I previously reviewed the Kō Hana bottled Mai Tai and found it to be quite forward with Kō Hana’s delicious Hawaiian Agricole Rum. The bottled Lilikoi Daiquiri is a little less bold and a tad less sweet, but it still a high quality bottled cocktail.
At 22% ABV, this bottled Daiquiri is plenty boozy. It tastes good on it’s own, shaken with ice or served over ice, though it was better when I added a little Demerara Syrup just to sweeten it up a bit.
I previously made a similar Daiquiri using Kō Hana Kea rum and Small Hand Food’s excellent Passion Fruit Syrup. A fresh cocktail with bright lime and Kō Hana’s rum is superb.
Ready to drink Mai Tais are popular in tourist locations, so there’s no surprise to see one from Trader Vic’s alongside those from Koloa, Kō Hana, Cutwater, and more. But this Trader Vic’s Mai Tai is different from the canned Mai Tai available on the mainland.
Hawai’i Mai Tai 200 ml, 9.95% ABV, “Made with rum and orange liqueur,” made by World Spirits Ltd.
Mainland Mai Tai 12 oz/355 ml, 10% ABV, “Made with aged rum, lime juice, cane sugar, and natural flavors,” made by Iguazu Company LLC.
The Hawaiian version is richer and much more syrupy, though not unpleasant. There are hints of maple syrup and fruit. The mainland version has a darker color and a significantly lighter mouthfeel, with hints of almond and rum. Neither particularly tastes like a Mai Tai, though notably neither veers off into pineapple or coconut flavors.
Quality wise, these are about the same – not as good as the more expensive craft cocktail brands such as Kō Hana, Small Hand, or Proof Cocktail Co, but way better than most canned Mai Tais especially Cutwater.
The Mai Tai in Hawaii started in an unusual way, due to territorial rights to the Trader Vic’s name. Interesting to see this regional difference still manifests itself with these two very different Trader Vic’s RTDs.
Today was an add-on experience connected to the San Francisco Rum Festival and Congress held at Trader Vic’s Emeryville. Rum Education for a Cause was a fundraiser for Maui and included three sessions.
Mai Tai: The Official (Unofficial) Cocktail of Hawai’i
“The Mai Tai has been coined the “national drink of Hawaii” and is often referred to as the “king of tiki drinks” according to Dine with Drinks. Join our panelists to learn more about the history of this iconic cocktail in Hawai’i and from today’s Hawaiian rum producers who are advancing drink’s cornerstone ingredient into the 21st century.”
My portion included a presentation about the history of the Mai Tai in Hawai’i including how the cocktail continues to evolve and feature the fine rums from local rum producers Kuleana Rum Works and Kō Hana Distillers. Steve Jefferson from Kuleana and Kyle Reutner from Kō Hana discussed their rums and included more details about how sugar cane came to Hawai’i and how it is used today.
We were pleased to be the inaugural guest on Derek Cole’s Make and Drink channel on YouTube. In the video we discuss how the cocktail evolved in Hawaii and even make the original Hawaiian Mai Tai that did not include Pineapple juice. Make and Drink is a really great cocktail channel and Derek’s production values are off the chart.
The thumbnail for the video includes some “Easter Eggs” about the Mai Tai and even some forthcoming content. Stay tuned for future collaborations.
Now is also a good time to recommend subscribing to the Make and Drink Patreon, where you can support high-quality content like this as well as being able to interact with other patrons and Derek who is also producing patron-exclusive content. Check it out.
One of the highlights of the Tiki in Waikiki weekend event was a tour of the Kō Hana rum distillery in Waipahu. We took comfortable buses our about an hour out of Waikiki and were greeted by the friendly folks from Kō Hana.
The tour includes four components, with about ten minutes in each spot. Our group started with the distilling area with the pot and column stills, where we learned about how they take the wash and turn it into fine Hawaiian rum. Our next stop was the aging room where we saw that some of Kō Hana’s expressions are aged in a variety of barrels including a few made with native Hawaiian wood. There’s a lot more capacity in that aging room, where I hope we’ll get even longer aged expressions of Kō Hana rum in the future.
We also learned about the sugar cane and the dozens of varietals that Kō Hana is using. These varietals are on the grounds of the distillery for reference, but the farms are on the north end of O’ahu. At each stop the experts in each field were available for detailed questions about Kō Hana’s production process. A breezy tour for rum newbies and super cool for the rum nerds to dig into the details.
The last stop was the tasting room where we got to sample three Kō Hana expressions: the unaged Kea, the aged Koho, and the Kokoleka which is made with Kō Hana rum along with pure cacao and raw honey. This liqueur is bottled at 30% ABV and Mrs. Mai Tai was such a big fan that we walked home with a bottle. There’s also samples of Kō Hana’s fine bottled cocktails and some other branded items available for purchase.
Kō Hana is becoming one of my favorite rums thanks to the myriad excellent cocktails I’ve been having lately that are made with this fine spirit. I honestly don’t love their unique square bottles but they’re quite distinctive on the shelf and traveled well in our suitcase.
Big thanks to the team Kō Hana who were super informative and also provided us with a great deal of hospitality during our visit. Mahalo, team.
Someone commented about all the Mai Tais from our recent trip to Hawai’i and asked which was my favorite.
The Banyan Mai Tai at the Skull & Crown Trading Co. pop up at Don’s Treehouse at the International Market Place was by far my favorite. This one really hit all the right notes and was complex and so full of flavor. It also features three outstanding rums, all of which are amongst my favorites: Appleton Estate 12 Jamaica rum, Kō Hana Kea Hawaiian agricole rum, and Smith & Cross Jamaica rum.
We had a little free time after the Tiki in Waikiki cocktail competition and went to Duke’s Waikiki for drinks. We enjoy this restaurant but it is always really crowded and hard to get in without a reservation. But the bar is open seating and we were lucky that server at the bar let us sit at a table that technically wasn’t open. Our service was very prompt and he was super friendly, too.
The very good Duke’s Vintage ’44 Mai Tai is made with Koloa rums from Kauai, lime, and a splash of fresh pineapple. I don’t mind a little bit of pineapple juice in a Mai Tai, though of course it really shouldn’t be called a ’44 if there’s pineapple in there. Nevertheless, this was the right balance and I thought this Mai Tai was pretty good. Definitely different than the traditional Duke’s Mai Tai made with POG juice.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai had the pretty and sweet Lava Flow. Nothing fancy but this is the kind of drink she loves.
We couldn’t leave Duke’s without some Hula Pie. There’s something about a Hula Pie in Hawai’i that makes it taste better than one you have from a restaurant in California. Maybe it is how it melts just a little faster, but boy it was fab.
Afterwards, we wandered out to the for some photos and great views of the beach and Diamond Head.