Visit to Aku Aku in 2017

Three years ago today I was in Orlando for a conference and took some friends to Aku Aku in downtown Orlando. Even on a Saturday night, the bar had a mellow vibe and our group had some great drinks and better conversation.

Unfortunately for me, we went to the bar shortly after I arrived from my flight into town, so I hadn’t eaten much. This wasn’t such a big problem, until I was “encouraged” by the group to get the bar’s signature (but still off-menu) cocktail, The Tiger Fucker. This huge cocktail is well-balanced and delicious, but does contain Jalapeño. I don’t do spicy very well. And there’s a lot of booze, too.

The Tiger Fucker cocktail

I was feeling it the next day.

I visited Aku Aku again last year and had a great time again. If you’re in the area I’d urge you to make the effort to travel to Downtown and check it out.

Rum The Spirit of the Ages

This essay has been gracing the back cover of the Trader Vic’s Cocktail Menu for decades. It serves to highlight the spirit that is most prominent in Trader Vic’s cocktails, and is both a history lesson and a list of “shout outs” to famed mixologists. This is a scan of a menu circa 1965.

Click to view larger

This is one area where I think that Victor Bergeron deserves more credit, as quite often he would credit the original creator of a cocktail on the menu or in his books. In the essay he highlights a number of 20th Century barmen including Frank Meier of the Ritz Bar in Paris, Constantine at La Florida Bar in Havana, and Albert Martin of Con Ton Bar in New Orleans. He ends with several pointed salutes to Don the Beachcomber of Hollywood.

The design includes pictures of some of the famous venues and a caricature of Don the Beachcomber himself. 

Closer view of the text


Tiki Time at Pacific Catch

Friends, I’m pleased to report that the #tikitime promotion and menu at Pacific Catch is a pretty good offering. We don’t have a Pacific Catch nearby but we traveled to Dublin for shopping and lunch and decided to check out the Tiki Terrace. The outside seating is quite nice with socially separate tables featuring wood, bamboo, plants, and clear plastic panels. A very fine mix of shade and just a hint of sun peeking in.

Tiki Old Fashioned and Shark’s Tooth cocktails

The Tiki Menu include a Pupu Platter and a Satay Sampler. I tried the latter and it was really good, especially the shrimp. I also had some very good California Roll sushi. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai had the Poke Chirashi bowl and said it was really great and also quite large.

There are Tiki Cocktails on the Tiki Time menu, and they look pretty good. I tried the refreshing Puka Tiku Punch and it features a trio of rums and a little surprising for such a mainstream restaurant is actually quite rum forward (in a good way). I really liked this. Mrs. Mai Tai had the Shark’s Tooth which she liked (but said maybe could have worked better with more juice).That cocktail features Banks Five island Rum, which I’ve found to be an excellent white rum in the past. I also ordered a cocktail from their regular cocktail menu. I avoided the Mai Tai (with Flor de Cana silver, Lahaina Dark rum, Wray & Nephew Overproof, and POG juice) and instead tried the “Tiki Old Fashioned,” This normally calls for Zaya but I asked for Banks rum instead and I must say this was an excellent Old Fashioned.

Puka Tiki Punch


Tiki Patio Dining

The cocktails and food at Pacific Catch were quite good. Considering the price the value was “good” and I’d rate the service “very good.” We enjoyed our socially distant outdoor lunch.

The Vacation

This is a great cocktail from Daniel “Doc” Parks from the Minimalist Tiki book. So many great flavors! It’s always a favorite at Zombie Village or wherever Doc Parks might be serving drinks.

The Vacation by Daniel “Doc” Parks
¾ oz Lime juice
1 oz Pineapple juice
½ oz Mango syrup
¼ oz Falernum
1 oz Lightly aged or filtered rum (Real McCoy 3)
1 oz Unaged agricole rum (Rhum J.M Blanc)
1 oz Pisco (Capurro)
1 dash Vanilla-Infused Angostura bitters

The Minimalist Tiki book by Matt Pietrek and Carrie Smith is now in a third edition, complete with some new recipe riffs on the “Classic 30” tiki drinks. Plus fixes for those pesky typos. If you haven’t gotten this book yet, it’s totally worth getting as it covers the key ingredients needed for a home bar, plus the Wonk’s usually great coverage of rum and spirits. Many truly amazing cocktail recipes.

Heatwave Hideaway

The Bay Area is having a heatwave but that didn’t stop dozens of tikiphiles from braving 100° heat to pack the Forbidden Island outdoor patio on Sunday. Straight from opening at 2 pm every table was filled with cool drinks being the desired antidote. I tasted a few rums in the form of a Mai Tai (these were all rums that I’ve had before). You can definitely taste the difference between Pyrat XO and Clement Premiére Canne in a Mai Tai.

The Forbidden Island crew has really got this patio process working smoothly now, with attentive servers and fast service for cocktails, rum samples, and the requisite food component of your order. The Yelp-based reservation system is important and crucial these days.

