Fremont Mai Tai at Home Tiki Bar

The OG name for the Ultimate Mai Tai and featured on a party menu from our friends Brenda and Glen’s place. Always honored when people want to put my Mai Tai on a menu and make it the right way.

Their home tiki bar has a namesake cocktail The Cannibal’s Eye that is absolutely fantastic too.

Latitude 29 Orgeat is Back!

There were worried grumblings in some online communities for the past few weeks when it seemed like every product from Orgeat Works Ltd. was not available for sale. Orgeat Works is the Brooklyn-based producer of several cocktail syrups including our all-time favorite: Latitude 29 Orgeat.

Thankfully, there was an update today on Facebook: “Just letting everyone know OWL syrups are back in stock. Took a pause to restock and catch up on fulfillment after relocating Orgeat Works here in Brooklyn. Let the Mai Tais flow!” Our long national nightmare is over!

Latitude 29 Orgeat was developed in conjunction with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the proprietor of the Latitude 29 Restaurant and Bar in New Orleans, and we think this clear and floral syrup is the best. The mild almond flavor doesn’t feature any marzipan aftertaste like you get with some orgeats and is stable in the fridge for months.

We also like and recommend Orgeat Works T’Orgeat Toasted Almond Syrup if you’re looking for something both darker and bolder. Both are available now and the company is here to stay – so if something is on backorder do know that it will be available soon. Free shipping on orders of $85 or more.

Tiki Dreams: From Far-Away Fantasy to Pop-Culture Phenomenon / Napa Valley Museum Yountville

We enjoyed a trip up to the Napa Valley Museum Yountville to view the exhibition running now through through December 31, 2023. The collection is curated by Baby Doe & Otto von Stroheim of Tiki Oasis and it tells a chronological story of tiki in popular culture with an emphasis on venues from the Bay Area. Those venues include Trader Vic’s of course, but also The Lanai, Tiki Bob’s, and more. Each named venue features a nice chronology and plenty of historical details and artifacts.

The collection includes some large tikis, a tiki mug collection, and plenty of artwork. There’s an incredible tiki by Crazy Al (unfortunately not attributed in the museum) that has nods to the different carving styles from across the Pacific. And there’s a custom-built bar built by Woody Miler and used for events.

Overall, the exhibit is well worth the drive and modest entrance fee. We went first thing on Saturday and avoided the typical weekend traffic jams. A California Road Trip exhibit downstairs will also scratch the itch for fans of midcentury kitsch.

The exhibit also features a gift shop with a great selection of items from Trader Vic’s, McBiff, Heidiline, Tiki and Stitch, and more. The great looking event mug by Woody Miller that pays tribute to the Barney West tiki outside Trader Vic’s is only available at the ~monthly ticketed special event receptions: June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16, October 7, December 2. Check the website for event details and ticket links.

Tropical Standard Book Event at Trader Vic’s

A wonderful evening at Trader Vic’s where Eve Bergeron welcomed authors Garret Richard and Ben Schaffer who discussed their new book Tropical Standard. The authors signed copies and held a Q&A about topics within the book. We thought Schaffer did a good job sort of leading the discussion points and throwing it to Richard for deep dives on various topics. Lots of smiling head nods when Richard noted “Lime, sugar, and spirit is nature’s alcohol delivery system.” A very tight and breezy hour or so. 

Richard also discussed the approach for his Mai Tai recipe, noting that he uses ⅝ oz of Latitude 29 Orgeat (2:1 syrup) and two orange liqueurs to provide an ounce of sweet to balance the ounce of lime juice. He mentioned going to 2¼ oz of rum to deliver the equivalent of the booziness of mid-century rums.

The authors also brought Tommy’s Margarita creator Julio Bermejo to discuss his approach to that cocktail, procuring and using limes, and more. Bermejo’s adjustment to use a watered down Agave Syrup in lieu of Triple Sec in the Margarita reinforced some of the author’s ideas around Sugar Adjustment for preparing cocktails, and Bermejo is a charismatic speaker in his own right.

Three cocktails from the book were featured and prepared in the Cook Room where the book discussion was held. I heard only great things about Yacht Rock, which I did not try, but I did enjoy the two others.

  • From Dusk Till Dawn was quite delightful, featuring a delightful Blood Orange Syrup. The use of a Blood Orange Syrup allows the flavors of that fruit to be used but in a format that is sweet enough to work with the spirit and doesn’t water down the drink.
  • Pineapple Princess was a delicate cocktail that uses a Pineapple Syrup and milk washed rum. I thought this was great.

We thank the authors for signing the book and for bringing forth the ideas about preparing tropical cocktails using these different techniques.

Fire Drinks

Always a big hit in the tiki bar, and did you ever notice that once someone orders one that’s all anyone else orders for a while? People want to experience a fire drink for themselves.

Especially when they’re as well done as this one here from Dr. Funk in San Jose. Mrs. Mai Tai and I were downtown and popped in around 3:30 on Sunday for a quick drink.

Behold the Phoenix Rising!

In this case the fire is no mere gimmick. Phoenix Rising features smoky Mezcal, along with Mexican rum, Aperol, pineapple, lime, coconut, cinnamon, and Serrano tincture. So, it’s quite spicy and smoky, where the smoking ciders of the flaming garnish actually serve to enhance the cocktail rather than detract from it.

