Top 10 Mai Tais of 2023… So Far

Ranking the top Mai Tais we’ve tasted so far this year. Note that some of these include rum substitutions, indicating that calling for premium spirits often elevates the cocktail.

10. Strong Water Anaheim with Lost Voyage Rum
Made with Strong Water’s Lost Voyage Rum released in conjunction with Hamilton Rum. Bold and very flavorful.

9. Tangaroa Terrace with El Dorado 8
We really appreciate the Trader Sam’s bartenders ability to improvise with called spirits. This one featured an aged Demerara rum and was totally rich and satisfying.

8. Trailer Happiness
The best Mai Tai in London was made with Appleton 8 and Grand Marnier and was really complex with a wonderful mouthfeel and long finish.

7. Smuggler’s Cove
As per the photo, there were some drunken shenanigans at the Cove that evening. But there’s nothing frivolous about the Cove’s legendary Mai Tai.

6. Ultimate Mai Tai at Tiki Tom’s
We were honored when Tiki Tom’s put our Ultimate Mai Tai on the menu, featuring our hand-picked blend of heavy rums. They make it great there, and we pop in occasionally for “quality control” tasting.

5. Buz-Tai at Hula Hoops
The boozy Buz-Tai is a Mai Tai riff created by local impresario Buz Deadwax and has been on the menu at South San Francisco’s Hula Hoops for years. Set on fire and including a complex blend of rums plus pimento dram.

4. Dr. Funk
San Jose’s Dr. Funk is still making excellent Mai Tais. This was their standard issue and I loved it.

3. Kon Tiki with Saint Benevolence Aged Clairin
The Kon-Tiki’s standard Mai Tai is excellent, but we really loved this one made with an aged Clairin from Haiti. Savory but still with good barrel aging notes.

2. Trader Vic’s San Jose Airport
There’s no way that this airport Mai Tai should rank so high, but a second that day confirmed that it was perfectly made and balanced. Mai Tais at sunset are just fine before a flight.

1. Mai Tai with Appleton 17
Appleton created this rum replicate the Wray 17 used in the original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. And, yes, it is spectacular in a Mai Tai. Made by Chris Dennis at an Appleton 17 event with Ferrand Dry Curacao and homemade orgeat / rich simple.

Honorable mentions: Red Dwarf, Formosa Cafe, High Roller Tiki Lounge

Tangaroa Terrace Mai Tai w/ El Dorado 8

Met up with Mrs Mai Tai for lunch. She was coming from Disneyland and I was coming from the hotel where I’ve been working. We wanted to get into Trader Sam’s but it was closed for a ticketed mixology event. So lunch on the terrace was our option and still just great.

I asked for a Mai Tai with El Dorado 8 Demerara Rum that I saw on the back bar. I enjoy aged rums in a Mai Tai more than the Bacardi / Coruba (or maybe Plantation Dark) combo they usually use. And this was a truly outstanding Mai Tai. So balanced and flavorful. The Bartenders there really know their stuff.

Lunch on the terrace was so relaxing. One of our favorite places.

Oga’s Cantina for Quinn’s 21st Birthday

Our son Quinn turned 21 on Saturday during our Disneyland trip so Oga’s Cantina was an intended destination. We completed some early park touring and landed in Galaxy’s Edge and tried the online checkin for Oga’s and found it was only a ten minute wait.

Inside we were seated at a table, which aside from being more relaxing was a welcome change since the four previous times I’ve visited Oga’s they’ve always “sat” us in the same place all the way at the end of the bar on the left. Nice to have a different perspective.

Oga’s isn’t a bad place for someone to have their first cocktail, since these are made for easy drinking. Quinn ordered the Takodana Quencher with Bacardi Dragonberry rum, Blue Curacao, and juices. Like I said, easy drinking.

They are now serving a Pretzel Knot with Hawaiian Black Sea Salt and a nice cheese sauce, a welcome addition of something substantial to be served alongside the drinks. And this pretzel knot was pretty damn good. Or so I thought after my Jedi Mind Trick cocktail at 9:30 in the morning.

