The Shipwreck Nautical Bar in Martinez

Locals were promoting this new bar that’s located in the multi-vendor Market & Main venue in downtown Martinez, CA, and we were nearby so we popped in. The Shipwreck soft-opened earlier this month and is a small bar adjacent to the Shuck It! Oyster Bar where you can order food. We had a great lobster roll and shrimp cocktail and Shuck It! will deliver to your seat at Shipwreck.

We were told this was a tiki bar, but it is not. Thankfully, it is also not a pirate bar but instead is a modestly decorated small nautical bar that seems to pair well with Shuck It! next door. Don’t confuse it with “Shipwrecked” in nearby Davis, CA. The small drink menu is obviously tiki-inspired and overall we thought the cocktails were pretty good. Mrs. Mai Tai loved her Neptune’s Garden that paired Tequila with Elderflower Liqueur to great effect.

Neptune’s Garden

The back bar has a modest collection of spirits but very little in the way of rum. The 7 Year Mai Tai is named after the Angostura 7 rum, a mild aged rum that’s easy to drink along with pineapple juice and other traditional Mai Tai ingredients. Definitely pineapple leaning, though not overwhelming, and this fruity and sweet Mai Tai did taste good.

I asked about other rum options and they offered Cruzan Dark and Captain Morgan, neither of which were what I tend to go for. I then spotted a nearly empty bottle of Equiano Dark rum, a very nice blend of aged rums from Mauritius and Barbados, so asked for Mai Tai with that rum and without the pineapple juice. This one was served in the skull glass rather than the Angostura mug and used DeKuyper Orange Curacao and Liquid Alchemist Orgeat. That Equiano rum was really great in this well-prepared and balanced Mai Tai. I did suggest to the staff they ought to invest in at least a couple of additional rums, since that’s what folks would expect at this sort of bar.

Equiano Rum Mai Tai

Market & Main has a pizza place and cookie dough storefront, with Bentley’s classic cocktail bar located upstairs during the winter (and on the back patio during the summer). We liked the sleepy vibe of downtown Martinez that includes other restaurants and antique stores.

How it Started and How It Ended

How it Started
I was inspired by the recent video on The Rum Revival YouTube channel about the Hampden Great House series to make a Mai Tai with the 2020 edition that I have. I bought that bottle in 2021 and it is almost gone.

When you pour bold/heavy/high proof Jamaica rums in a glass by themselves it can be overwhelming on the palette even for seasoned rum drinkers. But that same big punch works great in a cocktail like a Mai Tai that doesn’t remove those flavors but allows them to be savored in the context of the sour cocktail format. Great House 2020 was amazing in the Mai Tai.

How it Ended
After cleaning the glass, we had an accident. Thankfully, this was a replaceable glass from the Make and Drink YouTube channel’s storefront and not something rare or limited edition.

For as many Mai Tais that I’ve made at home I’ve broken precious few glasses, which is a silver lining I suppose.

The Best Mai Tais and Tiki Bars in Las Vegas

We’ve added a new feature page to covering the top Mai Tais and Tiki Bars in Las Vegas.

What’s the best Mai Tai in Las Vegas? Is it Jammyland, the craft cocktail bar with a reggae twist? Or is it Stray Pirate, the new bar with a theme of pirate dogs? Or is it Starboard Tack, the off-strip restaurant with a retro vibe? Perhaps there’s a wild-card entry from a bar with a potentially short lifespan.

On the Tiki Bar side, the best option might not technically be a tiki bar to begin with, and the true tiki bars all have pros and cons. So the “best” might depend on what you value most, such as decor, cocktails, or service. We have our Ultimate Mai Tai Tiki Bar rating system in place plus narratives for each location to help you decide.

Top Mai Tais and Tiki Bars in Las Vegas

Trader Vic’s Las Vegas

It is always sad passing by Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina at the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino because for a short time this was a Trader Vic’s franchise location. The lifespan ran from Fall 2007 to summer 2009, making this one of the shortest lived Vic’s locations. Patrons noted an emphasis on vodka drinks, though we stuck to the classics such as the Mai Tai (made with the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate mix) that were wonderful. That’s us on two visits in 2008.

