San Francisco’s Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel has a long history and a well-earned reputation for fine food and incredible Polynesian decor, but the cocktails have been poorly regarded by many. The Tonga Room has quietly completely revamped their cocktail menu and friends I’m here to tell you that the new cocktails are really good.
While Mrs. Mai Tai misses the old Tonga Kong, we did find all five cocktails that we tried to be good to great. The Zombie and Mai Tai from the old menu have even been redone with different spirits and ingredients. The price for cocktails at the Tonga Room remain high, functioning as a sort of cover charge for the venue’s amazing decor, but at least you’ll be impressed by the cocktails in a good way now.
The previous Mai Tai was very limey but the new Mai Tai leans more in the sweet direction and uses Bacardi 8 and Don Q. These aren’t bold Jamaican rums but most certainly the drink is better balanced and perfectly approachable for the Tonga audience. If you’re looking for something more complex, the Tiki Hunter will be more your speed, a delicious and complex punch made with Jägermeister, coconut rum, Wray overporoof, spices, juices, and an edible pinecone. The Banana Bread Old Fashioned blends Jamaica rum, bourbon, and banana into a satisfying twist on the classic.
There’s a healthy mix of cocktail styles, including a blue Margarita with salt inside the cocktail rather than on the rim. Mrs. Mai Tai loved the Seafoam Espresso Martini that includes spiced rum, orgeat, and topping of sea foam cream and black lava salt. Really great. The Tiny Bubbles is a fun tropical Mimosa featuring sparking rosé and Tonga POG juice. There are a couple of alcohol free options and the focus on glassware means the cocktails are made to be seen and appreciated rather than hidden in a mug or pineapple.
If it’s been a while, now is the time to revisit the Tonga Room and experience their wonderful new cocktail menu.