1944 Mai Tai at Lake Tahoe

Following up from yesterday’s post about the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Gar Woods, I also wanted to try their “1944 Old Way” Mai Tai. Regular readers may recall that the term “Old Way Mai Tai” has different meanings, depending on who you ask and when you asked. In this case, it is a scratch Mai Tai (made with the Trader Vic’s Royal Amber rum) and topped with a float of Trader Vic’s 80 proof Dark Rum.

That particular Dark Rum isn’t my favorite but I scanned the spirits at the bar and spotted Pusser’s Rum. So, I asked for the 1944 made with Pusser’s instead. Well, it turns out there’s a no substitution policy for the Trader Vic’s Mai Tais (perhaps related to their licensing agreement) so the standard issue it was.

The second drama was that I didn’t use the gigantically wide straw that was provided (large enough to suck up small ice cubes) so I was sipping directly on the glass. Which meant that my first taste was nothing but the Dark Rum float. But, after a little stir with said straw, I am pleased to report that this was a really good 1944 Mai Tai.

Gar Woods has seating down on the pier and directly on the lake, so if you visiting in good weather and don’t mind a little sun, this could be a unique opportunity.

Worth noting that sister location Riva Grill in South Lake Tahoe also has a Trader Vic’s license, so give these restaurants a try the next time you’re in the area.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Lake Tahoe

We had a great lunch on the lake at Gar Woods Grill and Pier. The lakeside dining includes indoor and patio dining. We loved the Lobster Deviled Eggs and I loved my Crab Sandwich.

Gar Woods is notable in that they serve a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, officially licensed and everything. Comes complete in a Trader Vic’s glass and is made as per the “Trader Vic’s Mai Tai” in the restaurants with the Mai Tai Concentrate and the Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum. Mrs Mai Tai had the Lemon Drop.

It was outstanding. The lakeshore views. The fine food and great cocktails. Really great.

Part two: 1944 Mai Tai at Lake Tahoe

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

 

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai

Though the exact recipe may not be known, it does seem clear that the Mai Tai’s rise to fame in Hawaii started at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach. In 1953, Trader Vic Bergeron contracted with Matson to provide menus for their passenger ships and their hotel properties that included the Royal Hawaiian. The Mai Tai became a big hit with tourists in Hawaii and by the end of the decade had supplanted the Zombie as the most famous tropical cocktail in the world.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Classic Recipe)
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

Garnish with a Pineapple finger, Sugar Cane stick, Orchid, and Mint Sprig.

This recipe dates to 1971 according to the entry in Beachbum Berry Remixed (page 72).

Note that the recipe for this Mai Tai does not have the dark rum float most typically associated with Island Mai Tais. Though, I suppose, you could hold back the Dark Jamaican rum and float it. 

Today, the Royal Hawaiian provides the “secret recipe” for their “Original” Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, and it differs considerably from the older recipe provided by Beachbum Berry. Purists will note the use of Amaretto rather than Orgeat, and a mere 1½ ounces of rum.

The photo above is the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai sampled in 2019.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Modern Recipe)
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

Roll the shaker, pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float with Whaler’s Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.

Compare to the 1956 Mai Tai

Note that both recipes differ considerably from the 1956 Mai Tai recipe that Trader Vic provided to a patron of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. That recipe is much closer to a traditional 1944 Mai Tai, though it is possible that in 1956 that the Mai Tais in Hawaii were still made without Pineapple and Orange juices.

The Banana Hut in Eureka, California

I visited 52 different tiki bars in 2019, so when I tell you on August 15th that Banana Hut is only my 12th in 2020, it ain’t because I’ve been sitting around doing nothing on purpose. Well, actually, in a way I have.

Sadly, Eureka’s Hawaiian restaurant with a tiki theme will be closing on August 29; the owners are retiring. Glad we made it. As of today they are offering to-go food, a limited beer and canned soft drink selection, and Pina Coladas. So, I didn’t get to try what is likely California’s northern most on-menu 1944 Mai Tai.

The decor here is great, and I love the way they used the popcorn ceiling to make the cloud effect. Lots of tikis left over from Chicago’s famed Kona Kai. When we were waiting for our food, someone came in expressing interest in buying the lot. It is too bad this place is closing.

Our food was pretty good. Mrs. Mai Tai had her favorite, Macadamia Nut Mahi Mahi, complete with rice, gravy, and macaroni salad. I had a teriyaki chicken sandwich and spam musubi. Good Hawaiian food. I bought a menu as a memento.

A sad reminder; visit tiki bars when you have the chance.

Blue Margarita with a View

This is from our oceanfront balcony in Crescent City. The resort here has a working bar so first time on the trip up the coast we are having real cocktails. These are a special here at the resort and are pretty good for what they are.

Tiki Bar Directional Signs

I love these signs prepared by Dave Hansen of Lake Tiki Woodcrafts. Hand-carved and hand-painted. They look amazing.
 
These pay tribute to my two favorite Tiki Bars, Trader Vic’s in Emeryville and The Kon-Tiki in Oakland. Not too far away from home here in Fremont, and thankfully both are still open serving excellent take out food and cocktails.
 

No Tiki Kon in 2020

New Website Feature: Tiki Travels – Big Island of Hawaii

The Island of Hawaii (“the Big Island”) is a great destination for Mai Tai fans, being the home of the last remaining Don the Beachcomber location, as well as the yearly Mai Tai Festival. This is not intended to provide an exhaustive review of every Mai Tai on the island, since you can get a Mai Tai in nearly any restaurant and every bar, but we do want to highlight some key destinations.

Tiki Travels – Big Island of Hawaii

Mai Tai with Appleton 12 Rum at Kuleana Rum Shack

New Website Feature: Tiki Travels – Florida

Today is the 5th Birthday of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Walt Disney World, though sadly there won’t be any on-site celebrations. Nonetheless, Trader Sam’s is one of Florida’s notable tiki bars, and arguably the most fun.

To celebrate, we’re launching a new Tiki Travels page covering the tiki bars of Florida. These range from the prototypical “Florida Tiki Bar” all the way to the famed Mai-Kai Restaurant, arguably the best tiki bar in the world.

View the page: Tiki Travels: Florida