Palm Breeze Bar at Disneyland Hotel

The new DVC Villas at Disneyland Hotel opened recently and so we went to check it out during an afternoon break from park touring. The midcentury-inspired touches look nice, though this wing does not really integrate with the rest of the hotel towers. There’s only a minimal lobby space here, but the Palm Breeze Bar is adjacent to that entry and also to the small pool for this wing.

There are a lot of fun touches here, and plenty of midcentury design elements. We sat at the bar and ordered a Blue Bee’s Knees, which is a traditional gin-based Bee’s Knees with muddled blueberries. The level of skill and technique from the bartender was not as strong as we’ve grown accustomed to at Trader Sam’s / Tangaroa Terrace across the way, and so the drink was just so-so. Hopefully, this will improve over time.

We did see some other guests order an off-menu Mai Tai, which was prepared with BG Reynolds Orgeat (same is as used at Trader Sam’s). But, the limited rum selection at the Palm Breeze Bar meant this was mostly made with the sugar-heavy Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, so not really a great choice for this cocktail.

The rest of the cocktails at Palm Breeze Bar lean to inspired but tourist friendly recipes, including a few highballs, some frozen drinks, and quite a few mocktails. There’s a food menu which we didn’t try, but otherwise this place looks like a nice place to hang out if you can’t get into Trader Sam’s or Tangaroa Terrace.

Day Time is the Right Time at Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel

Our usual plan for park touring at Disneyland is to avoid the heavy crowds during the afternoon and explore other parts of the resort. Such was our journey last Friday to check out Trader Sam’s in mid-afternoon. We checked in to see if something was available inside and they said they could seat us immediately if we took two seats on a corner of the bar. This wasn’t perfect but seating at the bar is pretty great and with no wait was even better.

We love Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. Such a great vibe inside where everyone was in a great mood, friendly but not out of control. Our bartender Maddie did a great job with our drinks and then eventually let us move over a couple sets to let the next walk-up couple take the corner seats.

Mrs. Mai Tai ordered a Krakatoa Punch but was informed the special effects weren’t working, definitely a bummer but this longtime menu favorite delivers. She then went for her favorite, the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum which is Sam’s version of a Painkiller. She also ordered some Panko-crusted Long Beans that were savory and tasty.

I ordered a Mai Tai with Smith & Cross rum which was truly outstanding. Maddie knew I wanted it in an original 1944 Mai Tai format and it came out exceptionally balanced and so flavorful. In this case, as the customer I’m calling for a better rum than the standard light/dark used in Trader Sam’s standard-issue Mai Tai, and its nice that a hotel bar has so many great rums to choose from and that bartenders are willing to make a cocktail with a called spirit.

The exceptional part of Trader Sam’s is the talent of the bartenders to go off menu. Most skippers have their own secret menu of original cocktails and most seem familiar with the classics as well. I asked Maddie for a Navy Grog and was served an excellent version that was rich with flavors and spices and included three different rums. Really a couple a fantastic cocktails from Maddie.

There were a few empty spots during our stay, even by later in the afternoon on a Friday, so it can be possible to get seated inside even if you don’t have a reservation. Trader Sam’s remains one of my favorite tiki bars anywhere.

Blue Bayou Hurricane

This is the restaurant in New Orleans Square at Disneyland, in the same building as Pirates of the Caribbean. The advanced reservations always book up fast but we approached the entrance about 15 mins before they opened and were able to score a table off the waitlist. We were seated about ten minutes after opening in the middle/back of the restaurant, so no dockside view of the Pirates boats but plenty nice anyway.

I had a great and pretty large winter salad and the Brioche bread was delicious. I also had the Hurricane, an option for the last couple years where the sit down restaurants do serve beer, wine, and a specialty cocktail. This seems appropriate considering the New Orleans theme, where the Hurricane was (likely) invented.

The Hurricane is very fruity and very easy to drink. Not too sugary though. It uses light and dark rums and these aren’t challenging or overly potent but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Really great time at Blue Bayou, with excellent service. We also got some branded coupe glasses as a nice takeaway and a birthday present for Mrs Mai Tai.

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.