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!
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.
Ready to Drink Cocktails are still popular, so look for these canned Mai Tais from Trader Vic’s coming soon. There are two label designs, featuring iconic Trader Vic’s artwork.
Cocktail snobs know they aren’t the target market for these sort of beverages, and while this does contain rum, lime, cane sugar, and flavors it isn’t really comparable to a freshly made craft cocktail Mai Tai. But, that’s not the point of a canned Mai Tai anyway, which presumably is sometime to bring to a picnic, a cookout, or while camping.
We found these Trader Vic’s canned Mai Tais to be pretty refreshing, especially over ice. There’s a hint of coconut and tropical flavors, but no almond flavor unfortunately. At 10% ABV, these cans will do the job nicely and while we felt the booze the cocktail didn’t really have a boozy taste (this may be a pro or a con, depending on your preference). There is no funny aftertaste.
This is a better canned Mai Tai than the Cutwater Tiki Rum Mai Tai that has wide distribution, though it isn’t as good as the On the Rocks ready to drink bottled Mai Tai that is higher priced and has a different ABV profile. So, compared to the market leader for where this product is aiming, the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai is a good entry to the market.
As Smuggler’s Cove officially welcomes guests again, we want to highlight one of the new offerings. Fritch’s Favorite Five is a rum flight based on the picks that our late friend Alex Fritch made during our Five Bottle Rum Challenge video earlier this year. It’s actually a really great selection of rums that span a range of different styles and different countries of origin.
The flight offers tribute to our friend, and 100% of the sales go to Alex’s family. So go ahead and give these amazing rums a try, but know it is going to a good cause. And send a little toast Alex’s way as well.
Be sure to ask the Smuggler’s Cove crew about their rum club, the Rhumbustion Society. This is a little more educationally oriented than some rum clubs are, and you can sample rums from The Cove’s vast selection (over 1000 bottles on site). A great way to learn more about rum.
Reopening today is San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove, available to serve guests like they always have since 2009. No more cans or to-go soup, just fine cocktails and a vast selection of rums to taste.
We had the pleasure of visiting the Cove last week for a soft-reopen and it was so nice to be able to relax inside an immersive tiki bar while sipping on the finest cocktails in the city.
Mrs Mai Tai’s new favorite cocktail is Dr. Barca’s Fluffy Banana. So flavorful and light, perfect even for those who say they don’t like banana in a cocktail.
Meanwhile, I had the Smuggler’s Cove Mai Tai, which I’m pleased to say still ranks in the top 3 of all time.
There’s a new cocktail called the Pratique Punch, which is a great way to celebrate the reopening. There’s also a special rum flight which we’ll cover in detail in the next post but will put a quick plug in here too.
The Smuggler’s Cove staff couldn’t have been nicer and even with being benched for over a year due to COVID most certainly have come back strong. Note that The Cove doesn’t offer reservations and that entry will be by first-come basis, so if you’re planning to visit it’ll help to get there early before opening.
Mrs. Mai Tai and I finally made it to Palmetto in Oakland, after some drinks next door at The Kon-Tiki Room. The neon and art-deco style of Palmetto is best experienced indoors, and the fine food seems like the stuff that might not travel so well for a 30 minute drive back home. We’re finally doing indoor dining, so it was time.
The food here is fantastic. Truly savory, and we both loved the scallops that were available as a starter. The shrimp cocktail was also very good. For the main course, I had the chicken and Julie had the yellowtail, both were excellent. Note that the menu changes frequently, so some things may be different on your visit. The quality of the flavors were truly gourmet, justifying the mid-tier pricing. There is a focus on steaks here too, if that’s your thing, including Prime Rib on Wednesdays.
Palmetto also has an active cocktail program (and wine and beer). Julie had the Girl Goes Walking, featuring Cachaca as the main spirit, paired with Armaretto, Tamarind, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Bitters. Quite delightful.
Located across the street from the Fox Theater in Uptown, Palmetto is a great Oakland destination and an upscale treat to pair with drinks next door at the Kon-Tiki Room.