Mrs. Mai Tai and I took our adult sons to get their first COVID vaccine shots in the morning and then we arrived after noon for the Trader Vic’s Sunday Brunch and Mini-Bazaar. We had planned to just do shopping (more on that later) but we spotting a small table out on the patio and out of the sun and the staff was able to seat us without a reservation.
We enjoyed a light brunch, but what I really enjoyed was a freshly prepared Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. So frosty and refreshing. This is the best one so far in 2021.
Mrs Mai Tai enjoyed her Guava Mimosa, and it made a nice bubble bath for the Menehune!
So nice to see so many familiar faces at Vic’s today, some of which I know are toe-dipping back into group indoor dining. We will be in that place soon.
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.
Mrs. Mai Tai and I spent Friday checking out antique and retro-modern stores in the Palm Springs area. We saw a lot of great stuff and further posts will detail the treasures we came home with.
For dinner we went to Lulu just around the corner from where we were staying downtown. We loved our meal and set the evening in motion with a couple cocktails (a Raspberry Lemon Drop for her and a Sidecar and Daiquiri for me). We like this restaurant and the patio dining was working very well.
We then took a stroll up the street for round at Tonga Hut. Knowing their house Mai Tai is a combo of Coruba and a light rum, I ordered it “with just Coruba and extra orgeat.” That was a fantastic Mai Tai, the best so far of 2021. Meanwhile Julie went with one of her favorites, the Macadamia Nut Chi-Chi. Very fast service at Tonga Hut this evening.
Our second round at Tonga Hut was taken to-go. Julie had the classic Bees Knees cocktail, quite well prepared. I wanted to try something different and tried the Mojave Punch that features Hibiscus syrup. That proved to be a good choice because I thought it was wonderful, leaning to the tart side but with a good flavor that worked great over ice.
Tonga Hut remains our recommended choice for Tiki Newbies in Palm Springs as it has a little bit of everything and the cocktails are usually pretty good. I didn’t love the heavy use of Beach Boys for the music being played, but that was our only gripe as our short visit was otherwise quite lovely.
We had a great time cooling down from a hot (for us) day in Palm Springs with dinner and cocktails at The Reef at the Caliente Tropics Resort. We arrived shortly after 6 pm with the party in full swing and ended up being seated inside near the door (our first indoor dining in months). I’ve got a vaccine appointment for Monday, so somewhat looser considering the circumstances and the indoor seating was quite socially distant.
DJ Baz aka “Steely Cruise” was spinning a great selection of Yacht Rock tunes and put on a great show with retro audio clips, some additional percussion, and witty repartee. Unfortunately, he didn’t have my requested song, “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship, because the internet wasn’t around in the late 70s to early 80s and wasn’t able to download it, but still played some great songs. A couple regulars were prepared wearing “captain” hats and there was a great deal of revelry that we haven’t experienced in over a year.
Mrs. Mai Tai and I did salads and lighter fare for dinner, but we enjoyed our cocktails. Julie had the Macadamia Nut Chi-Chi and I started with a Mai Tai (ordered with “heavy orgeat) that was truly fabulous; the best so far of 2021. I followed with the Planter’s Punch that I also found to be excellent.
We enjoyed our stay at this Shelter Island hotel with its longstanding Polynesian theme. While the extended beams on the lobby A-frame aren’t there anymore, this place still has a lot of the old spirit. They even were playing Hawaiian music down by the pool one day when I went down to cool off.
Rooms are okay and nicely appointed, commensurate with the price we paid. The bed was a little creaky but WiFi was solid and while we were at the end of the wing, we didn’t encounter any noise issues. Overall the grounds were in good shape and while the on-prem restaurant is closed, there’s a takeout window that was handily available downstairs from our room. Cocktails were… not craft, but staff was friendly and efficient. We did take out dinner one night and everything came out just fine.
The vibe on shelter island is relaxed and perfect for our vacation. We enjoyed watching the Navy ships sail by, as well as the nearly marina views.
Our first full day in San Diego was a lazy morning for Mrs. Mai Tai. Meanwhile, I crossed town to Quality Liquor to pickup a bottle of the Hamilton Florida Rum Society blend.
We walked over to Bali Hai for lunch and had a relaxed time outdoors under an umbrella, listening to Hawaiian music while glancing at San Diego bay. Our service was fast and friendly, and we enjoyed our meal. I stated with the beef skewers and had the kalua pork bowl as my main course while Julie had a tasty salad and finished with the poke bowl.
