Alameda’s Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge is one our favorite destinations, but their standard-issue Classic Mai Tai has not been a standout cocktail on their menu. There have been tweaks over the years and if you got the right bartender it could be improved by using different rums or adjustments to the orgeat ratio. But it has never been a strength during my visits compared to other cocktails on the menu.
Tiki Lindy was recently named the GM of Forbidden Island, and Lindy said she had improved the Mai Tai by adjusting the rums. I tried one last week and for sure it is improved, with a more rum-forward flavor profile. It still has some way to go to be declared “awesome,” however. There’s another surprising option for Mai Tai fans, though.
A new Mai Tai appeared on the new FI menu earlier this year called the Viking Mai Tai. This is made with Aquavit, a spirit similar to Gin originally coming out of Scandinavian countries. FI’s Viking Mai Tai is made with Svol Aquavit from New York but made in this Scandinavian style using Pot Stills. This spirit imparts a very different taste from either Gin or from Rum.
Speaking as a rum-snob, I would not have expected to like the Viking Mai Tai but I found it to be a wonderful surprise. The cocktail’s savory botanicals worked very well with the rest of the classic Mai Tai ingredients that Forbidden Island is using. Really good and totally worth trying.
There are some winter cocktails on special at Forbidden Island right now, if Mai Tai exploration isn’t your thing. And the staff seemed to be in a festive mood the other day for the annual Tiki Mug Swap.