SF Rum Fest 2023

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.

Welcome Mai Tai from Kuleana Rum Works

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.

The Evolution of the Mai Tai on Make and Drink YouTube

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.

Top Hawaiian Mai Tai at Don’s Treehouse in Waikiki

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.

Mai Tai Day 2023 at Trader Vic’s Emeryville

We missed the big all-day Mai Tai Day celebration at Trader Vic’s this past weekend since we were in Hawaii. So we had to go to dinner on Wednesday to celebrate since Mai Tai Day is officially August 30th, chosen based on the proclamation by the city of Oakland in 2009.

It was just Mrs. Mai Tai and me after friends had to cancel at the last minute. But we always enjoy our dinners, especially when we hit a bunch of Trader Vic’s favorites such as Crab Rangoon, Peanut Butter Crackers, Trader Vic’s Salad, Island Fried Rice, and Mac Nut Mahi Mahi. Always so good!

The Mai Tai was made with my favorite rum, Appleton 12, and was quite nice as a toast to the ol’ Trader himself who invented the cocktail 79 years ago.

But the Trader Vic’s team are not living in the past, as witnessed by some fine cocktails that Mrs. Mai Tai had. She started with the delightful Koko-Nana Delight, simply coconut, banana, and rum – served in the cute Ramu mug. Even better was her second, the Pondo Punch. This rich cocktail contains a blend of rums, along with spiced citrus, guava, peach, and mango – and is served in the Angoram mug. A couple of really fine modern cocktails.

Koko-Nana Delight

We were able to pick up one of the souvenir glasses from the Mai Tai Day celebration. As we exited the restaurant, the sun was setting over Emeryville’s picturesque harbor and we knew that Mai Tai Day 2023 was over.

Mai Tai Myths

Today is Mai Tai Day, celebrating the birth of the Mai Tai in 1944. It was the day selected when Oakland recognized the cocktail and declared Mai Tai Day in 2009.

To celebrate, here’s the series of Mai Tai Myths articles that ran last year. They provide historical perspective on the cocktail and sadly we continue to see misinformation being spread.

Mai Tai Myth: Hawaiian Mai Tais have Always had Pineapple Juice
First up is the myth that when Trader Vic introduced the Mai Tai to Hawaii in 1953 that it was created with pineapple juice. Pineapple juice is certainly the ingredient that changes a 1944 style Mai Tai to an “Island Mai Tai” and these are common in Hawaii and other tourist destinations. But pineapple juice wasn’t commonly used in Hawaiian Mai Tais until the 1960s.

Mai Tai Myth: Hawaiian Mai Tais have Always had Pineapple Juice

Mai Tai Myth: Nobody knew the Mai Tai Ingredients Until 1970
Trader Vic Bergeron issued a press release in 1970 describing how he original developed the Mai Tai and he also included the original recipe. We’ve seen speculation that this means that body knew what was actually in a Mai Tai. There are numerous 1950s-1960s published recipes in newspapers and books that provided Mai Tai recipes featuring the original ingredients: lime, rock candy syrup, orgeat, orange curaçao, and rum. This isn’t like the Zombie where nobody knew about Don’s Mix or even what was in it.

Mai Tai Myth: Nobody knew the Mai Tai Ingredients Until 1970

Mai Tai Myth: Trader Vic Kept the Recipe a Secret
While there was a great deal of secrecy around cocktail recipes at Don the Beachcomber locations, there was a different practice with Trader Vic’s. A customer wrote to Bergeron in 1956 requesting the recipe for the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai and Trader Vic himself signed the letter sent back to the customer.

Mai Tai Myth: Trader Vic Kept the Recipe a Secret

Mai Tai Myth: The Mai Tai Created a Worldwide Rum Shortage
Trader Vic Bergeron stated “The success of the Mai Tai and its acceptance soon caused the 17-year-old rum to become unavailable, so it was substituted with the same fine rum with 15 years aging.” This is where the myth originates, with people doing a shorthand to say that “rum” had a shortage due to the Mai Tai.

Mai Tai Myth: The Mai Tai Created a Worldwide Rum Shortage

Mai Tai Myth: a 1944 Mai Tai Must be Made with Jamaican Rum
In this case we’re using the term “1944 Mai Tai” to mean a recipe along the lines or the original and to differentiate from an Island Mai Tai. Trader Vic’s themselves have recently had a 1944 Mai Tai on their menu using non-Jamaican rums. If using rums made outside of Jamaica is good enough for Trader Vic’s, it should be good enough for you. The Mai Tai does not have a geographical origin, like the Ti Punch or Daiquiri, so use whatever rum is your favorite.

Mai Tai Myth: a 1944 Mai Tai Must be Made with Jamaican Rum

Turkey Grog Revisited

Had a grapefruit to kill so I made this cocktail that I developed a few years back and it remains a popular favorite. The use of flavorful Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon is the key component and where the cocktail gets its name.

Turkey Grog by Kevin Crossman
¾ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Ruby Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Honey Syrup (1:1)
½ oz Velvet Falernum
½ oz Don’s Spices #2
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
¾ oz Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum
1½ oz Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
Shake with ice, garnish with mint. Serve in glass of choice.

Don’s Spices #2: Equal parts Vanilla Syrup and Pimento Dram/Allspice Liqueur.
If you have non-alcoholic Falernum syrup then drop the amount to ¼ oz.

Appleton 17 Legend Mai Tai at Smuggler’s Cove

The King is dead. Long live the King.

That’s the takeaway after tasting the much hyped Appleton 17 Legend rum in a Mai Tai at Smuggler’s Cove tonight. Simply amazing and so mich better than even SC’s world-class standard Mai Tai. So much more flavorful and rich. Consistent with a previous tasting, it lingers so long on the palette and it’s a taste that is simply unlike any rum or blend I’ve ever tried.

The shenanigans started before opening, when Martin Cate came out with a “Mai Tai” to whet our appetite. Inside the efficiency of the SC crew meant that rum pours and Mai Tais flowed quite quickly. But the quality in the cocktail was still there.

Having a rum to be similar to the original Wray & Nephew 17 used in the original Mai Tai has been a passion of SC’s owner Martin Cate. Literally imploring and begging Appleton to make such a rum. And tonight it was here at one of the world’s greatest tiki bars and made using Smuggler’s Cove high standards for lime, orgeat, curaçao, sugar, and rum. Cheers, Martin.

One of the best Mai Tais I’ve ever had!