White Sangria at Olla Cocina in San Jose

A fun Saturday night to see Depeche Mode in San Jose. We had intended to pregame at Dr. Funk but we got a little bit of a late start and there were already patients in the waiting room see the Doctor, so we had dinner at Olla Cocina a couple doors down instead.

We’ve enjoyed this restaurant over the years, and see it has returned to a traditional table service restaurant after a little while where their method was to order food when you entered. The food here is pretty good, but I do need to rave about the cocktails.

Traditional favorites the Margarita and Paloma were well-received, as was the Chicha Sangria that blends red wine with sherry and vermouth.

But the standout for us was the White Sangria, with white wine, grapefruit, elderflower, pisco, agave, pineapple, and lime. Garnished with a blackberry and grapefruit wedge. The elderflower was really forward in this cocktail and I didn’t really taste the wine much – fine by me as I’m not a big wine person. Really rich and very satisfying. So good that all ordered it for a second round and took advantage of the offer to have it served in a carafe for a little bit of savings.

Kapu Bar in Petaluma is a Sensation

Another sensational tiki destination is within driving distance of the population centers of the Bay Area with the addition of Kapu Bar in Petaluma. The large main room includes several large booths and some tables, featuring cohesive Polynesian decor and numerous tikis. Seating there accommodated via reservations and the Big Trouble (think Big Trouble in Little China) room with pinball machines serves as an overflow area. The large U-shaped bar is available for walk-in seating and there’s plenty of elbow room. The Captain’s Quarters is available for special reservations and features a separate bar and some stools and chairs.

Mai Tai

The interior of Kapu is a classic dark tiki bar and the menu is inspired by venues of the past. There’s a nice medium-sized menu of $16 tiki classics, plus a section of frozen concoctions. Food is Asian and Hawaiian inspired and though the portions are fairly small the quality is more than reasonable. Prices reflect the quality as well as the immersive nature of the venue. Music was a blend of Exotica, Surf, Jawaiian, Garage, and even some Punk. I enjoyed this eclectic blend, though the Clash was too mainstream for my taste.

Frankie’s Tiki Room alum Michael Richardson is the GM, and I would say that the cocktails are a big step up from that venue. The Mai Tai was pretty good, with some rich rums and a little bit of a heavier lean more in the Orange Curacao direction. I really enjoyed the Frozen Saturn, balanced well with tart Passionfruit. Mrs. Mai Tai really enjoyed the frozen Sesame Chi Chi, an interesting riff on the classic, and also enjoyed the Pearl Diver.


Talking to locals, the cocktail program seems to be settling in at a good place, though supply issues with specified spirts have made ongoing production a challenge. But for a new venue with staff new to the program, the issues have been minimal.

Kapu Bar is a compelling and exciting new destination for any tikiphile or newbies looking to see what the fuss is about. We found the staff to be super-friendly and extraordinarily prompt with service. We also got to see a preview of a forthcoming mug that will elevate the opportunity for those looking to take home a souvenir.

Tiki-Ko and the Sinking Ship Room

One of the nice perks of the Central California Tiki marketplace was the location in the parking lot across the street from Tiki-Ko and the Sinking Ship Room. Two world-class tiki bars across the street from the marketplace, opening at 1 pm on a Saturday! Staff was just as friendly as in our past visits, a strength of the establishment.

Tiki-Ko is a smaller space with a large U-shaped bar and some booth and lounge seating on each side. Very much a traditional tiki bar, with exotica playing and featuring colorful lighting. This set-up lends itself to some interaction with the bartenders, depending on how busy it is, of course. Mrs. Mai Tai enjoyed the Mary Ann cocktail (similar to a Tradewinds) and a delicious El Duderino with coffee liqueur and coconut cream. I had a pretty good Mai Tai but didn’t love the Navy Grog.

