Ma Petite Jamaica Rum Bar in Camden

We traveled up to Camden in mid-afternoon to visit the famed Camden Market, and somehow Mrs. Mai Tai spotted the Rum Bar sign down a side street, so we had a snack and some drinks inside the restaurant Ma Petite Jamaica. Indeed there are a good number of rums here, including some of Appleton’s Kingston 62 which I hadn’t tried yet and enjoyed on the rocks. We had some delicious Pumpkin Sweet Potato fritters, too.

I love a good on-the-wall cocktail menu and Ma Petite has a nice one next to the bar. The Mai Tai used Appleton rum and I believe a float of Goslings and was pretty good and so very easy to drink. Mrs. Mai Tai’s Rum Punch was a fruity flavor bomb thanks to the use of Wray & Nephew Overproof along with the fruit juices and grenadine.

Ma Petite is well worth checking out the next time you’re in Camden.

Tiki Tuesday at Dr. Funk

Ran into local tikiphiles Amanda and Jill, along with their friend Megan, at Dr. Funk last night for the Traditional Tiki Tuesday with DJ Ship Rex. What a hoot of an evening, thanks to Rex’s upbeat vintage tunes and plenty of great cocktails from the good doctor. Justin and crew really did a great job with the drinks and service.

The rum pictured is The Funk, a 100 proof unaged Jamaica rum. I had this a few years back and didn’t love it but it suited me better this time. Plus a Mai Tai which is only $12 all day Tuesday. Gotta love it.

Mai Tai Monday: Hamilton Breezeway Blend Rum

Whenever I get a new bottle of rum, I always make a Mai Tai with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s expensive or cheap, or even if the rum isn’t really intended to be used for that cocktail. Sometimes you find things out about the rum when you taste in the Mai Tai format, along with the lime and sweeteners that serve to provide a foundation for the cocktail.

Such was the case with the new Hamilton Breezeway Blend, named in honor of Spike Marble’s Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour channel on YouTube. Ed Hamilton put together this blend and it is similar to rums such as Probitas which blend a lighter style rum along with a funky rum from Jamaica. In this case, the base of the Breezeway Blend is Hamilton White Stache, an 87 proof white rum with distillate mostly from Trinidad but also some from Guyana and the Dominican Republic. That’s combined with a smaller proportion of Hamilton Pot Still Blonde from Jamaica, which is based on a couple Worthy Park distillates that are aged 1-2 years in New York. Blonde has a ton of flavor even at 45% ABV is my favorite Hamilton rum expression.

The Breezeway Blend is being positioned rightly so as a flavorful Daiquiri rum, where light leaning rum is expected. The Mai Tai traditionally wants to use heavier and bolder rums, but I’ll be damned if the 85 proof Breezeway Blend doesn’t make for a really fine Mai Tai. This leans lighter, of course, but there’s plenty of funky Jamaican flavor and sometimes you want something that’s just a little easier to drink.

In many ways, this reminds me of what Trader Vic did when he brought the Mai Tai to Hawai’i. That original Hawaiian Mai Tai wasn’t made with long aged Jamaica rum, but used inexpensive dark Jamaican rums such as Myers’s and combined it with a light Puerto Rican so that it would be easier for tourists to drink.

Chef Chu’s Mai Tai

Our favorite Chinese restaurant is Los Altos’ venerable Chef Chu’s. We’ve been going here for years and in addition to great food they do offer some cocktails including a Mai Tai.

The Mai Tai is billed as using “our original Mai Tai mix” which tastes a lot like Trader Vic’s Mai Tai mix if I’m being honest. The one tasted a really good, maybe due to a change in recipe or perhaps due to real sugar replacing corn syrup in the latest incarnation of the Vic’s retail product.

Chef Chu’s uses light and dark Myers’s rum, which is perfectly reasonable to me as I consider the Myers’s white rum to be under-appreciated and quite affordable if you can find it. Mai Tais that are nothing but pineapple juice are kind of awful, but a light touch as with this one can be quite nice.

