National Mai Tai Day at Hale Pele

Tiki Kon weekend is here, and the first event was a ticketed, private seating at Portland’s world class tiki bar Hale Pele.

Of course we started with Hale Pele’s Mai Tai, and damn that is a fantastic cocktail! This is still made according to their longtime specs with 1½ oz Cobura Dark Jamaican rum along with ½ oz of Wray & Nephew Jamaican Overproof rum. So flavorful, and one of the best Mai Tais you can buy anywhere on planet earth.

Such a great time at Hale Pele when filled with tiki people, and the Hale Pele team really put on a great show with the fire drinks. Mrs. Mai Tai started with her default cocktail the Lava Flow (yummy!) and then we shared a flaming Jet Pilot. Such a great cocktail and even more special when set on fire by Hale Pele’s team of fire experts.

We really like the food at Hale Pele. My Mahi Tacos were fantastic, as was the Kalua Pork sandwich.

We also have to thank Appleton rum for the wonderful pour of their incredible Appleton 15 rum, along with a small rocks glass. Thank you to Martin and Rebecca Cate for hosting the event, and the entire Hale Pele crew.

Hale Pele’s World Class Mai Tai


Trader Vic Grog in Trader Vic’s San Jose Anniversary Glass

We had the pleasure of flying out of San Jose a couple weeks ago on the 1st anniversary of Trader Vic’s SJC – the world’s best airport bar. The problem was that our flight was at 7:30 in the morning, so our visit to Vic’s was at opening at 6 am (Mai Tais at 6:15 am!). And the 1st anniversary celebration was at Noon that same day, so all the event merch was held under lock and key. The staff graciously tried to get into it, but no luck.

So we have to thank our benefactor for getting us this amazing Trader Vic’s San Jose Airport glass, and the incredible airline wing-style pin. Mahalo, friend.

To celebrate I made a Trader Vic’s Grog. This is one of the cocktails I’ll sometimes go to at the restaurant when I look for something besides the Mai Tai. It’s a pretty good cocktail in this format, and is basically a crushed-ice and double sized version of the Siboney cocktail that’s served up.

For this version, I used two flavorful Jamaican rums. Some Worthy Park 109, a dark Jamaican rum at 54.5% ABV, alongside Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Gold. I also made a tiny tweak by adding ¼ oz of simple syrup so that the cocktail was slightly less tart.

Trader Vic Grog
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Passionfruit Syrup (Liber)
2 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Add simple syrup to taste
Shake with crushed ice and garnish with mint.

It is not without a great deal of irony that after being a tiki bar wasteland for decades, that we salute San Jose that now has two very good tiki bars with this Trader Vic’s location and Dr. Funk downtown.

Recipe: No Pain, No Gain

Everyone loves playing with the rums in a Mai Tai, with bars competing for the best custom blend and home bartenders organizing blind taste test parties. But why stop at the Mai Tai? Why don’t we do this for the Painkiller?

Well, there is a certain reason.

Pusser’s Rum trademarked the Painkiller cocktail, which means that legally it can’t be called that unless you use Pusser’s rum. Which is kind of ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Pusser’s – especially their boozy Gunpowder Proof which is so flavorful and clocks in at 109 proof.

So, today’s cocktail isn’t a “Painkiller” at all. It is something else. But, you know, it kind of isn’t different.

No Pain, No Gain by Steve Perez
3 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Cream of Coconut
1½ oz Rum Fire Jamaican Overproof Rum
1½ oz Plantation OFTD
Shake with crushed ice and garnish with nutmeg

Steve Perez was talking up this rum blend last week at Dr. Funk and after a hard day it seemed like the perfect time to try this rum made with one rum at 63% ABV and another at 69%. So, quite boozy! More importantly, quite flavorful. I do feel that Jamaican rums can add a lot to this style of coconut-forward cocktail.

Thanks for the suggestion Steve!

Glassware: Tiki Goth Club

Rum-Bar Overproof

Regular readers know I love Jamaican rum, and one of my favorite styles is the unaged white overproof. Wray & Nephew Overproof is the affordable standard bearer for this style of rum, but I do prefer when this type is 100% pot still distilled and featuring a heavier body. “Overproof” because it is issued at 63% ABV.

Rum-Bar Overproof from Worthy Park Estate is such an entrant, and I recent obtained a new replacement bottle so I’d be sure to have some on hand at home. It is an intense and fragrant rum that fills the room with a wonderful fruity scent. It also tastes great – closer to Rum Fire than Wray in flavor profile and overall mouthfeel. It is an intense flavor.

I enjoy this type of rum with grapefruit soda, especially the Ting soda from Jamaica if you can find it. I also find that Squirt works well enough and is much more available. I’ve also used this cocktails such as my Blue Hawai-Tai or even as a half or full ounce of White Overproof rum in a Mai Tai alongside something more refined.

