Alameda’s Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge is one our favorite destinations, but their standard-issue Classic Mai Tai has not been a standout cocktail on their menu. There have been tweaks over the years and if you got the right bartender it could be improved by using different rums or adjustments to the orgeat ratio. But it has never been a strength during my visits compared to other cocktails on the menu.
Tiki Lindy was recently named the GM of Forbidden Island, and Lindy said she had improved the Mai Tai by adjusting the rums. I tried one last week and for sure it is improved, with a more rum-forward flavor profile. It still has some way to go to be declared “awesome,” however. There’s another surprising option for Mai Tai fans, though.
A new Mai Tai appeared on the new FI menu earlier this year called the Viking Mai Tai. This is made with Aquavit, a spirit similar to Gin originally coming out of Scandinavian countries. FI’s Viking Mai Tai is made with Svol Aquavit from New York but made in this Scandinavian style using Pot Stills. This spirit imparts a very different taste from either Gin or from Rum.
Speaking as a rum-snob, I would not have expected to like the Viking Mai Tai but I found it to be a wonderful surprise. The cocktail’s savory botanicals worked very well with the rest of the classic Mai Tai ingredients that Forbidden Island is using. Really good and totally worth trying.
There are some winter cocktails on special at Forbidden Island right now, if Mai Tai exploration isn’t your thing. And the staff seemed to be in a festive mood the other day for the annual Tiki Mug Swap.
A hearty thank you to John Peterson who is moving on from the GM role at Forbidden Island and starting a new chapter away from the hospitality industry.
John has really elevated the cocktail program at Forbidden Island over the past five years, not just with standard menu items but especially with specials or riffs or just when you ask them make something their way. I loved their Planters Punch implementation and also the bitters-forward Peynkiller.
I really appreciate how John has put themself out there in contests. We saw them at the 2019 World’s Best Mai Tai contest in Hawai’i and just recently at Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s. Always coming up with something interesting, but importantly to me while still keeping the cocktails true to their origins.
Like everyone in the industry, the last 2½ years haven’t been a constant party, but they always greeted me with a friendly smile and words of welcome. I’m in awe of hospitality staff like John who can remember a customer’s tastes and preferences.
Wishing John the best on the next path, where I’m sure their engaging spirit will be met with success and fulfillment.
Fun times yesterday at the annual Parking Lot Sale at Forbidden Island. The scope of this year’s event held Saturday and Sunday was a bit more modest, with about half the vendors of pre-COVID events. We attended Sunday which everyone agrees was more relaxed than Saturday. There were some great Hawaiian and exotica tunes being played by DJ Otto.
The sale featured a nice set of vendors in any case and we had a nice time socializing with friends and familiar faces. Forbidden Island had a limited cocktail menu for those who had reservations, but there was still plenty to choose from. I had the delicious Port Light. Parking Lot Sale shoppers (those without reservations) could get walk-up cocktails at the Ku Bar out on the patio and find seating in exterior barrel top tables.
We’d be remiss by not mentioning some amazing fashion accessories pictured. First, Mrs. Mai Tai’s bright pineapple earrings. And Brenda’s seasonally appropriate and jealousy-inducing toad handbag from Windy Willow.
It is always appreciated that Forbidden Island is open during the afternoon on the weekends. A great time to go for the patio, or indoors for the traditional tiki bar experience.
Some shots of the interview with Otto Von Stroheim on the Tiki with Ray show, filmed live at Forbidden Island. The interview is now live on Ray’s YouTube channel, and is a breezy history of Otto’s role in our community and some stories about Tiki News, Tiki Oasis, and more. Ray is a good interviewer, and Otto knows how to be a good interviewee. Check it out.
It’s really great that Forbidden Island can host these kind of events, alongside the usual regular Tuesday night Ohana gathering shenanigans.
The merch display looks great and I understand maybe the jukebox wasn’t working great anymore, but I’m super bummed it’s gone. Used to love to be able to go to Forbidden Island and play some music I wanted to hear. And the best part was that it didn’t cost anything to make your music selections.
Also, the green B-Rex glass is a perfect size for rum sips with big ice cubes, or for smaller tropicals with modest amount of ice. And the design is cool. Grab it before it’s gone.
Had to go somewhere for the actual Mai Tai Day on August 30. Forbidden Island hosts their Ohana nights on Tuesdays and they had guest bartender Captain Dave from the Captain’s Cabin bar in Arizona, so this was the choice.
We were all too happy to relax on FI’s well-appointed back patio. Mrs. Mai Tai ordered her standard Chamborlada, always a favorite here. She also had the Tradewinds that combines coconut and apricot flavors so well.