After an early dinner, we went back and hung out in the Sinking Ship Room, catching the last bit of the set from Par Avion. This space has a low ceiling and is elaborately decorated like the hull of a ship. Though there are a few stools by the bar, this space is really more of a lounge setup. You order at the bar and then the drinks are brought to your table. Music here is vintage 1920s, giving this a very different feel from Tiki-Ko upstairs. We both truly enjoyed the frozen Grasshopper (topped with a thin mint) and Mrs. Mai Tai liked the frozen Monkey’s Gone to Heaven cocktail featuring banana. I tried the Three Dots & a Dash which as very forward with a very grassy Agricole – not my favorite. I did enjoy the NA Saturn made with an alcohol-free Gin.

Though these two bars share essentially the same cocktail menu and staff, they’re really two different spaces (you have to exit the building to go to the other) and have different hours. Either one is amazing though, making Bakersfield a destination location for any tikiphile.

Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk

Fun times in downtown San Jose on a Tuesday night with the Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk with DJ SamoaBoy play vintage 1960s 45s. Quite a nice mix of retro tunes, mostly upbeat and peppy to go along with seeing some of the tiki ohana at the venue. It is nice to see Dr. Funk doing some things to draw folks mid-week, and a special DJ is a great option. Drink specials would also be nice, if the good Doctor would like to write some special prescriptions.

Check the Dr. Funk social accounts for future special events such as this.

I enjoyed the Three Dots & a Dash, prepared expertly by resident master bartender Paul McCoun. The Mai Tai, of course, was also quite on point. Mrs. Mai Tai really dug the Vacation in Valhalla with Venus Gin Aquavit, Apis Kurpiowski Honey Mead, RumHaven Coconut, lemon, Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters. I thought it was pretty great, too.

Lunch To Go from Trader Vic’s Emeryville

We were supposed to go away for the weekend but puppy problems meant that we had to postpone. But light traffic on 880 meant that take-out lunch from Trader Vic’s Emeryville worked just fine on Saturday.

The Crab Rangoon and Cheese Bings traveled pretty well, and are all-time favorites. Mrs. Mai Tai tried the new East Bay Lemon Butter Chicken, lightly breaded with a lemon butter sauce, capers, parsley, broccolini tips, and pake noodles. She thought it was okay, but needed more sauce.

Meanwhile, I tried the Aloha Bowl with Salmon. These bowls are similar to the same named bowls at the Vic’s at the San Jose Airport and include sushi rice, dressed greens, carrots, daikon radish, edamame, and avocado. I really liked this bowl and while I’m not always a fan of avocado it worked well here in the same way it works in a California Roll.

The to-go cocktails were right on point. The Mai Tai for me and a Chi-Chi and Bahia for Mrs. Mai Tai. Just add ice and shake. Vic’s will provide ice as part of your to-go order.

Trader Vic’s Chi-Chi

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Shootout

I’d been thinking of doing a comparison test anyway, but was inspired by this week’s episode of the Tiki with Ray show on YouTube featuring the topic of “My Favorite Mai Tai” and a discussion of Menehune Juice.

Menehune Juice is a Mai Tai variant developed by Trader Vic’s in the early 1970s and is essentially a replacement of the aged Jamaican-forward rum with a Light Puerto Rican Rum. Other variants from this time period include the Pinky Gonzales (sub Tequila) and Honi Honi (sub Bourbon). The Menehune craze of the 1960s allowed Vic to put the Menehune Juice on the menu and you even got to take one home with you.

For this test, I compared the 1944 Mai Tai, Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, and Menehune Juice as they are prepared by Trader Vic’s restaurants today. Notably, the latter two use Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate as a substitute for the Orgeat, Rock Candy, and Orange Curacao. That Concentrate is used in Trader Vic’s restaurants and is occasionally sold off the Trader Vic’s website (I bought mine as part of the Trader’s Treasures membership). For the 1944 I’m using the present day recipe that calls for ¾ oz of Orange Curacao (I used DeKuyper).

