We worked hard at Ultimate Mai Tai Headquarters to come up with a great Mai Tai using Kuleana’s rum expressions. With four Kuleana rums to work with it was difficult to hone in on the right formula, but after exhaustive testing this one really stuck the landing. The cocktail has complex and fruity flavors that will remind you of the islands, but still remaining true to the original Mai Tai formula.
I wanted to use at least two Kuleana rums, especially their Hawaiian Rum Agricole that I find delightful. But that rum has such as unique taste it can overpower other rums, even Kuleana’s premium aged expression Hōkūlei. So we dialed the Rum Agricole back and added Kuleana’s lightly aged rum, Nanea.
To give the cocktail a tropical twist, we replaced the ¼ oz of rock candy syrup with liliko’i/passionfruit syrup. Because sometimes you want the flavor but not the foam.
Ultimate Kuleana Rum Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman 1 oz Lime Juice ¼ oz Passionfruit Syrup ½ oz Orgeat ½ oz Orange Curacao ½ oz Kuleana Hawaiian Agricole Rum ½ oz Kuleana Nanea Rum 1 oz Kuleana Hōkūlei Rum Shake with crushed ice and garnish with pineapple and cherry
Products used: Small Hand Foods Passionfruit Syrup, Latitude 29 Orgeat, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao.
If you have these rums, give this recipe and try and drop a comment with your impressions.
Regular readers will know we have Mai Tais all the time and love to play with using different rums. Some are better than others, of course, but you rarely get a dud when doing a Mai Tai that’s been formulated to support the rum in the cocktail.
With more complex cocktail recipes you’d think switching out a little bit of rum for another wouldn’t make a difference. Well, for this one I did find that the swap was definitely noticeable and for sure not an improvement.
I didn’t have any limes the other night so I made this cocktail by Laura Miller that uses lemon juice. I’ve made it before and it is a delicious blend of flavors.
Monkey Business by Laura Miller ¾ oz Lemon Juice ½ oz Pearl’s Hideaway Falernum ¼ oz Dry Curacao 1 oz Giffard Banane du Brésil Liqueur ½ oz Hamilton Pot Still Black Rum 1 oz Plantation 5 yr Rum 2 dashes Forbidden Bitters Ideally, garnish with banana wedge, dehydrated lemon wheel, and plastic monkey.
I subbed the Plantation rum with Real McCoy. I don’t have Forbidden Bitters myself but used 1 dash each of Angostura and Peychaud’s.
Regarding the aforementioned rum swap, when I made a second round I used Doctor Bird Jamaican Rum in place of the Hamilton Pot Still Black from Jamaica. Both rums use Worthy Park distillate and are known to be flavorful and funky. I thought that maybe the higher ABV Doctor Bird would be a possible improvement. It turns out that it really left the entire cocktail a little flat.
I don’t know if this is a credit to the flavorful Hamilton rum or something about Doctor Bird’s Moscatel cask finish, but for sure it was a noticeably poorer experience. Who would have guessed that half ounce would make a difference?
Saw a reference to this vintage pamphlet cookbook produced by McKesson Liquor Co. in the early 1970s, so I had to get one for myself. Discover Gold includes a host of recipes featuring Galliano liqueur, with its unique but “undefinable taste.” The Harvey Wallbanger is here, of course, but so much more.
I gave the Mai Tai a spin, because I’m fancy like that. With a full ounce of Galliano, you’re not hiding the taste – especially when paired with a lightly flavorful White Rum. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard Mai Tai recipe.
Galliano Mai Tai 1 oz Galliano 1 oz White Rum ½ oz Lime Juice ½ oz Orgeat ½ oz Orange Curaçao Put all ingredients into an ice-filled rocks glass, stir, and garnish with mint.
If you love Galliano in a Harvey Wallbanger, like I do, even you probably won’t like this. Far too much of that unique Galliano flavor here, and it totally overwhelms the cocktail. I could barely taste the other flavors especially the scant ½ oz of lime juice. Maybe this would be better if paired with a bolder rum and inverting the lime and Galliano ratios. Maybe.
I don’t need to tell the Galliano haters that this is cocktail is a hard pass for you.
