Mai Tai Day Mai Tai

Since Mai Tai Day is like Christmas here at Ultimate Mai Tai Headquarters, we couldn’t resist making one at home according to the official 2021 Mai Tai Day specs from Trader Vic’s. These were the very lovely glasses that were available as part of the Mai Tai Day celebration yesterday at Trader Vic’s Emeryville and are also still available on the Trader Vic’s online store.

I’m a sucker for glassware with the recipe on the glass, so this year’s edition is extra special.

Mai Tai 44 Recipe
2 oz Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum
½ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz Orgeat Syrup
¼ oz Simple Syrup

The Vic’s Royal Amber is not really positioned as premium sipping rum, but despite the lack of specific island pedigree or age statement, it does well in a cocktail. Tonight’s Mai Tai was such an example, a very easy to drink Mai Tai with delicious rummy flavor. Cheers once again to the Mai Tai.

Mai Tai with Eight White Rums for National Mai Tai Day

It is a tradition at Ultimate Mai Tai Headquarters to make a Mai Tai with a ridiculous number of rums to celebrate Mai Tai Day (2020, 2018, 2017 shown below). Oakland declared the city as being the birthplace of the cocktail and designated Mai Tai Day to to be August 30. So this is the day where true believers make a toast to the Mai Tai and to its inventor, Trader Vic Bergeron. Born in 1944, the Mai Tai is 77 years old today.

While the Mai Tai is best enjoyed with a premium aged rum, this year I decided to spotlight some quality “white” rums that despite their color and lack of years in a barrel are quite wonderful in a Mai Tai. These are all lighter rums that go far beyond the cheap and commonly seen unaged white rums. They are all flavorful expressions of our favorite spirit. Some of these are unaged, such as the overproof Jamaican rums, whereas others are aged up to 3 years and present as a light straw color or have their color filtered out. I used ¼ oz each, for a standard 2 oz rum portion.

From Left to Right:
Myers’s Platinum White
Charley’s JB Trelawny Blend
Denizen Aged White Rum
Three Rolls Estate White Rum
Wray & Nephew Overproof
Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin
Clement Premiere Canne

And since all the rums are white, why not have a little fun and switch out the Orange Curacao for Blue? Giffard Blue Curacao is a quality liqueur and has a deep blue color. The Orgeat is Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Formula, from Orgeat Works.

This Mai Tai does not hit you in the face with the rum, and it is smooth and easy to drink. Happy birthday Mai Tai.

Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s

Trader Vic’s Emeryville put on a very nice event in honor of the Mai Tai’s 77th birthday, a day earlier than the official Mai Tai Day of August 30. Held in the parking lot, the event featured some art vendors including Woody Miller, Match Accessories, and B-Rex, along with Trader Vic’s merchandise. A raffle benefited the Easter Island foundation. There was a table for rotating rum samples, and a station from Liquid Alchemist. Hawaiian performers started the entertainment, and then we got to experience a couple excellent sets by Tikiyaki 5-0. I really love the surf sounds of 5-0, and due to being outdoors it played better than the softer exotica leanings of the full Tikiyaki Orchestra.

There were several bar stations, including one serving Trader Vic’s drinks, a station with the Mai Tai boat and slushy, one featuring the Conga Lounge Mai Tai, and station with rotating bartenders. Mrs. Mai Tai wasn’t drinking and said the Mai Tai slushy was pretty good. Meanwhile, I liked my Trader Vic’s Mai Tai but was most impressed by the premium Mai Tai made by Doc Parks and Adrian Castaneda using Appleton 12, Clement VSOP, and Doctor Bird.

Food wise, there was a station for a few grab and go options, including my favorite the Crab Rangoon. Or you could order takeout based on a somewhat limited food menu from the restaurant. The food options were pretty good for this event. Everyone received a bottle of water in the event package and a souvenir Mai Tai glass to commemorate the occasion.

Trader Vic’s CEO Rhett Rosen led the toast to the Mai Tai, and the Trader Vic’s team did a great job running everything. The staff was super friendly and everything seemed to go off without a hitch. Mahalo.

