Amazing Mai Tai at Trader Sam’s

The app-based reservation system I mentioned for Oga’s Cantina worked even better getting inside at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar last Wednesday afternoon. Once I got onto the Disneyland Hotel property I tapped on Sam’s and added myself to the waiting list. The app said the estimated wait was 30 minutes. But just seconds after receiving the first “you’re on the list” text message, I got another one that said my table was ready.

Inside, the bar was not busy so it was a perfect time to cool down inside with a cocktail. Skipper Nate was working behind the bar and I ordered a Mai Tai with Appleton Reserve rum. Nate checked the order, “classic style?” which I took to mean no Agave Syrup that they use in their standard house Mai Tai. “Yes, sir,” I said. That Appleton Reserve Mai Tai was faaantastic, and I was more than happy to compliment the Skipper when he asked how it was. Very rummy, but also a wonderful flavor profile – not too sweet, not too sour. Great mouthfeel.

Classic Mai Tai with Appleton 8 Reserve Rum

Second Round, Better than the First

For the second round, I asked Skipper Nate if they had something a little more funky, and he suggested Hamilton Pot Still Blonde rum. I said that would be great – a half Appleton Reserve and half Hamilton Blonde Mai Tai.

It was one of the best Mai Tais I’ve ever had.

The funkier rum really added a nice punch to the cocktail, and elevated what was already an amazing Mai Tai. On this day it was damn near perfect.

Nearly Perfect Mai Tai with Appleton Reserve and Hamilton Pot Still Blonde rums

Thank you Skipper Nate! I will follow you into battle anytime.

That day it really came together at Trader Sam’s: relaxing in the immersive space, exotica music playing, and the light hum of conversations and laughter.

Planter’s Punch at Dr. Funk

Working my way through the cocktail menu at Dr. Funk. The Planter’s Punch was recommended by bartender Paul McCoun  who knows I love the Appleton 12 rum that’s used in Funk’s Planter’s Punch.

And the Planter’s Punch keeps up the winning streak of amazing cocktails at Dr. Funk. So flavorful!

I also see they’ve added a logo sign above the entrance to Dr. Funk. This place has really come a long way and for anyone close to San Jose the dream is here to stay.

Top Mai Tais of 2021: Number 3, Dr. Funk

Each year we celebrate the 10 best Mai Tais that we had the pleasure of tasting in the last 12 months.

Number 3: Dr. Funk (San Jose, CA)

San Jose finally got the world-class tiki bar that it deserves as being America’s 10th most populous city. Located downtown at San Pedro Square, the cocktail program at Dr. Funk has been high-quality right from launch. This includes the Mai Tai which is made with Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross rums from Jamaica. The team told me they tried Martinique rhum but liked this all-Jamaican blend the best. And I’m totally on-board with “Team Jamaican Rum” myself.

The Dr. Funk Mai Tai is great and we even added it to our list of Top 5 Mai Tais at any location.

Recipe: Molasses Mai Tai

I made some fresh Molasses Syrup to replace the one that was in the back of my fridge for a couple years. I enjoy a few cocktails that use this ingredient, most notably the Pampanito cocktail at Smuggler’s Cove (the recipe is in the book, too). Molasses adds a certain bite to the cocktail that seems appropriate during winter.

I am lazy when it comes to making syrups but this one is pretty easy.

Molasses Syrup:
2 cups Granulated Sugar
2 Tbsp. Mild Molasses
1 cup Hot Water
Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool, then bottle.

The Molasses Mai Tai was a riff I tried a couple years ago that I figured would be great, and it turned out better than I expected. This is inspired by the Pampanito, which originally used the same Appleton Reserve 8 rum called for here.

Molasses Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Molasses Syrup
½ oz Orange Curacao
2 oz Aged Jamaican Rum (Appleton Reserve 8)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and dump into double rocks glass and garnish with Mint Sprig and reserved Lime shell.

Cocktails and Rum in Oakland

Got try to another one of the new cocktails on the Kon-Tiki cocktail menu. The Golden Snitch is from their Exotic Apperitifs section and has sherry, pineapple gum syrup, and rum. Quite delightful.

The Kon-Tiki’s rum selection continues to bring in some interesting new expressions to try. I sampled Admiral Rodney Saint Lucia Rum finished in Port Cask, and I was definitely impressed by the flavor profile. Easy to drink but also some great lingering flavors.

