Amazing Mai Tai at Trader Sam’s

The app-based reservation system I mentioned for Oga’s Cantina worked even better getting inside at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar last Wednesday afternoon. Once I got onto the Disneyland Hotel property I tapped on Sam’s and added myself to the waiting list. The app said the estimated wait was 30 minutes. But just seconds after receiving the first “you’re on the list” text message, I got another one that said my table was ready.

Inside, the bar was not busy so it was a perfect time to cool down inside with a cocktail. Skipper Nate was working behind the bar and I ordered a Mai Tai with Appleton Reserve rum. Nate checked the order, “classic style?” which I took to mean no Agave Syrup that they use in their standard house Mai Tai. “Yes, sir,” I said. That Appleton Reserve Mai Tai was faaantastic, and I was more than happy to compliment the Skipper when he asked how it was. Very rummy, but also a wonderful flavor profile – not too sweet, not too sour. Great mouthfeel.

Classic Mai Tai with Appleton 8 Reserve Rum

Second Round, Better than the First

For the second round, I asked Skipper Nate if they had something a little more funky, and he suggested Hamilton Pot Still Blonde rum. I said that would be great – a half Appleton Reserve and half Hamilton Blonde Mai Tai.

It was one of the best Mai Tais I’ve ever had.

The funkier rum really added a nice punch to the cocktail, and elevated what was already an amazing Mai Tai. On this day it was damn near perfect.

Nearly Perfect Mai Tai with Appleton Reserve and Hamilton Pot Still Blonde rums

Thank you Skipper Nate! I will follow you into battle anytime.

That day it really came together at Trader Sam’s: relaxing in the immersive space, exotica music playing, and the light hum of conversations and laughter.

Hi-Time Wine Cellars

I’m sure many of you already know about this gem of a wine and spirits store in Costa Mesa, CA but I thought I’d post this for those who aren’t already hip. Especially for SoCal folks, this place is an essential resource.

Their store was an easy drive for us the other day during a hot afternoon when we took a break from Disneyland. So much selection: I’ve never seen a store that carries so much rum! If you’re getting started with rum, this is a great place to start your journey.

Hi-Time also does shipping to many states from their online store. Shipping isn’t cheap for a single bottle but isn’t bad if you’re doing a bunch of bottles.

Hi-Time Wine Cellars

Planter’s Punch at Dr. Funk

Working my way through the cocktail menu at Dr. Funk. The Planter’s Punch was recommended by bartender Paul McCoun  who knows I love the Appleton 12 rum that’s used in Funk’s Planter’s Punch.

And the Planter’s Punch keeps up the winning streak of amazing cocktails at Dr. Funk. So flavorful!

I also see they’ve added a logo sign above the entrance to Dr. Funk. This place has really come a long way and for anyone close to San Jose the dream is here to stay.

Top Mai Tais of 2021: Number 1, Special Mai Tai at Smuggler’s Cove

Each year we celebrate the 10 best Mai Tais that we had the pleasure of tasting in the last 12 months.

I’ll further note that the Mai Tais at Smuggler’s Cove have all been excellent this year. Not “fine” or “good”, but really excellent. They truly deserve to be on our list of Top 5 Mai Tais served anywhere.

Number 1: “Fritch’s Four” Mai Tai at Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco, CA)

When Smuggler’s Cove reopened they had a special rum flight available to pay tribute to our friend Alex Fritch who was tragically killed in May. The rums included in the flight were the five rums Alex chose as part of our 5 Bottle Rum Challenge video recorded in January: Doorly’s 12, English Harbour Single Barrel, Plantation 3 Star, Smith & Cross, and Black Tot 50th Anniversary. The flight demonstrated Alex’s appreciation for different styles of rum, with proceeds going to Alex’s family.

After I tried the flight I asked the Cove team for Mai Tai made with four of the five rums (since four is easier to measure and omitting the really expensive Black Tot rum made this more affordable). There was still a bit of an upcharge from the standard-issue SC Mai Tai but it was totally worth it. The great Smuggler’s Cove Mai Tai base combined with rums selected by Alex himself made this one the most special Mai Tai of the year. Rest in Peace, brother.

Recipe: Molasses Mai Tai

I made some fresh Molasses Syrup to replace the one that was in the back of my fridge for a couple years. I enjoy a few cocktails that use this ingredient, most notably the Pampanito cocktail at Smuggler’s Cove (the recipe is in the book, too). Molasses adds a certain bite to the cocktail that seems appropriate during winter.

I am lazy when it comes to making syrups but this one is pretty easy.

Molasses Syrup:
2 cups Granulated Sugar
2 Tbsp. Mild Molasses
1 cup Hot Water
Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool, then bottle.

The Molasses Mai Tai was a riff I tried a couple years ago that I figured would be great, and it turned out better than I expected. This is inspired by the Pampanito, which originally used the same Appleton Reserve 8 rum called for here.

