Forbidden Island Mug Swap 2023

One of my favorite holiday traditions is the mug swap at Alameda’s Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge. You bring a mug that’s boxed or bagged and then when your name is called you take one from the pile. You trade in a mug maybe you don’t love and you might end up with something better, it’s just that simple. No stealing in this swap.

The event was organized and hosted by Chad Martens. This year there were three categories of mugs based on resale value, which worked well so that you don’t trade something super rare for a garbage mug.

As it turns out, Mrs Mai Tai actually picked the mug I brought 😂. I showed her the mug before we left but I forgot to show her the bag! But, we ended up trading for something else with one of the other event attendees after the picking of bags was over. It was a Christmas miracle.

FI was super packed, needless to say. So thanks to Sara Rivas for keeping up with the bar orders and making some fab cocktails, and the entire staff working well together. Fun times.

New Rum List and Fantastic Mai Tai at Forbidden Island

We had a great time at Forbidden Island last Saturday taking one of Mrs. Mai Tai’s work colleagues for their first tiki bar experience. Nicely busy but not too crazy until a party bus full of revelers showed up wearing holiday costumes (we think we even saw Buddy the Elf), though thankfully they were seated in the patio. We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere inside in our booth, thank you very much.

I’ve decided to start another Kill-Devil Club 1.0 rum list at Forbidden Island. We’ll see how long it takes without the to-go option that helped me accelerate the exploration of rum in 2020-2021, but I’m looking forward to trying some new rums and old favorites. Nice to be able to try these rums in a Daiquiri or Mai Tai for a nominal upcharge.

I really enjoyed the Mai Tai with Smith & Cross Jamaica rum. The bold and boozy rum really played well with this finely prepared cocktail, definitely one of the best of 2023.

Thanks to Michael for always appreciated hospitality and also to Justin for a great suggestions for a nearby Sushi restaurant.

Forbidden Island Parking Lot Sale

Great day on the patio in Alameda for the annual Parking Lot Sale at Forbidden Island. There were some really great vendors on Sunday for our visit, and I came away with a lantern from Relic Vintage and a Disney aloha shirt and a fish float from Tiki Tacky Tu. Mrs. Mai Tai bought a necklace from Match Accessories. We look forward to this event every year. DJ Tanoa Stewart provided some great garage rock-leaning vintage tunes.

My lantern worked out really great. Besides looking nice on our patio, it matched the cocktail I’d already ordered: the Port Light. Serendipity! Forbidden Island’s Port Light cocktail is perfectly balanced with just the right amount of bourbon. We also enjoyed the Spam Musubi.

Forbidden Island 17th Anniversary

Had a nice afternoon in Alameda on the patio with friends celebrating Forbidden Island‘s 17th anniversary. The seminal third wave tiki bar opened in 2006 and is still going strong. We were glad to stay outdoors in prep for our upcoming trip to the British Isles, so we missed the live Hawaiian music and hula from Haopinaka, but it sounded great from afar.

Fun on the patio at Forbidden Island

Copalli rum was doing free tastings of their line, including a delightful cask strength expression picked by Forbidden Island. Copalli was present in one of my cocktails, the nicely balanced Copalli Chartreuse Swizzle. Gotta order those Chartreuse cocktails when the French herbal liqueur is still actually available.

Following up from my visit a few weeks back I tried the Infinite Coastline again, but this time with the robust and boozy Rum Fire Jamaica Rum. I really liked this and it remains, as they say, easy drinking.

Nice to see so many familiar faces celebrating Forbidden Island’s birthday – and there was even cake. Congrats to Michael Thanos and all the staff who keep FI going strong.

The Forbidden Island Cocktail

Had a great time on the patio at Forbidden Island the other day, including a revisit to one of FI’s signature cocktails: The Forbidden Island.

I’ve enjoyed this cocktail in the past and it seemed like a great time to make sure they’re still making it great. The cocktail features Lime, Pineapple, Rums, and “a secret blend of spices.” This spicy grog is still a wonderful option and there are few things as nice as a cold and frosty cocktail on the patio with exotic music playing.

You can also order the Forbidden Island with with FI’s signature Kapu Tiki mug that comes in an ever-changing set of colors; the current glaze is a bright yellow and matches the neon swizzle stick.


Viking Mai Tai at Forbidden Island

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.

Sara Rivas, Tiki Lindy, and Michael Thanos

Mahalo John Peterson

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.