Hawaiian Airlines “Signature” Mai Tai

Looking at the menu of cocktails on our Hawaiian Airlines flight back home I could see that the Daiquiri, Aviation, and Old Fashioned were from well-known ready-to-drink cocktail suppliers. But the Mai Tai, not listed as being from either On the Rocks or from Kō Hana. You’d think the “Signature” Mai Tai would be something different, but in the back of my mind I guessed it would be from one of the brands already on the menu. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, since both On the Rocks and Kō Hana Mai Tais are pretty good RTD Mai Tais.

So, I ordered the Mai Tai and it was… On the Rocks.

Not sure why Hawaiian Airlines can’t just say this, but you could do far worse for an airplane cocktail.


We were told by a reader that Hawaiian Airlines is in the process of switching from On the Rocks to Kō Hana, which explains the ambiguity as they wind down inventory.

Kō Hana Distillery on O’ahu

One of the highlights of the Tiki in Waikiki weekend event was a tour of the Kō Hana rum distillery in Waipahu. We took comfortable buses our about an hour out of Waikiki and were greeted by the friendly folks from Kō Hana.

The tour includes four components, with about ten minutes in each spot. Our group started with the distilling area with the pot and column stills, where we learned about how they take the wash and turn it into fine Hawaiian rum. Our next stop was the aging room where we saw that some of Kō Hana’s expressions are aged in a variety of barrels including a few made with native Hawaiian wood. There’s a lot more capacity in that aging room, where I hope we’ll get even longer aged expressions of Kō Hana rum in the future.

We also learned about the sugar cane and the dozens of varietals that Kō Hana is using. These varietals are on the grounds of the distillery for reference, but the farms are on the north end of O’ahu. At each stop the experts in each field were available for detailed questions about Kō Hana’s production process. A breezy tour for rum newbies and super cool for the rum nerds to dig into the details.

The last stop was the tasting room where we got to sample three Kō Hana expressions: the unaged Kea, the aged Koho, and the Kokoleka which is made with Kō Hana rum along with pure cacao and raw honey. This liqueur is bottled at 30% ABV and Mrs. Mai Tai was such a big fan that we walked home with a bottle. There’s also samples of Kō Hana’s fine bottled cocktails and some other branded items available for purchase.

Kō Hana is becoming one of my favorite rums thanks to the myriad excellent cocktails I’ve been having lately that are made with this fine spirit. I honestly don’t love their unique square bottles but they’re quite distinctive on the shelf and traveled well in our suitcase.

Big thanks to the team Kō Hana who were super informative and also provided us with a great deal of hospitality during our visit. Mahalo, team.

Tiki in Waikiki Recap

Mrs. Mai Tai and I had a great time at the second and half annual Tiki in Waikiki weekender this past weekend. This was our first time at the event, which is produced by Angelina Khan and Noa Laporga of Skull & Crown Trading Co. fame. There were quite a few volunteers who helped with the event, including Adrian Eustaquio who served as MC for most of the events. Sylvia Flores was also omnipresent and also gave us some great tips for things to do in the city.

Friday recap: opening ceremony and tiki vendors at the International Market Place, followed by delicious cocktails from Skull & Crown in the Don the Beachcomber treehouse. First time in decades to have exotic drinks in the treehouse! There was an off-premise event in Chinatown, but we enjoyed the room party thrown by Michael and Holly at the host hotel White Sands.

Saturday recap: fab seminars from Adrian covering the Tiki Ti and Martin Cate’s about Hawaiian tourism, followed by a pool party at the White Sands. Then a bus ride up to Kō Hana rum distillery for a tour and a luau party. We enjoyed the Hawaiian food and especially the musical acts including Thomas Mackay and Vibra Cubana. But we were truly impressed by local favorite Starr Kalahiki who’s really a fabulous singer and entertainer.

Kō Hana rum distillery

Sunday recap: truly incredible seminar from DeSoto Brown, then bartender competition in the International Market Place courtyard. We then were bussed to a theater to see a test screening of the Donn of Tiki documentary. We thought this film about Don the Beachcomber was outstanding. Then we finished the evening with another catered evening in the patio behind Skull & Crown including cocktails from Skull & Crown and also Doc Parks. Sunday also featured a silent auction to raise money for Maui, organized by Chase Samson. I won the tickets to Tiki Oasis 2024!

What a magical weekend! Thanks again to Noa, Angelina, and all the support team.

Rum Runner at Margaritaville Mall of America

While Mrs. Mai Tai spent some quality time with the retail stores, I took another opportunity to relax at Margaritaville. Having tried a Margarita the day before I thought it would be an opportune time to try a rum cocktail. I remembered seeing the Rum Runner on the menu the day before so I ordered it without ever looking at the menu.

