Mai Tai Talk on the Rumcast

It was such a pleasure to talk to Will and John, and we had a great Mai Tai discussion on the latest episode of the Rumcast.

The episode covers the history of the Mai Tai, tips for the home bartender, and how to get an awesome Mai Tai at your local watering hole. And of course lots of talk about rum for your Mai Tai. We played a game of “Mai Tai or Not a Mai Tai” and the episode ended with the Rumcast’s signature Rapid Fire round of questions.

The episode begins with a discussion of KōHana Rum from Hawaii, appropriate since Hawaii plays a seminal role in the popularity of the Mai Tai.

Give the episode a listen at Rumcast.com:
https://www.rumcast.com/episodes/mai-tai-kevin-crossman

How to Beat the Flippers

I picked up this very cool Book of Tiki 20th Anniversary Mug at the Shag Store in Palm Springs. The mug is huge – 30 ounces – to remind you of the gigantic Book of Tiki that inspired it. Such a cool design from Shag and Sven Kirsten, the author of the book.

Like many folks active in the tiki scene in the 1990s, we heard about The Book of Tiki for years before the release in 2000. Still a seminal book about the history of tiki bars, art, fashion, and more.

I paid $80 for this mug, in the orange glaze that’s part of the larger run of this mug. A far lower price than you’ll see online on eBay where it goes for over $100 and sometimes over $200!



Here is how you beat the flippers:

  • Drive 500 miles to Palm Springs (each way)
  • Refill gas tank several times ($90)
  • Have three meals a day on the road ($60-100 pp. x2)
  • Stay overnight in downtown Palm Springs hotel ($160+$35 resort fee/parking)
  • Buy mug and then walk to local tiki bar to celebrate ($20-40 pp., plus food)

So it’s easy to see how it is easy to beat the flippers. Look how much money I saved.

Love the book, love the artist, love the mug. It’s all okay.

New Issue of Exotica Moderne, Featuring My Q. B. Cooler Article

Another awesome issue of Exotica Moderne arrived today. So much great content regarding tiki culture, music, and art.

My article about the “Mai Tai Predecessor” cocktail the Q. B. Cooler is here, with fab design treatment by Ken Holewczynski from publisher House of Tabu. Look for some fun and informative quotes from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and a comparison of a couple historical recipes, which may or may not be the cocktails that influenced the creation of Trader Vic’s original 1944 Mai Tai.

Check it out and don’t wait to order your copy from www.houseoftabu.com.

The Q. B. Cooler article is also available on our site, too.

Mai Tai Swizzle

I didn’t like this Don the Beachcomber cocktail when I made it a couple years ago, but my palette has come around on some flavors over time so I thought I’d give this one another shot.

The Mai Tai Swizzle dates from the 1950s, according the Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. The recipe comes from Hawaii: Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine which is a Don the Beachcomber recipe book published by Donn Beach’s widow (who made a dubious claim this recipe pre-dated the Trader Vic’s 1944 Mai Tai). Including Grapefruit juice, Bitters, Falernum, and Pernod, the drink does contain some of the ingredients often seen in Don the Beachcomber cocktails.

Mai Tai Swizzle (Don the Beachcomber)
¾ oz Lime Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Cointreau
¼ oz Falernum
1½ oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Coruba)
1 oz Gold Cuban Rum (sub Bacardi 8)
6 Drops Pernod
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with crushed ice.

My notes a couple year ago was that this had too much citrus, and that feeling holds true today. I might have different opinions if the Cuban rum was replaced with a Demerara, so maybe I’ll try that next time. (See the results: Mai Tai Swizzle Re-Revisted)

So, I made some tweaks and added Demerara Syrup and added more Falernum. It is much better tasting and more balanced. Mrs. Mai Tai enjoyed it while finishing her cocktail puzzle.

Ultimate Mai Tai Swizzle
¾ oz Lime Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Demerara Syrup
½ oz Cointreau
½ oz Falernum
1½ oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Coruba)
1 oz Gold Cuban Rum (sub Bacardi 8)
6 Drops Pernod
1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Happy Instagramiversary to Me

The Search for the Ultimate Mai Tai was relaunched on Instagram on this day in 2017. 

Last year we celebrated by completing the Kon-Tiki Expedition rum list, including a couple of drink specials and breaking out some special rums. This year… well, it will be different.

So, virtual cheers and thanks to so many fellow Mai Tai fans I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with especially over the last year. I appreciate your follows and likes here, and the discussion of very important topics such as the best rum blend for Mai Tai or which Orgeat is best. Let’s keep it going here online and I for one am looking forward to buying drinks for a lot of people when tiki bars open back up and we get back to normal.

Stay safe everyone!

Exotica Moderne Issue 9

The team at House of Tabu have done it again with another great issue of this essential magazine covering tiki, retro lifestyle, artists, music, recipes, and more. Some great coverage of Indiana tiki bars by Tiki with Ray and a profile of San Jose artist Christine Benjamin (who did some commissioned art for Mrs. Mai Tai and me). I really liked the music reviews in this issue and picked up the new EP from the Aqualads after reading about it in the magazine. Be sure to check out my review of the Tikiyaki EP Sketches with Guitars and Bongos.

