Tiki Kon Presentation

Had a great time with my presentation “The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai” at Tiki Kon.

This was the first seminar of the day and everything ran pretty smoothly thanks to the fab AV and event staff (@elvis.hart, @kristin_v_s_, @kylevanderschick and team) and the excellent Tiki Kon management team of @jookygreg and @marquisdupre. Mahalo to all.

Truly appreciate the opportunity and also the audience which seemed to be very engaged taking photos of the slides and asking great questions at the end. Thank you for attending. And thanks to the Ultimate Mai Tai rooting section up front with @juliebeane @tikiwithray @dork_bot.

There is a recording and somehow we’ll make the session available, and we’re exploring additional speaking opportunities for this session that breaks several longstanding myths about the Mai Tai.

Tiki Kon Presentation

Starting to get really excited for our return to Tiki Kon next week. We had a great time in 2018-2019, and I love the venue and management of this event. We’re starting with the Thursday 4 pm private seating at Hale Pele and are also doing the Sunday home bar tour.

If you’re attending, please come check out my presentation on Friday at 1 pm on the (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai. There’s a lot more detail than in my article from Exotica Moderne or the version that’s posted at UltimateMaiTai.com. Learn how this iconic cocktail evolved over time and we’re even going to bust a couple longstanding Mai Tai myths.

I’ll have a bunch of Ultimate Mai Tai stickers on hand, featuring the fab logo by B-Rex, so if you’re at Tiki Kon please come say aloha and be sure to ask for some stickers.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai with Best Views in Waikiki

Swung by the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian and managed to grab the best seat in the house and maybe the entire beach. Ground zero for the Hawaiian Mai Tai, when Trader Vic included the cocktail on the menu in 1953. That original ‘53 was pretty close to the ‘44 and needless to say today’s RH Mai Tai is quite different. But I must say I really liked the taste, much better than the Vic’s ‘44 we had earlier in the trip. The sweet blend of flavors worked for me on this visit. And you can’t beat the view of Diamond Head.

We ended up having dinner here, including the pancakes that were perfect. Service was pretty good too, though I’m sure the waitress was simply happy to deliver one or two drinks at a time compared to the typical table full of drinks.

The Royal Hawaiian is such a charming hotel, with a few cute stores and little passageways. And somehow insulated from the hustle of nearby Kalakaua Ave.

The Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Recipe

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Classic Recipe from 1972)
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

Garnish with a Pineapple finger, Sugar Cane stick, Orchid, and Mint Sprig.

Today, the Royal Hawaiian provides the “secret recipe” for their “Original” Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, and it differs considerably from the older recipe originally published in Drinks of Hawaii. Purists will note the use of Amaretto rather than Orgeat, and a mere 1½ ounces of rum.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Modern Recipe)
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

Roll the shaker, pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float with Whaler’s Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.

Learn more the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai’s Evolution

The original Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai was very different from the two recipes shown above. Learn more about how this classic cocktail evolved.

1962 Hawaiian Mai Tai

This recipe appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on January 28, 1962 and is one example of a de-evolved Mai Tai. Though, notably, it doesn’t include any Pineapple or Orange Juice. The source is “a reasonably neutral, presumably unbiased source” according to the column, “Dining Out with the Gourmet.”

1962 Mai Tai
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
½ tsp Sugar
½ oz Grenadine
½ oz Orgeat
1 oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Light Rum
1 oz Dark Rum
Build in glass and add 2 oz crushed ice, then stir.
Garnish with Pineapple and Cherry
“For the hardier types, float a final dash of 151 proof rum. And stand back/”

This actually is not bad at all, with a pleasant rum-forward finish. Though for sure it doesn’t need the 151 added. I used Pomegranate-based Grenadine, so I can’t say how this would work with Rose’s. I used DeKuyper Orange Curacao, Cruzan Light Rum, and Myers’s Dark Rum, modestly priced spirits that indeed worked just fine in this.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 28, 1962, page 56

You can learn more about the De-Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai here on the site and at our presentation at Tiki Kon this July.

1958 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai

In 1958, a syndicated news story published in newspapers nationwide provided a Mai Tai recipe that was attributed as coming from a bartender at the Royal Hawaiian.

1 oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
⅓ oz Rock Candy Syrup
⅓ oz Orgeat
⅓ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum (Cruzan Aged)
1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Hamilton Florida Rum Society blend)

Decorate the glass with a stalk of Sugar Cane, a sprig or two of Mint, and a Pineapple stick or two.

The ⅓ ounce measures for the Rock Candy, Orgeat, and Orange Curacao are most likely due to those ingredients being batched so that the bartender can more easily measure 1 ounce of sweetener.

In practice, this cocktail is significantly too tart. Most 1944 style Mai Tais feature an equal or slightly more sweeteners compared to the citrus. Adding additional sugar made this taste better to me, but didn’t taste as rummy as I like. Only using 1 oz of citrus would have been better.

The glass was a limited edition release from our friends at Skull & Crown Trading Company, the best tiki bar between San Francisco and Tokyo. We’re going to be visiting O’ahu in June and will be making a pilgrimage to Skull & Crown where we expect to have a properly balanced Mai Tai like we did back in 2019.

