Tiki Bar number 13 for me in 2020 is Oakland’s Kona Club. This dive/tiki bar on Piedmont Avenue is known for their incredible interior by Bamboo Ben and also for having a dive bar sensibility when it comes to cocktails and liquor. They just reopened this weekend from 4-8 pm for takeout cocktails so I took a drive to check it out.
You don’t get to go inside, as Kona Club has cleverly converted their exterior window to a walk-up window for to-go orders. A small set of cocktails are available, long with some beer selections. The requisite food component is a slice of pizza and a small side salad to complete the “meal.” Nothing to write home about but it’s also only $2. The team is looking to update the food option as they go, so check their Instagram for updates. Cocktails are available as a single for $10 or a double for $20.
The Madadamia Nut Chi-Chi is blended fresh and survived the trip home in good shape. The Mai Tai is the same as what Kona Club normally serves, which is to say it’s an Island Style with light rum (they used Myers’s Light Jamaican rum last time I was there). On a hot Sunday afternoon it wasn’t the greatest Mai Tai I’ve ever had but it was plenty cool and definitely refreshing.
Especially if you’re a local, support the business and give Kona Club a try.
With Trad’r Sam open again in San Francisco, we traveled up to check out their offerings. I was assured they’d be open on Saturday between 2:00-3:00 but at 3:30 there was nobody there and no sign of activity. Mrs. Mai Tai was not happy. I get that this is a family-run business and that Saturday night is the priority, not Saturday afternoon. Well, tikiphiles, I tried.
So, we headed down the Peninsula to our favorite Mexican restaurant, La Fiesta in Mountain View. This place is a few blocks off downtown but is totally worth seeking out. They’ve converted half their parking lot into outdoor seating and the tables are spaced out really well. We love the Grandma’s Special sauce that is added to various menu items. It is unbelievably good.
For our Margaritas, Julie had the Margarita Rosalina (the Grandma in “Grandma’s Special”) with reposado tequila, cranberry juice, lime, triple sec, and sweet and sour. I had the Veracruz with silver tequila, blue curaçao, triple sec, lime, and sweet and sour. Both were excellent.
We we got home I made a couple more blue margaritas.
Ultimate Blue Margarita ¾ oz Lime Juice ¾ oz Blue Curacao ¼ oz Blood Orange Cordial 1½ oz el Jimador Blanco Tequila Shake with ice and serve over cubed ice.
I don’t believe in holding rum without trying it so I cracked it open. Tastes like Appleton 12, wouldn’t you believe it? My favorite rum. So easy to drink, without added sugar. And great in cocktails. Appleton 12 remains my recommended one-rum Mai Tai.
Gotta give kudos to Trader Vic’s for coming on with a very strong merchandise game this year. Mason jars are a thing now for to-go cocktails, or just because you like them. And so now Trader Vic’s has these new beauties with the TV logo.
Three years ago today I was in Orlando for a conference and took some friends to Aku Aku in downtown Orlando. Even on a Saturday night, the bar had a mellow vibe and our group had some great drinks and better conversation.
Unfortunately for me, we went to the bar shortly after I arrived from my flight into town, so I hadn’t eaten much. This wasn’t such a big problem, until I was “encouraged” by the group to get the bar’s signature (but still off-menu) cocktail, The Tiger Fucker. This huge cocktail is well-balanced and delicious, but does contain Jalapeño. I don’t do spicy very well. And there’s a lot of booze, too.
I was feeling it the next day.
I visited Aku Aku again last year and had a great time again. If you’re in the area I’d urge you to make the effort to travel to Downtown and check it out.
I keep trying to make this one. It seems so simple and maybe uninteresting, but when I tried it at the Mai-Kai last year I was blown away. So I keep trying. And the fact that this is blended, when I’ve been fighting like Ahab to get my blender to make good slushy blended drinks, well let’s just say that the result was better but still not perfect.
This time the blend was better but still too many big chunks considering I was sipping rather than using a straw.
Derby Daiquiri ½ oz Lime juice 1 oz Orange juice ½ oz Sugar syrup 1½ oz Light Rum (I used Plantation 3 Star) Blend with ice
I used fresh Valencia Oranges and it certainly made a difference compared to when I’ve used bottled OJ. But neither is as good as the Orange Juice they use at the Mai-Kai in Florida, so I guess all those ads about Florida oranges are true.
The Atomic Grog has great resources for everything Mai-Kai and their page for this cocktail is no exception. Check it out.
Let’s talk about the Q. B. Cooler. It’s the drink that inspired the Mai Tai. Or so the story goes.
Donn Beach claimed that Trader Vic used the Q. B. Cooler as a template or precursor to the Mai Tai, something noted in Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s book Sippin’ Safari.
We have a new feature at ultimatemaitai.com about the Q.B. Cooler, including the origin story, recipe, and whether or not the cocktail is the Mai Tai’s daddy. Includes some historical details and new quotes from The Bum himself. Check it out.
Q. B. Cooler by Don the Beachcomber ½ oz Lime juice 1 oz Orange juice 1 oz Club soda ½ oz Honey mix ¼ oz Falernum ½ tsp Ginger syrup ½ oz Demerara rum 1 oz Jamaican rum 1 oz Puerto Rican rum 2 dashes Angostura Bitters Blend with 4 oz crushed ice for 5 seconds; top up with more crushed ice and garnish with mint.
This essay has been gracing the back cover of the Trader Vic’s Cocktail Menu for decades. It serves to highlight the spirit that is most prominent in Trader Vic’s cocktails, and is both a history lesson and a list of “shout outs” to famed mixologists. This is a scan of a menu circa 1965.
This is one area where I think that Victor Bergeron deserves more credit, as quite often he would credit the original creator of a cocktail on the menu or in his books. In the essay he highlights a number of 20th Century barmen including Frank Meier of the Ritz Bar in Paris, Constantine at La Florida Bar in Havana, and Albert Martin of Con Ton Bar in New Orleans. He ends with several pointed salutes to Don the Beachcomber of Hollywood.
The design includes pictures of some of the famous venues and a caricature of Don the Beachcomber himself.
Friends, I’m pleased to report that the #tikitime promotion and menu at Pacific Catch is a pretty good offering. We don’t have a Pacific Catch nearby but we traveled to Dublin for shopping and lunch and decided to check out the Tiki Terrace. The outside seating is quite nice with socially separate tables featuring wood, bamboo, plants, and clear plastic panels. A very fine mix of shade and just a hint of sun peeking in.
The Tiki Menu include a Pupu Platter and a Satay Sampler. I tried the latter and it was really good, especially the shrimp. I also had some very good California Roll sushi. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai had the Poke Chirashi bowl and said it was really great and also quite large.
There are Tiki Cocktails on the Tiki Time menu, and they look pretty good. I tried the refreshing Puka Tiku Punch and it features a trio of rums and a little surprising for such a mainstream restaurant is actually quite rum forward (in a good way). I really liked this. Mrs. Mai Tai had the Shark’s Tooth which she liked (but said maybe could have worked better with more juice).That cocktail features Banks Five island Rum, which I’ve found to be an excellent white rum in the past. I also ordered a cocktail from their regular cocktail menu. I avoided the Mai Tai (with Flor de Cana silver, Lahaina Dark rum, Wray & Nephew Overproof, and POG juice) and instead tried the “Tiki Old Fashioned,” This normally calls for Zaya but I asked for Banks rum instead and I must say this was an excellent Old Fashioned.
The cocktails and food at Pacific Catch were quite good. Considering the price the value was “good” and I’d rate the service “very good.” We enjoyed our socially distant outdoor lunch.