Historic John’s Grill in San Francisco

John’s Grill is one of our go-to places in the City, located downtown where we usually park and also because we like the atmosphere and food and cocktails. We totally enjoyed our dinner on Saturday. The place was pretty full but we were able to easily get a reservation earlier that same day.

There aren’t 63 cocktails on their menu but we did enjoy the Gimlet and the Cosmo.

Classic Cocktails Done Well by Faith Hingey

There’s no doubt that Faith Hingey‘s Instagram account @barfaith introduced me to a number of cocktail concepts and recipes when I started to deep dive into cocktails, but her posts the last couple years have been less frequent. Well, it turns out Faith has been working on a book. Classic Cocktails Done Well: Tried-and-True Recipes for the Home Bartender is out now with a modestly priced hardcover format, as well as an eBook version.

I really appreciate the layout of the book into spirits-focused sections, starting with Gin and then Whiskey, Brandy, Rum, and Other Spirits. Faith includes recipe adjustments and other tips for many of the recipes, so this is more than just a list of recipes and photos. There’s also an excellent index in the back, breaking down the cocktails into use cases by occasion (brunch, date night). And a crisp section up front with commentary about spirits and other ingredients, equipment, and techniques. Where other cocktails books can be quite prescriptive about equipment such as shakers, you’ll find no judgment here. The focus is on the home bartender.

The commentary and suggestions are truly helpful, and include key tips and helpful reminders about these classic cocktails. The selection of classic cocktails seems to be pretty good in my estimation, though I don’t consider myself an expert. Pictured is the Junior cocktail with Rye, Lime, Benedictine, and Bitters. Boozy but delicious.

But, there is an elephant in the room that we’d be remiss in addressing here at UMT HQ. This is a book of classic cocktails and for the rum section it is hard to argue that the Mai Tai doesn’t belong along with the Daiquiri and Mojito as an all-time favorite. But the Mai Tai isn’t included in the book because of the exclusion of cocktails with “specialty ingredients that may be less accessible or versatile for regular use across a wide variety of drinks,” meaning orgeat I presume.

I think the criteria is reasonable and orgeat is most certainly not an everyday kitchen ingredient. That said, I find it hard to believe the average home cocktail hobbyist would find orgeat harder to find than some included liqueurs and spirts such as Benedictine and Yellow Chartreuse. But, we do acknowledge that orgeat isn’t really in any other (non-tropical) classic aside from the Japanese Cocktail. Maybe we can hope for a sequel focusing on tropical cocktails, a category that I know Faith is particularly fond of.

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for the next budding home bartender, Classic Cocktails Done Well is made to order and perfectly balanced.


Tiki with Ray Live at Forbidden Island

Some shots of the interview with Otto Von Stroheim on the Tiki with Ray show, filmed live at Forbidden Island. The interview is now live on Ray’s YouTube channel, and is a breezy history of Otto’s role in our community and some stories about Tiki News, Tiki Oasis, and more. Ray is a good interviewer, and Otto knows how to be a good interviewee. Check it out.

It’s really great that Forbidden Island can host these kind of events, alongside the usual regular Tuesday night Ohana gathering shenanigans.

Tiki Kon Seminar: The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai

Recorded July 1, 2022 at Tiki Kon, we’ve combined the professionally recorded audio with the slides so that you can experience it at home. There are a couple bonus slides during the Q&A.

Everyone is familiar with the iconic Hawaiian Mai Tai that features pineapple juice and a dark rum float. This version of the Mai Tai is quite different from the original 1944 Mai Tai created at Trader Vic’s. When did the Mai Tai in Hawaii become the “Hawaiian Mai Tai?” It wasn’t in 1953 when Trader Vic brought the Mai Tai to Hawaii and is later than you might think. Learn more about this iconic cocktail and how it evolved over the years based on contemporaneous reports and published recipes.

Note that this presentation was updated for Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s. That presentation wasn’t recorded but you can view the slides on this site.

