Top 10 Mai Tais of 2021 so far…

Happy National Mai Tai Day. Not to be confused with the Mai Tai Day celebrated by Trader Vic’s on August 30. Since the date coincides with the end of 1st Half of 2021, we present the top Mai Tais so far this year. Note: a couple of these establishments were limited to a single entry, just so we can highlight more places with quality Mai Tais.

1. “Fritch’s Four” Mai Tai at Smuggler’s Cove
Four of the five rums from the rum flight that’s a tribute to our dear friend Alex Fritch. The mix of high-quality and aged rums was worth the upcharge and even better than the Cove’s already excellent Mai Tai.

2. Mai Tai Fighter by Smuggler’s Cove at Sessions
A special Mai Tai for the “May the Fourth” event on the Lucasfilm campus, featuring a dark rum float.

3. San Francisco Mai Tai at Trader Vic’s indoors
Speaking of dark rum floats, the SF Mai Tai is pretty great and was extra special our first time indoors at Vic’s this year.

4. The Kon-Tiki Room
A very strong Mai Tai from Oakland’s newest tiki bar.

5. Tonga Hut Palm Springs (“all Coruba and heavy Orgeat”)
If you see the list of ingredients on the menu you can ask for subs that better suit your palette.

6. Kon-Tiki Mai Tai with Transcontinental Guadeloupe rum
A Mai Tai is a great way to sample a flavorful rum.

7. The Reef (“heavy Orgeat”)
Yacht Rock night was a great time and the Mai Tai was pretty good too.

8. Trader Mort’s Mai Tai at Ketch
A to-go Mai Tai with Trader Vic’s rum that I enjoyed on vacation.

9. Bamboo Club
Our first time at Bamboo Club included a refreshing Mai Tai.

10. Forbidden Island w/Appleton 12
I completed the Kill Devil Rum list with Appleton 12 in a Mai Tai. Delightful.

Lehi Lanai Home Bar

Thanks so much to @melissafuentes777 for having us over to her home bar the Lehi Lanai in Lehi, UT. This is a basement makeover with good bones that was transformed by Melissa along with @woodyworld and @midcenturytiki who both know a thing or two about tiki bar builds (see @thekontikiroom and @birdsofparadiselounge). The decor has that great Woody Miller art design vibe.

It was quite the party with neighbors and Utah Tiki Ohana. Melissa has several cocktails on her house menu, include a delicious Mai Tai. The photo is a Shrunken Skull that was also quite the hit. It was such a great time learning more about what’s happening in Utah and even hearing about some of the local delicacies.

Shrunken Skull cocktail

Tiki Hut in Elko, NV

Elko is the largest city in northeastern Nevada and we passed by at lunchtime. We had a couple of fab sandwiches at local favorite Coffee Mug Family Restaurant in downtown Elko.

Across the street the Tiki Hut beaconed. This is obviously not “high tiki” but Mrs Mai Tai indulged me with a quick visit. Outside there is some tiki decor, but inside is what you’d expect. It’s just a pool and dive bar.

A few regulars were seated at the bar as we entered, country music playing on the jukebox. We sat on the bar lined with video poker machines, and the bartender asked what we’d like. I asked if she could make a Mai Tai.

Honesty is usually a good policy, and the bartender stated that she’d try but wasn’t sure what was in a Mai Tai, also mentioning that she just started and was new to making mixed drinks. She asked me to walk her though it, so I mentioned rum, lime, sugar, triple sec and maybe some pineapple. I knew not to ask for Orgeat and personally don’t find Amaretto to be a good sub.

Another guy came over who said he wasn’t a bartender but I’m still not sure if he was a owner or patron. He asked what kind of rum and thankfully there was a nice bottle of Bacardi 8 sitting on the shift right in front of me. He asked what kind of glass and I said a rocks glass with ice. Soon thereafter he was pouring three or four glugs the Bacardi. Definitely a heavy pour.

The Bartender came by with the triple sec and as instructed did two small glugs, followed by some bottled lime juice and then the simple syrup. Quick stir with the straw and serve. “$5.50.”

And you know what. It actually was pretty good.

And then the regulars started the joking. “I want a Hurricane!” “How about a Zombie?” But the regular paid for our drink, with our thanks. I’m sure we’ve given him a story he’ll tell plenty. As will we.

We left a four dollar tip for the bartender and exited Tiki Hut, the only tiki bar between Salt Lake City and Sacramento.

Just Like Old Times: Ohana Night at The Kon-Tiki

Pretty much like it was in the old days during our visit last night to The Kon-Tiki.

Bar seating is back! Lounge seating in the palapa is back. Indoors was filled. Rum lists were being worked on again. Burgers were consumed. Plenty of discussions amongst old and new friends. And for Ohana night, the music was classic exotica.

The cocktails were Donnie’s Element and Mrs. Mai Tai’s favorite, the Uma Uma. And then I had a Mai Tai with the Transcontinental Guadeloupe rum. Delicious!

Trader Vic’s Canned Mai Tai Redux

These canned Mai Tais are now available at BevMo stores in California, but with a twist. It’s a tweaked formulation that’s different from the earlier cans sampled at AZ Tiki Oasis and at the event this week at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville.

Most notably, the Mai Tai is much darker compared to the first version (see photo), based on less filtration during production (the product uses Belgian sugar). So dark that it looks exactly like the 1944 Mai Tai at the Trader Vic’s Restaurants. This is a plus for me, and once you add some lime and a mint you’d be hard pressed to be able to pick this out of a lineup of freshly prepared Mai Tais. Though, I am not sure this dark color is a “hearts and minds” win for Mai Tai newbies looking for mass appeal.

In terms of the taste, this is also notably different than the earlier formula. Not quite as bold, but also not so heavy on the coconut hints I was tasting. And perhaps just a touch less sweet, but more of a hint of almond here. There is still no funny aftertaste, which producer @tomi.garibaldi says is due to the omission of preservatives. Nonetheless, our cans say these Mai Tais are still good until 12/31/2022. Not that we’re going to wait that long to finish the four pack. These will go down easy on a hot day!

Overall, the Trader Vic’s Canned Mai Tai is still way better than the Cutwater Tiki Rum Mai Tai and half the price of the On the Rocks Mai Tai. Much, much better than the RTD Mai Tai from Koloa. So, a strong entrant into the market.

Retail price is $20 for a four pack at BevMo, priced $5 less if you’re a Club Bev member.