Mai Tais Monday

These are the different Mai Tais I’ve had this month at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland. I’m working on their Expedition rum list and trying some of the rums in Mai Tais.

Real McCoy 5
I enjoy traditional Barbados rum, including those from the Real McCoy brand produced at the Foursquare Distillery. The blend of heavy pot still and lighter column still distillate means that the rum is more delicate than rums from other locations. This Mai Tai didn’t hit me with the usual punch I’m used to, a much lighter style and leaning more on the lime juice for overall flavor. A tad more orgeat would have improved this.

R.L. Seale’s
Another Barbados rum produced by Foursquare and with better but similar results as Real McCoy. Again, not terrible but the rum is mostly lost in the cocktail.

Hampden Estate 8 YO
This is more like it. A bold Jamaica rum aged for 8 years and issued at a reasonable 46% ABV, this Hampden is just what I’m looking for in a Mai Tai. The rum is bold enough to punch through but the other ingredients do support the rum and make it more palatable than drinking neat.

Hamilton Pot Still Blond
My favorite of the Hamilton Jamaica Pot Still rums, this Worthy Park distillate is absolutely fantastic in a cocktail. It’s very smooth, but with long and lingering flavors that make every sip a treat. I’m in love.

The Kon-Tiki’s rum selection is vast and there’s something for everyone. They have a nice printed list with prices to help you decide and the bartenders are knowledgeable and always able to offer suggestions depending on what you’re looking for.

Recipe: Rum Flip

This all time classic cocktail evolved over the centuries and this particular recipe is based on the one from Smuggler’s Cove. Rather just using an egg white in the cocktail, we’re using the entire egg. The result is creamy, though not as much as something like an Egg Nog that includes dairy.

The result is pretty good. I went with the traditional style and medium body of a Barbados rum, though something more flavorful would probably pair better with the rich taste of the egg.

Rum Flip
2 oz Old Brigand Barbados Rum
½ oz Demerara Syrup
1 medium egg
Dry shake for 10 secs, then add 1 cup ice and shake. Double strain and top with nutmeg.

Old Brigand Black Label Superior Barbados Rum

Produced at the Foursquare distillery, Old Brigand is a “Spirits Direct” exclusive to Total Wine & More stores in the U.S. and retails for under $20. The blended aged rum includes pot and column still distillate and is released at 43% ABV.

The pirate on the label would seem to indicate to rum snobs that this isn’t the rum they’re looking for, but on the latest Rumcast podcast, this expression was the highest rated in a blind test of a number of Foursquare produced rums. So, I had try to this rum and for the price it isn’t a big risk. Indeed the flavorful rum reminds me of much more expensive Barbados rums, with good vanilla and coconut notes from the aging. Quite nice to sip.

This was less awesome in a Mai Tai, where the taste of the rum was not as forward as I’m used to. Then again, I’m usually using heavier Jamaica rums with a higher ABV so the more delicate Barbados rum is certainly not as bold.

Buz-Tai at Hula Hoops

The highlight of my lunch at Hula Hoops was the Buz-Tai, a Mai Tai variant developed by local raconteur Buz Deadwax. This boozy cocktail has developed a cult following due to the name, the potent nature of the drink, and Buz’s reputation as a cocktail connoisseur.

I’m not sure that Hula Hoops is making it exactly to the original specs, notably omitting the mint called for as a garnish, but also using the 151 float to served flaming. I can’t say that Hula Hoops is doing it wrong because any cocktail served flaming is a fan favorite.

I noticed that Hula Hoops prepares this with Real McCoy 5 and 3 from Barbados, which to me are upgrades from the original light and Spanish style rums called for. As described by Buz in his original recipe, the 151 rum float will eventually topple and “recharge” the cocktail. I do enjoy the new flavor combination that comes when the burnt sugar flavors of this style of Demerara rum is incorporated into the cocktail when you’re about halfway done.

Hula Hoops uses Small Hand Foods Orgeat, which regular readers will know is not my favorite. But when used in combination with the other ingredients I didn’t get any of the flavors I usually associate with this orgeat, and in fact the cocktail’s balanced flavors of sour, sweet, and spice completely worked for me.

Shockingly, I liked this more than the Mai Tai at Smuggler’s Cove the week before and even better than the Ultimate Mai Tai at Tiki Tom’s. It was just that good, at least on this day at that time. We thank bartender Maria for making an awesome Buz Tai. Check it out next time you’re at Hula Hoops.

Buz-Tai by Buz Deadwax
¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz High-quality Orgeat
¼ oz to ⅓ oz Allspice Dram (to taste)
1 oz Dry Curaçao
1 oz Blended Jamaican Rum (Appleton Signature)
1 oz Light rum
1 oz Aged Column Still Rum (“Spanish style”)
Shake with crushed ice and pour into double-rocks glass. Garnish with mint sprig.
Pour ½ oz 151 Demerara Rum into spent lime shell and place on top of the cocktail.

Equiano Rum Tasting at Smuggler’s Cove

Had a fantastic time up at Smuggler’s Cove for a special education session for Rumbustion Society members with self-proclaimed Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell on Thursday. These occasional sessions are available to Guardian-level Rumbustion members and above, so keep working on your SC rum list to have the opportunities to attend special events like this.

Burrell was there to mostly discuss Equiano Rum, where he has an ownership stake. The rum is an interesting combination of column-still rum from Mauritius from Africa along with pot/column distillate from Foursquare in Barbados where the rum is blended and bottled.