We had the pleasure of seeing two local luminaries complete the Kill Devil Club 2.0 rum list. Congrats to Cathie Wartelle and Lon Cook for drinking all the rums from this list of “hard to find, allocated, rare and rums aged 10 years and older.” The tiki mug you get is pretty cool too.

Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s

Great day at Trader Vic’s for Mai Tai Day

Firstly, it is nice to see this being labeled “Mai Tai Day” this year rather than “Real Mai Tai Day”. It celebrates the birth of the Mai Tai in 1944, using the date for Mai Tai Day designated by Oakland several years ago.

Vic’s opened at 11 am for Brunch and cocktails, and several of us made the trek to be there at opening. Plenty of souvenir Mai Tai Day Mason Jars were available and they’re a timely design. My Mai Tai looked great and was refreshing on Vic’s outdoor patio/picnic space (in the corner of the parking lot). Good social-distancing employed.

Brunch was a little tricky in that you still have to order food via telephone (brunch menu isn’t in the online system yet, though I’d expect that to be fixed soon). And so you have to go over to the main building to pick it up. But otherwise, this is pretty nice. The morning fog was actually a welcome component and then slowly burned off by around 12:30 pm. My Salmon Toast was delightful and Mrs. Mai Tai’s Eggs Benedict was great too. Supposedly brunch will be an option every week going forward.

Aside from the tikiphiles in attendance, there was a special online toast for Mai Tai Day, featuring Vic’s CEO Rhett Rosen. Eve Bergeron set up a monitor and so everyone in attendance could participate. While this wasn’t as grand as last year’s incredible Mai Tai 75 celebration, this was still pretty good considering the restrictions on indoor gatherings.

Long live the Mai Tai, long live Trader Vic’s!

Mai Tai Day is Here

August 30 is Mai Tai Day, the date where true Mai Tai fans celebrate the birth of the Mai Tai in Oakland, California in 1944.

I celebrated by making a standard proportion 1944 recipe Mai Tai with some special rums. A tribute to fine rums that belong in the finest cocktail. And a salute to Mai Tai Nation.

¼ oz Mount Gay XO
¼ oz Pampero Aniversario
¼ oz Clement VSOP
¼ oz Hampden Estate Overproof
½ oz Denizen Merchant’s Reserve
½ oz Appleton 12 Rare Casks

Float ¾ oz Ultimate Mai Tai Blend (Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Xaymaca, OFTD)

A delicious Mai Tai, slightly boozier than average. Though by Frankensteining the rum blend it doesn’t have a particularly unique character that you’d get using one of these rums all by themselves.

BG Reynolds Syrup Day

Do you love making your own homemade cocktail syrups? Does it bring you pleasure to come up with a unique approach or taste for a special ingredient? Do you love saving money by leveraging ingredients you already have in your house? If so, I salute you. Truly, good for you.
But that is not my gig.
It doesn’t move me. I don’t really care. Or most probably I’m just lazy. If I can find a commercial solution, I’m totally okay with that.

Yesterday I went to Total Wine to sample some new spirits and cocktail ingredients. I bought three things, and they were all losers. But today, my shipment from BG Reynolds arrived. It’s a good day.

I ordered three syrups:
1 – Passion Fruit Syrup. I used the last of mine the other day, so just in time. I find this syrup to be a nice balance of sweet and tart.
2 – Devine Vanilla. I use this for a couple holiday cocktails and I was hankering to make some new Don’s Spices #2 (equal parts Vanilla/Pimento Dram)
3 – Honey Mix. I had a heck of a time making honey mix at home in the past, so I thought I’d give this a try. It’s made with Orange Blossom Honey and it’s really great. It smells like orange but tastes like honey. This is going to work great for some cocktails I’ve been meaning to revisit.
The cocktail tonight is the Ultimate Navy Grog, leveraging the ingredients procured tonight. I’m still digging this version of the classic tiki cocktail, incorporating elements of the Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s version. The Honey Mix in particular works well in this cocktail.
Thank you BG Reynolds!

New Cocktails at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland

Sampled some new (to me) cocktails at The Kon-Tiki.

First was the Montego Bay, with funky Jamaican rum, absinthe, allspice, grapefruit, and lime. This was billed as having a bite and I would agree. A little too spicy for me, though Mrs. Mai Tai loved it. Not pictured.

Next, the Lost Cartographer, featuring Irish Whisky, Banana, Cinnamon, and Bitters. I liked this a lot, though it isn’t really a traditional exotic/tropical cocktail. The banana was subtle but paired well with the cinnamon. Pictured with the orange slice in the Kon-Tiki glass.

Lastly, the Coco Gadget, with Guyana and Agricole rums, coconut, curaçao, cold brew coffee, and bitters. Mrs. Mai Tai thought this would be up her alley, but she thought it was too rum-forward and said she couldn’t taste the coconut and coffee. Meanwhile, I tend to avoid coffee drinks but actually really liked this. Seemed very coconut and coffee forward to me, so obviously your mileage may vary. A nice addition to the Kon-Tiki menu.

It is great to see some new menu items at Kon-Tiki. We love our classic tiki cocktails but I do like to expand my horizons.