Additional Referenced Links

The Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Recipe

The iconic Mai Tai at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki was introduced by Trader Vic Bergeron in 1953. During the 1950s the reputation for this cocktail built such a following that it was described as the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959. But the Mai Tai you get today at the Royal Hawaiian differs considerably, since it uses the Pineapple Juice and Orange Juice commonly seen in Island-style Mai Tais.

Mai Tais being served at the Royal Hawaiian, June 2022

1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai

The earliest known recipe for the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai comes via a letter written to a customer by Trader Vic himself. This is still substantially similar to the original 1944 recipe, though with different proportion of sweeteners and notably using both a Dark Jamaican rum and also a light rum. It is light and refreshing and a good dark Jamaican rum does punch through in this recipe. Try Worthy Park 109.

1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
Juice of One Lime
Dash of Rock Candy Syrup
Dash of Curacao
Dash of Orgeat
1½ ounces Trader Vic’s Puerto Rican Rum
¾ ounce Myers’s Plantation Punch Rum
Stir and decorate with fresh mint

1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai – Classic Recipe

The use of Pineapple Juice became common in Mai Tais in Hawaii starting in the 1960s, but The Royal Hawaiian seems to be a late convert. There’s a published recipe from their sister hotel The Moana Surfrider in 1968 that’s substantially similar to the 1956 version. However, there must have been pressure to include Pineapple Juice from many tourists.

This recipe comes from Drinks of Hawaii, 2nd Ed. 1972, by Paul B. Dick. The entry describes this is “now being used by the Sheraton” implying a recent change. The recipe included in the book did not specify an exact amount of Pineapple or Orange Juice except to say that they should be used in equal parts. The recipe is notable in that it describes using 3 ounces of rum, including two flavorful dark rums. But a rum float is not specified.

This recipe was later used in many books by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who designated 1 oz each for the Pineapple and Orange Juice. This seems like the correct choice, keeping the balance with the other ingredients.

1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
½ oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz unsweetened Pineapple Juice
¼ oz Sugar Syrup
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Demerara Rum
1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Light Rum

2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai: Headscratcher

This devolved “secret recipe” was published on the Royal Hawaiian’s website, and includes some curious ingredients. The use of almond-flavored Amaretto liqueur in place of Orgeat syrup is sadly not uncommon in Mai Tais. Amaretto is fine elsewhere but doesn’t add the right flavors or body to the cocktail like Orgeat does. The use of Cherry Vanilla Puree, even in a small amount, is also a noteworthy head-scratcher.

2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
Build in shaker with ice:
1 oz Bacardi Rum
1 tsp Cherry Vanilla Puree
½ oz Amaretto di Saronno
½ oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh Govinda Orange Juice
2 oz Fresh Govinda Pineapple Juice
½ oz Whaler’s Dark Rum Float

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, 2019

2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Returns to Normalcy

In mid-2022, the Royal Hawaiian updated their website to include this updated “secret recipe” and thankfully it’s much more of a standard Island Mai Tai. It is nice to see Orgeat coming back, though I don’t find Old Lahaina rum to be particularly good. Nonetheless, I did very much enjoy the cocktail in June 2022 when I sat looking out at Diamond Head.

2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Old Lahaina Light Rum
1 oz Old Lahaina Dark Rum (float)
Shake all ingredients except the Dark Rum with ice. Pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float the Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Day 2022 Recap

Such a fun day in Emeryville yesterday at Trader Vic’s. Lines for cocktails and food were very well managed and plenty of outdoor seating.

My seminar on the Hawaiian Mai Tai went pretty well. A great turnout even in room doing cocktails and rum tasting and (after the door to the outside was closed) which was a little warm. Thanks to those who attended, for being engaged, and laughing at my jokes. The meme got a big laugh. Slides are available here on the site.

Photo courtesy Trader Vic’s Emeryville
Photo courtesy Trader Vic’s Emeryville

I was pleased to be a judge for the cocktail competition. Some great cocktail entries. Congrats to Marisa Miller for winning, and be sure to check out her Kunia Cooler cocktail during September at Vic’s.

Marisa Miller

So much going on. Wish there was time to socialize with more people but it was nice to see so many familiar faces. Thanks to @westcoastmseve for getting me onto the program.

