Latitude 29 Orgeat has been my favorite commercial Orgeat for several years. It’s a high-quality product made with Water, Pure Cane sugar, Almonds, Orange Blossom Water, Almond essence, and Rose Water. It is fairly clear, easy to maintain and pour, and tastes wonderful. The floral elements pair well with the almond flavor.
Orgeat Works has a couple additional products and I’m always interested in trying some new Orgeat, so bought some bottles and did a comparison test.
Each Orgeat is made using the same high-quality ingredients, such as pure Cane Sugar and Orange Blossom Water. The Macadamia Nut Syrup uses Macadamia Nuts rather than Almonds, of course. Each comes in a 375 ml plastic bottle that will last for quite a while for home cocktail use.
I made several cocktails with each of these Orgeat varieties and did comparison taste tests. For this comparison I made a couple different 1944 Mai Tai recipes, a Saturn, and a Blood Orange Eastern Sour. One Mai Tai was made with Denizen Merchant’s Reserve as the rum base, along with Ferrand Dry Curacao. The other Mai Tai was a lighter style using Probitas and Clement Premiere Canne rums, with Cointreau as the orange liqueur.
In each case I found the Latitude 29 Orgeat to be the best overall, tasting brighter in each cocktail and adding a rich mouthfeel. It worked very well across each of the cocktails, from the heavy juice-forward Eastern Sour to the lighter Gin-based Saturn.
But the T’Orgeat Toasted Orgeat was really great too. It has a pronounced toasted almond flavor that is unique and delightful. It is a rich taste that’s very different from many of the craft Orgeat brands that have a marzipan flavor, and I find T’Orgeat more suitable for most uses. T’Orgeat worked well across all cocktails but was best used in a Mai Tai where the Orgeat is a more central focus.
Orgeat Works Macadamia Nut Syrup has a more subtle flavor which doesn’t present itself as forward as the other two syrups.
3rd place: Orgeat Works Macadamia Nut Syrup 2nd place: Orgeat Works T’Orgeat Toasted Almond Syrup 1st place: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Formula Orgeat
San Jose has been one of the largest U.S. cities without a legit tiki bar, shocking since there are so many tiki bars in San Francisco and Oakland that you’d think a single good destination would seem to draw everyone from Santa Clara and Southern Alameda Counties. San Jose was listed in an article on Critiki about cities lacking tiki bars back in 2017, where author Humuhumu noted the numerous home tiki bars in the area and that “It’s a discerning crowd, though, so when a place finally does open, it’ll have to be good.”
Today, if you’re looking for commercial tiki in San Jose there aren’t a lot of good choices. There is Hukilau in Japan Town, a nice family-run Hawaiian restaurant with a few tiki elements. We liked the food and vibe there, but the cocktails aren’t craft and lean heavily on vodka, which means that the beverage of choice is Kona Beer and not a Mai Tai. Totally worth checking out, but not really tiki.
Tiki Pete’s Well-Deserved Bad Reputation
And then there is Tiki Pete. Located in the heart of Downtown, the restaurant was rebranded from Da Kine Island Grill a couple years ago and named after the owner. There’s a thatched A-frame entrance and a cocktail menu that has a number of tiki classics and a couple different kinds of Mai Tai variants. So you’d think maybe this would be “good enough” for San Jose’s discerning crowd. You might think that, but you would be wrong.
A visit in 2019 went wrong from beginning to end. We visited on a Saturday evening before a concert at the Arena. The restaurant was quite full but we were seated basically immediately. There was a PPV boxing match on TV, so the event volume was quite loud and many of the patrons were there to watch. We ordered drinks and then our meal. After a while, my appetizer arrived, followed by a water for my wife (but not the water I ordered). Then my wife’s main course arrived, then a bit later by my main course. Food was at best okay and at worst less than adequate.
I asked the waitress what was taking so long with the cocktails and she went to check. As noted, it was busy, but I was watching the bartenders and they were not exactly rushing to complete orders. They had plenty of non-prep time and were talking with those sitting at the bar. I could even see that people who ordered after us had gotten their drinks. After more time passed my wife’s appetizer of Edamame arrived. Finally, I went up to ask Tiki Pete himself about our drinks. I mentioned that I had asked for a 1944 Mai Tai made with the Tiki Pete Barbados rum, at which point Pete smiled and high-fived me. I said I’d be more excited to get my drink. Pete then came over to our table with some shots from the Tiki Pete Rum, and said the cocktails were “coming right up.” Then we waited another full ten minutes and they took our drinks to the wrong table. After more confusion, we finally got our cocktails.
Unfortunately, they’re not following the prescribed ingredients in these cocktails; my 1944 Mai Tai had the distinct taste of ginger, as if they used Falernum rather than Orgeat. My wife’s guava martini was bland.
Literally took over 45 minutes for my wrong-tasting Mai Tai to arrive
None of the food came out when it should have, and wasn’t very good
Barely any effort to “right” the wrong
Free rum shots, but no other comped items as you might expect
So, while Tiki Pete seems to be embracing a craft cocktail approach with their historical cocktails and limited-edition rum, they failed time after time to do the basic things a restaurant/bar should be reasonably expected to do.
I’ll never go back to Tiki Pete, and you shouldn’t either.
In my Instagram post promoting the Tiki with Ray article, Tiki Pete himself jumped in to sort of apologize (saying that it wasn’t indicative of the normal operation) but then saying the server was insecure. After which Tiki Pete outed the server as trans. No, I’m not joking. Then Pete said I was being rude to the server. Well, I also talked to Pete that evening and he gave me a high-five and some rum samples. So, I guess I probably wasn’t being too rude. I was most certainly terse, as we’d expect anyone to be if they waited 45 minutes for a cocktail order that arrived after we were finished with our meal. Not rude, though.
