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.
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.
Another successful San Francisco Rum Festival and Congress is in the books. We had a great time at the Hibernia in downtown SF for this year’s event. Everything seemed just about the same as last year in terms of attendance and rum sponsors. So nice to meet many rum reps and to taste some new rums and expressions.
Having been doing the rum thing for several years now, I try to stick to things I haven’t tried before. So when I went to the El Dorado/Diamond table I unbelievably didn’t ask for a pour of cask strength Port Mourant but Diamond’s new Coconut rum. And I liked it! The Diamond line is a lower-priced product line and everything I’ve tried has been really great, including their two 151 expressions.
Barbancourt from Haiti has an interesting 110 proof white rum expression that I found interesting and had some bold and complex flavors. Same was true for the Monymusks’s forthcoming Overproof rum. This Jamaica rum is issued at 126 proof, but it quite a bit different from Wray/Rum Fire. Definitely a little lighter including Column-still distillate and a more subdued fruit-forward flavor. Worth checking out.
There were several good seminars. I really enjoyed the session from Johann Jobello covering the line of Haitian Clairins from La Maison & Velier. Clairins are wonderful and tasting these expressions side by side shows how diverse they can be – even when they’re just coming from the same country. The session from Monymusk led by blender Robert Gordon and supported by Adrienne Stoner was also quite informative. Based on rums coming from the Long Pond and Clarendon distilleries, Monymusk is relaunching their brand in the U.S. and seems poised for wider availability.
A session about estate-grown rums featured Zan Kong from Worthy Park and was paired with Steve Jefferson and Kyle Reutner from Hawaiian distilleries Kuleana and Kō Hana respectively. This was a little looser in style and more for a Q&A format with some cogent and respectful questions from the audience. Three of my favorite rums companies.
One of the highlights of Tiki in Waikiki was the Friday cocktail reception at the International Market Place‘s treehouse. This was set up as a tribute to Donn Beach, who envisioned the original market place back in the 1950s. A treehouse for two was a key feature back in those days, used by honeymooners and others who wanted a private dining experience. A. Private. Dining. Experience. You know…
We can thank our friends at Skull & Crown Trading Co. for setting up the cocktails being served in the treehouse for the first time in decades. There were a series of delicious options, including a very nice Zombie, but I was totally blown away by the Mai Tai on the menu.
The Banyan Mai Tai was made with Appleton Estate 12 rum, Kō Hana Kea rum, Smith & Cross rum, Dry Curacao, Lime, Orgeat, Demerara Syrup, and a topping of Angostura Bitters. Purists would say that bitters don’t belong in a Mai Tai, but I’m here to tell you that it was just fine to add them. With three rums amongst my favorites, this Mai Tai totally hit me perfectly. Especially considering the setting, too. Cocktails, in a treehouse under the banyan tree, what’s not to love? One of the top Mai Tais of 2023 and it will for sure make the yearly top 10 list.
Skull & Crown will be doing cocktails here on Fridays and Saturdays through the rest of the year, so if you’re in Waikiki be sure to check it out.
One of the highlights of my visits to The Kon-Tiki is to check out their rum selection and to try something new. Such was the case on Wednesday when I tried two varietals of Kō Hana Kea Hawaiian Agricole Rum. These rums are distilled from the crushed cane juice from different types of sugar cane, providing each expression with unique and interesting flavors.
First was Kalaoa, harvested in December 2020. I tried this neat and found it to be similar to the Kea varietal I have at home but a bit more mild and less briney. Very satisfying to sip.
Next was Lahi from June 2019 and for this varietal I had it in Kon-Tiki’s excellent Mai Tai. This rum is so flavorful that it really punches through and makes for a fantastic cocktail. You can taste the savory flavor profile from the Kō Hana Rum, and no grassy aftertaste like sometimes get with this style of rum distilled from sugar cane juice.
The Kon-Tiki had a nice collection and we thank Carlos for the suggestions.
We’ll be visiting the Kō Hana distillery next week on O’ahu when we attend the Tiki in Waikiki event. There’s a lot of focus on local businesses and cultural activities for this tiki weekender event, including some fundraising for Maui relief efforts.
This Mai Tai is part of a line of bottled cocktails from O’ahu’s Kō Hana rum distillery. We’re fans of their rum products and this cocktail line is starting to become available outside the islands. I picked mine up at Bitters and Bottles. Retail price is around $15.
In terms of overall taste, the Kō Hana Mai Tai’s most pronounced taste and bouquet is coming from the stellar Hawaiian Rum Agricole. This rum is distilled from cane juice and has a savory and sweet taste that’s different from rums distilled from molasses. There are also tangy citrus flavors and some light fruity flavors, but I’m not getting a lot of orange or almond like you’d expect from a traditional Mai Tai. But I’m also not picking up much pineapple or coconut, so in that respect this bottled Mai Tai is already a lot better than most.
Kō Hana recommends this served over ice and I found it to be noticeably better in this format. It comes in at a hefty 22% ABV, which means that 375 bottle is best for a couple people. Throw a pineapple or umbrella in the drink and take a Hawaiian vacation.
This is one of the better bottled Mai Tais. If you love rums made from cane juice, Kō Hana’s Mai Tai is truly outstanding.
I’m doing Kon-Tiki’s Rum Expedition list of 100 rums again, and decided to Daiq it up last night for National Daiquiri Day.
I tried three rums in this format, all light/clear and I believe all unaged.
Copalli White – this pot/column blend from Belize is made from sugar cane juice but is very approachable. Not as much character in this one compared to the other two, but it is very serviceable in this format.
Père Labat Blanc 59 – a high proof rhum had more oomph and the traditional Martinique grassy notes were somewhat tempered in this format. I liked this, not just for the 59% ABV but because of the terroir of the island of origin.
KōHana Hawaiian Agricole Rum KEA – by far by favorite from this list. I absolutely love Kea for the savory qualities, even at only 40% ABV. Not grassy like the Martinique, instead this flavor bomb had a really lovely and long finish in the daiquiri.