Molasses Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Molasses Syrup
½ oz Orange Curacao
2 oz Aged Jamaican Rum (Appleton Reserve 8)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and dump into double rocks glass and garnish with Mint Sprig and reserved Lime shell.

New Top 5 Mai Tai: Dr. Funk in San Jose

We’ve made an update to our list of Top 5 Mai Tais. This is our list of the best standard house Mai Tais, without any tweaks or substitutions.

LONO Hollywood was previously in our number 5 spot, but they haven’t yet reopened after COVID. Plus, we’re so impressed by the Mai Tai at the newly opened Dr. Funk in San Jose that it seems like a perfect time to make a change on the official list. Congrats to Ken Wongdejanan and the entire team from Dr. Funk.

Dr. Funk uses Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross Jamaican rums as the base for their Mai Tai, combining it with house-made Orgeat. The team said they tried several different rum blends, including one featuring a Rhum Agricole, but found that this blend was the best. We agree! The heavier rums from Jamaica add flavor that truly punches through. 

Top 5 Mai Tais

  1. Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, New Orleans
  2. Rumba, Seattle
  3. Smuggler’s Cove. San Francisco
  4. House without a Key, Halekulani Hotel, Honolulu
  5. Dr. Funk, San Jose

Rum Review: Mount Gay Origin Series Copper Stills vol 2

I picked up this two-pack of Mount Gay rums at the “bottle shop” at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland and have really enjoyed it. The release is from a few years back and limited to 7200 bottles, but I’m surprised there are still bottles in the market. The release includes two Mount Gay rums made from the same materials, and aged in the same barrels. The difference is that one bottle was distilled in the Copper Double Pot Still and the other in Mount Gay’s Copper Column Still. An included booklet goes into further details about the methods of distillation.

This was really interesting to me, having had more than my fair share of Barbados rums in the last year or two. The ABV for these releases is 43%, so while these aren’t cask strength releases you do gain an appreciation of how the method of distillation truly makes a meaningful difference in the end result. Most notably for me is that when I try each rum just by itself I do taste some of individual flavors that I remember from when I try a blended Barbados rum release from Mount Gay. Both rums are quite good, though the Copper Pot is not nearly as bold and funky as the recent (and much pricer) 48% ABV Pot Still Rum release from Mount Gay (one of my favorite rums). As always, Mount Gay does a good job with the packaging. I think any rum enthusiast would enjoy comparing these two rums, and both have appeal.

As is the tradition here, we made a Mai Tai with these rums. But I was curious if I’d prefer each release on their own, or a blended release with equal parts of each rum. So, it was umtshootout” time and a blind taste test.

The verdict?

Blind taste preference was as follows:
First Place: Pot Still
Second Place: Blend
Third Place: Column

So, I’m still a Pot Still Rum man, but honestly all of these Mai Tais were quite delicious. But the Pot Still just had a deeper and more satisfying flavor.

Miracle on 1st Holiday Pop-Up in San Jose

After our visit to 55 South, we headed over across the street to Paper Plane, which is doing the Christmas Popup in conjunction with Miracle. Paper Plane has been doing this for a couple years, so their decor is OVER THE TOP. Amazing stuff, and so many lights! Even on a Sunday night this place was packed, though service at the bar did move quickly.

We found the cocktails at “Miracle on 1st” to be excellent, and we want to return to try more. There’s a little bit more of a varied selection than Sippin’ Santa, especially if you’re into Whiskeys and Amaros.

Mrs. Mai Tai had the Jolly Koala, a bright cocktail with Bourbon, Vermouth, Mulled Wine Reduction, and Cacao Nib Aperitif. Plus a cute little Koala to make friends with. This was really great.

I stuck to my wheelhouse and ordered the tropical cocktail named after the catch phrase from everyone’s favorite Christmas movie: Die Hard. The “Yippie Ki Yay, Mother F****r” is a delightful and sweet cocktail with several rums, Ube & Coconut Orgeat, and Pineapple Juice. This one is so easy to sip that I was soon taking off my shoes and feeling the carpet.

The meetup was for members of the “South SF Bay Area Tiki Ohana” group on Facebook. If you’re a local, please join the group for more meetups and local info.

Mai Tai Monday: Wright & Brown Distilling

Made a fab Mai Tai for Trader Vic’s birthday using a rum made in Oakland, the city where the Mai Tai was first made in 1944. 

Oakland’s Wright & Brown is distilling rum as well as a variety of whiskeys. The rum I used is pot still distillate made from Black Strap Molasses and is aged for a couple years. Quite wild and full of flavor, so it works great in a Mai Tai.

For my Mai Tai I used 1½ oz Wright & Brown and ½ oz Coruba just to add a little additional richness.