Bali Hai Sells 3 Millionth Mai Tai (with Recipe)

Congrats to San Diego’s Bali Hai Restaurant, a longtime institution located on scenic Shelter Island. The venue’s infamous Mai Tai is known to be extraordinarily potent, advertised as not being made with any juice. It’s basically rum in a glass with little splashes of traditional Mai Tai ingredients.

The 3 millionth Mai Tai was recently sold at Bali Hai, which has a ticker inside the restaurant showing how many they’ve sold. Quite a milestone for such a noteworthy entrant in the lore of the Mai Tai.

People often ask how this is made, so we present the recipe that tastes like the real thing.

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

Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour Makes the Ultimate Mai Tai

We’ve been supporters of Spike Marble’s YouTube show Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour ever since it debuted in 2020. Based in Orange Country, Spike is the frontman for The Hula Girls rockabilly group and a longtime member of the SoCal tiki scene. His YouTube show focuses on cocktails that are often made with a special guest in attendance, but some recent episode are shot in a travelogue style and shows Spike visiting commercial and home tiki bars.

Tonight’s episode has Spike tasting our Ultimate Mai Tai. Now that we’ve watched the episode, what were Spike’s thoughts on the Ultimate Mai Tai? Spike says this is “Complex, there are a lot of different layers dancing around. The rums aren’t hiding in this cocktail. That is a delicious Mai Tai. This is super good.”

Spike’s suggestion for an improvement was to add an orchid for a garnish, which is a great addition. Thanks to Spike for trying the Ultimate Mai Tai and having kind words to say about it.

Primal Mai Tai Soap

Something a little different for Mai Tai Monday this week as we go back in time to 2002 and check out the cocktail bar by the artist Shag – a bar of soap! This was in a line-up that included a Dirty Martini and Cosmic Cosmopolitan but of course the one I picked up at Tiki Fest in Seattle was the Primal Mai Tai.

Shag himself provides the directions: “Transform your tub into a tiki temple with the Cocktail Bar so authentic it comes with tiny bubbles. Bask in the mystical Mai Tai mojo. Then tuck a paper umbrella behind your ear, and head for the nearest volcano.” In other words, use it as a special tropical treat in the tub. After 22 years, there’s a pleasant and mildly fragrant smell from this bar, though I did not take it for a proper “test drive” in the tub.

There’s also a “Simple Mai Tai” recipe on the back which I prepared as directed, and I even used some 2000s era Appleton V/X Jamaica rum to provide that true 2002 authenticity. This being a recipe prior to the Craft Cocktail Renaissance(™️), the recipe subs Grenadine in for the Orgeat and uses Bar Sugar rather than something richer.

Simple Mai Tai
1 oz Jamaican Rum
¼ oz Orange Curacao
1 tsp. Grenadine
1 tsp. Bar Sugar
Juice of ½ fresh Lime
Hand shake and pour over cracked ice. Garnish with lime peel and mint sprig.

I’m using high quality Liquid Alchemist Grenadine and this cocktail was not good. Simply using the proper Orgeat and using a Demerara Syrup rather than bar sugar really made this so much better. I guess we’ve learned a few things since 2002.

Got to hand it to Shag, though, the box and packaging are really nice and who wouldn’t have impulse bought one of these at Hot Topic back in 2002?

Instagram Top Nine for 2023

I do still continue to love Instagram, where even the ads help me with my holiday shopping. Plus all the connecting and commenting on the things we love to share. Check out the fun at @UltimateMaiTai. So, here are the Top Nine Posts for 2023.

  • Appleton 17 Mai Tai with Martin Cate (497)
  • Appleton 17 at London event (370)
  • Napa Museum for Tiki Exhibition (358)
  • Cocktail Archaeologist Costume meme (348)
  • Trad’r Sam’s iconic sign (309)
  • Ultimate Mai Tai at Royal Tot (294)
  • World’s Worst Mai Tai at Make & Drink studio (268)
  • Tonga Room (266)
  • Legendary Mai Tai on Make & Drink channel (262)

So, what I’m hearing is that y’all were pretty interested in Appleton 17 Legend rum this year. Seems like you’ve chosen the correct feed for all your Mai Tai minutia.

Top Nine says I had 29,600 likes on 244 posts, an average of 121 per post, so thank you all for the likes. I’m in the “top 1% of accounts with up to 5000 followers,” so the goal next year is to be a smaller fish in a bigger pond.

Happy 6th Instagramiversary to Me

The Search for the Ultimate Mai Tai was relaunched on Instagram on this day in 2017, reviving the brand started way back in 1998. 2195 posts and counting, chronicling experiences with cocktails, connections with people in the community, and world’s leading feed of Mai Tai minutiae.

We had some great adventures in the last 12 months. A few are chronicled in the photos including some travels with Mrs Mai Tai to far off places such as Honolulu, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and various locations in California including Sacramento, Disneyland, and Napa. I attended Tiki in Waikiki and presented at Trader Vic’s as part of the SF Rum Festival.

42 different tiki bars in the last year. We said goodbye to ones in Minneapolis and Oakland but found new ones in Orinda, Petaluma, and Las Vegas. I was featured on the Make & Drink channel on YouTube and my Ultimate Mai Tai was added to cocktail menu at Tiki Tom’s.

So, thanks to so many fellow Mai Tai fans I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over the last year. I appreciate your follows, likes, and comments here and in real-life, including the discussion of very important topics such as the best orgeat and whether or not fun can be had in a tiki dive bar.


The World’s Worst Mai Tai

I found this recipe in the 1980 book from Michael Walker called simply The Cocktail Book. The entry says “There are several different versions of the Mai Tai, but this seems to be the most popular with bartenders and patrons alike.” Walker also says “this drink will taste deliciously innocuous, but beware! It has a habit of creeping up on you.”

Photo by Derek / Make & Drink

(World’s Worst) Mai Tai by Michael Walker
½ measure Dark Rum
1 measure Light Rum
½ measure Tequila
½ measure Triple Sec
1 measure Apricot Brandy
1 measure Orange Juice
1 dash Orgeat
1 dash Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Grenadine
Blend with ice until smooth. Decorate with slices of orange, lime, lemon, pineapple, and a maraschino cherry.

With all those ingredients and the elaborate garnish, I’m not sure which bartender would prefer to make this compared to a traditional five ingredient Mai Tai.

We shared this monstrosity with Derek from Make & Drink and he invited me over to the bar to try it! You can watch to the video to see our reactions but suffice to say while this might be an okay generic tropical drink it by no means should be called a Mai Tai. Not with tequila and apricot brandy.