Central California Tiki Marketplace in Bakersfield

Fab day in Bakersfield for the @centralcaliforniatiki marketplace. A very large and varied set of vendors and plenty of space to shop. There wasn’t much rain, thankfully.

Central California Tiki’s head honcho, Wayne Stonecipher

I picked up a bar mat from @artofbrex and a carving from @mischiefmotu. I also picked up a vintage 2005 @theartistshag calendar still sealed! I’m going to crack that open and explore.

Thank you Wayne and all the Central California Tiki event planners for such a great event. Do it again in the fall!

With Tiki-Ko and The Sinking Ship across the street needless to say a good time was had by all.

We need to talk about smoking at Frankie’s Tiki Room

Every business can choose to run it how they choose, and customers always have a choice about when to patronize. But it is a bummer when there’s an aspect of the business that puts you off when everything else is great.

Such is the case of the indoor smoking policy at Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas.

We visited on our last trip but would have loved to stay longer or visit more often, but the smoky smell inside is a total turn-off. We visited at 11:00 am with only two other patrons inside and the place still smelled of cigarettes. We do appreciate the years of smoke this building has absorbed and understand that Frankie’s replaces the carpet every couple years, but the smell isn’t ever going away if smoking is still allowed.

The past decades have seen a transformation of smoking policies at restaurants, bars, and airplanes. The practice of allowing smoking indoors continues at most casinos in Las Vegas, likely as way to keep gamblers at the tables. Many people like to let loose and party in Vegas and that can include smoking if it is your thing when you party or simply as your habit.

But it is 2023 now, and outside of Vegas smoking indoors is very rare. The number of people in America who smoke cigarettes is now around 20%, down 10% just in the last twenty years. Why does any business appealing to a broad customer base cater to this 20%? Unlike a casino, there’s no losing customers if they went outside Frankie’s for a smoke.

We do have it on good authority that Frankie’s no longer allows cigars, pipes, or vapes. That’s a good step, but in this customer’s opinion Frankie’s needs to take the final one and prohibit smoking of all types.

One only needs to look at Vegas’ other tiki bars. There’s no smoking allowed a The Golden Tiki or even the dive-bar leaning Red Dwarf. If those venues can attract customers and let a few customers out back for a smoke, I don’t see any reason why Frankie’s can’t also do this.

Ashtrays do make nice coasters though.

Lost Spirits Distillery: Intimate Vegas Cirque Experience and Rum Tasting

We finally had the opportunity to check out the Lost Spirits Distillery experience in Las Vegas. This adults-only venue is an intimate cirque-style experience including burlesque, magic, and singers. Being able to see acrobatic performances so close was really a treat, and everyone really seemed to be of the highest class within their chosen genre.

The venue has a series of corridors and stages, plus some lounge spaces. So it very much is a choose-your-own-adventure and with performances happening simultaneously you literally can’t see everything. But the organic nature of the exploration is half the fun.

Rum is certainly a key aspect, with attendees given generous pours of several of Lost Spirts’ robust rums, plus tastes of their sweetened pineapple and cherry rums. All the rum tastings are included with the admission, but there are also bottled/batched cocktails available for purchase as well. These cocktails are by Alex Velez of Drink Masters fame, and the one cocktail we tried was fantastic. Bottles of various sizes are available for purchase.

Our friends Brenda and Glen know Lost Spirits co-founder Bryan Davis, and we met up with him and he showed us around the distillery portion and gave us some heads-up about some of the key performers – including one artist with an act that literally cannot be described with words – simply incredible. We appreciated the VIP treatment and thank Davis for the hospitality.

We entered at 7 pm, but they don’t kick you out once the 9 pm group comes in. So you can take your time with your rum tastings and find some time to enjoy the ambiance of the immersive space.

Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

The list includes commercial restaurants and bars, plus Mai Tais we had at home tiki bars and events. You can view the full list and additional details on our page:
Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

10: The Rum House

Trader Nic’s Mai Tai, named after the head bartender, features Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black and unaged Rhum JM, plus a tiny float of OFTD.

9: Dealer’s Choice Mai Tai by Adrian Castañeda at The Kon-Tiki Room

Adrian used 1 oz of Worthy Park Kon-Tiki Single Barrel (aged 5 yrs, cask strength), along with ½ oz each of Worthy Park 109 and Uruapan Charandra Anejo.

8: Sunken Harbor Club

Everything they say is true! The famed Mai Tai created by Garret Richard for Sunken Harbor Club in Brooklyn is indeed a top-notch Mai Tai.

7: The Kon-Tiki Single Barrel Mai Tai

This version with Kon-Tiki’s special single barrel release from Worthy Park was totally fantastic.

6: Dr. Funk (original blend)

The original rum blend in the Dr. Funk Mai Tai featured two of our favorite rums, Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross.

5: Smuggler’s Cove with Appleton and Hamilton Rums

We thank bartender Steven Liles for indulging us with the custom order and for making a great Mai Tai.

4: Hale Pele

Who knew that a combination of inexpensive Jamaican rums like Coruba Dark and Wray & Nephew Overproof could be so flavorful and memorable?

3: Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown Trading Co.

Skull & Crown three Mai Tais on their menu but we prefer this traditional 1944 style Mai Tai made with Appleton 12, Clement Select Barrel, Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum.

2: Classic Mai Tai with Appleton and Hamilton Rums by Skipper Nate at Trader Sam’s

I found myself at the bar at Trader Sam’s on a slow afternoon and Skipper Nate totally willing to work with me to find the very best Mai Tai that could be made on the premises.

1: Birds of Paradise Lounge

This Mai Tai features a complex four rum blend of Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Plantation Xaymaca, and Kō Hana Kea.

It seems impossible to believe that a party Mai Tai served in a plastic cup could be the best this year but when the Correy and Mariella Bravo make a Mai Tai their way you know it’s going to be Maita’i roa ae.

View the full write up for the Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

TWA Hotel at JFK Airport: Incredible Mid-Century Themed Travel Experience

We completed our NYC trip with a stay at the TWA Hotel ahead of our early morning departure from JFK. Morse has repurposed the 1962 TWA terminal and turned it into a hotel complete with a restaurant, a small food court, a couple lounges, pool, and tons of historical displays. Plus more midcentury eye candy than any airport hotel I know of.

We arrived in mid-afternoon, plenty of time to wander around and look at the displays. There’s really a lot of cool stuff here, with historical background on the terminal and several set pieces that you can explore. We enjoyed the Blue Christmas display. Music inside was a mix of 60s favorites and vintage holiday songs.

The hotel buildings are brand new and well appointed. Plenty of vintage style touches and a very nice bed and bathroom. The desk behind the bed in our room was a cool touch. And you can’t beat these huge windows that overlook the hotel or the runways.

The pool was on the roof of our wing and the pool bar is enclosed for the winter with a Swiss Chalet theme. The bar serves food and airplane-related cocktails. I had the Paper Plane.

The hotel connects to Terminal 7 (Jet Blue) at JFK and is obviously handy for flights in or out. But I think locals would have a blast spending an afternoon here and doing dinner and drinks. Or just check out the hotel during a layover. Either way, every midcentury fan needs to visit the TWA Hotel.

Paris Café at TWA Hotel

The Paris Café by Jean-Georges serves upscale breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hotel wasn’t too crowded on our visit so we rolled in and had a great dinner. I absolutely loved my Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast.

We had an interesting experience with the cocktails. There’s a Black Mission Fig Colada on the menu, featuring rum, Velvet Falernum, fig, toasted coconut, and lemon, so this is right up Mrs. Mai Tai’s alley. But when she ordered it the server said she didn’t recommend it because customers don’t like it. We said we’d take the chance, but once it was served we found that the “colada” was served up and had a weak but unpleasant taste. It was really terrible.