Julie had the Big B’s Bri-to, an original cocktail with vodka, soda, and juices. Meanwhile, I ordered the infamous Bali Hai Mai Tai, a drink that can barely be called that due to the minute portions of orgeat, triple sec, and sweet and sour mix. It’s mostly about five ounces of rum with ice and it honestly isn’t great except for getting you super drunk (I didn’t even finish mine). To be fair, the waitress was warning patrons about the strength of the cocktail and redirecting to other cocktails such as the Mr. Bali Hai instead. And, the Bali Hai Mai Tai is only $9.25, which is pretty cheap for such a boozy cocktail sold in California.
I took a chance on a second cocktail and tried the Goof Punch with Hamilton Demerara Rum, Coruba Jamaican Dark Rum, Cruzan Aged Light, Trader Vic’s Orgeat Syrup and a blend of fruit juices. I ordered this with “heavy orgeat” thanks to the light hand I experienced with the Mai Tai and was rewarded with a very tasty cocktail. I really loved the Goof Punch, with heavier rums and just the right amount of pineapple juice.
We enjoyed our visit and took the rest of the afternoon for a drive to various locales. Well, Mrs. Mai Tai drove, not me. I’m writing this after dinner and I’m still inebriated.
Mrs Mai Tai and I arrived in San Diego and checked into Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island. We are still not in indoor dining mode, so we did take-out from Ketch that was recommended. On the way to pickup I did a quick visit to the seminal Shelter Island liquor store, Trader Mort’s. Pretty good selection considering the store itself is fairly small. There are a couple Trader Mort’s mugs for sale that look great. I picked up some Myers’s Jamaican rum in a dainty 375ml bottle that will come in handy on our trip.
The dinner process from Ketch was weird. They have take-out available on their website via Chownow, but when I arrived to pick up they sort of treated it as if it was some sort of alien ordering system. And then the food pickup was in one place, but the to-go cocktails were a separate pickup. This is unusual 13 months into COVID take-out mode.
Thankfully, our dinner from Ketch was great. Some excellent salads and seafood cocktail apps, plus the cocktails were pretty good (considering the bartenders are free-pouring). Mrs. Mai Tai loved her Spa Day cocktail with vokda, elderflower, lemon, and cucumber soda. Meanwhile I enjoyed the “Trader Mort’s Mai Tai” featuring Trader Vic’s Royal Amber rum, orgeat, curacao, lime, and sugar.
We enjoyed dinner in the room, overlooking bayfront views from our second floor room at Humphrey’s. Vacation is going well, so far.
Mrs. Mai Tai has spring break from teaching so we are taking a trip to Southern California. Our first day was to get us as far as Anaheim for some socially distant gazes at Mickey’s house. We did arrive locally early enough for us to check out the last hour of the Hardcore Tiki Marketplace taking place at Bamboo Club in Long Beach.
This was a nice tiki marketplace with about 10 vendors. We picked up this painting by Ken Ruzic that will go great in our bedroom.
The Bamboo Club was open indoors and also with their very large covered outdoor space, so we opted for an early dinner. The DJ was playing garage rock which I didn’t love at first (it was pretty loud), though the ecclectic set of patrons demonstrating their retro rock sensibilities seemd to be loving it. I liked it more after my Mai Tai.
The cocktails at Bamboo Club were pretty good. My Mai Tai was good, not great, but more than passable. Meanwhile Mrs. Mai Tai loved her Fluffy Banana (which I agreed was excellent). We enjoyed the food, too. I had Spam & Eggs and Julie had a veggie curry which she said was outstanding.
We took a peek at the indoor portion and this place seems like a dark, dirty and retro tiki bar. Very cool, and glad we made it this time.
This recipe came to me in a dream a couple nights ago, where it was a deep orange in color and in flavor.
Orange Blossom Dream 1 oz Lime Juice ½ oz Orgeat 1 oz Orange Liqueur (Clement Creole Shrubb) 1 oz Aged Jamaican (“Gold”) Rum (Appleton Signature) 1 oz Aged White Rum (Denizen 3) 4 Maraschino Cherries Shake with Ice
Turns out that reality isn’t nearly as good as the dream was. This Mai Tai riff wasn’t a winner.
I think I’ve cracked it. I have noticed that Bali Hai does list Orgeat and Triple Sec alongside the rum and other “no juice” ingredients, so my second version without either must not be correct.
This is was based on a comment from @icecrushersd in a previous Instagram post and indeed seems to taste like the Bali Hai Mai Tai that I remember. Except that I didn’t find this too bad. Maybe I’m just so used to drinking straight rum that the tiny affordances of other ingredients is feeling like a luxury. Your actual mileage may vary.
The True Bali Hai Mai Tai ½ oz Sweet and Sour Mix – or ¼ oz Lemon Juice and ¼ oz Simple Syrup ¼ oz Orgeat ¼ oz Triple Sec 2½ oz Cruzan Light Rum 2½ oz Coruba Dark Jamaican Rum Shake with ice
Yes, five ounces of rum.
I’m looking forward to comparing to the legendary Bali Hai original.