A very different rum was the LROK release from Hampden Estate in Jamaica. This is supposed to be their “lighter” expression but make no mistake this is still a flavor bomb with a pretty high ester count. Bottled at 47% ABV this is something everyone needs to try. I love Jamaican Rum.

Three Dots and a Dash (modified)

I decided to use some of this year’s most highly anticipated new rum releases and put them into a cocktail together. I love the Worthy Park 109, which is a Dark Jamaican rum that to me approaches the flavor profile of a Demerara rum. And the aged Clairin expression from Saint Benevolence is an amazing alternative for cocktails calling for an aged rum from Martinique. 

So, I chose a cocktail where the new rums would drop right in. The Three Dots and a Dash is a popular Don the Beachcomber cocktail, the recipe for which was unearthed a few years ago by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Thanks, Bum!

Three Dots and a Dash (modified)
½ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orange Juice
½ oz Honey Syrup
¼ oz Falernum
¼ oz Pimento Dram
1½ oz Saint Benevolence Aged Clairin
½ oz Worthy Park 109 Jamaica Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
6 oz Crushed Ice
Flash blend and garnish with three cherries (three dots) and a pineapple (and a dash)

Worthy Park Special Barrel Series

Got to try this new special release of Worthy Park Jamaica Rum. Aged 14 years, the oldest in Worthy Park’s collection, and available as a special release with Smuggler’s Cove where you can taste the rum and purchase a bottle. You can also purchase at K&L Wines.

This aged rum is bottled at cask strength and you’re going to taste the flavor in ever sip. This rum has a higher ester count than I recall from other Worthy Park releases.

If you’re a nut for Jamaica Rum, you’ll want to give this a try if you can. It’ll be gone soon.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Rum

There’s a nice case of vintage Trader Vic’s bottles in the Cook Room at the Emeryville location.

This shot is of the Mai Tai Rum, which combined rums from Jamaica (70%), Martinique (20%), and Virgin Islands (10%), and coming in at a very nice 43% ABV. Likely a great rum to put in your Mai Tai (or your “Mai-Tai” according to the label, sigh). Man, I’d love to try some of this.

Appleton 15 Black River Casks

The new Appleton 15 expression is rolling out and I was tipped that some Total Wine stores in the Bay Area were carrying a bottle or two. So I immediately put one on order and picked it up.

I’ve been waiting for this new Appleton rum. After last year’s Appleton rebranding that included reformulation of the Appleton 8 Reserve expression, this new Appleton 15 year expression is moderately priced and designed as a 43% ABV sipping rum. You don’t always want cask strength. The 15 is a minimum age statement, so the blend of pot and column still rums in the bottle have all been aged in Jamaica for at least 15 years. There’s even a certificate of ageing.

As we’re want to do at Ultimate Mai Tai HQ, we set up a #umtshootout. Blind tests against the currently available Appleton 8, and Appleton 12 expressions, plus sample of a different Appleton 15 limited release that I procured from an unnamed benefactor. The other Appleton 15 has a higher ABV, so was easy to pick out in the blind taste test.

All of these rums are pretty nice as blended aged rums, featuring lighter column still distillate and only a little bit of Jamaica’s legendary funkiness. Perfect for cocktails and I also enjoy drinking neat.

  • My favorite from the blind test? Thankfully, it was the 15. The Black River Casks have a much longer finish than the over two and a much nicer mouthfeel.
  • I liked the 12 second best, noting that it had a more caramel taste, with a medium finish. Meanwhile the 8 felt a little thinner, with stronger hints of orange.

If you’re a fan of Appleton 12 like I am, the new 15 Black River casks is worth the ~$20 premium. It tastes great neat and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s Mai Tai.

Spring Until Yesterday

Happy birthday to Oakland tikiphile Laura Murphy (aka Pearl) who’s birthday is today.

To celebrate, I made one of Laura’s original cocktails named Spring Until Yesterday. Quite tasty using some of my favorite rums from Jamaica, and flavors such as Coconut and Falernum that I didn’t realize worked so well together. Give it a try.

Spring Until Yesterday by Laura Murphy
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Coconut Creme
¾ oz Falernum
1 tsp Herbstura
¾ oz Rum Fire Overproof Jamaican Rum
1 oz Coruba Dark Rum
Flash blend with ice, then pour into glass or mug. Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon and a bouquet of mint.

Herbstura: equal parts Herbsaint (or Pernod/Absinthe) and Angostura Bitters