Our server replaced the drink and the Pomegranate Storm was much better. Lesson? Listen to your server! My Concord Whiskey Sour was pretty good, featuring grapes as a garnish.

The Paris Café is located on the second level up a flight of stairs and give a great view of the main terminal/lobby area as well as the surrounding grounds and hotel wing.

We went down to the Food Hall for desert. This is a sort of food court and features booths from some local businesses, plus seating. Just steps away from the Sunken Lounge seating area that’s also a cool place to hang out. A nice option if you’re looking for something quick.

Connie Cocktail Lounge at TWA Hotel

A key feature of the TWA Hotel is a vintage 1958 Lockheed Constellation “Connie” airplane turned into a cocktail lounge. The Connie was an important airplane in the the transition to jet-powered airplanes, and was even used as Air Force One for President Eisenhower. It was the first pressurized-cabin civil airliner series to go into widespread use and the TWA terminal was built with this airplane in mind.

Sadly, by the time the TWA Terminal was completed in 1962, the airplane was nearly obsolete. This particular aircraft was repurposed as an Alaskan bush plane and later used by drug runners before being restored for the hotel.

The entire aircraft is now a lounge and you can order airplane-related cocktails in the back. Aside from the Paper Plane, each cocktail is a renamed version of classic. I enjoyed the “Eero Dynamics” (Whiskey Sour) and Mrs. Mai Tai enjoyed the “Control Tower Sour” with Amaretto. I also tried the “Mile-High Margarita” but asked to sub rum for the Tequila.

Because there are no overhead storage bins, there’s plenty of headroom and the music inside is all vintage era-appropriate. There are a few TWA-branded snack packs available for purchase as well. Connie is open from 4 pm to 10:30 pm every day.

I know that people can order drinks on real airplanes, but this lounge is still totally a hoot. After several days walking around Manhattan, relaxing with drinks was the perfect transition for the flight back home.

Neverland: an Immersive Peter Pan Inspired Bar

Neverland is a pop-up experience at venues in cities worldwide. We attended the San Francisco location which is running through early August. The bar is set up with a Peter Pan theme, and features scripted and improvised encounters with Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and the crew. The audience plays lost boys who work with Peter Pan to rescue Tinkerbell from Captain Hook. Those who aren’t into live-action role playing need not worry – this aspect is somewhat minimal and you aren’t expected to be “in character” for your entire 90 minute experience.

The adults-only experience includes a few saucy jokes and plenty of alcoholic beverages. Upon entry, everyone is provided with a little glass of beer or wine. After some interactions with Peter Pan and Captain Hook, you’re given the ability to explore the space and take part with some physical activities to win doubloons that get you a barrel of Painkiller-style rum punch. The final cocktail is built using a base that’s poured into a coupe and then completed by combining it with some citrus in a bottle you find hidden in the space. Cocktails are okay given the venue/price.

Additional cocktails and beverages are available for additional purchase, including a smoking fishbowl and some shots. But you’ll get plenty already we think most guests will stick to the included offerings. In SF, this was $45 per person which included the three drinks. There’s a tip jar and Venmo codes for tips.

There’s plenty of time for photos and encounters your crew members, and the space looks great including a jail cell, lighting, and props. This is a lot of fun with a group of people.

Humphreys Half Moon Inn

After lunch at Bali Hai we wandered over to take a look at Humphreys Half Moon Inn, a Shelter Island classic.

So pleased to see that the majestic A-frame is now back greeting hotel and concert guests to the venue. The previous one went down in a vehicle accident.

The grounds here still look great and wandering around the gardens and pools is truly relaxing. We saw parrots, koi, turtles, ducklings, and a few tikis. We also saw them setting up for the America concert and even got a new nods for the SF Giants gear we were wearing from the roadies.