I was surprised how much I liked the Menehune Juice, which I found light and refreshing but still “rummy” in a good way. I do enjoy the Mai Tais made with the Concentrate. But, no surprise that my personal preference was for the more complex body and taste of the 1944. Mrs. Mai Tai said she preferred the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai and then the Menehune Juice, so it seems true that there’s a cocktail for everyone at Trader Vic’s.

1944 Mai Tai (Trader Vic’s present day)
¾ oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Rock Candy Syrup
½ oz Orgeat
¾ oz Orange Curacao
2 oz Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum
Shake with crushed ice and pour into Mai Tai glass
Squeeze ¼ of a lime, then garnish with spent lime shell and mint sprig

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai
Typically labeled “Our signature Mai Tai has been modified to perfection” on menus.
½ oz Lemon Juice
¾ oz Mai Tai Concentrate
2 oz Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum
Shake with crushed ice and pour into Mai Tai glass
Squeeze ¼ of a lime, then garnish with spent lime shell, fruit stick, and mint sprig

Menehune Juice
Same as Trader Vic’s Mai Tai but sub 2 oz Trader Vic’s Light Rum in place of the Royal Amber.

I used Trader Vic’s products throughout, except subbed Latitude 29 orgeat and Liber Demerara for the Rock Candy in the 1944 recipe.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Recipes

The Original 1944 Mai Tai

The Original Formula by Trader Vic Bergeron, 1944
2 ounces of 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew Jamaican Rum over shaved ice
½ ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
½ ounce French Garnier Orgeat Syrup
¼ ounce Trader Vic’s Rock Candy Syrup
Add juice from one fresh Lime.

Simplified 1944 Mai Tai Recipe
2 oz / 60 ml Aged Rum
½ oz / 15 ml Orange Curacao liqueur
½ oz / 15 ml Orgeat syrup
¼ oz / 7½ ml Rock Candy/Rich Simple Syrup or Demerara Syrup
1 oz / 30 ml Lime juice

Mai Tai Variants from Trader Vic’s

By the early 1970s, Trader Vic’s had added several cocktails to the menu that basically were variants of the Mai Tai that replaced the 2 oz of Jamaica-forward Mai Tai Rum with another spirit or ratio.

  • Menehune Juice – sub Light Puerto Rican rum. Garnish with Menehune figure.
  • Suffering Bastard – sub 3 oz rum (Light, Gold, Dark)
  • Pinky Gonzales – sub Tequila
  • Honi Honi – sub Bourbon
  • Rusky Tai (since 2016 rebranded to Vodka Tai) – sub Vodka

Trader Vic’s Island-Style Variants

Today, you’ll see the Maui Tai (with Pineapple), Mango Tai, and a Guava Tai on the menu at many Trader Vic’s restaurants. A Passion Tai is also sometimes seen. These fruity and lighter variants do actually show some restraint compared to many Island-style Mai Tais that are swimming in juice.

½ oz Lime Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice / Mango Puree / Guava Puree / Passionfruit Puree
¾ oz Mai Tai Concentrate
1 oz Trader Vic’s Gold Rum
1 oz Trader Vic’s Light Rum
Garnish with spent lime shell and mint sprig

Modern Mai Tai Recipes Served at Trader Vic’s Locations

These notably include a squeeze of fresh lime juice on the top of the cocktail, adding important flavor and fragrance to the cocktail. Sometimes this spent quarter lime is dropped onto the top of the cocktail.

1944 Mai Tai
¾ oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Rock Candy Syrup
½ oz Orgeat
¾ oz Orange Curacao
2 oz Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum
Shake with crushed ice and pour into Mai Tai glass
Squeeze ¼ of a lime, then garnish with spent lime shell and mint sprig

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai
When the 1944 Mai Tai was added to the menu at Trader Vic’s Emeryville, this version stayed on the menu and priced $1.50-$2.00 less. It is made with Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate and typically labeled “Our signature Mai Tai has been modified to perfection.”
½ oz Lemon Juice
¾ oz Mai Tai Concentrate
2 oz Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum
Shake with crushed ice and pour into Mai Tai glass
Squeeze ¼ of a lime, then garnish with spent lime shell, fruit stick, and mint sprig

San Francisco Mai Tai
Add a float of 151 rum, named after a customer in San Francisco who liked it this way. In year’s past, Lemon Hart 151 was used. Today, you often see a mix of Trader Vic’s 151 and Trader Vic’s Dark Rum being used.