HippopotoMai-Tai – New 4th Edition Orange Glaze Mug

We landed at the Disneyland Hotel on Friday evening and got some seats outside at the Tangaroa Terrace after a short wait. A pretty nice dinner, as always, and I enjoy the ambiance at night with the torches and live Hawaiian music.

I don’t love the Bacardi in their standard issue HippopotoMai-Tai so I looked at the rums on the backbar and ordered one with Hamilton 86 Demerara rum. The taste was lovely, richer than their standard.

We also got the new orange mug, which Mrs Mai Tai says is her favorite of the releases so far (I prefer the blue glaze from Trader Sam’s in Florida). The staff worked with us to adjust the level on the propane heaters. The skipper even threw in a few zingers.

When I got the bill it listed Hamilton 151 as the called rum. So that might explain why I found the cocktail so intoxicating.

Club 33 B-Rex Glass in White

We were the fortunate recipients of this glass from a neighbor who perhaps saw the counterpart color print glass in our house, designed by @artofbrex back in 2019 for Club 33’s tiki summer event.

We had the lucky opportunity to go to Club 33 at Disneyland during this event so we had to buy the glass set designed by our friend @brianrechenmacher on sale that summer. That was a fantastic experience: not often you have a three Mai Tai (yes, three!) lunch at Disneyland, which at the time was still “dry” other than in the members-only Club 33. The white version pays obvious homage to the classic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai glass design.

To celebrate I made a Smith & Cross Mai Tai, the rum that Brian used in Mai Tais made for me at several venues during his bartending days where he amazingly remembered that I loved that potent Jamaica Rum in a Mai Tai. It is fantastic but hardly subtle. Kind of like B-Rex himself! Cheers.

Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

The list includes commercial restaurants and bars, plus Mai Tais we had at home tiki bars and events. You can view the full list and additional details on our page:
Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

10: The Rum House

Trader Nic’s Mai Tai, named after the head bartender, features Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black and unaged Rhum JM, plus a tiny float of OFTD.

9: Dealer’s Choice Mai Tai by Adrian Castañeda at The Kon-Tiki Room

Adrian used 1 oz of Worthy Park Kon-Tiki Single Barrel (aged 5 yrs, cask strength), along with ½ oz each of Worthy Park 109 and Uruapan Charandra Anejo.

8: Sunken Harbor Club

Everything they say is true! The famed Mai Tai created by Garret Richard for Sunken Harbor Club in Brooklyn is indeed a top-notch Mai Tai.

7: The Kon-Tiki Single Barrel Mai Tai

This version with Kon-Tiki’s special single barrel release from Worthy Park was totally fantastic.

6: Dr. Funk (original blend)

The original rum blend in the Dr. Funk Mai Tai featured two of our favorite rums, Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross.

5: Smuggler’s Cove with Appleton and Hamilton Rums

We thank bartender Steven Liles for indulging us with the custom order and for making a great Mai Tai.

4: Hale Pele

Who knew that a combination of inexpensive Jamaican rums like Coruba Dark and Wray & Nephew Overproof could be so flavorful and memorable?

3: Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown Trading Co.

Skull & Crown three Mai Tais on their menu but we prefer this traditional 1944 style Mai Tai made with Appleton 12, Clement Select Barrel, Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum.

2: Classic Mai Tai with Appleton and Hamilton Rums by Skipper Nate at Trader Sam’s

I found myself at the bar at Trader Sam’s on a slow afternoon and Skipper Nate totally willing to work with me to find the very best Mai Tai that could be made on the premises.

1: Birds of Paradise Lounge

This Mai Tai features a complex four rum blend of Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Plantation Xaymaca, and Kō Hana Kea.

It seems impossible to believe that a party Mai Tai served in a plastic cup could be the best this year but when the Correy and Mariella Bravo make a Mai Tai their way you know it’s going to be Maita’i roa ae.

View the full write up for the Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022