This is the 1941 version, published by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry via the private papers of Mariano Licudine – a Don the Beachcomber bartender. Quite different from the Trader Vic’s version and clearly following common Don the Beachcomber recipe traditions.
Overall this is pretty good, though I tasted more grapefruit and less honey than I expected. Maybe I had a bad grapefruit.
Myrtle Bank Punch ¾ oz Lime Juice ¾ oz White Grapefruit Juice ¾ oz Clover Honey Syrup (2:1) ¾ oz Gold Jamaican Rum (Appleton Reserve) 1½ oz Dark Jamaican Rum (Worthy Park 109) 2 dashes Angostura Bitters ¾ oz Club Soda Strain into tall glass
To celebrate, I took a run at doing a Pumpkin Spice Mai Tai. In the past I’ve used the Captain Morgan Jack-O-Blast Rum as an accent rum in a standard 1944 Mai Tai. That rum isn’t being produced anymore, so I decided to try this a different way by making a pumpkin spice simple syrup.
Pumpkin Spice Mai Tai 1 oz Lime Juice ½ oz Orgeat ½ oz Pumpkin Spice Syrup ½ oz Orange Curacao 2 oz Aged/Gold Rum Shake with ice and garnish with a burnt cinnamon stick and a couple cherries.
The rum here should be flavorful but not overpowering. I used Appleton Reserve 8 but your favorite moderately aged or “gold” rum will do fine.
Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup ¾ cup Sugar ¾ cup Water ⅓ cup Canned Pumpkin Puree 1 tsp Pumpkin Spice
Heat water until just before boiling, take off heat and stir in the sugar. Once dissolved, add the pumpkin puree and spice, stirring for several minutes until the liquid has a consistent orange color. Add a little light rum and then bottle and refrigerate.
With this recipe the syrup does not hit you over the head with the pumpkin spice flavor, so you can add more spice if it suits you. I think it’s better when you just get a hint of the pumpkin flavor in the cocktail.
The Murderqueen Cocktail by Tim Harnett 1½ oz Pink Grapefruit Juice ½ oz Solerno Blood Orange Cordial ¼ oz Orgeat ¼ oz Passion Fruit syrup ½ oz Raspberry syrup 1 oz Plantation OFTD Overproof Rum 1 oz Rum Bar Overproof Rum 4 heavy dashes Peychauds Bitters Shake with ice and garnish with three dark cherries
I subbed Liber for the Blood Orange Cordial, and Chambord liqueur for the raspberry syrup. I used Latitude 29 Orgeat and Small Hand Foods Passion Fruit Syrup.
Despite the grapefruit juice and heavy rums, this cocktail is actually pretty easy to drink. It has a real nice set of flavors and seems timely for Halloween season.
Went out to dinner last night in the Bay Area suburbs. Lazy Dog Restaurant has a “Blue Hawaiian” on the menu that’s pretty close to Harry Yee’s original blue cocktail. Pineapple, Sweet & Sour, Rum, Vodka – and OJ. It came out really green but the taste was just fine.
At home I made one with a modified recipe that was even better.
Blue Hawaii (Modified) ½ oz Lemon Juice 2 oz Pineapple Juice ½ oz Simple Syrup ½ oz Blue Curacao 1½ oz White Rum Blend Shake with crushed ice.
My white rum blend is made from almost empty bottles of Denizen 3, Wray & Nephew Overproof, Myers’s White, and Three Rolls Estate. So a bit more flavorful than your standard Puerto Rican White. And way better than Vodka.
I used Giffard Blue Curacao. For this drink, I think adding another half ounce of Blue Curacao for a float would look nicer and add a bit more sweetness to the cocktail.
Note that Harry Lee celebrated his 104th birthday this week. You can read an essay about Yee from Hawaiian journalist Rick Carrol, circa late 1990s, on this website.
The iconic Mai Tai at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki was introduced by Trader Vic Bergeron in 1953. During the 1950s the reputation for this cocktail built such a following that it was described as the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959. But the Mai Tai you get today at the Royal Hawaiian differs considerably, since it uses the Pineapple Juice and Orange Juice commonly seen in Island-style Mai Tais.
