Firstly, it is nice to see this being labeled “Mai Tai Day” this year rather than “Real Mai Tai Day”. It celebrates the birth of the Mai Tai in 1944, using the date for Mai Tai Day designated by Oakland several years ago.
Vic’s opened at 11 am for Brunch and cocktails, and several of us made the trek to be there at opening. Plenty of souvenir Mai Tai Day Mason Jars were available and they’re a timely design. My Mai Tai looked great and was refreshing on Vic’s outdoor patio/picnic space (in the corner of the parking lot). Good social-distancing employed.
Brunch was a little tricky in that you still have to order food via telephone (brunch menu isn’t in the online system yet, though I’d expect that to be fixed soon). And so you have to go over to the main building to pick it up. But otherwise, this is pretty nice. The morning fog was actually a welcome component and then slowly burned off by around 12:30 pm. My Salmon Toast was delightful and Mrs. Mai Tai’s Eggs Benedict was great too. Supposedly brunch will be an option every week going forward.
Aside from the tikiphiles in attendance, there was a special online toast for Mai Tai Day, featuring Vic’s CEO Rhett Rosen. Eve Bergeron set up a monitor and so everyone in attendance could participate. While this wasn’t as grand as last year’s incredible Mai Tai 75 celebration, this was still pretty good considering the restrictions on indoor gatherings.
How to make the Ultimate Mai Tai? Follow along with our recipe and make a Mai Tai yourself to celebrate Mai Tai Day on August 30.
Ultimate Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman ½ oz Appleton 12 Rum ½ oz Smith & Cross Rum ½ oz Plantation OFTD Rum ½ oz Plantation Xaymaca Rum 1 oz Lime Juice ½ oz Orgeat (Latitude 29) ½ oz Orange Curacao (Ferrand Dry Curacao) ¼ oz Demerara Syrup (BG Reynolds)
Do you love making your own homemade cocktail syrups? Does it bring you pleasure to come up with a unique approach or taste for a special ingredient? Do you love saving money by leveraging ingredients you already have in your house? If so, I salute you. Truly, good for you.
But that is not my gig.
It doesn’t move me. I don’t really care. Or most probably I’m just lazy. If I can find a commercial solution, I’m totally okay with that.
Yesterday I went to Total Wine to sample some new spirits and cocktail ingredients. I bought three things, and they were all losers. But today, my shipment from BG Reynolds arrived. It’s a good day.
I ordered three syrups:
1 – Passion Fruit Syrup. I used the last of mine the other day, so just in time. I find this syrup to be a nice balance of sweet and tart.
2 – Devine Vanilla. I use this for a couple holiday cocktails and I was hankering to make some new Don’s Spices #2 (equal parts Vanilla/Pimento Dram)
3 – Honey Mix. I had a heck of a time making honey mix at home in the past, so I thought I’d give this a try. It’s made with Orange Blossom Honey and it’s really great. It smells like orange but tastes like honey. This is going to work great for some cocktails I’ve been meaning to revisit.
The cocktail tonight is the Ultimate Navy Grog, leveraging the ingredients procured tonight. I’m still digging this version of the classic tiki cocktail, incorporating elements of the Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s version. The Honey Mix in particular works well in this cocktail.
First was the Montego Bay, with funky Jamaican rum, absinthe, allspice, grapefruit, and lime. This was billed as having a bite and I would agree. A little too spicy for me, though Mrs. Mai Tai loved it. Not pictured.
Next, the Lost Cartographer, featuring Irish Whisky, Banana, Cinnamon, and Bitters. I liked this a lot, though it isn’t really a traditional exotic/tropical cocktail. The banana was subtle but paired well with the cinnamon. Pictured with the orange slice in the Kon-Tiki glass.
Lastly, the Coco Gadget, with Guyana and Agricole rums, coconut, curaçao, cold brew coffee, and bitters. Mrs. Mai Tai thought this would be up her alley, but she thought it was too rum-forward and said she couldn’t taste the coconut and coffee. Meanwhile, I tend to avoid coffee drinks but actually really liked this. Seemed very coconut and coffee forward to me, so obviously your mileage may vary. A nice addition to the Kon-Tiki menu.
It is great to see some new menu items at Kon-Tiki. We love our classic tiki cocktails but I do like to expand my horizons.
Most tikiphiles are familiar with the classic cocktails that Jeff “Beachbum” Berry brought back from the dead, finding their original recipes and sharing them with the world. The 1934 Zombie is the holy grail but there’s also Three Dots and a Dash, the Q.B. Cooler, and others. But an overlooked recipe that deserves just as much praise is the Saturn.
The Saturn was originally prepared by J. “Popo” Galsini in 1967 for the IBA World Cocktail Championship – and Popo won the darn thing. You’d think that thereafter this drink would have been world famous, but nobody was drinking these until Berry discovered it and published the recipe in his book Beachbum Berry’s Taboo Table in 2005.
Saturn ½ oz Lemon Juice ½ oz Passion Fruit Syrup ¼ oz Falernum ¼ oz Orgeat 1¼ oz Dry Gin 8 oz Crushed Ice
Blend and pour into a Pilsner or other tall glass.
The cocktail is surprisingly refreshing. Popo was said to have tended bar in several tiki bars, so he would have been familiar with Orgeat and Falernum that were already starting to lose favor along with the rest of the classic exotic cocktail ingredients in 1967.
