Dr. Funk Mai Tai with Denizen Vatted Dark Rum

Denizen Merchant’s Reserve rum has a well-earned reputation for being a great single-bottle Mai Tai rum. It’s a blend of aged Jamaican rum along with some molasses-based rum from Martinique, intended to reproduce the rum used in Trader Vic’s “Second Adjusted Formula” from the 1950s.

While at Dr. Funk I thought I’d give their excellent Mai Tai a try with Denizen’s more recent blended rum product, the Vatted Dark. This is a 100 proof blend of Demerara Rum from Guyana along with unaged Rhum Agricole from Martinique. The complex and savory notes work well in a Mai Tai and other cocktails, and the Dr. Funk version delivered.

I also tried the chicken skewers that have a wonderful ginger glaze. These were quite tasty and served alongside seasoned rice. A very good portion for the price.

Song of the Year: “Train Kept A Rollin’” by The Surfrajettes

After a series of singles and EPs, Toronto’s Surfrajettes released their first album this weekend. Roller Fink is a collection of originals and covers, tied loosely around the theme of a roller rink. A couple songs have atmospheric roller rink introductions, but otherwise it’s just straight surf rock. The cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” is the new single and treads similar ground to the group’s breakthrough video covering Britney Spears’ “Toxic” (6.2m views and counting). The bright, plucky sound of “Heart of Glass” fits in well with 2021’s single “Couch Surfing” and the roller rink theme.

A few songs on the album have a harder edge, including the title track. But most impressive is the incredible raucous cover of “Train Kept a Rollin’. This fast version is reminiscent of The Yardbird’s infamous rendition from the movie Blowup, with Nicole Damoff’s lead guitar being just as impactful as Jeff Beck’s. The song fits in well with The Surfrajette’s 1960s sensibilities but displays a more confident approach to the material, musical virtuosity, and the surf genre. The song features a brief vocal interlude with the band members shouting one of the song’s memorable lines, “Looking so good I couldn’t let her go!” Be sure to check this track out.

Roller Fink is available on Hi-Tide Recordings and The Surfrajettes are appearing at Hukilau in June and northeast venues in July.

Chartreuse Swizzle

First time having this cocktail originally created by Marco Dionysos, but if Dr. Funk‘s version is any indication this is a cocktail I need to put into the rotation. Quite refreshing with Green Chartreuse, Falernum, Lime, and Pineapple.

¾ oz Lime Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
½ oz Falernum
1¼ oz Green Chartreuse
Shake with nice or swizzle in a tall glass

I just picked up a bootle of Green Chartreuse. Any cocktail recommendations using it are welcome, please leave a comment.

Hukilau in San Jose

Dropped by to see how Hukilau is doing. This Hawaiian restaurant is located in San Jose’s Japantown and seemed to have made it through the pandemic unscathed. You can’t sit at the bar, but there are a few tables in the front area to sip drinks or sample appetizers. The large “tiki room” in the back is where most guests having a meal will sit.

Hukilau is listed in Critiki.com’s list of tiki destinations, but is more Hawaiian than tiki. There are a coupe tikis on posters and the bar has a thatch covering but otherwise that’s it. A great place for a beer and some food, though.

Blue Hawai-Tai Revisit

I am revisiting this cocktail after a few months and did a few variants to taste test. I was told it was too sweet, and I suppose that might be true for some people but it tastes great to me.

I would say that full pot-still rums like Rum-Bar or Rum Fire do work much better than the blended Wray & Nephew Overproof. I tested the “aged white rum” components with White Stache and Probitas and found that while I prefer the heavier Probitas overall this is a less important component than the White Overproof Jamaican rum portion.

Blue Hawai-Tai by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Simple Syrup
½ oz Blue Curacao
1 oz White Overproof Jamaican Rum
½ oz Aged White Rum

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and dump into a small snifter glass. Garnish with Mint and tropical fruit.

Hamilton White Stache Rum

Got a bottle of this rum from an old friend and I was pleased to revisit it. For a while now my “go to” light rum has been Denizen 3 Aged White Rum, which is a blend of aged rums from Trinidad and Jamaica. I like that it tastes like rum and not vodka (unlike many of the other unaged/lightly aged rums on the market), but obviously is still clear and lighter on the palate. Great for Daiquiris and as a sub for Puerto Rican or Cuban rums when called for in recipes.

