Makai Island Kitchen and Groggery Open in Santa Cruz

We have a new tiki bar opening, now that Makai is now open in Santa Cruz.

Initial reports are that this is a pretty good tiki bar, considering its touristy/general audience location. We’ve added it to our write-up of Tiki Travels: Central California.

Makai Island Kitchen & Groggery

Located on Santa Cruz’s picturesque wharf, Makai offers a good tiki experience while still appealing to a wide audience. The interior includes work from Bamboo Ben and the bar rotates. Food is family-friendly and reasonably priced, including Pupus, sandwiches,  bowls, and island-inspired entrees. Cocktails aren’t comparable to craft cocktail tiki bars, but are more than worthy considering the general-audience clientele. They serve a large variety of classic tiki drinks, including both a 1944 Mai Tai and an Island Mai Tai, along with a few originals.

Photo courtesy Alexis Antionio /

Pusser’s Rum Happy Hour

Had a great time yesterday watching Suzanne Long deliver a fabulous Instagram Live rum presentation for Pusser’s Rum.

Suzanne is such a pro at these things, and always know how to welcome an audience. Several times she stopped the presentation to welcome those who had just joined and level set in her presentation about rum basics, the tradition of British Navy Rum, and then more about Pusser’s Rum. Their new 15 year expression contains no sugar and is wonderful.

The cocktail uses the Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof rum, which I find to be fabulous. Pretty affordable for what you get, it is delicious in cocktails such as Suzanne’s Gunpowder Swizzle. If you don’t have this rum, you can fake it by using 1.5 oz of Pusser’s Rum (Blue Label) and .5 oz of a 151 Demerara rum.

New B-Rex Mai Tai Glass in Seafoam

I love the new Mai Tai glass from Brian Rechenmacher – aka B-Rex. I had to make a Mai Tai with Smith & Cross rum, which is my go-to rum when Brian is behind the bar. He always makes the Mai Tai great with this rum (including my number 7 Mai Tai of 2019)

The new Mai Tai Glass patter is available in a traditional white color (ala Trader Vic’s) but I liked this Seafoam even better. Head over to The Art of Brian Rechenmacher website to pick up the glass and other B-Rex artwork, pins, etc.

The mug is B-Rex’s incredible Keahi mug, still one of my favorites.

Glassware and Mug by B-Rex.

Halekulani Mai Tai

The Mai Tai served at House without a Key, Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki
⅓ oz Orgeat
⅓ oz Orange Curacao (Cointreau)
⅓ oz Rock Candy Syrup
1 ¼ oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Bacardi Select/Black Rum
¾ oz Bacardi Gold Rum
Float ½ oz Lemon Hart 151 Rum

This looks like a typical Island Mai Tai but is closer to an original 1944 Mai Tai, and was easily our favorite in Waikiki. (Halekulani website)

I Ran Out of Gin!

This was a development I never saw coming. While I’ve always been a rum guy I would never guessed that I’d drain my one long bottle of Gin long before I’d drain the lone Vodka and Tequila bottles. But I have been enjoying a lot of Gin drinks lately, including the Saturn.

This was posted a couple weeks ago but I did another run and I’m still digging it. Something a little different but still tiki if you ask me.

Innovation Cocktail by Kevin Crossman
1 ounce Passionfruit Syrup
½ ounce Orgeat
½ ounce Blue Curacao Liqueur
2 ounces London Dry Gin (I used Beefeater)

Shake with ice cubes and strain into a coupe glass or wine glass.

Innovation Cocktail

Hay Straws

Let’s talk about straws

I finished the bottle of the old Appleton Reserve, so I had to have one last wonderful Mai Tai. But I also got to test out some new straws.

I greatly prefer drinking cocktails using thin cocktail straws, unless the cocktail is blended. I just feel like it gives me more of an opportunity to slowly pass the liquid over my tongue. My supply of red plastic cocktail straws was finally depleted and the larger straws just weren’t doing it for me (don’t get me started on metal straws – not for me). And while I could get more red plastic cocktail straws, we all know why that’s not a good environmental choice.

So, I picked these Hay Straws. They have the diameter of the old red plastic ones, but without any of the chemicals. Supposedly gluten-free and all natural. 100% compostable. They worked out really good, good. Way better than the larger diameter plastic or paper straws for being able to drink my Mai Tai the way I like. The straws held up pretty good too, even when I took my time drinking this Mai Tai.

Learn more: HAY! Straws

New Appleton 8 Year Old Reserve

Appleton Reserve is the “middle tier” of Appleton’s mainstream rum brands, sitting in between the lightly aged Appleton Signature and the long aged Appleton 12 Rare Casks. It’s a longer aged rum but is still generally positioned as a mixing rum.

The new edition is an updated blend at 43% ABV (up from 40%) and confers a full 8-year age statement. As with all Jamaican rums, the age statement is the minimum number of years for the rums blended in the finished bottle.

I loved the old Appleton Reserve and it’s wonderful in a Pampanito cocktail from Smuggler’s Cove, and of course in a 1944 Mai Tai. But the new blend definitely is more suited for sipping. I’m tasting a bit more of the vanilla and caramel typically seen in rum aged in oak.

I’m really happy with the new Appleton 8 Year Old Reserve release.

Lemon Juice in a Mai Tai?

It isn’t a state secret that Trader Vic’s often uses lemon juice in Mai Tais made with the Mai Tai Concentrate. The taste test is comparing a Mai Tai made only with Lime Juice and one made with Lemon and Lime.

¾ oz Lemon Juice (or Lime)
¾ oz Mai Tai Concentrate Mix
2 oz Royal Amber Rum
Shake with crushed ice and pour into glass
Squeeze juice of ¼ Lime Wedge
Garnish with wedge and mint.

Overall this was pretty close but the one with Lemon Juice indeed had a brighter overall taste and just a tad more balanced.

This tasted just like the “Trader Vic’s Mai Tai” from the restaurants.