I went with FI’s standard Classic Mai Tai. They’re using a multi-rum blend in the Mai Tai and I thought it was pretty good. There’s a certain tanginess that I really liked. They have a new cocktail menu and there’s a Viking Mai Tai that I’ll try next time.
Captain Dave had a few drink specials and I dug the Shipwrecked in Scotland, which thankfully leaned more into the Jamaican rum than the Scotch. Lots of good flavors.
Nice to be able to say hello to Michael Thanos, who petitioned Oakland to recognize the Mai Tai and where this August 30 Mai Tai Day stuff originally emanated from. Cheers!
The Forbidden Island Kill Devil Club is a loyalty program for customers who complete their Kill Devil rum tasting lists. There’s the basic list which covers a broad selection of 100+ rums. I completed the first list in March last year.
The Kill Devil 2.0 list features hard to find, allocated, and rare rums that are generally longer aged and are often limited releases (thus, more expensive). For this reason, the 2.0 list changes over time as bottles are emptied and no longer available. The latest release of the 2.0 list came out in November and that’s when I started the list of 60 rums and 5 wildcards, most of which were consumed at home thanks to Forbidden Island’s To-Go program that’s still going strong.
For completing the 2.0 list, you get this cool limited edition mug from Outl1n3 Island. And of course the fame of a ceremony led by FI’s Michael Thanos. Thanks to Brenda for the photos.
This was a pretty good list, even if I didn’t love some of the Central and South American releases that often included added sugar. Though, I must say I was super impressed by the Diplomatico Pot Still expression. You should always end these lists on a good one, so my final rum was Mt. Gay XO LE Cask Strength, a rum I knew I’d love.
I kept tasting notes and ratings for each rum sampled, and this is the list of the rums rating 4 or 5 stars.
Admiral Rodney Officer’s Release **** Ak Zanj 10yr **** Blackadder Hampden **** Cadenhead’s Diamond 14yr ***** Clairin Vaval **** Diplomatico #3 Pot Still **** Don Q Single Barrel 2005 **** Facundo Eximo **** Foursquare 2009 **** Foursquare Exceptional Cask **** Holmes Cay Mhoba 2017 ***** Holmes Cay Uitvlugt 2003 **** Holmes Cay Wedderbum 2011 **** Lost Spirits Polynesian **** Mt. Gay XO LE Cask Strength **** Mt. Gay Origins Copper Column **** Mt. Gay Origins Copper Pot ***** Real McCoy 14yr LE Cask Strength **** Transcontinental Australia ***** Transcontinental Fiji ***** Transcontinental Guadeloupe **** Transcontinental Jamaica **** Trois Rivières Spéciales Reserve **** Vaval Clairin Ansyen Oloroso Cask *****
Best Rum from the List: Cadenhead’s Diamond 14yr, a delicious pot still release from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana.
Thanks to the team at Forbidden Island for helping me with the rum list, filling the little bottles, and pouring the rum in person.
So pleased to attend a fabulous event last night at Forbidden Island, where there was a silent auction to raise money for Universal Aid for Children of Ukraine. The event was organized by Jenny and Chad Martens and included a host of items donated by members of the community as well as a few local businesses.
The event ran from 6:00 – 9:00 and also included a special cocktail called the Molokai Molotov also sending proceeds to the charity. The cocktail represented Ukraine’s blue and yellow colors, and featured two layers. Yellow layer: Lemon, Pineapple, Cruzan Light Rum, Simple Syrup. Blue layer: Giffard Blue Curacao, Rum Fire Overproof Jamaican rum. Each layer was fantastic and put together was even better. Like a Blue Hawaii but with extra oomph from the Rum Fire. I loved it.
The event raised thousands of dollars. I walked away with a bottle of the Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum (donated by Trader Vic’s), and a couple books including the hard-to-find 2nd edition of James Teitelbaum’s seminal Tiki Road Trip. Mrs. Mai Tai walked away with the cute tiki pillow.
Such as great event and very well-attended. Thank you to the entire Forbidden Island crew for helping with the event and the speedy service on such a busy night. Everyone did a great job.
Had a really great couple of cocktails at Forbidden Island the other night. I started with a vintage cocktail, the Tradewinds. FI’s preparation was quite nice and I enjoy this cocktail that’s a combination of citrus, coconut creme, rum, and apricot brandy.
Next up was the Bombo, an old fashioned riff that features Forbidden Island’s barrel selection of Balcones Rum from Texas. The rum is high proof and very full flavored similar to Jamaican or Demerara rums. The cocktail features the Balcones rum over crushed ice along with dark brown sugar and fresh nutmeg on top. It was really outstanding.