The bartender seemed to be far from relaxed but made the cocktail. It was served over ice and incorporated the berry and banana flavors the cocktail is famous for, and it was actually pretty good. The rums used were not very assertive but at the same time this wasn’t too sweet either.

I looked at the menu finally and couldn’t find the Rum Runner in the Boat Drinks section. I finally spotted it in the Frozen drink section – which reminded me that this was a cocktail that was originally served blended. And then I saw that this cocktail is supposed to be made with Myers’s Jamaica Rum and Cruzan 134. So, rums that are quite a bit more assertive! I asked the Bartender for another served frozen according to the description.

Frozen Rum Runner

It’s always interesting to see a bartender in scramble mode, and this was most certainly the case here – looking here and there and up and down for the rums. I guess they don’t make them according to the menu, or this guy was a newbie. But soon enough a blended Rum Runner appeared.

The frozen version actually wasn’t quite a flavor bomb, though was more so after I mixed in the Cruzan 134 float. Frozen drinks often aren’t quite as sweet, the same as solid vs. melted ice cream. Nonetheless, it was quite reasonable and got the job done. I appreciated that the banana flavor came through quite nicely.

Perfect Margarita at Margaritaville, Mall of America

That’s the cocktail name, not a description. The Perfect Margarita is as close to craft as they get at Margaritaville, the themed restaurant chain named from Jimmy Buffett’s most famous song. It is described as “Margaritaville Gold and Silver Tequilas, Margaritaville Triple Sec, Orange Curaçao and lime juice served on the rocks… for margarita aficionados only” though that lime juice is bottled and not fresh. I always order without salt and appreciated that at least this wasn’t blended.

Was this perfect? No, though it was a pretty nice break from the shopping and all the people in the mall. The tequilas used here are fairly mild, which is just fine by me.

Prohibition Bar at Foshay Tower in Minneapolis

We wanted to visit the iconic Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, but their 32nd floor observation deck is only open Fri-Sun. The 30th floor museum is open every day, though, and is worth a quick visit. We made do by visiting the Prohibition Bar on the 27th floor for some great cocktails and also some nice views through the windows.

My cocktail was the Sidecar (without a sugar rim), which is my usual go-to for places like this where ordering a daiquiri is sometimes refused like it was this time (though I sometimes wonder if the server thinks a blender is needed…). And Prohibition’s Sidecar was really great.

There was sort of a mix-up with the cocktail. The server asked if I wanted brandy or cognac and I asked for cognac. The actual spirit used was middle-tier rather than lower-tier from the list (I didn’t call a specific brand, neither did the server), so it was a little pricier than I expected. But, like I said, the cocktail was fantastic. We worked it out with the server in the end.

The trendy W Hotel has a great lobby bar on the first floor of this iconic building. It’s a really interesting building to check out in Minneapolis.

The Fink – New Cocktail Bar in Downtown Napa

We were excited to try the new cocktail bar in downtown Napa from local raconteur Judd Finkelstein – aka “The Fink” where the venue gets its name. The bar is the same spot as the former Silo’s and is situated in the historic grain mill that now houses the upscale Napa River Inn. The venue takes inspiration from the nearby Napa River and is cohesively themed by Daniel Gallardo (Tiki Diablo) as a nautical trading post. It’s dark yet warm with a large bar, some two-top tables, several booths with portholes, and a lounge area. There is a stage with a piano that will house live music starting in a few weeks.

The Fink serves beer and wine, and Finklestein’s experience with Judd’s Hill Winery means you won’t be lacking for good options. But first and foremost this is a cockail bar and they’ve hired experienced bartenders from the area including Andrew Salazar (ex-Miminashi) to put together the cocktail program and execute it flawlessly.

There are currently 24 cocktails, with more to come. Presently there’s a twelve item House Cocktails section, with six each for the tiki-inspired “LA to the Bay” and classics-inspired “Gotham City.” New Orleans will be the next destination.

OG Mai Tai from The Fink’s Judd Finklestein

Our starting place was the OG Mai Tai, which features house-made Orgeat. This nutty cocktail includes two Jamaican rums and one from Martinique and is quite good. We loved two other exotics on the menu, the tangy Cobra’s Fang and the spicy Nui Nui. All of these would stand up to any cocktail you’d find at leading tiki bars in the country.

Cobra’s Fang and Nui Nui

We also tried the Casino Royale cocktail including Cognac, lemon, orange bitters, Maraschino Liqueur, and Champagne. It’s an elegant cocktail with a medium-bodied mouthfeel and a lingering finish.

Casino Royale

The Fink serves small bites and has some great merchandise options (with more coming) including a membership pin. We loved the swizzle stick that pays homage to Finklestein’s eyewear. We had a great time at The Fink and it is truly worth seeking out or making a special trip for.