San Francisco Mai Tai


Buz-Tai at Hula Hoops

The highlight of my lunch at Hula Hoops was the Buz-Tai, a Mai Tai variant developed by local raconteur Buz Deadwax. This boozy cocktail has developed a cult following due to the name, the potent nature of the drink, and Buz’s reputation as a cocktail connoisseur.

I’m not sure that Hula Hoops is making it exactly to the original specs, notably omitting the mint called for as a garnish, but also using the 151 float to served flaming. I can’t say that Hula Hoops is doing it wrong because any cocktail served flaming is a fan favorite.

I noticed that Hula Hoops prepares this with Real McCoy 5 and 3 from Barbados, which to me are upgrades from the original light and Spanish style rums called for. As described by Buz in his original recipe, the 151 rum float will eventually topple and “recharge” the cocktail. I do enjoy the new flavor combination that comes when the burnt sugar flavors of this style of Demerara rum is incorporated into the cocktail when you’re about halfway done.

Hula Hoops uses Small Hand Foods Orgeat, which regular readers will know is not my favorite. But when used in combination with the other ingredients I didn’t get any of the flavors I usually associate with this orgeat, and in fact the cocktail’s balanced flavors of sour, sweet, and spice completely worked for me.

Shockingly, I liked this more than the Mai Tai at Smuggler’s Cove the week before and even better than the Ultimate Mai Tai at Tiki Tom’s. It was just that good, at least on this day at that time. We thank bartender Maria for making an awesome Buz Tai. Check it out next time you’re at Hula Hoops.

Buz-Tai by Buz Deadwax
¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz High-quality Orgeat
¼ oz to ⅓ oz Allspice Dram (to taste)
1 oz Dry Curaçao
1 oz Blended Jamaican Rum (Appleton Signature)
1 oz Light rum
1 oz Aged Column Still Rum (“Spanish style”)
Shake with crushed ice and pour into double-rocks glass. Garnish with mint sprig.
Pour ½ oz 151 Demerara Rum into spent lime shell and place on top of the cocktail.

Lunch at Hula Hoops

It has been a minute since we patronized Hula Hoops in South San Francisco, and longer still since we ate indoors. I’m pleased to report that Hula Hoops is still going strong and doing things just as well as they always have. Lunch was chicken skewers and the Kalua Pork nachos, both very tasty.

Their small but formidable cocktail menu seems to be largely in place, including several coming via Doc Parks (of “Pagan Idol”). They have a standard 1944 Mai Tai, a Lilikoi Tai, and the Buz-Tai from local raconteur Buz Deadwax. More about the latter tomorrow.

The Lilikoi Tai is a little tart, but you can mix in the creamy passionfruit whipped topping to make it as sweet as you like. I enjoyed the topping and the cocktail.

I ordered the 1944 Mai Tai to go, and drinking it during dinner didn’t love it. Hula Hoops is using Small Hand Foods Orgeat which is not my favorite, and the orgeat taste is pronounced in the Mai Tai. So, your mileage will vary.

For Mrs. Mai Tai I got the Ube Martini to go. You can order this with vodka, rum, tequila, or gin. Not really a martini, especially when you order with rum like we did, but Ube is used throughout the cocktail and food menu at Hula Hoops so it is nice to see them leaning into this as a featured ingredient.

Service from longtime bartender Maria was friendly and efficient, and the place was quite full for lunch/brunch. Music being played is Jawaiian, the Hawaiian style of reggae, which I thought was just fine given the Hawaiian leanings of the venue. The shades were also largely drawn so it was both shadowy inside and for sure blocked out the outside world.