I’m still in take-out mode post-Omicron, and with Mrs Mai Tai out of town I decided to drive up to Emeryville for lunch. It is a beautiful day in the Bay Area, and my bay view of takeout from Trader Vic’s was super picturesque.
Lunch was really great. Crab Rangoon and the San Francisco Mai Tai were as excellent as they always are. I tried the Salmon Sliders and thought they were pretty great, too.
When we started planning our SoCal trip we decided that we should make this a priority. We’d never visited in the past, since most SoCal trips were centered in Orange County (and almost always with the kids). But we knew this place wouldn’t last forever.
Unfortunately, they closed just a few weeks before we got there. A missed opportunity, and a lesson learned: you’ve got to visit these places while they’re still around.
Regular readers will know that Jamaican Rum is my favorite and that I prefer heavy, flavorful rums without sugar added. So, the “Spanish style” rums that are lighter and (from some countries/distilleries) have added sugar aren’t usually the ones I normally go for (though, I do have a sweet spot for Pampero Aniversario).
I was so pleased to try this release from Diplomatico that is based just on Pot Still distillate, one of the rums I’m trying from the Forbidden Island Kill Devil Club 2.0 list. I’ve never been impressed by Diplomatico’s releases up to this point and find the added sugar usually imparts flavors that I don’t think are palatable. But this Pot Still release is quite good. Still not as heavy as rums from Jamaica, but definitely hefty enough to savor and figuratively “chew on” for a while. Check it out.
Found this in a gossip column from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, dated February 4, 1953. The article references the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s “newly revised drink list” which we all know was the place where the Mai Tai was introduced to Hawaii.
And quite notably, Trader Vic’s indicates that his favorite drink is the Mai Tai, “a heady concoction with a rum base.”
It is easy to see some of the statements about the Mai Tai from Trader Vic the man and Trader Vic’s the corporation through the lens of being behind a drink that became world famous. But here, at the birth of the Mai Tai’s rise to fame is Vic himself extolling the virtues of the cocktail. It also gives some perspective to Vic’s role in the “Mai Tai Origin Wars” and how much effort he went through to be known as the father of the cocktail. The Mai Tai appears to be his favorite child.
The article’s capper paints clearer picture of the man with the closing remark that “Vic says his job gives him heartburn about once a week.”
Years ago, this was the Orange Curacao I started using for Mai Tais and other cocktails. The brand doesn’t have a great rep in the craft cocktail community, and the cheap price is not a sign that this is a premium spirit. DeKuyper is 30% ABV and made from orange, lemon, and curacao fruit. Plus coloring, I’m sure.
Tasting this neat, I felt that this was lacking character but in a Mai Tai it actually works perfectly well. It doesn’t add any unpleasant flavors, and in a blind taste test against my preferred Ferrand Dry Curacao I had a very difficult time choosing a favorite. In fact, both times when I split hairs to declare a victor the Mai Tai I chose was the one with DeKuyper. More taste comparisons to come.
I do prefer my Orange Curacao to have a higher ABV, so DeKuyper being only 30% means it won’t be my recommended brand. But if you’re looking to send $11 for a bottle rather than $28, this doesn’t seem to be a bad option.
The Tia Mia is basically a Mai Tai where 1 oz of rum is replaced by Mezcal. This agave spirit hasn’t been my favorite (I’ve only recently warmed to Tequila), since its signature “smoky” taste isn’t really my thing. Certainly in this format, where the Mezcal is tempered by some Jamaican rum and the sweeteners, it is more palatable. But I probably wouldn’t choose this normally, since with ratio the Mezcal was still very much up front.
Spicy/smoky is not really my thing, but if you like Mezcal then give the Tia Mia a try.