Top 10 Mai Tais of 2023… So Far

Ranking the top Mai Tais we’ve tasted so far this year. Note that some of these include rum substitutions, indicating that calling for premium spirits often elevates the cocktail.

10. Strong Water Anaheim with Lost Voyage Rum
Made with Strong Water’s Lost Voyage Rum released in conjunction with Hamilton Rum. Bold and very flavorful.

9. Tangaroa Terrace with El Dorado 8
We really appreciate the Trader Sam’s bartenders ability to improvise with called spirits. This one featured an aged Demerara rum and was totally rich and satisfying.

8. Trailer Happiness
The best Mai Tai in London was made with Appleton 8 and Grand Marnier and was really complex with a wonderful mouthfeel and long finish.

7. Smuggler’s Cove
As per the photo, there were some drunken shenanigans at the Cove that evening. But there’s nothing frivolous about the Cove’s legendary Mai Tai.

6. Ultimate Mai Tai at Tiki Tom’s
We were honored when Tiki Tom’s put our Ultimate Mai Tai on the menu, featuring our hand-picked blend of heavy rums. They make it great there, and we pop in occasionally for “quality control” tasting.

5. Buz-Tai at Hula Hoops
The boozy Buz-Tai is a Mai Tai riff created by local impresario Buz Deadwax and has been on the menu at South San Francisco’s Hula Hoops for years. Set on fire and including a complex blend of rums plus pimento dram.

4. Dr. Funk
San Jose’s Dr. Funk is still making excellent Mai Tais. This was their standard issue and I loved it.

3. Kon Tiki with Saint Benevolence Aged Clairin
The Kon-Tiki’s standard Mai Tai is excellent, but we really loved this one made with an aged Clairin from Haiti. Savory but still with good barrel aging notes.

2. Trader Vic’s San Jose Airport
There’s no way that this airport Mai Tai should rank so high, but a second that day confirmed that it was perfectly made and balanced. Mai Tais at sunset are just fine before a flight.

1. Mai Tai with Appleton 17
Appleton created this rum replicate the Wray 17 used in the original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. And, yes, it is spectacular in a Mai Tai. Made by Chris Dennis at an Appleton 17 event with Ferrand Dry Curacao and homemade orgeat / rich simple.

Honorable mentions: Red Dwarf, Formosa Cafe, High Roller Tiki Lounge

Laki Kane: London’s Most Cohesive Tiki Bar

Everyone said to be sure to check out Islington’s Laki Kane, so we made sure to make a reservation and brave rush hour on the Underground to get there. We arrived a few minutes early and staff saw we were dressed up in tiki attire so they let us in a couple minutes early.

Laki Kane is a tiki-leaning tropical cocktail bar that also has a good Thai food menu. There are a few tikis inside, with the music being mellow Afro beats. Staff can be summoned via the button on the table, though our sever was right on top of everything so we never had to use it. We were given welcome drinks that were absolutely fantastic and then we were off to the races.

My Mai Tai was quite assertive, using Appleton 12 and Plantation OFTD rums. I’d have liked this to be a little richer/sweeter, but it was by no means bad. I had a Purple Haze for a second round, featuring three rums including La Hechicera Columbian rum, Clément Canne Bleue, and Equiano Light rums, plus kiwi, dragon fruit, grapefruit liqueur, and orange juice. The small flowers used as a garnish were lit on fire to smoke a bit, adding to the texture. This was a really good drink.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai had the Pinup Zombie, a formidable riff that includes Bacardi Cuatro, Plantation Isle of Fiji, Pusser’s Gunpowder proof, cherry and mountain pine liqueurs,  exotic syrups, falernum liqueur, and citrus. Served flaming in a very cool pinup mug. This was a truly outstanding tropical cocktail. Her second drink was a clarified cocktail from a special menu that also was rich, complex, and delicious.

Our Thai food was outstanding. I loved the pork dumplings and we both had the Sweet and Sour plate (mine: chicken, hers: tofu). Really great combination.

Laki Kane does put many pieces together for fans seeking a tiki experience in London. Highly recommended.

Trailer Happiness, Notting Hill Cocktail Bar

We were close enough to walk over to Trailer Happiness after dinner and had a pretty good experience. We landed around 18:30 Thursday and there were a few people up at street level at some tables but we went downstairs into the lounge. Not yet busy, we could see from the decor and music this could be clubby later in the evening.

We’d heard mixed things but felt our cocktails and the friendly service were great. I like the modern tropical vibe in here. Mrs Mai Tai’s Espresso MarTiki was really great, using rum rather than vodka.

I was impressed by the Mai Tai, one of the best I’ve had in a long while. Appleton Estate Reserve 8 is the rum here, a really great choice, and Grand Marnier as the orange liqueur. The orgeat shines in this cocktail with a long finish and great mouthfeel. I was told a new Mai Tai rum blend is coming including Chairman’s Reserve Legacy that features a bit of cane juice distillate that likely will increase the complexity of flavors coming from the spirit.

Trailer Happiness has a good rep for a rum selection and indeed we saw several beauties on the back bar.

The Beachcomber, Queensway

We landed in Heathrow early in the morning after a red eye flight and we were zonked the entire day. An afternoon nap seemed to refresh us and we headed to The Beachcomber for dinner. They have a large selection of Rhum Agricole and serve Thai food via the Horapha restaurant two doors down.

We had the place for ourselves for a little while and got to take in the space. Not high tiki by any means, the Beachcomber is certainly doing a lot of things right. The basement level shuts out the outside world and we enjoyed the tropical elements and big screen showing island travel footage. Music was a blend of mellow Blues (Etta James, Alicia Keyes). Great back bar full of rum and rhum.

The off-menu Mai Tai is made with Agricole and is very well balanced and light and refreshing. You can do a happy hour special with Thai Curry. We also enjoyed the Salamander Sling for two that’s a Singapore Sling riff with Hibiscus syrup (we asked for it to lean heavy on the syrup). Our food was pretty good and the staff was super friendly and prompt.

If you’re looking for tiki in London, be sure to check out The Beachcomber.