I personally prefer up the Orgeat to ½ ounce and then to prepare shaken with crushed ice and served up in a coupe glass.
Invented in New Orleans at Pat O’Briens bar, the actual recipe is a closely held secret. But everyone who has had one knows that it is fruity and that it has tons of rum. If you’ve had one from one of the cheap bars on Bourbon Street, you’re totally missing out. Those taste like garbage but when you make it at home with fresh ingredients it is delightful.
Some recipes call for Fassionola syrup, a sweetener with an equally mysterious recipe. The standard recipe used by many comes to us from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry who published this recipe in The Grog Log in 1998. The proportions make it easy to batch, which I did for a neighborhood block party (remember those) celebrating Mardis Gras a couple years ago.
Hurricane 2 oz Lemon Juice 2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup 4 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
Shake with crushed ice and fill in a Hurricane glass. Depending on the sweetness of your Passion Fruit Syrup, you might consider adding a little extra sugar syrup.
This cocktail is not particularly rum-forward, so you don’t need to go high-end for the Jamaican rum. Coruba, Myers’s, or Blackwell are all affordable and will do just fine.
The iconic Mai Tai at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki was introduced by Trader Vic Bergeron in 1953. During the 1950s the reputation for this cocktail built such a following that it was described as the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959. But the Mai Tai you get today at the Royal Hawaiian differs considerably, since it uses the Pineapple Juice and Orange Juice commonly seen in Island-style Mai Tais.
1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
The earliest known recipe for the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai comes via a letter written to a customer by Trader Vic himself. This is still substantially similar to the original 1944 recipe, though with different proportion of sweeteners and notably using both a Dark Jamaican rum and also a light rum. It is light and refreshing and a good dark Jamaican rum does punch through in this recipe. Try Worthy Park 109.
1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Juice of One Lime Dash of Rock Candy Syrup Dash of Curacao Dash of Orgeat 1½ ounces Trader Vic’s Puerto Rican Rum ¾ ounce Myers’s Plantation Punch Rum Stir and decorate with fresh mint
1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai – Classic Recipe
The use of Pineapple Juice became common in Mai Tais in Hawaii starting in the 1960s, but The Royal Hawaiian seems to be a late convert. There’s a published recipe from their sister hotel The Moana Surfrider in 1968 that’s substantially similar to the 1956 version. However, there must have been pressure to include Pineapple Juice from many tourists.
This recipe comes from Drinks of Hawaii, 2nd Ed. 1972, by Paul B. Dick. The entry describes this is “now being used by the Sheraton” implying a recent change. The recipe included in the book did not specify an exact amount of Pineapple or Orange Juice except to say that they should be used in equal parts. The recipe is notable in that it describes using 3 ounces of rum, including two flavorful dark rums. But a rum float is not specified.
This recipe was later used in many books by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who designated 1 oz each for the Pineapple and Orange Juice. This seems like the correct choice, keeping the balance with the other ingredients.
1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai ½ oz Lime Juice ¼ oz Lemon Juice 1 oz Orange Juice 1 oz unsweetened Pineapple Juice ¼ oz Sugar Syrup ¼ oz Orgeat ¼ oz Orange Curacao 1 oz Demerara Rum 1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum 1 oz Light Rum
2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai: Headscratcher
This devolved “secret recipe” was published on the Royal Hawaiian’s website, and includes some curious ingredients. The use of almond-flavored Amaretto liqueur in place of Orgeat syrup is sadly not uncommon in Mai Tais. Amaretto is fine elsewhere but doesn’t add the right flavors or body to the cocktail like Orgeat does. The use of Cherry Vanilla Puree, even in a small amount, is also a noteworthy head-scratcher.
2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Build in shaker with ice: 1 oz Bacardi Rum 1 tsp Cherry Vanilla Puree ½ oz Amaretto di Saronno ½ oz Cointreau 1 oz Fresh Govinda Orange Juice 2 oz Fresh Govinda Pineapple Juice ½ oz Whaler’s Dark Rum Float
2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Returns to Normalcy
In mid-2022, the Royal Hawaiian updated their website to include this updated “secret recipe” and thankfully it’s much more of a standard Island Mai Tai. It is nice to see Orgeat coming back, though I don’t find Old Lahaina rum to be particularly good. Nonetheless, I did very much enjoy the cocktail in June 2022 when I sat looking out at Diamond Head.
2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai 2 oz Pineapple Juice 1 oz Orange Juice ½ oz Orgeat ½ oz Orange Curacao 1 oz Old Lahaina Light Rum 1 oz Old Lahaina Dark Rum (float) Shake all ingredients except the Dark Rum with ice. Pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float the Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.
Tony Martinez made these on to-go bags from The Kon-Tiki in Oakland. I really love them both, so we decided to get them framed. The skull and The Kon-Tiki piece fits in well with the tiki esthetic. The “Drink Rum Do Crimes” is a stamp that’s… best viewed in a mirror (I like unique art). Both are great mementos of 2020 and are a tribute to my “hometown” tiki bar. Great job Tony! Keep up this style and artwork.
The frame work is from Creative Framing in Oakland. We really like the bamboo style and it was really easy to work with Heather on the project. Mahalo.