House without a Key Mai Tai

This was one of my favorites on our previous trips to O’ahu, and sometimes I like to make it at home.

The recipe is notable in the use of different proportions of the 1944 Mai Tai recipe template, but also the use of a dark rum float most commonly seen in Island-style Mai Tais.

House without a Key Mai Tai, Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki
1¼ oz Lime Juice
⅓ oz Orgeat
⅓ oz Rock Candy Syrup
⅓ oz Orange Curacao (Cointreau)
¾ oz Bacardi Select/Black Rum
¾ oz Bacardi Gold Rum
Float ½ oz Lemon Hart 151 Rum

Comparing the two photos, it definitely looked better on the beach in Waikiki than it did in my kitchen. But it tasted just fine at home.

How to Make a Mai Tai with the Stars of Magnum P.I. and NCIS: Hawai’i

Stephen Hill and Jason Antoon appeared on Entertainment Tonight to promote their CBS shows set in Hawai’i and to make some Mai Tais at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. As these segments go, this one ain’t bad. They credit “Mr. Bergeron” with the origin of the Mai Tai and the ingredients in this version are actually a little better than recipe the Royal Hawaiian has on their website.

We always talk about the need to measure ingredients for cocktails, but I’m more than willing to give a pass to the “free pour” for the Jamaican rum float here. If people go a little heavy that would only improve the cocktail. They didn’t name check local favorite KoHana rum but as a light rum that one is quite flavorful, so a great option for an Island Mai Tai. The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian is a great place to relax in Waikiki.

I have been enjoying Magnum P.I. since its debut in 2018, and they even incorporated Hawaii’s oldest tiki bar La Mariana into the program a couple years ago (they filmed at La Mariana to introduce the venue, but since then all scenes are filmed on a set). NCIS: Hawai’i debuted earlier this year.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (ET version)
1 oz Orange Juice
2 oz Pineapple Juice
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Light Rum (KoHana)
Shake with ice and “free pour” float of Jamaican rum (Appleton Reserve)

Watch the Video

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai

Though the exact recipe may not be known, it does seem clear that the Mai Tai’s rise to fame in Hawaii started at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach. In 1953, Trader Vic Bergeron contracted with Matson to provide menus for their passenger ships and their hotel properties that included the Royal Hawaiian. The Mai Tai became a big hit with tourists in Hawaii and by the end of the decade had supplanted the Zombie as the most famous tropical cocktail in the world.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Classic Recipe)
½ oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz unsweetened Pineapple Juice
¼ oz Sugar Syrup
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Demerara Rum
1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Light Rum

Garnish with a Pineapple finger, Sugar Cane stick, Orchid, and Mint Sprig.

This recipe dates to 1971 according to the entry in Beachbum Berry Remixed (page 72).

Note that the recipe for this Mai Tai does not have the dark rum float most typically associated with Island Mai Tais. Though, I suppose, you could hold back the Dark Jamaican rum and float it. 

Today, the Royal Hawaiian provides the “secret recipe” for their “Original” Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, and it differs considerably from the older recipe provided by Beachbum Berry. Purists will note the use of Amaretto rather than Orgeat, and a mere 1½ ounces of rum.

The photo above is the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai sampled in 2019.

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Modern Recipe)
Build in shaker with ice:
1 oz Bacardi Rum
1 tsp Cherry Vanilla Puree
½ oz Amaretto di Saronno
½ oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh Govinda Orange Juice
2 oz Fresh Govinda Pineapple Juice
½ oz Whaler’s Dark Rum Float

Roll the shaker, pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float with Whaler’s Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.

Compare to the 1956 Mai Tai

Note that both recipes differ considerably from the 1956 Mai Tai recipe that Trader Vic provided to a patron of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. That recipe is much closer to a traditional 1944 Mai Tai, though it is possible that in 1956 that the Mai Tais in Hawaii were still made without Pineapple and Orange juices.

Halekulani Mai Tai

The Mai Tai served at House without a Key, Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki
⅓ oz Orgeat
⅓ oz Orange Curacao (Cointreau)
⅓ oz Rock Candy Syrup
1 ¼ oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Bacardi Select/Black Rum
¾ oz Bacardi Gold Rum
Float ½ oz Lemon Hart 151 Rum

This looks like a typical Island Mai Tai but is closer to an original 1944 Mai Tai, and was easily our favorite in Waikiki. (Halekulani website)

Skull & Crown Trading Company Pin

Visit the Skull & Crown Trading Company website and purchase a pin

New Website Feature: Tiki Travels – Big Island of Hawaii

The Island of Hawaii (“the Big Island”) is a great destination for Mai Tai fans, being the home of the last remaining Don the Beachcomber location, as well as the yearly Mai Tai Festival. This is not intended to provide an exhaustive review of every Mai Tai on the island, since you can get a Mai Tai in nearly any restaurant and every bar, but we do want to highlight some key destinations.

Tiki Travels – Big Island of Hawaii

Mai Tai with Appleton 12 Rum at Kuleana Rum Shack

New Site Feature: Tiki Travels – Honolulu

We’ve added a new page to the Search for the Ultimate Mai Tai website: Tiki Travels – Honolulu.

Most of our Tiki Travels pages will be exclusively focusing on Tiki Bars. However, since Hawaii is also a great Mai Tai destination, many of the places we visited weren’t tiki at all. Nonetheless we had some great Mai Tais, including our favorite on Waikiki at the Halekulani Hotel.

View the page:
Tiki Travels – Honolulu

Article in Exotica Moderne Magazine #6

Time to add paid, published author to my resume.

Actually, I did some freelance RPG writing years and years ago, but it’s nice to start doing some more again. This is my article in the latest issue of Exotica Moderne, a story about tiki bars in Honolulu.

Ken from House of Tabu did an amazing job with the layout and design. Look at the map! So awesome.

And glad to give shout outs to Arnold’s Beach Bar, The Myna Bird, Skull & Crown Trading Company, La Mariana, and the recent departed Wiki Waki Woo Tropical Bar (hope that one comes back). Great fun in Honolulu.

If you haven’t ordered your copy get over to House of Tabu website to secure your copy.