Mai Tai Talk on the Rumcast

It was such a pleasure to talk to Will and John, and we had a great Mai Tai discussion on the latest episode of the Rumcast.

The episode covers the history of the Mai Tai, tips for the home bartender, and how to get an awesome Mai Tai at your local watering hole. And of course lots of talk about rum for your Mai Tai. We played a game of “Mai Tai or Not a Mai Tai” and the episode ended with the Rumcast’s signature Rapid Fire round of questions.

The episode begins with a discussion of KōHana Rum from Hawaii, appropriate since Hawaii plays a seminal role in the popularity of the Mai Tai.

Give the episode a listen at

Tres Puntos y una Raya and Three Dots and a Dash

I was challenged by @alxfritch to make a Three Dots with Tequila replacing the rums. It is pretty good but we still prefer the version with rum. Not a bad choice if you’re looking for something beyond the usual Margarita cocktail using Tequila.

I’m always up for the experiment.

Three Dots and a Dash by Don the Beachcomber
½ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orange Juice
½ oz Honey Syrup
¼ oz Falernum
¼ oz Pimento Dram
1½ oz Aged Martinique Rhum
½ oz Demerara Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
6 oz Crushed Ice
Flash blend and garnish with three cherries (three dots) and a pineapple (and a dash)

How to Beat the Flippers

I picked up this very cool Book of Tiki 20th Anniversary Mug at the Shag Store in Palm Springs. The mug is huge – 30 ounces – to remind you of the gigantic Book of Tiki that inspired it. Such a cool design from Shag and Sven Kirsten, the author of the book.

Like many folks active in the tiki scene in the 1990s, we heard about The Book of Tiki for years before the release in 2000. Still a seminal book about the history of tiki bars, art, fashion, and more.

I paid $80 for this mug, in the orange glaze that’s part of the larger run of this mug. A far lower price than you’ll see online on eBay where it goes for over $100 and sometimes over $200!

Here is how you beat the flippers:

  • Drive 500 miles to Palm Springs (each way)
  • Refill gas tank several times ($90)
  • Have three meals a day on the road ($60-100 pp. x2)
  • Stay overnight in downtown Palm Springs hotel ($160+$35 resort fee/parking)
  • Buy mug and then walk to local tiki bar to celebrate ($20-40 pp., plus food)

So it’s easy to see how it is easy to beat the flippers. Look how much money I saved.

Love the book, love the artist, love the mug. It’s all okay.

Bloody Highball in Palm Spring Glass

This was one of the treasures we came back from Palm Springs with. Such a festive design that works well with this cocktail celebrating my first COVID vaccine.

The drink is a riff on Brian Maxwell’s (Shaker of Spirits) cocktail the “Mai Bloody Valentine.” This one changes up the rums a bit and formats it in a highball format with soda. Refreshing.

1 oz Aged Jamaican Rum (I used a multi-rum blend)
1 oz Unaged Martinique Rhum (Clement Premiere Canne)
½ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Ginger Syrup
1½ oz Blood Orange Juice
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with Cubed ice, dirty dump and then top with club soda

Best Mai Tai of 2021 (so far) at Tonga Hut

Mrs. Mai Tai and I spent Friday checking out antique and retro-modern stores in the Palm Springs area. We saw a lot of great stuff and further posts will detail the treasures we came home with.

For dinner we went to Lulu just around the corner from where we were staying downtown. We loved our meal and set the evening in motion with a couple cocktails (a Raspberry Lemon Drop for her and a Sidecar and Daiquiri for me). We like this restaurant and the patio dining was working very well.

We then took a stroll up the street for round at Tonga Hut. Knowing their house Mai Tai is a combo of Coruba and a light rum, I ordered it “with just Coruba and extra orgeat.” That was a fantastic Mai Tai, the best so far of 2021. Meanwhile Julie went with one of her favorites, the Macadamia Nut Chi-Chi. Very fast service at Tonga Hut this evening.

Our second round at Tonga Hut was taken to-go. Julie had the classic Bees Knees cocktail, quite well prepared. I wanted to try something different and tried the Mojave Punch that features Hibiscus syrup. That proved to be a good choice because I thought it was wonderful, leaning to the tart side but with a good flavor that worked great over ice.

Tonga Hut remains our recommended choice for Tiki Newbies in Palm Springs as it has a little bit of everything and the cocktails are usually pretty good. I didn’t love the heavy use of Beach Boys for the music being played, but that was our only gripe as our short visit was otherwise quite lovely.

Yacht Rock Night at The Reef

We had a great time cooling down from a hot (for us) day in Palm Springs with dinner and cocktails at The Reef at the Caliente Tropics Resort. We arrived shortly after 6 pm with the party in full swing and ended up being seated inside near the door (our first indoor dining in months). I’ve got a vaccine appointment for Monday, so somewhat looser considering the circumstances and the indoor seating was quite socially distant.

DJ Baz aka “Steely Cruise” was spinning a great selection of Yacht Rock tunes and put on a great show with retro audio clips, some additional percussion, and witty repartee. Unfortunately, he didn’t have my requested song, “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship, because the internet wasn’t around in the late 70s to early 80s and wasn’t able to download it, but still played some great songs. A couple regulars were prepared wearing “captain” hats and there was a great deal of revelry that we haven’t experienced in over a year.

Steely Cruise spinning Yacht Rock tunes

Mrs. Mai Tai and I did salads and lighter fare for dinner, but we enjoyed our cocktails. Julie had the Macadamia Nut Chi-Chi and I started with a Mai Tai (ordered with “heavy orgeat) that was truly fabulous; the best so far of 2021. I followed with the Planter’s Punch that I also found to be excellent.