Best of all we got to see some old friends and make some new ones. So nice to see so many people in an outdoor setting on a breezy afternoon in Emeryville. Long live Trader Vic’s, long live the Mai Tai!

Turkey Grog

I wanted to do a grog riff that used Bourbon and Jamaican Rum as the base, so I chose two popular spirits that are both a little boozy. Smith & Cross (57% ABV) is a wonderful Jamaican rum that leans a bit funky, and is used widely in high-quality bars and restaurants. Wild Turkey 101 is a bold and boozy Bourbon that won’t break the bank. With more than two ounces of higher proof spirits, this cocktail pays homage to boozy forbearers such as the Navy Grog.

The two spirits seemed like a good combo, but this cocktail went through a few iterations. Thanks to the members of the “South SF Bay Area Tiki Ohana” group on FB for input, especially @laurasmurphy who provided tasting notes and suggestions.

Everything here should be pretty readily available, which is one reason this is calling specifically for Ruby Grapefruit and not the more traditional but harder to find White Grapefruit.

Turkey Grog by Kevin Crossman
¾ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Ruby Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Honey Syrup (1:1)
½ oz Velvet Falernum
½ oz Don’s Spices #2
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
¾ oz Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum
1½ oz Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
Shake with ice, garnish with mint. Serve in glass of choice.

Don’s Spices #2: Equal parts Vanilla Syrup and Pimento Dram/Allspice Liqueur.
If you have non-alcoholic Falernum syrup then drop the amount to ¼ oz.

Mai Tai Joe (and his little brother)

I finally picked up Trader Vic’s iconic Suffering Bastard mug, aka Mai Tai Joe. They threw this in for free on a recent promotional offer, so it pays to get onto Trader Vic’s mailing list.

Earlier this year I purchased the entire line of minified Trader Vic’s mugs, including a tiny Mai Tai Joe. In either format, this is an iconic mug.

The Trader Vic’s Suffering Bastard cocktail is different from the historical cocktail created by Joe Scialom in Cairo during WWII. It is basically a boozier version of the Mai Tai, but garnished with a cucumber peel.

Suffering Bastard (1970s)
3 oz Trader Vic’s Mai Mix
1 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum
2 oz Rhum St. James

This is from the 1972 Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide and the Trader Vic’s Rum Cookery and Drinkery (1974). Contemporaneous Mai Tai recipes called for 2 ounces of Mai Tai Mix with 2 ounces of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai rum. Which is to say that if you made a Suffering Bastard from scratch you’d just use more of the lime, orgeat, curaçao, and sugar, and then just use three ounces of rum rather than two.

Also noteworthy: Trader Vic specifically calling for Rhum St James, a Rhum Agricole, in a recipe that’s basically a Mai Tai.

Suffering Bastard (2005)
3 oz Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Mix
½ oz Lime Juice
2 oz Dark Rum
1 oz Silver Rum
Garnish with Cucumber Peel, Mint Sprig, and spent Lime shell.

This is the recipe in the Trader Vic’s Tiki Party book. Once again you basically have a Mai Tai made one-third larger, though this time it calls for more traditional Dark and Silver rums.

Walt Disney’s Annette and the Mystery at Smuggler’s Cove

Found this 1963 tome at an antique store. This seems like a tween novel version of one of Annette’s movies (at one point she even breaks out in song, I’m not kidding). The plot involves Annette and her blonde friend Babs who “borrow” a small ship from their boyfriends Rod and Neil and then crash the ship on rocks in Smuggler’s Cove. There are subplots involving the planning and execution of Annette’s big Luau party and a stolen painting that has connections to exiles of a Central American country.

Smuggler’s Cove is described as a local Southern California cove where “rum-runners had a shack there during the prohibition era many years ago. The palm trees had been a landmark.” It is far less exotic than the title of the book suggests. There’s a Spanish-speaking family living nearby that help Annette and Babs after they crash land, but (spoiler alert!) are also connected to the exiles.

It’s all very melodramatic and features plenty of casual white privilege seen in early 60’s media.