This drink was too spicy for me but Mrs. Mai Tai loved it and I think it’s a great option to have some different kind of flavors in your tropical cocktail.

Appleton Estate Legend 17 Details

Appleton unveiled details of their forthcoming Appleton Estate 17 Year Old Legend Jamaica Rum release this week. The rum was developed by Appleton’s master blender Joy Spence using four rare distillates to replicate the formula for Wray & Nephew 17, the original rum that Trader Vic used in the Mai Tai. Issued at 49% ABV and aged in ex-Bourbon oak barrels, Legend replicates the original by being 100% pot still distillate.

Spence was quoted in a Forbes article about the release, saying “When I made the Mai Tai with this rum. I tell you, I was in heaven. I sat in my garden and I said this is most amazing Mai Tai ever.”

Appleton Estate

Due to the rarity of the distillate, only 1500 bottles will be available globally, never to be produced again. Legend will be available at select “premium retailers” starting in June 2023, in the United States, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Denmark, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong. List price is $500 per bottle.

Their hyped May 17 announcement date coincided with the selling of a few bottles via Blockchain broker BlockBar, where the early adopters are guaranteed an NFT and a bottle. Or, they are now in a position to flip the rum to the highest bidder, with some bottles now well over $1000.

The Mad Scramble Starts in June

You’d think that with a $500 list price that maybe it would keep away some buyers. Heck, even Appleton’s $300-$400 Hearts releases are still found out there here or there. But given the hype it seems that Legend will be very difficult to obtain. We know a few famous venues and collectors who won’t be getting Legend even after they asked.

Personally, I’ll be traveling in the British Isles for the last two weeks in June. So, there’s nary a chance I’ll be able to jump on my favorite retailer’s customer email and snap this release up like I did with the Appleton Hearts release. The whole NFT thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

Maybe someone will take pity and offer me a tot or two.

Applebee’s $6 Mucho Mai Tai

We’re going to take a trip you might not be expecting, so buckle in.

Not nearly as infamous as the $1 Mai Tai that Applebee’s ran as a special in 2019, the $6 Mucho Mai Tai nonetheless can be a compelling offering for suburban drinkers. So, Mrs. Mai Tai and found ourselves sampling cocktails and eating pretzel bites on a Wednesday evening.

The Mucho Mai Tai is part of a new “$6 Sips on the Beach” menu that Applebee’s says are “made with premium spirits and served in a signature Mucho glass.” In this case the “premium spirts” are Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Tito’s Vodka. So, not really premium.

The Mucho Mai Tai cocktail features Captain Morgan Rum with pineapple, orange, and lime juices and finished with lemon-lime soda and a gummy pineapple. This was about as mediocre as you might expect from this particular Mai Tai snob, even at the $6 price point. I think the gummy sank to the bottom and I never did bother fishing it out. But at least I felt the booze.

Mucho Mai Tai

There’s a happy ending to this story, thanks to Mrs. Mai Tai who ordered a Shark Bowl.

The Shark Bowl is a blue slushy drink with Captain Morgan, “tropical fruit flavors”, and a gummy shark garnish. I didn’t have high hopes for this, but I’m pleased to report it was actually pretty good for what it is. Not too sweet, and cool, pleasant, and refreshing. We even took one to go for our son and it traveled well.

Thus ends our report from the suburbs.

Shark Bowl

Tropical Standard: Cocktail Techniques & Reinvented Recipes

2023’s most interesting cocktail book comes from Garret Richard (Sunken Harbor Club) and Ben Schaffer (The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual). “Tropical drinks” are sometimes looked down upon by cocktail snobs and even tiki purists as being “lesser”, but the book describes how these juice-heavy cocktails can be elevated using modern techniques.

While each cocktail gets a photo, this is not a coffee table book full of pretty pictures. Instead, this will appeal to those looking to understand the methods of making great cocktails and also to learn how longstanding recipes can be improved. There are reimagined recipes for the Blue Hawaii, Ray’s Mistake, and many others.

The Mai Tai from Tropical Standard

Richard’s acclaimed Mai Tai recipe is included, without any need for significant reimagining. The authors state “It does not suffer from any defect in its conception”, yet acknowledges that today’s Mai Tai can’t exactly replicate one from 1944. The recipe is fairly complex, using two orange liqueurs, three rums, and a few drops of Salt Solution to heighten the flavors. The spent lime shell goes inside the cocktail, not on top. Check the book for the recipe but suffice to say that the Mai Tai is quite fantastic.

“New versions of this pivotal cocktail are constantly advanced and debated by bartenders world-wide. It is nigh on impossible to improve on a drink as iconic as the Mai Tai, but with its collection of small adjustments, rediscovered techniques, and precise flavor pairings, the Mai Tai you are about to make will banish all others from your heart.”

Other preparation techniques include ice and dilution, acid adjusting citrus, and even sugar adjusting. These are presented in an open way, not in one that talks down to the reader – which this lazy home bartender appreciates. There are many opportunities to reconsider long-held personal tendencies and to consider new approaches.

Tropical Standard is available today at fine booksellers everywhere.