Such a great time at the Reef!

Bali Hai Dinner

Mrs. Mai Tai and I had a great time at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park but we put in more than a days worth of exercise walking up and down the hills. So we chose the easy option for dinner, which was to walk over to Bali Hai.

We again went with the outdoor option, and there was a young man playing soft rock hits on an acoustic guitar (he seemed quite popular with the group of older ladies celebrating a birthday with Mai Tais). We had a great meal, including a delightful peanut shrimp plate that Julie said was amazing. I went with a smattering of apps, including the grilled Caesar salad and beef skewers again.

After nearly killing myself the previous day, I avoided the infamous Bali Hai Mai Tai and instead went with their signature Mr. Bali Hai cocktail. This isn’t the classic recipe with coffee liqueur but is made with light rum, blackberry brandy, juices, and a Demerara 151 float. I quite enjoyed it, and wish more people had the pleasure of drinking the balanced cocktails like this one or the Goof Punch rather than the glass of rums they call their Mai Tai.

Julie chose the Lava Slide, with Kahlua, Bailey’s, vodka, and chocolate syrup. Desert in a glass! And quite decadent.

I finished the meal with a pour from Bali Hai’s modest but well considered rum tasting list. They were out of Appleton 21, so my backup was the El Dorado Single Barrel PM Marque. Only $18 and quite a steal since I loved it. I saw some reviews bemoan the low 40% ABV and I appreciate where those heads are at. But the rich pot-still flavor really came through in this bold rum (it actually tastes similar to Mount Gay’s Pot Still release). I’m so glad I tried it.

We had a great time at two meals at Bali Hai. Such a wonderful place to be and while indoors would be better we still enjoyed our outdoor dining there.

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn

We enjoyed our stay at this Shelter Island hotel with its longstanding Polynesian theme. While the extended beams on the lobby A-frame aren’t there anymore, this place still has a lot of the old spirit. They even were playing Hawaiian music down by the pool one day when I went down to cool off.

Rooms are okay and nicely appointed, commensurate with the price we paid. The bed was a little creaky but WiFi was solid and while we were at the end of the wing, we didn’t encounter any noise issues. Overall the grounds were in good shape and while the on-prem restaurant is closed, there’s a takeout window that was handily available downstairs from our room. Cocktails were… not craft, but staff was friendly and efficient. We did take out dinner one night and everything came out just fine.

Humphrey’s Mai Tai (yes, it’s pink)

The vibe on shelter island is relaxed and perfect for our vacation. We enjoyed watching the Navy ships sail by, as well as the nearly marina views.

Bali Hai Mai Tai

Our first full day in San Diego was a lazy morning for Mrs. Mai Tai. Meanwhile, I crossed town to Quality Liquor to pickup a bottle of the Hamilton Florida Rum Society blend.

We walked over to Bali Hai for lunch and had a relaxed time outdoors under an umbrella, listening to Hawaiian music while glancing at San Diego bay. Our service was fast and friendly, and we enjoyed our meal. I stated with the beef skewers and had the kalua pork bowl as my main course while Julie had a tasty salad and finished with the poke bowl.

Julie had the Big B’s Bri-to, an original cocktail with vodka, soda, and juices. Meanwhile, I ordered the infamous Bali Hai Mai Tai, a drink that can barely be called that due to the minute portions of orgeat, triple sec, and sweet and sour mix. It’s mostly about five ounces of rum with ice and it honestly isn’t great except for getting you super drunk (I didn’t even finish mine). To be fair, the waitress was warning patrons about the strength of the cocktail and redirecting to other cocktails such as the Mr. Bali Hai instead. And, the Bali Hai Mai Tai is only $9.25, which is pretty cheap for such a boozy cocktail sold in California.

I took a chance on a second cocktail and tried the Goof Punch with Hamilton Demerara Rum, Coruba Jamaican Dark Rum, Cruzan Aged Light, Trader Vic’s Orgeat Syrup and a blend of fruit juices. I ordered this with “heavy orgeat” thanks to the light hand I experienced with the Mai Tai and was rewarded with a very tasty cocktail. I really loved the Goof Punch, with heavier rums and just the right amount of pineapple juice.

We enjoyed our visit and took the rest of the afternoon for a drive to various locales. Well, Mrs. Mai Tai drove, not me. I’m writing this after dinner and I’m still inebriated.

Trader Mort’s Liquor Store and Mai Tai

Mrs Mai Tai and I arrived in San Diego and checked into Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island. We are still not in indoor dining mode, so we did take-out from Ketch that was recommended. On the way to pickup I did a quick visit to the seminal Shelter Island liquor store, Trader Mort’s. Pretty good selection considering the store itself is fairly small. There are a couple Trader Mort’s mugs for sale that look great. I picked up some Myers’s Jamaican rum in a dainty 375ml bottle that will come in handy on our trip.

The dinner process from Ketch was weird. They have take-out available on their website via Chownow, but when I arrived to pick up they sort of treated it as if it was some sort of alien ordering system. And then the food pickup was in one place, but the to-go cocktails were a separate pickup. This is unusual 13 months into COVID take-out mode.

Thankfully, our dinner from Ketch was great. Some excellent salads and seafood cocktail apps, plus the cocktails were pretty good (considering the bartenders are free-pouring). Mrs. Mai Tai loved her Spa Day cocktail with vokda, elderflower, lemon, and cucumber soda. Meanwhile I enjoyed the “Trader Mort’s Mai Tai” featuring Trader Vic’s Royal Amber rum, orgeat, curacao, lime, and sugar.

We enjoyed dinner in the room, overlooking bayfront views from our second floor room at Humphrey’s. Vacation is going well, so far.