timid you won’t feel that way anymore after tasting the rich buttery notes in Foursquare 2004. Very rare to find on shelves in bars, so head on down to Pagan Idol to give it a try.
I took Mrs. Mai Tai to Zombie Village for her first visit since 2019. We were pleased to see that that the cocktail program is still going strong including some of our all-time favorite tropical cocktails, plus a pleasant surprise.
After all these years, the cocktail menu is still largely similar to the one that opened this Tenderloin tiki bar in late 2018 – though of course the prices are higher now. Julie loves the Coco Pandan, featuring an Ube popsicle, and we both love the Disco Banana. The latter is supposed to be blended and our results weren’t perfectly smooth but at least all the flavors of banana and funky rums was present.
My Mai Tai was a pleasant surprise. While the Mai Tai here has always been perfectly reasonable, I found this one to be richer and leaning more into Jamaica rums than in the past. It was really great, one of the best I’ve had this year.
Our service was efficient and friendly, even with us at the bar and competing with a giant group of 14 young people who were hooting and hollering in one of the booths behind us. Music during our visit was a good mix of vintage tunes. Zombie Village’s impressive wall of decor still impresses as well.
Ready to drink Mai Tais are popular in tourist locations, so there’s no surprise to see one from Trader Vic’s alongside those from Koloa, Kō Hana, Cutwater, and more. But this Trader Vic’s Mai Tai is different from the canned Mai Tai available on the mainland.
Hawai’i Mai Tai 200 ml, 9.95% ABV, “Made with rum and orange liqueur,” made by World Spirits Ltd.
Mainland Mai Tai 12 oz/355 ml, 10% ABV, “Made with aged rum, lime juice, cane sugar, and natural flavors,” made by Iguazu Company LLC.
The Hawaiian version is richer and much more syrupy, though not unpleasant. There are hints of maple syrup and fruit. The mainland version has a darker color and a significantly lighter mouthfeel, with hints of almond and rum. Neither particularly tastes like a Mai Tai, though notably neither veers off into pineapple or coconut flavors.
Quality wise, these are about the same – not as good as the more expensive craft cocktail brands such as Kō Hana, Small Hand, or Proof Cocktail Co, but way better than most canned Mai Tais especially Cutwater.
The Mai Tai in Hawaii started in an unusual way, due to territorial rights to the Trader Vic’s name. Interesting to see this regional difference still manifests itself with these two very different Trader Vic’s RTDs.
Today was an add-on experience connected to the San Francisco Rum Festival and Congress held at Trader Vic’s Emeryville. Rum Education for a Cause was a fundraiser for Maui and included three sessions.
Mai Tai: The Official (Unofficial) Cocktail of Hawai’i
“The Mai Tai has been coined the “national drink of Hawaii” and is often referred to as the “king of tiki drinks” according to Dine with Drinks. Join our panelists to learn more about the history of this iconic cocktail in Hawai’i and from today’s Hawaiian rum producers who are advancing drink’s cornerstone ingredient into the 21st century.”
My portion included a presentation about the history of the Mai Tai in Hawai’i including how the cocktail continues to evolve and feature the fine rums from local rum producers Kuleana Rum Works and Kō Hana Distillers. Steve Jefferson from Kuleana and Kyle Reutner from Kō Hana discussed their rums and included more details about how sugar cane came to Hawai’i and how it is used today.
Another successful San Francisco Rum Festival and Congress is in the books. We had a great time at the Hibernia in downtown SF for this year’s event. Everything seemed just about the same as last year in terms of attendance and rum sponsors. So nice to meet many rum reps and to taste some new rums and expressions.
Having been doing the rum thing for several years now, I try to stick to things I haven’t tried before. So when I went to the El Dorado/Diamond table I unbelievably didn’t ask for a pour of cask strength Port Mourant but Diamond’s new Coconut rum. And I liked it! The Diamond line is a lower-priced product line and everything I’ve tried has been really great, including their two 151 expressions.
Barbancourt from Haiti has an interesting 110 proof white rum expression that I found interesting and had some bold and complex flavors. Same was true for the Monymusks’s forthcoming Overproof rum. This Jamaica rum is issued at 126 proof, but it quite a bit different from Wray/Rum Fire. Definitely a little lighter including Column-still distillate and a more subdued fruit-forward flavor. Worth checking out.
There were several good seminars. I really enjoyed the session from Johann Jobello covering the line of Haitian Clairins from La Maison & Velier. Clairins are wonderful and tasting these expressions side by side shows how diverse they can be – even when they’re just coming from the same country. The session from Monymusk led by blender Robert Gordon and supported by Adrienne Stoner was also quite informative. Based on rums coming from the Long Pond and Clarendon distilleries, Monymusk is relaunching their brand in the U.S. and seems poised for wider availability.
A session about estate-grown rums featured Zan Kong from Worthy Park and was paired with Steve Jefferson and Kyle Reutner from Hawaiian distilleries Kuleana and Kō Hana respectively. This was a little looser in style and more for a Q&A format with some cogent and respectful questions from the audience. Three of my favorite rums companies.
We were pleased to be the inaugural guest on Derek Cole’s Make and Drink channel on YouTube. In the video we discuss how the cocktail evolved in Hawaii and even make the original Hawaiian Mai Tai that did not include Pineapple juice. Make and Drink is a really great cocktail channel and Derek’s production values are off the chart.
The thumbnail for the video includes some “Easter Eggs” about the Mai Tai and even some forthcoming content. Stay tuned for future collaborations.
Now is also a good time to recommend subscribing to the Make and Drink Patreon, where you can support high-quality content like this as well as being able to interact with other patrons and Derek who is also producing patron-exclusive content. Check it out.
I heard about this cocktail on the Bartender at Large podcast, hosted by Erick Castro-Diaz. Erick created this Piña Colada riff years ago when developing the menu for his bar Polite Provisions. It essentially replaces the light rum with the bold and flavorful Chartreuse liqueur.
The flavors really come through well, thanks in part to the 55% ABV of Green Chartreuse. The coconut and pineapple really compliment the herbal notes coming from the liqueur. It’s fantastic.
Piña Verde by Erick Castro-Diaz ½ oz Lime Juice 1½ oz Pineapple Juice ¾ oz Cream of Coconut 1½ oz Green Chartreuse Shake with crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig
It kind of makes me sad to discover this cocktail, since now more than ever I’ll be having fears of future FOMO as I whittle down my supplies of Green Chartreuse that is now so difficult to procure.