Tiki Kon weekend is here, and the first event was a ticketed, private seating at Portland’s world class tiki bar Hale Pele.
Of course we started with Hale Pele’s Mai Tai, and damn that is a fantastic cocktail! This is still made according to their longtime specs with 1½ oz Cobura Dark Jamaican rum along with ½ oz of Wray & Nephew Jamaican Overproof rum. So flavorful, and one of the best Mai Tais you can buy anywhere on planet earth.
Such a great time at Hale Pele when filled with tiki people, and the Hale Pele team really put on a great show with the fire drinks. Mrs. Mai Tai started with her default cocktail the Lava Flow (yummy!) and then we shared a flaming Jet Pilot. Such a great cocktail and even more special when set on fire by Hale Pele’s team of fire experts.
We really like the food at Hale Pele. My Mahi Tacos were fantastic, as was the Kalua Pork sandwich.
We also have to thank Appleton rum for the wonderful pour of their incredible Appleton 15 rum, along with a small rocks glass. Thank you to Martin and Rebecca Cate for hosting the event, and the entire Hale Pele crew.
It’s June 30, which is halfway through the year and also the first of two unofficially recognized Mai Tai Day cocktail holidays. So, this is a great time to review our list of the best Mai Tais we’ve had so far this year.
Note that many of these feature custom rum blends compared to the standard-issue at these locations. Sometimes you want a Mai Tai with a special rum, and if you ask nicely the bartender will surely be able to accommodate the request. This can often lead to an excellent cocktail.
Honorable mentions: Deck, Halekulani Hotel, Drunk Munk, Tonga Hut, Trader Vic’s Emeryville and San Jose Airport
1. Birds of Paradise Lounge With industry and event bartending experience it’s no wonder that the house Mai Tai with four rums from Mariella and Cory Bravo is fantastic. Great application of Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Plantation Xaymaca, and Kō Hana Kea.
Can’t get into the specific reasons why but I made visits to three of the Bay Area tiki bars last night. And of course even if went there for other reasons you can’t leave without getting a cocktail.
Smuggler’s Cove: Hibiscus Rum Punch. Fruity and light, quite flavorful.
The Kon-Tiki: their very good Mai Tai and (not pictured) their best-in-the-world Cheeseburger.
Forbidden Island: Ohana night special cocktail called Black Hole Sun, by Sara Rivas. Citrus, Pineapple, Honey, Bourbon, Demerara 151, Dash of absinthe, Dash of bitters. Leaning spicy, this was pretty good!
Apple Maps in the car really came in handy yesterday. Just 30 mins from the Cove to Kon-Tiki at rush hour!
Nice to see familiar faces along the way. Such a blessing to have so many great destination experiences in the Bay Area.
The recipe for this Mai Tai riff was included in the 1st edition of Drinks of Hawaii in 1971. Author Paul B. Dick included this recipe, alongside a recipe for what was then the standard issue Mai Tai that included equal parts of Orgeat/Curacao/Rock Candy and both Light rum and Dark Jamaican rum. The illustration is by Harry Lyons.
The Ilikai Hotel was the first high-rise hotel in Waikiki and was at the peak of its cultural popularity in the early 1970s, being seen each week in the opening credits of Hawaii Five-O (the hotel was used the 2010 remake series credits, too). The cocktail is a pretty standard issue Island Mai Tai version, including two ounces of Pineapple Juice and a float of dark flavorful rum. Appleton Punch rum was the successor to the Wray & Nephew Dagger line and was issued at 43% ABV.
Ili Tai ¼ oz Lime Juice 2 oz Pineapple Juice 1 oz Sweet & Sour mix ¾ oz Orgeat ¾ oz Orange Curacao Build over crushed ice, mix, and then float 1 oz Appleton Punch Jamaican Rum
We had the pleasure of flying out of San Jose a couple weeks ago on the 1st anniversary of Trader Vic’s SJC – the world’s best airport bar. The problem was that our flight was at 7:30 in the morning, so our visit to Vic’s was at opening at 6 am (Mai Tais at 6:15 am!). And the 1st anniversary celebration was at Noon that same day, so all the event merch was held under lock and key. The staff graciously tried to get into it, but no luck.
So we have to thank our benefactor for getting us this amazing Trader Vic’s San Jose Airport glass, and the incredible airline wing-style pin. Mahalo, friend.
To celebrate I made a Trader Vic’s Grog. This is one of the cocktails I’ll sometimes go to at the restaurant when I look for something besides the Mai Tai. It’s a pretty good cocktail in this format, and is basically a crushed-ice and double sized version of the Siboney cocktail that’s served up.
For this version, I used two flavorful Jamaican rums. Some Worthy Park 109, a dark Jamaican rum at 54.5% ABV, alongside Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Gold. I also made a tiny tweak by adding ¼ oz of simple syrup so that the cocktail was slightly less tart.
Trader Vic Grog 1 oz Lemon Juice 1 oz Pineapple Juice 1 oz Passionfruit Syrup (Liber) 2 oz Dark Jamaican Rum 1 dash Angostura Bitters Add simple syrup to taste Shake with crushed ice and garnish with mint.
It is not without a great deal of irony that after being a tiki bar wasteland for decades, that we salute San Jose that now has two very good tiki bars with this Trader Vic’s location and Dr. Funk downtown.
Starting to get really excited for our return to Tiki Kon next week. We had a great time in 2018-2019, and I love the venue and management of this event. We’re starting with the Thursday 4 pm private seating at Hale Pele and are also doing the Sunday home bar tour.
Had a nice visit to Dr. Funk last night for the monthly meetup of South Bay Ohana (more info in the South SF Bay Area Tiki Ohana group on Facebook). I went dry since our return from Hawaii, but it seemed like a good time to jump back on the horse.
The outdoor “Bootleggers Bay” section of the patio is getting some additional decor enhancements. This section of the patio is open in the evenings on weekends as an additional bar station to address capacity constraints for the popular San Jose tiki bar. The netting and the bird of paradise treatment on the fencing looks great.
Some of you know my previous claim to fame was as the founder of Lip Balm Anonymous back in 1995. Did a bunch of media appearances including being the focus of a two part investigative report on the Daily Show back in ‘98 (not joking…). The addiction is real, even if the tone isn’t serious.
So we have to thank our longtime friend @wyrdnet for sharing this one with us. I mean what’s worse than addictive lip balm? Addictive flavored lip balm that also is an example of a terrible Mai Tai.