Equiano Original is an aged expression with the molasses-based Mauritius rum aged for 10 years in French Oak/ex-Cognac barrels and the Barbados rum aged for 8 years in ex-Bourbon barrels. Issued at 43% ABV and very easy to sip but since this blend leans more on the Barbados side it really isn’t that unique when sipping aside from the concept of an African/Caribbean rum blend.

On the other hand, Equiano Light is a much more interesting blend since it uses unaged cane juice-based distillate from Mauritius with a lightly aged Barbados rum. This is quite a bit more compelling in that this expression has majority Mauritius rum in the blend and the cane juice notes tempered by the molasses-based rum makes for a very easy to drink rum issued at 43% ABV. We were given welcome daiquiris at SC’s event and the rum worked great in that format. Sipping the Light neat, there are a complex set of flavors including a bit of cinnamon along with vanilla and fruit notes. Not “grassy” at all. I love it and you should seek this out for sampling or purchasing.

After the rum tasting event I headed upstairs for more cocktails and discussion with other patrons. See the photo of Woody Miller and me drinking Mai Tais. It was that kind of night.

Ultimate Mai Tai Jamaican Rum Blend

As I’ve learned more about rum over the past few years, and tasted hundreds of them, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best rum in the world comes from Jamaica. Most of the world doesn’t know this, because Jamaican rum doesn’t have a cool region-specific name like “Scotch” or “Cachaça” or “Bourbon” to designate a spirt made in a specific locale. But the unique character of Jamaican rum has been known to bartenders and to savvy consumers for decades.

I have been less than enthused by actions of Plantation Rum’s parent company Maison Ferrand when it comes to the draft rum GI (geographical indication) in Barbados, and to a lesser extent the existing GIs for rums from Jamaica and Guyana. I enjoy many of the Plantation Rums, including the Xaymaca and OFTD expressions that are in my Ultimate Mai Tai rum blend, but I don’t love their Barbados expressions with tons of added sugar. And it is exactly the Jamaican Rum GI and other regulations that prevents any producer from adding sugar or other additives to the wonderful Jamaican pot still distillate that goes into Xaymaca. If the market was flooded by “Jamaica Rum” products with sugar and other additives, the spirit wouldn’t have the universally stellar reputation that it currently maintains. So this GI stuff is actually pretty important.

I’ve been looking for a Mai Tai rum blend that omits Plantation products, and tried to include rums from various countries. Over and over I’ve tried to approach the unique and complex flavor from the Ultimate Mai Tai blend, and tried to match the 50% ABV which that blend is famous for. None of them approached the taste I was looking for. After a year of experimentation, I’ve decided this blend is good enough to be let out to the world. And it turns out it is an entirely Jamaican blend.

Ultimate Mai Tai Jamaican Rum Blend
2 parts Appleton 12 Rare Casks (43% ABV)
2 parts Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum (57% ABV)
1 part Worthy Park 109 (54.5% ABV)

The Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross are carryovers from the Ultimate Mai Tai blend, and are widely used in the industry. The blended aged rum from Appleton tempers some of Smith & Cross’ infamous funky pot still flavors. Just the two of them together make a fabulous Mai Tai. In fact they make up the rum in the excellent Mai Tai at San Jose’s Dr. Funk Rum House and tiki bar, one of our Top 5 Mai Tais.

The inclusion of Worthy Park 109 is to add some Demerara Rum-style flavor notes, such as burnt sugar. The caramel coloring also adds to the mouthfeel of the rum blend. I found Worthy Park 109 to be similar to some circa 1950s Myers’s Planters Punch rum that I was fortunate to try. The light funk provided by 109 keeps that flavor in the rum blend, and the high ABV allows us to keep the overall blend just above 50%.

Unfortunately, the 2-2-1 ratio does not make for easy on-the-spot jigger measurements for a Mai Tai that features 2 oz / 60 ml of rum. So, we suggest you batch up a bit to give this blend a try in a Mai Tai. It compares quite favorably to the Ultimate Mai Tai blend in side-by-side comparisons.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Rum Review: Mount Gay Origin Series Copper Stills vol 2

I picked up this two-pack of Mount Gay rums at the “bottle shop” at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland and have really enjoyed it. The release is from a few years back and limited to 7200 bottles, but I’m surprised there are still bottles in the market. The release includes two Mount Gay rums made from the same materials, and aged in the same barrels. The difference is that one bottle was distilled in the Copper Double Pot Still and the other in Mount Gay’s Copper Column Still. An included booklet goes into further details about the methods of distillation.

This was really interesting to me, having had more than my fair share of Barbados rums in the last year or two. The ABV for these releases is 43%, so while these aren’t cask strength releases you do gain an appreciation of how the method of distillation truly makes a meaningful difference in the end result. Most notably for me is that when I try each rum just by itself I do taste some of individual flavors that I remember from when I try a blended Barbados rum release from Mount Gay. Both rums are quite good, though the Copper Pot is not nearly as bold and funky as the recent (and much pricer) 48% ABV Pot Still Rum release from Mount Gay (one of my favorite rums). As always, Mount Gay does a good job with the packaging. I think any rum enthusiast would enjoy comparing these two rums, and both have appeal.

As is the tradition here, we made a Mai Tai with these rums. But I was curious if I’d prefer each release on their own, or a blended release with equal parts of each rum. So, it was umtshootout” time and a blind taste test.

The verdict?

Blind taste preference was as follows:
First Place: Pot Still
Second Place: Blend
Third Place: Column

So, I’m still a Pot Still Rum man, but honestly all of these Mai Tais were quite delicious. But the Pot Still just had a deeper and more satisfying flavor.