Smuggler’s Cove Birthday Rum and Fun

After drinks at Last Rites we took a chance by going to Smuggler’s Cove, where lines to enter aren’t uncommon especially on the weekends. Thankfully, we got right in and found some comfy seats upstairs in the Hut. This is definitely the best place at the Cove for conversation, made all the better by running into our mutual friends David and Amy.

As a birthday treat, I ordered an old Samaroli rum from Jamaica. Distilled in ’92, making this almost nearly as old as I am. This was some amazing rum, so full of flavor as you’d expect from a 52% ABV rum aged for 25 years. I’m a member of the Rumbustion Society at the Cove and though I’m not anywhere near the 2000+ rums some folks have tried if I’m here I try to spoil myself with something great. I ended up killing this limited edition bottle, which means it shall never return.

As we exited Smuggler’s Cove we saw that there was quite a long line to get in. Our easy entry was quite a gift indeed.

Promising Signs of Better Cocktails at Dr. Funk

We were disappointed to see downtown San Jose’s Dr. Funk have quality control issues with their cocktails over the past six months or so. Many of the drinks had been prepared in an unbalanced method, unlike the excellent drinks program that launched the bar in late 2021.

Last night we ventured down for their Traditional Tiki Tuesday event where happy hour specials are in effect all evening and where a guest DJ spins records. DJ Ship Rex was in the house, as he is now every 4th Tuesday of the month, playing an energetic set of vintage and vintage-sounding songs. Really tight.

I ordered the Mai Tai, which once again is made with Appleton Estate 12 and Smith & Cross Jamaica rums. I’m pleased to report the balance of ingredients was as it should be and that the house made orgeat still tastes pretty great. A second Mai Tai made with Planteray Xaymaca tasted just as a good, maybe a little bit more forward with funky rum notes than the standard issue.

The cocktail menu has been updated. Prices are higher (that’s $17 for a Mai Tai now, though still only $12 on happy hour) and the number of drinks has been pared back a little. There are now 16 items, notably bringing back the namesake Dr. Funk cocktail that was omitted from menus starting in late 2022. Mrs. Mai Tai had a fabulous Missionary’s Downfall, shaken and served in a highball glass. She also had the Siren’s Shore that has Amaro, mango, Smith & Cross, and coconut. Julie says this wasn’t as good as the Missionary’s Downfall but I thought it was a pleasant surprise how the herbaceous flavors worked with the coconut.

It is welcome to see Dr. Funk’s bartenders consistently using jiggers, as shown in all their recent social media posts. Some of the cocktails including the Zombie are batched and provided on tap, though there was no issue with my called rum Mai Tai. Dr. Funk has a pretty nice rum selection so there’s plenty to explore if that’s your thing.

DJ Ship Rex

Custom Aged Rum

Mrs. Mai Tai got me this little aging barrel for Christmas and after three months I thought it was aged well enough to bottle. The blend is about two thirds Rum Fire from Jamaica, an overproof rum at 63% ABV with overripe fruit notes, and a third Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin from Haiti, an olive/brine forward rum at 50% ABV. Both pot-still rums are unaged and will put the aging process to the test.

After three months, you can see the rum has turned very dark. I estimate the “angel’s share” loss to be at least 40%, perhaps due to the barrel not exactly being made to distiller’s quality. In fact, the fragrant blend of rum is still present on the barrel today.

In this glass, this is like nothing I’ve ever tasted thanks to the blend of two flavor bombs blended together. Yet this definitely isn’t the same as the two rums together if poured straight out of the bottle. There’s a lot of traditional flavors that you’d expect from barrel aging, but still a lot of the acetone flavor you sometimes get from overproof Jamaican rums. In the Mai Tai, this potent rum made itself known immediately but the cocktail format rounded off some of the hard edges. It is delightful if you really like to chew on your rums in a Mai Tai.

The experiment isn’t over. I’ve refilled the barrel with some Puerto Rican light rum to see how the barrel and any residual flavors from the Rum Fire and Saint Benevolence affect the flavor. We’ll have an update in three months.