Mai Tai Monday celebration with a couple fine aged rums from Barbados, who became independent from the UK on this date in 1966.
The Mai Tai is made with two examples of the rum blending tradition in Barbados. No sugar or additives, just aged Rum. Real McCoy is super affordable and Mount Gay XO is a fine rum worth splurging a little bit for. I love them both.
Glassware by B-Rex
Orgeat month is ending with our last review, the craft brand Liber & Co.
This one came recommended by many Mai Tai fans. I’ve previously had and liked their Passion Fruit Syrup and Blood Orange Cordial, so I was really looking forward to this one. The milky Orgeat stays settled better than some craft Orgeat brands, and imparts a rich mouthfeel to the cocktail.
I made several cocktails with Liber’s Orgeat, including a Saturn and a standard recipe Mai Tai. I also made the Mai Tai according to the recipe on the label.
Liber Mai Tai
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
¾ oz Liber & Co. Orgeat
½ oz Orange Curacao
2 oz Rum
I used Ferrand Dry Curacao and Denizen Merchant’s Reserve.
I was surprised and still not sure why, but I liked the ¾ oz Orgeat Mai Tai better than in the standard 1944 Mai Tai recipe. While Liber leans a tad more into the marzipan direction than is my preference, I do think that Liber is a good Orgeat that I can recommend. The silky liquid does a good job standing up to the other ingredients and enhancing the cocktail.
Running low on my Plantation Xaymaca so had to make sure I have a replacement ready. Even better there was a $3 off coupon at Total Wine so this bottle was just $16. Such a great value for a wonderful 100% Pot Still Rum from Jamaica. I like the new label and the straw tie will be removed once I crack it open to use.
An excellent “gold Jamaican rum” for cocktails, neat, or in a Mai Tai.
As the cocktail menu at Oakland’s The Kon-Tiki evolves to feature new frozen cocktails, warm holiday drinks, and cocktails that lean into some non-tiki styles, there has been the addition of some classic tiki cocktails to the menu as well. This includes some old favorites such as the Jet Pilot and the Jungle Bird. Today we’re sampling their Saturn.
The Saturn is a Gin-based cocktail with Lemon Juice, Passionfruit syrup, Orgeat, and Falernum. The Kon-Tiki’s version is quite good and presented pretty much to the standard recipe. When I make it at home I do add more Orgeat, but the Kon-Tiki version was still quite good. I did feel that shaking the drink with crushed ice and then straining into a Coupe glass with a wide stainer did allow for small ice crystals enhanced the drink’s experience. Delightful.
I usually don’t feel too much guilt calling myself a cocktail snob at this point, which means that I have fairly high standards for how I taste and rate cocktails. In this respect, I haven’t done a lot of exploring of the drinks made famous during the “cocktail wasteland” of the 1970s and 1980s. As such, I’ve never head a Grasshopper before.
Enter The Kon-Tiki’s new Frozen Grasshopper, another cocktail that leans a bit more into classic cocktail territory than classic tiki/topical cocktails. Well, the Grasshopper is served frozen and this is simply delightful. Another hit from Oakland’s Kon-Tiki, the Tiki Bar that leaned so far into 1970s Yacht Rock that they had a whole section on their cocktail menu to drinks named after Yacht Rock songs. Pair this with their signature coconut-forward Uma Uma and you’ve got a couple amazing frozen cocktails.
The Grasshopper is paired with the amazing Kon-Tiki Burger, still the only cheeseburger that Mrs. Mai Tai will eat regularly. And even with a longer-than-normal travel time back home the burger and fries were still quite ready to be devoured by the entire household.
Last note, Mrs. Mai Tai had the Kon-Tiki’s new Spiced Rum Toddy, a warm cocktail with three rums, tawny port, lemon, honey, allspice, and clove spices. She loved it, and it fits right in to the holiday season. Be sure to check it out if you’re dining on Kon-Tiki’s heated patio that now includes music.
Greg Brady and a big idol (signed by some guy named Barry Williams) helping me evaluate Liber & Co. Orgeat. Both were a gift from Mrs Mai Tai. Don’t steal it – that’s taboo!
No full review has come out of the Ultimate Mai Tai labs yet, where technicians are working feverishly on applying rigorous tests to another craft Orgeat. Stay tuned.
An interesting entrant to our Orgeat tastings this month is L’Orgeat, a shelf-stable almond liqueur. While Amaretto is often substituted for Orgeat syrup in Mai Tais and other cocktails, it isn’t a satisfactory substitute due to its high-ish ABV and a flavor profile that I think overpowers the orange, lime, and rum.
Enter L’Orgeat, an almond liqueur at 20% ABV that is designed to replace Orgeat syrup in cocktails. Their website recommends using ¾ oz of L’Orgeat along with 1 oz of Lime, 2 oz Jamaican Rum, and ¼ oz Curacao. I found this recipe to have an overpowering burnt chocolate taste, and it also wasn’t as sweet as I like it.
Much better was using L’Orgeat at ½ oz alongside the rest of the standard 1944 Mai Tai recipe ingredients. In this case, that nuttiness does add a hint of almonds and richness that can be missing when you use artificial Orgeat syrups like Torani. For those who like an Almond Milk lean in their Orgeat, however, this is pretty far afield from that. Still, I think many will enjoy the flavor profile of L’Orgeat.
Thanks to Sean Buckley for the L’Orgeat sample to try.
Orgeat month continues with an orgeat that’s been widely available for some time: Trader Vic’s Orgeat
The Trader Vic’s syrups have had sort of a bad reputation in the past few years amongst cocktail aficionados due to their use of Corn Syrup and preservatives, but this is widely available so I decided to give it a try at home. I purchased my 1 liter bottle for $9 at BevMo and the Trader Vic’s products are also available online.
In a Mai Tai made with Denizen Merchant’s Reserve Rum and Ferrand Dry Curacao, the Trader Vic’s Orgeat adds a hint of almond and little bit of silkiness to the mouthfeel. I am not sure it adds a lot of the cocktail but at least it doesn’t introduce any objectionable flavors to the cocktail or have any unpleasant aftertaste.
So, if budget is an issue I think the Trader Vic’s is a better option than comparable mainstream orgeat brands like Torani.
Mrs. Mai Tai and I enjoyed some On the Rocks “ready-to-drink” cocktails last weekend in Monterey. We sampled the Old Fashioned and the Jalapeño Pineapple Margarita, and enjoyed both. The Old Fashioned has Knob Creek Bourbon and is booooozy at 35% ABV. Luckily that night I was only having the 200 Ml size!
Tonight we sampled the Cosmopolitan, which Mrs. Mai Tai said was even better than the Margarita. I’m not normally a Cosmo drinker but it tastes very good and not artificial like most RTD cocktails.
The On the Rocks Mai Tai is my top recommended ready to drink Mai Tai, so it is nice to see that the quality is consistent through out the lineup.
Finally getting around to trying this cocktail from the Grog Log and originally from the long, lost Kahiki in Ohio. It’s a slightly exotic Whiskey Sour, so quite pleasant but not very complex or daring.
1 oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Passion Fruit Syrup
¼ oz Grenadine
1½ oz Bourbon (Makers Mark)
Flash blend with 8 oz crushed ice
Syrups by BG Reynolds
Glassware by B-Rex