After all of this was published we heard from many tikiphiles who’d had their own disappointing experiences at Tiki Pete. It’s not a tiki bar. It’s party bar with Hawaiian leanings and a tiki veneer. All which is to say that San Jose still is a tiki desert. But there is hope is on the way!
The location is the old Peggy Sue’s Diner at 29 N San Pedro St, around the block from Tiki Pete. And what’s this? Something like that looks very interesting.
The BayAreaImbibers did a little homework and found out that the location is now owned by the MDM Restaurant Bar Group, proprietors of Five Point and Farmer’s Union in downtown San Jose (worth noting: we once had an issue with an entree at Farmer’s Union and not only did they fix it right way without complaint, we were comped the item worth $25).
Though MDM’s website no longer contains info about Dr. Funk, the cached version gives us a hint of what this new venue is all about:
Dr. Funk Coming Soon — Tiki is a catch-all term for mid-century-inspired motif of all things tropical, exotic and generally Polynesian. Tiki was a romanticized notion of island life inspired by the sentimental appeal of an idealized portrayal of the South Pacific, Hawaii, Polynesia and Oceania. Now, tiki walks the line between reality and myth. It acknowledges the Hollywood smoke and mirrors but also creates an atmosphere of authenticity.
So it definitely is “tiki” and not “nautical” or “tropical” or some of the other things people say when they want to avoid the term “tiki.”
Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez is the designer behind tiki bars such as Smuggler’s Cove, False Idol, and Hale Pele. Mikel Parton contributed to decor and art at Zombie Village. Woody’s lamps are in many tiki bars and mugs by Tiki Diablo are always coveted. So this seems like an all-star team.
All of which means that San Jose’s discerning audience is going to come in with high expectations, but I expect it won’t take long for Dr. Funk to be considered the top tiki destination in the area. I have high hopes. If the cocktails are good, and the decor is half as good as we’d expect from Notch this will be a great place to go. And assuming they understand that the tiki bar experience is about hospitality and escapism, then I’m sure their operations will be quality as well. We can all hope that Dr. Funk is the tiki destination that we’ve all longed for in San Jose.
I tasted this rum a couple years ago at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland during a tasting by the brand rep, and thought it was pretty good. A delightful unaged rum made in Louisiana from locally grown cane. Not grassy at all.
I found this Three Roll Estate White Rum at Total Wine and picked it up for a Saturday pick me up. It is full of flavor even at 40% ABV. The brand rep compared it to historical Cuban rums in that there is still quite a bit to savor and taste even though it is a light rum.
Made a Zombie according to the recipe on the bottle. It’s not exactly a 1934 Zombie recipe, but is most certainly influenced by it. It nicely only uses two ounces of this delicious new rum from Hamilton.
And it is soooo good. Really excellent Zombie! This rum is legit! If you’ve been on the fence about getting this, I can only say that it is wonderful and if you don’t want it then there is more for me. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry crushes it again with an amazing recipe and some amazing rum from Ed Hamilton and Hamilton Rums.
Zombie Blend is available in many states with more to come.
Not just for Zombies. It makes an excellent Mai Tai too!
This new rum blend is a 118 proof delight, so aromatic and flavorful. With this kind of ABV it isn’t a sipper for most people, but inside a Mai Tai it really punches through and coats your tongue. Of course, our house Mai Tai rum blend is over 100 proof, so we’re used to boozy Mai Tais. But we think anyone will find this rum to be amazing in a Mai Tai.
The Mai Tai is best prepared with Latitude 29 Orgeat from Orgeat Works, a house favorite of the Bum himself who helped develop it. It is our favorite orgeat.
Not a bad choice Mai Tai Monday.
The Zombie blend is rolling out now and is available in many states with more to come. Bottles are going fast but Ed Hamilton says this product is here to stay and that more is in the pipeline.
After dinner at Palmetto, we walked around over to The Kon-Tiki Room for more cocktails. It was a fun vibe and the bartenders were so helpful at working with us on our orders.
I had a fantastic Fogcutter and then asked for Mai Tai made with the aged rum Clairin from Saint Benevolence. While the spirits selection at The Kon-Tiki Room is not as vast as the original Kon-Tiki location at 14th and Webster, they do have some interesting expressions and the bartenders were accommodating to use an alternative spirit in one of their standard cocktails. A little extra orgeat and the Clairin Mai Tai was very good and a nice change of pace.
We were bummed the frozen Disco Banana wasn’t quite ready when we got there around 6:30. That was the only glitch during our Kon-Tiki Room visit. The checking of vaccination status and the requirements for masks when not drinking was not problem during our visit.
We had a great dinner at Palmetto last night, along with some classic cocktails. The fine dining is most certainly that with some upper mid-priced dishes with some inventive ingredients. I had the pork chop with frisee, spiced carrots, refried black beans, grain mustard mojo, and shaved onions. So flavorful and a quite large cut of meat, too. Mrs. Mai Tai enjoyed her Halibut and especially liked the lavender orange ice cream.
We tried several of the cocktails, which include some riffs on classics and also some Palmetto originals. From the classic side, I had a delightful Manhattan with Rum (Real McCoy 5) that was served up. Julie had the Brandy Old Fashioned that was also a great twist on an old favorite. From the House side, I had the Flight Path with Rye, Falernum, Honey, Lemon, and Absinthe. Also served up, the Flight Path was truly excellent.
Service at Palmetto was outstanding and all the patrons were adjusting no problem to showing vaccination cards and masking when not eating/drinking. If you’re in Uptown (Oakland) and looking for something a little Upscale, be sure to seek out Palmetto.