We also saw that the Humphreys Restaurant is open again, featuring its own majestic A-Frame entrance. We enjoyed our stay at the Half Moon Inn last year and would come back if we aren’t in town mostly to be by the stadium like this time.

Hawaiian Mai Tai Contest Winners and Recap

My Official Mai Tai Number is 34 Mai Tais consumed in the State of Hawaii on my 11 day trip.

We had three correct guesses in the Mai Tai Contest (I should have considered a tiebreaker). Congrats to the winners: @we.shall.tiki, @farbrorfuzz, and @wishiwastraveling84. I’ll be sending out a prize package with coasters, cocktail napkins, and stickers (bummed nobody seems to be giving out swizzle sticks or matchbooks anymore).

You can see the chart with the plot of all the guesses. Thanks again to everyone for playing along.

Top 5:

  1. Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown Trading Co.
  2. Casa de Christa Mai Tai
  3. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Mamahune’s
  4. Deck
  5. Dagger Mai Tai at Skull & Crown

Best Island Style Mai Tai: Tipsy Tiki
Best Bar: Skull & Crown
Best Restaurant: Duke’s Kauai
Best Beach Bar: Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian
Best Hotel Bar: Mamahune’s
Best Value: Arnold’s $10 Mai Tai
Best Vintage Location: Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian
Best New (to me) Location: Tiki Iniki


Oahu: 19, Kauai: 14, Hawaiian air space: 1
23 different venues, some who served more than one type of Mai Tai, and others where I consumed more than one
1944 Style: 13, Island Style: 15, Original Riffs: 2, RTD: 4

Complete List

1. Aulani (Island style)
2. Monkeypod Mai Tai (Island style)
3. Splash Bar at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani (Island style)
4. Tipsy Tiki (Island style)
5. Tiki’s Grill and Bar (1944 style)
6. Deck (1944 style)
7. Mai Tai’s (1944 style)
8. Dagger Mai Tai at Skull & Crown (Original riff)
9. Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown (1944 style)
10. Vic’s ’44 at Mai Tai Bar (1944 style)
11. Casa Crista (1944 style)
12. ‘Awa’Awa Mai Tai at Skull & Crown (Original riff)
13. Halekulani (1944 style)
14. Halekulani (1944 style)
15. Trader Vic’s Bottled (RTD)
16. Koloa Bottled (RTD)
17. Arnold’s Beach Bar (Island style)
18. Arnold’s Beach Bar (Island style)
19. Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Island style)
20. Hawaiian Airlines / On the Rocks (RTD)
21. Bamboocha Mai Tai at Lava Lava Beach Club (Island style)
22. Hilton Garden (Island style)nn Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
23. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (1944 style)
24. Koloa Tasting Room (RTD)
25. Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
26. Vic’s Top Shelf at Tiki (Island style)nikii (1944 style)
27. Vic’s Top Shelf with Denizen and heavy Orgeat at Tiki (Island style)niki (1944 style)
28. Tahiti Nui (Island style)
29. Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
30. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (1944 style)
31. Kalapika Mai Tai at Duke’s Kauai (Island style)
32. Classic Mai Tai at Oasis at the Beach (1944 style)
33. Welcome Mai Tai at Mamahune’s (Island style)
34. Stinger Ray’s Tiki Bar & Lounge (Island style)


Happy 1st Birthday Trader Vic’s SJC

The world’s best airport bar is celebrating its first birthday today. It was a long time coming but Trader Vic’s San Jose Airport has been slinging cocktails for one year now. We didn’t plan on being here specially for this but it was a happy accident with our flight to Hawai’i leaving at 7:30 and we still had time for breakfast.

Breakfast Mai Tai? Absolutely. It is 6:15 am somewhere, right?

Mrs Mai Tai had a Shirley Temple and we both had the Island Parfait. So good.

For those scoring at home this does NOT count for the Hawaiian Mai Tai contest.