Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s

Great day at Trader Vic’s for Mai Tai Day

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.

Long live the Mai Tai, long live Trader Vic’s!

How to Make the Ultimate Mai Tai

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)

Garnish with Mint Sprig and spent Lime shell

Mai Tai Day is Here

August 30 is Mai Tai Day, the date where true Mai Tai fans celebrate the birth of the Mai Tai in Oakland, California in 1944.

I celebrated by making a standard proportion 1944 recipe Mai Tai with some special rums. A tribute to fine rums that belong in the finest cocktail. And a salute to Mai Tai Nation.

¼ oz Mount Gay XO
¼ oz Pampero Aniversario
¼ oz Clement VSOP
¼ oz Hampden Estate Overproof
½ oz Denizen Merchant’s Reserve
½ oz Appleton 12 Rare Casks

Float ¾ oz Ultimate Mai Tai Blend (Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Xaymaca, OFTD)

A delicious Mai Tai, slightly boozier than average. Though by Frankensteining the rum blend it doesn’t have a particularly unique character that you’d get using one of these rums all by themselves.

BG Reynolds Syrup Day

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.
 
Thank you BG Reynolds!
 

New Cocktails at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland

Sampled some new (to me) cocktails at The Kon-Tiki.

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.

Saturn

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.

The Hurricane

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.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai

Though the exact recipe may not be known, it does seem clear that the Mai Tai’s rise to fame in Hawaii started at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach. In 1953, Trader Vic Bergeron contracted with Matson to provide menus for their passenger ships and their hotel properties that included the Royal Hawaiian. The Mai Tai became a big hit with tourists in Hawaii and by the end of the decade had supplanted the Zombie as the most famous tropical cocktail in the world.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Classic Recipe)
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

Garnish with a Pineapple finger, Sugar Cane stick, Orchid, and Mint Sprig.

This recipe dates to 1971 according to the entry in Beachbum Berry Remixed (page 72).

Note that the recipe for this Mai Tai does not have the dark rum float most typically associated with Island Mai Tais. Though, I suppose, you could hold back the Dark Jamaican rum and float it. 

Today, the Royal Hawaiian provides the “secret recipe” for their “Original” Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, and it differs considerably from the older recipe provided by Beachbum Berry. Purists will note the use of Amaretto rather than Orgeat, and a mere 1½ ounces of rum.

The photo above is the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai sampled in 2019.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Modern Recipe)
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

Roll the shaker, pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float with Whaler’s Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.

Compare to the 1956 Mai Tai

Note that both recipes differ considerably from the 1956 Mai Tai recipe that Trader Vic provided to a patron of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. That recipe is much closer to a traditional 1944 Mai Tai, though it is possible that in 1956 that the Mai Tais in Hawaii were still made without Pineapple and Orange juices.

Original Paper Bag Art by Tony Martinez

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.