And now for the actual Mai Tai Day on Tuesday Aug 30th. Cheers!

The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai – Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Day

Here’s a link to the the PowerPoint deck from my seminar at Trader Vic’s Emeryville’s Mai Tai Day today. This is a revised and expended version of the earlier Tiki Kon presentation.

It is such a pleasure to be part of Mai Tai Day and I want to thank Trader Vic’s Emeryville management, especially Faith Nebergall and Eve Bergeron.

View/Download the Presentation

Additional Referenced Links

Mai Tai Day 2021 Outdoor Fun

With indoor dining restrictions still in place, 2021’s Mai Tai Day event at Trader Vic’s Emeryville was held in the parking lot. Tikiyaki 5-0 played some energetic surf music, while some vendors were selling their goods. Trader Vic’s offered a Mai Tai slushie that was a treat on a warm and sunny day, available with or without rum. Plenty of picnic tables for relaxing and socializing.

I enjoyed the rotating guest bartender stations. It was great to try the Conga Lounge Mai Tai and I really enjoyed the premium Mai Tai cooked up by Doc Parks – complete with the first appearance of the Wilfred’s Lounge swizzle stick.

The special event glass featured a colorful design along with the recipe for a Mai Tai ’44. It notably listed the currently used Trader Vic’s Royal Amber rum, widely used in the Vic’s restaurants but pretty hard to find at retail. I do enjoy souvenir glasses with recipes on them.

See you Sunday for the 2022 Mai Tai Day event and be sure to arrive early to see my seminar on the Hawaiian Mai Tai at 2 pm.

Mai Tai Day 2020 Virtual Toast

After the frenzy of 2019’s Mai Tai Day celebrating 75 years, 2020 was bound to be a more sedate affair. This was made even more so by indoor dining restrictions in summer 2020. So, the Mai Tai Day event was held in the parking lot in Trader Vic’s then current outdoor dining area.

The special glass in 2020 was a mason jar, quite fitting considering how to-go cocktails were packaged at Trader Vic’s during this period. It’s a wonderful variant of the seminal Trader Vic’s tapa design that’s graced glassware for years.

Drinks were available from the outside bar, and food could be ordered online. I thought my Mai Tai was quite tasty on this day, which was foggy and cool in the late morning when the event opened.

Later, there was a virtual toast with those attending in person being able to raise a glass with Mai Tai fans worldwide with Trader Vic’s CEO Rhett Rosen.

See you Sunday for the 2022 Mai Tai Day event and be sure to arrive early to see my seminar on the Hawaiian Mai Tai at 2 pm.

75 Years of Mai Tai Roa Ae

In 2019, the Mai Tai celebrated its 75th anniversary. On a sunny Saturday in late August, Trader Vic’s flagship location in Emeryville held a special event to celebrate the occasion.


Every single square foot of public space was used at the restaurant, including all of the dining rooms, the outdoor patio, and the venerable Mai Tai lounge. Bands and DJs played, arts and craft vendors crammed into corners selling their wares, photo booths allowed guests to capture the moment, and a buffet provided an all-you-can-eat opportunity for hundreds of guests to sample some of the best food that Trader Vic’s offers.

And of course there were Mai Tais; eight variants in fact. Plus other Trader Vic’s cocktails, and long lines for thirsty patrons.

As the party reached its apex of capacity, Trader Vic’s granddaughter Eve Bergeron called the assembled masses together for a toast. And then she passed the microphone over to Forbidden Island and Conga Lounge tiki bar owner Michael Thanos.

Michael Thanos

Thanos was in his element. Like a country preacher, he told the story about how he lobbied to have the Mai Tai declared the official cocktail of Oakland. And then how the effort failed but at least the city did declare Mai Tai Day to be August 30. As he finished the story, he asked for glasses to be raised as he brought the assembled crowd to a fevered crescendo by proclaiming “Long live Trader Vic’s! Long live the Mai Tai!

See you Sunday for the 2022 Mai Tai Day event and be sure to arrive early to see my seminar on the Hawaiian Mai Tai at 2 pm.