New Site Feature: The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai

An important piece of cocktail journalism is launching this week with my article in the latest issue of Exotica Moderne, available today at the Tiki Caliente weekend event in Palm Springs.

The article describes how the Hawaiian Mai Tai evolved from 1953 to present day and also explodes several myths.

  • The Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai was born with Pineapple Juice in 1953.
  • Nobody knew the ingredients for a Mai Tai, so they made due with whatever they had.
  • Trader Vic kept the recipe for a Mai Tai secret until 1970.

All of the above are not true.

Just this week I saw two fresh articles that stated that Trader Vic himself added pineapple juice when he brought the Mai Tai to Hawaii in 1953. This is clearly not correct based on my research, and the Royal Hawaiian isn’t documented to have added pineapple juice until 1972!

So, we’ll be doing our best to get the word out about this. As a starting point, you can catch my appearance on the Pod Tiki Podcast episode from last week. 

Read the Article Online

Since the article was submitted for print publication, we’ve uncovered additional details on the history of this iconic cocktail. Those added items are now included on the version of the article now available on this website:

Experience the Presentation at Tiki Kon

We’ll have even more historical details and context in my presentation at Tiki Kon in July. Come join us if you’re attending and weekend passes for Tiki Kon are still available.

I’m always on the hunt for more historical details. Leave a comment or send me a message if you have any details or breadcrumbs for us to follow.

Exotica Moderne Issue 15

The new issue featuring cover art by Shag is launching tomorrow at Tiki Caliente. If you’re attending, be sure to pick up a copy! The issue ia now available for mail order as per the usual release process via www.houseoftabu.com.

Issue 15 is maybe the best one yet, featuring some great articles about Shag’s Palm Springs house, the tiki revival, Modernism Week, Frankie’s Tiki Room, plus the usual great content from regular contributors Tiki with Ray and Tiki Lindy. The issue also includes great music reviews and original cocktails from the likes of Marie King and Rory Snyder. Plus a great *centerfold* in this issue that is not to be missed. And so much more.

You can also read my article about the (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai, which I think is an important piece of cocktail journalism. Having the article published in Exotica Moderne adds to the legitimacy and value of the research and we are grateful to Ken Holewczynski for providing space in the issue as well as his design/layout expertise to bring the text to life.

Don’t miss Issue 15 of Exotica Moderne.

Appleton 17 Legend Jamaican Rum

Biiiig news, Mai Tai fans. Appleton Estate is coming out with a new rum expression aged 17 years, intended as a “re-creation of the legendary rum crafted by J. Wray & Nephew in the 1940s” that “inspired the bartending world.” No specific mention of Trader Vic Bergeron or his most famous creation, the 1944 Mai Tai, but we all know what they’re hinting at.

Take my money!

I’ve often wondered why Appleton didn’t try to tap into the nostalgia of Mai Tai fans worldwide and release a 17 year expression to match the Wray & Nephew rum used in the original Mai Tai. After rebranding their standard issue product line in 2020 and issuing mainstream and widely available 15 year and 21 year old expressions last year, plans for the 17 year expression are now public. Thanks to Cocktail Wonk Matt Pietrek for sharing the TTB filing.

A few facts:

  • Minimum aged 17 years in the tropics
  • 49% ABV
  • 1500 bottles total

Since this is a 750ml bottle, this is most likely the allocation for the United States. No specific details are shown regarding the blend, and “100% Pot Still” is not indicated on the bottle as you’d expect if it were so.

But, surely the pot still component is greater in this expression than it is for Appleton’s mainstream rum products, if this is to be a “faithful re-creation of the original.” Having tried the very limited release of the 25 year old Appleton 1995 that’s 100% Pot Still I can tell you that those Appleton pot stills are quite effective at producing amazing distillate, and makes an amazing Mai Tai

Stay tuned for further developments.


Pod Tiki Podcast: Hawaiian Mai Tai Chat

It was a pleasure to talk Mai Tais with Tony from the Pod Tiki Podcast. The new episode with my appearance is now available. Check your favorite podcast app or go to shareyourbuzz.com/pod-tiki.

Tony is a new to tiki but is exploring the territory quite well from his home in Nashville. During the show we discussed my new article for Exotica Moderne magazine, which focused on the evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai. And of course a little discussion of how to make or find a great Mai Tai.

Listen now: The Pod Tiki Podcast

Oceanic Arts: The Godfathers of Tiki

Written by Jordan Reichek, owner of Peekaboo Gallery, this new book covers the history and immense influence of art and material supplier Oceanic Arts. Founded in 1956 by Robert Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz, OA has supplied a who’s who of famed establishments: Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic’s, motion picture studios, Walt Disney World, and more.

The book is a thick 500 page tome with high quality paper and photographs. So many historical details and just plain eye candy. The forward is from Book of Tiki author Sven Kirsten.

The book is finally available from Peekaboo Gallery, the organizers of this month’s Aloha OA events at the warehouse in Whittier. After this weekend, Oceanic Arts will auction off remaining stock and Bob and LeRoy will retire.

Don’t delay in picking up this important publication. www.peekaboogallery.com