My second long-form contribution to the magazine is an article that is sort of time-capsule of the tiki lifestyle in 2020, starting with the night my world changed when I was at The Kon-Tiki in March. There is a lot of craziness in the tiki community (especially this week, if you’re following the news out of Ft. Lauderdale and Grand Rapids), but the article ends on a hopeful note that we can still find ways to contribute to our favorite bars, restaurants, and artists even while COVID rages.

Exotica Moderne is such a great magazine. Be sure to order your copy now before it’s gone. Head over to www.houseoftabu.com.

1934 Zombie

The original is the best. That’s the conclusion at Ultimate Mai Tai Headquarters after trying out three other Zombies this month and then trying the 1934 recipe.

The subtle Cinnamon flavor and heavier rums make this a much more palatable cocktail. It’s like Jeff “Beachbum” Berry says, it’s really a magnified Planters Punch with a blend of rums and other kinds of sweeteners and spices.

1934 Zombie
¾ oz Lime juice
½ oz Don’s Mix
½ oz Falernum
¼ oz Grenadine
1½ oz Jamaican rum
1½ oz Puerto Rican rum
1 oz Demerara 151 proof rum
2 dashes absinthe
1 dash Angostura bitters
6 oz crushed ice
Flash blend for 5 seconds
Don’s Mix: 2 parts White Grapefruit juice and 1 part Cinnamon Syrup.



Glassware and coasters from last year’s Kickstarter by Will Penny.

Buy Sippin’ Safari by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry for the full story about the rediscovery of the 1934 Zombie recipe.

1950 and 1956 Zombie

Continuing our theme for the week, I made the 1950 and 1956 Zombie cocktails. We can thank @official_beachbumberry for unearthing these old recipes, and if you haven’t memorized the Zombie chapter from The Bum’s seminal book Sippin’ Safari then you need to order that book right away (get the 10th anniversary edition). These lovely Beachbum Berry Zombie glasses make pairing these two cocktails a delight.

1950 Zombie
1 oz Lime juice
1 oz Lemon juice
1 oz Pineapple juice
1 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1 oz White Puerto Rican rum
1 oz Gold Puerto Rican rum
1 oz Demerara 151 proof rum
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Dash Angostura bitters
Shake with ice

1956 Zombie
¾ oz Lime juice
½ oz Grapefruit juice
1½ oz Unsweetened Pineapple juice
¼ oz Falernum
¾ oz Maraschino Liqueur (only used ⅓ oz)
¼ tsp Grenadine
1¼ oz Gold Puerto Rican rum
1 oz Dark Jamaican rum
1 oz Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum
⅛ tsp Pernod/Absinthe
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
6 oz (¾ cup) crushed ice
Flash blend



You can see which rums and ingredients I used. Overall I thought that the 1956 Zombie tasted too much like the Maraschino Liqueur, even after I used only half the listed amount. I might drop it down to a teaspoon next time.

The 1950 Zombie was better received both by me and also by Mrs. Mai Tai, as we both felt it was easier to drink. But neither of us felt like either cocktail was something we’d go out of our way to order at a bar.

Tomorrow’s post… the 1934 Zombie.

1947 Zombie

I’m sure some of you reading this might be thinking, “1947 Zombie? Your year is incorrect.” Well, friends, it is correct and it is delicious.

Behold the Zombie recipe from Victor Bergeron’s 1947 Bartender’s Guide. Trader Vic didn’t have Don the Beachcomber’s secret recipe but his Zombie is no slouch. It is boozy but very easy to drink.

Zombie (Trader Vic’s)
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
½ oz Grenadine
1 oz Orange Curacao (Cointreau)
1 oz Jamaican Rum (Plantation Xaymaca)
2 oz Puerto Rican Rum (Bacardi 4)
½ oz 151 Proof Demerara Rum (Hamilton 151)
1 dash Pernod
Stir in mixing glass with large ice cube, then pour over shaved ice in a tall glass.

A few months ago I posed a question in a Facebook group to ask what were the seminal ingredients for a Zombie (in the same way that Orgeat is the seminal ingredient for a Mai Tai). I honestly did not get any sort of consensus answer, except for a mix of rums and maybe Cinnamon syrup. We also know that Grenadine is a key differentiator between the 1934 Zombie and a Jet Pilot.

All of which means that Trader Vic’s Zombie is probably not quite as spice-forward as those who love the 1934 Zombie are expecting. But it isn’t a terrible “guess” by Vic at what made the Don the Beachcomber Zombie world famous. The grenadine is there, along with Pernod/Herbsiant that often used in Don the Beachcomber cocktails. And, the rums are pretty much exactly as what Donn used in his various Zombie recipes.

Is it as good as a 1934 Zombie? Certainly not. But I’ll tell you that it is miles better than most Zombies I’ve had at good craft-oriented tiki bars.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Happy Hulaween.

The glass is from last year’s kickstarter from Will Penny.