1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
The earliest known recipe for the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai comes via a letter written to a customer by Trader Vic himself. This is still substantially similar to the original 1944 recipe, though with different proportion of sweeteners and notably using both a Dark Jamaican rum and also a light rum. It is light and refreshing and a good dark Jamaican rum does punch through in this recipe. Try Worthy Park 109.
1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Juice of One Lime Dash of Rock Candy Syrup Dash of Curacao Dash of Orgeat 1½ ounces Trader Vic’s Puerto Rican Rum ¾ ounce Myers’s Plantation Punch Rum Stir and decorate with fresh mint
1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai – Classic Recipe
The use of Pineapple Juice became common in Mai Tais in Hawaii starting in the 1960s, but The Royal Hawaiian seems to be a late convert. There’s a published recipe from their sister hotel The Moana Surfrider in 1968 that’s substantially similar to the 1956 version. However, there must have been pressure to include Pineapple Juice from many tourists.
This recipe comes from Drinks of Hawaii, 2nd Ed. 1972, by Paul B. Dick. The entry describes this is “now being used by the Sheraton” implying a recent change. The recipe included in the book did not specify an exact amount of Pineapple or Orange Juice except to say that they should be used in equal parts. The recipe is notable in that it describes using 3 ounces of rum, including two flavorful dark rums. But a rum float is not specified.
This recipe was later used in many books by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who designated 1 oz each for the Pineapple and Orange Juice. This seems like the correct choice, keeping the balance with the other ingredients.
1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai 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
2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai: Headscratcher
This devolved “secret recipe” was published on the Royal Hawaiian’s website, and includes some curious ingredients. The use of almond-flavored Amaretto liqueur in place of Orgeat syrup is sadly not uncommon in Mai Tais. Amaretto is fine elsewhere but doesn’t add the right flavors or body to the cocktail like Orgeat does. The use of Cherry Vanilla Puree, even in a small amount, is also a noteworthy head-scratcher.
2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai 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
2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Returns to Normalcy
In mid-2022, the Royal Hawaiian updated their website to include this updated “secret recipe” and thankfully it’s much more of a standard Island Mai Tai. It is nice to see Orgeat coming back, though I don’t find Old Lahaina rum to be particularly good. Nonetheless, I did very much enjoy the cocktail in June 2022 when I sat looking out at Diamond Head.
2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai 2 oz Pineapple Juice 1 oz Orange Juice ½ oz Orgeat ½ oz Orange Curacao 1 oz Old Lahaina Light Rum 1 oz Old Lahaina Dark Rum (float) Shake all ingredients except the Dark Rum with ice. Pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float the Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.
Congrats to our friends at The Kon-Tiki who celebrated Monday evening with the long-awaited release of their Worthy Park Single Barrel Rum. This cask-strength rum from Jamaica comes in at a hefty 66% ABV and you’ll taste every bit of the flavor. Obviously overproof and quite funky by general rum standards, but not so much that this can’t be sipped neat or on the rocks. It’s from barrel 717 and aged five years in the tropics.
These bottles are for sale. Prices vary depending on whether you buy one, two, or a case, but think ~$60 per bottle. It is a great rum and supplies are limited, so be sure to visit The Kon-Tiki soon to secure this great rum.
For the party on Monday, there were some cocktail specials featuring this rum along with other products from the Worthy Park / Rum-Bar Rum portfolio. Of course I had to try the Kon-Tiki Barrel Mai Tai and this rum is simply a great choice. One of my favorite Mai Tais of 2022. Expect to see this as a higher-end Mai Tai option in a revised menu coming soon.
Got to speak a little with Zan Kong who is the Commercial Manager for Spirits at Worthy Park. Such a nice guy and knowledgable and passionate about what Worthy Park is doing.
For many years the distillery has made a tidy profit selling bulk rum to the likes of Hamilton Rums, Doctor Bird, and others. But lately the distillery seems to be using more of their rum for their own products. I’m a fan of their mainstream aged rum release Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve, but also their unaged Rum-Bar Overproof expression and Worthy Park 109, a lightly aged dark rum. 100% pot still rum, always.