Ohana Thursday at Dr. Funk

The mid-month Ohana meetup is now the 3rd Thursday starting this month and based on last night seemed like a good change. We had a nice group of folks attending. Join us starting at 5:00 and ending … later.  We still have a standing meetup on the 1st Sunday staring at 5:00 – remember, no food at Dr. Funk on Sundays/Mondays.

Thanks to Trader Don for the photo of Sean and me.

Music last night was a playlist of Ukulele covers of Bob Marley and Eagles songs, which I thought fit in just fine and was more than reasonable. There was even a little exotica, and in any case it is always appreciated when the venue sticks to the atmospheric theme rather than giving in to playing classic rock and ruining the vibe.

Dr. Funk has added on to their outdoor patio, just in time for summer. There are even plans for an outdoor bar for certain days (presumably weekends) when crowds are heavier.

The Mai Tai was Dr. Funk’s standard, with Plantation Xaymaca subbing for their standard rum blend. I keep throwing different rums at the Dr. Funk Mai Tai and it never disappoints.

Appleton 17 Legend Jamaican Rum

Biiiig news, Mai Tai fans. Appleton Estate is coming out with a new rum expression aged 17 years, intended as a “re-creation of the legendary rum crafted by J. Wray & Nephew in the 1940s” that “inspired the bartending world.” No specific mention of Trader Vic Bergeron or his most famous creation, the 1944 Mai Tai, but we all know what they’re hinting at.

Take my money!

I’ve often wondered why Appleton didn’t try to tap into the nostalgia of Mai Tai fans worldwide and release a 17 year expression to match the Wray & Nephew rum used in the original Mai Tai. After rebranding their standard issue product line in 2020 and issuing mainstream and widely available 15 year and 21 year old expressions last year, plans for the 17 year expression are now public. Thanks to Cocktail Wonk Matt Pietrek for sharing the TTB filing.

A few facts:

  • Minimum aged 17 years in the tropics
  • 49% ABV
  • 1500 bottles total

Since this is a 750ml bottle, this is most likely the allocation for the United States. No specific details are shown regarding the blend, and “100% Pot Still” is not indicated on the bottle as you’d expect if it were so.

But, surely the pot still component is greater in this expression than it is for Appleton’s mainstream rum products, if this is to be a “faithful re-creation of the original.” Having tried the very limited release of the 25 year old Appleton 1995 that’s 100% Pot Still I can tell you that those Appleton pot stills are quite effective at producing amazing distillate, and makes an amazing Mai Tai

Stay tuned for further developments.


Great (House) Mai Tai at The Kon-Tiki

Had a great time last night for Ohana night at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland. The staff was really humming along, even after the place even got a little crowded (that’s a good thing). Bartender Kris even put on a fabulous flame show over a couple Jet Pilots (sadly I did not document). It was really impressive.

Besides the Kon-Tiki’s always amazing cheeseburger, I tried the Happy Hour Saturn that was quite tangy. Total bargain, with a great gin finish.

The Kon-Tiki’s vast rum selection offers so many options. This time I opted for the Hampden 2021 Great House Jamaican rum in a Mai Tai and it was totally fantastic.

Blue Hawai-Tai Revisit

I am revisiting this cocktail after a few months and did a few variants to taste test. I was told it was too sweet, and I suppose that might be true for some people but it tastes great to me.

I would say that full pot-still rums like Rum-Bar or Rum Fire do work much better than the blended Wray & Nephew Overproof. I tested the “aged white rum” components with White Stache and Probitas and found that while I prefer the heavier Probitas overall this is a less important component than the White Overproof Jamaican rum portion.

Blue Hawai-Tai by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Simple Syrup
½ oz Blue Curacao
1 oz White Overproof Jamaican Rum
½ oz Aged White Rum

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and dump into a small snifter glass. Garnish with Mint and tropical fruit.

Book Club Cocktails

Mrs. Mai Tai hosted her monthly Book Club with friends and asked me to make cocktails for the group. This was the menu I came up with, intended to present some different kinds of flavors than are usually seen on mainstream cocktail menus.

  • The Pampanito: a Smuggler’s Cove recipe featuring Molasses Syrup
  • Saturn: a Gin-based cocktail with exotic cocktail sweeteners
  • Blue Hawaii: I included a little quarter ounce of Wray & Nephew Overproof to give this a little extra kick of flavor
  • Tradewinds: a great combination of coconut plus Apricot Liqueur

The cocktail that blew everyone away was the Saturn, served up. Even the attendees who said they didn’t like Gin found this delightful. I made more of these than the other cocktails combined.

I can see why people build or acquire bars for their homes; trying to make this many drinks sink-side in the kitchen is kind of a pain. But at least the results came out great.

Planter’s Punch Experiment

Did a little playing around with the Planter’s Punch by adding a drop of Pernod and using ½ oz Simple and ½ oz Falernum for the sweetener. It was good but not great. Back to the drawing board.

What’s your favorite Planter’s Punch recipe?