The vast space was sparsely decorated, perhaps as an intentional choice to go for a modern look or perhaps due to a limited decor budget. It definitely didn’t have the same vibe as most of the Trader Vic’s locations I’ve visited, but you could get a Mai Tai to go in a plastic cup thanks to Vegas’ liberal open container laws. Traditionalists griped about the food menu but it got a great review in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in early 2008.

The venture was not successful, due in part to the great recession that started in parallel with the restaurant’s opening. After closing, the restaurant’s parent company Boulevard Bar LLC filed for bankruptcy listing no assets – and liabilities of $14.267 million! The restaurant generated revenue of $1.368 million in 2007, $5.961 million in 2008, and $2.033 million in 2009 according to those filings.

Today’s burgeoning tiki scene in Vegas shows that the most successful ventures of this type are immersive experiential venues such as The Golden Tiki or Frankie’s Tiki Room. But fifteen years ago it is easy to understand the design decisions made to go with a modern design. I guess this shows that the escapist nature of these spaces is timeless and that today there is a lot more interest in exotic cocktails and tiki bars in general.

Las Vegas is always a gamble and sometimes you don’t win.

Our Favorite Las Vegas Tiki Bar is Red Dwarf

There are few hangover cures that are better in Las Vegas than lunch or brunch at Red Dwarf, the dive leaning tiki bar that serves Detroit-style Pizza. Our mid-day experience was stellar once again. The daytime vibe is chill and friendly, a mix of regulars and tiki tourists like us, with bartenders happy to work with you on drink and food orders. Eclectic media is shown on the TVs – 1922’s horror classic Nosferatu was showing this time.

Mai Tai

The Detroit pizza is fabulous, with a sauce that isn’t too spicy and a crust that’s light and airy. There are several different options or you can call your ingredients.

The cocktail game at Red Dwarf is far better than you’d expect from a bar with a large selection of beer and an obvious focus on it (most of the locals were drinking beer). The standard Mai Tai is a blend of four rums and is fairly light in character; it isn’t the best Mai Tai in Vegas but at only $10 might be the best value. There are number of rums that are available and they can use them in a Mai Tai to elevate the cocktail if that’s your thing.

Meanwhile, I was totally blown away by the Pound Town cocktail that features Clarin Communal Haitian rum, Clement Blanc rhum from Martinique, falernum, lemon, coconut, orange bitters, and soda. This was a truly outstanding cocktail that combined the two sugar cane juice-based spirits and a light leaning blend of balanced supporting ingredients. It’s delicious.

Pound Town cocktail

We met Red Dwarf’s owner Russell Gardner and were happy to share our enthusiasm for the venue. pizza, and cocktails. He emphasized they do use fresh juices in the cocktails and they are adding seasonal menu items as well. Even though most of the cocktails are only $10, we think the drinks here are the most consistent and overall the highest quality of any tiki bar in Vegas.

Las Vegas’ Lost Spirits Distillery Continues to Impress

When you order tickets to the Lost Spirits Distillery experience they encourage you to arrive sober saying “for most people, pre-gaming is a bad idea and thus discouraged.” After visiting three bars we decided to embrace all that Vegas offers regardless of the consequences and bought tickets anyway.

The combination of rum tasting and intimate modern cirque performances is so unique, with a maze-like layout of rooms, lounges, and performance spaces. The performances on each stage combine a few different performers for about 20 minutes, then a break to encourage the crowd to continue wandering. We were really impressed again by the performers, though we did run out of steam towards the end of our show period. I guess that advice on pre-gaming was sound.

In terms of rums, we got to try four expressions including a navy rum, a pineapple and cherry infused rums, and a heavy pot still rum called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that’s inspired by the venue’s signature lounge and optional dining experience. These rums are well-positioned for a general audience and so are pretty easy to drink (and in the case of the cherry rum by adding sugar). There’s a gift shop where you can take home bottles.

There’s no way to see everything during your visit, given that there are performances happening on at least two or three stages simultaneously, but this is half the fun. Lost Spirits is a lot of fun and a great option with a group.