Hamilton 87 White Stache serves the same market niche, using a blend of rums from Trinidad, Guyana, and Dominican Republic. But, notably, is set at 43.5% ABV and so may add a little bit more character than 40% ABV rums. This is a pretty similar animal to the Denizen and quite good in the same sort of cocktails. As with the Denizen there is no added sugar, a trait that I find helpful especially for this style of rum.

The fact that Hamilton rum’s founder Ed Hamilton has a white mustache I’m sure is purely coincidental.

Birds of Paradise Lounge

We were lucky to snag tickets to the @sac_ohana monthly gathering this month, since the event sold out in just 3 minutes. It seems everyone made this month’s event at Birds of Paradise Lounge a priority, even on Easter. Easy to see why, though, since the house is so well appointed and the homeowners @mrs_bravo and @midcenturytiki are even nicer.

Truly a sight to behold, with a nondescript living room transformed into a tiki bar with artwork, mugs, and spirits galore. And then there’s the living room with wood paneling and wall to wall Witco. And finally the spectacular pool in the very large backyard. What a dream.

We were quite impressed by the cocktails, which included a cinnamon-forward Zombie and a light and refreshing Pisco Punch. And the Mai Tai? The best I’ve had all year. The Birds of Paradise Mai Tai includes a rum blend of Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Plantation Xaymaca, and Kō Hana Kea. So flavorful, with a savory finish that was fantastic.

The Sac Ohana group is doing a great job with these monthly meetups, and certainly are a model for any local community of tikiphiles to follow. Nice to see some familiar faces, even if our visit was not quite as long as we would have liked.

Oceanic Arts: The Godfathers of Tiki

Written by Jordan Reichek, owner of Peekaboo Gallery, this new book covers the history and immense influence of art and material supplier Oceanic Arts. Founded in 1956 by Robert Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz, OA has supplied a who’s who of famed establishments: Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic’s, motion picture studios, Walt Disney World, and more.

The book is a thick 500 page tome with high quality paper and photographs. So many historical details and just plain eye candy. The forward is from Book of Tiki author Sven Kirsten.

The book is finally available from Peekaboo Gallery, the organizers of this month’s Aloha OA events at the warehouse in Whittier. After this weekend, Oceanic Arts will auction off remaining stock and Bob and LeRoy will retire.

Don’t delay in picking up this important publication. www.peekaboogallery.com

1956 Mai Tai Prep

Prep work for my Tiki Kon presentation starts with revisiting the 1956 Mai Tai recipe. This was provided by Trader Vic himself to a customer and propertied to be the recipe used at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Definitely different than the classic 1944 recipes, but most certainly not an Island Mai Tai with pineapple juice.

Original 1956 Mai Tai recipe:
Juice of One Lime
Dash of Rock Candy Syrup
Dash of Curacao
Dash of Orgeat
1½ ounces Trader Vic’s Puerto Rican Rum
¾ ounce Myers’s Plantation Punch Rum
Stir and decorate with fresh mint

1956 Mai Tai – Adjusted for 2022
1 ounce Lime Juice
¼ ounce Rock Candy Syrup
¼ ounce Curacao
¼ ounce Orgeat
1½ ounces Lightly Aged Puerto Rican Rum
¾ ounce Hamilton 114 rum or Worthy Park 109 rum
Mix in 16 ounce tumbler glass with shaved ice. Drop half a spent lime shell in the glass. Stir and decorate with fresh mint.

Tiki Kon: The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai

As if you need any more excuses to attend Tiki Kon this year, you can come attend my seminar on the De-Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai. This session is based on the same research I did for the forthcoming article for next month’s issue of Exotica Moderne magazine and will include additional detail, content, media, and stories.

The session explodes a few myths about this iconic drink, as well as the timeline for when the cocktail changed at the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Tiki Kon: Rim of Fire is in Portland from July 1-3. Learn more at www.tikikon.com.