Tiki Night in the Bay Area

Can’t get into the specific reasons why but I made visits to three of the Bay Area tiki bars last night. And of course even if went there for other reasons you can’t leave without getting a cocktail.

Smuggler’s Cove: Hibiscus Rum Punch. Fruity and light, quite flavorful.

The Kon-Tiki: their very good Mai Tai and (not pictured) their best-in-the-world Cheeseburger.

Forbidden Island: Ohana night special cocktail called Black Hole Sun, by Sara Rivas. Citrus, Pineapple, Honey, Bourbon, Demerara 151, Dash of absinthe, Dash of bitters. Leaning spicy, this was pretty good!

Apple Maps in the car really came in handy yesterday. Just 30 mins from the Cove to Kon-Tiki at rush hour!

Nice to see familiar faces along the way. Such a blessing to have so many great destination experiences in the Bay Area.

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.

Navy Grog at Kona Club

Popped into Kona Club and found that the service issues I’d experience before were not an issue this time. And the Navy Grog wasn’t bad at all. Still free poured and served with cubes and not crushed ice, but I did like this cocktail.

There is good energy here in the evenings.

Sweet and Tender Hooligan

Congratulations to Adrián Castañeda for completing the Expedition rum list at The Kon-Tiki.

As is the tradition, there was a special cocktail menu made in Adrián’s honor. Three Morrissey-themed offerings were available, and the music was a selection of Smiths/Morrissey covers. Quite well done. The two cocktails were a fine Grog, as well as an excellent Derby Daiquiri riff featuring Agricole.

Adrián seems to be a man about town, I keep bumping into him at events across the Bay Area and even at a vintage store in Sacramento! He definitely put us all to shame with his dapper outfit and completely crushed the gong.

Top Mai Tais of 2021: Number 5, The Kon-Tiki Room

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

Number 5: The Kon-Tiki Room at Palmetto (Oakland, CA)

The “outpost” Kon-Tiki location attached to Palmetto restaurant opened this year, adding another tiki bar to the Bay Area’s stellar lineup. The Kon-Tiki Room Mai Tai is made with Jamaican and Martinique rums, and definitely leans towards the funkier side. Quite savory in initial flavor, with a sweeter finish that’s tastes rich.

It seems that they use a different recipe than the original Kon-Tiki location, so I’m solid in declaring The Kon-Tiki Room Mai Tai the best in the city. Check it out the next time you’re in Uptown for a show at the Fox Theater or just to enjoy some cocktails.


Mai Tai Monday: Wright & Brown Distilling

Made a fab Mai Tai for Trader Vic’s birthday using a rum made in Oakland, the city where the Mai Tai was first made in 1944. 

Oakland’s Wright & Brown is distilling rum as well as a variety of whiskeys. The rum I used is pot still distillate made from Black Strap Molasses and is aged for a couple years. Quite wild and full of flavor, so it works great in a Mai Tai.

For my Mai Tai I used 1½ oz Wright & Brown and ½ oz Coruba just to add a little additional richness.

The Kon-Tiki Holiday Bazaar

One of the aspects of The Kon-Tiki that I made sure to include in my recent Exotica Moderne article about the bar was their participation in community events and partnerships with businesses and organizations in Oakland.

Such was today’s Holiday Bazaar. Several local vendors were set up inside and there was a small holiday cocktail menu and burgers available from the bar. Not really tiki, except for Woody Miller.  I bought the lovely green glass tree from Arcadian Stained Glass and some goodies from The Disco Greenhouse. And I bought some rum from the Kon-Tiki Bottle Shop.

The cocktail menu was quite festive, including a drink riffing on the bar’s Krampus themed decor. I sampled the tasty Disco Banana riff “Bad Banana” that dialed back the cocktail’s harder funky notes in favor of a fruitier blend that likely played better with the non-tiki crowd.

Cheers to the Kon-Tiki crew for putting together a great community event.

Happy Birthday Trader Vic Bergeron

Everyone’s favorite Mai Tai inventor was born on this day in 1902. Victor Jules Bergeron had a difficult childhood, losing a leg to tuberculosis when just six year old. Early adulthood was no better until he scrapped some money together to open a small restaurant and bar at 65th and San Pablo in Oakland in 1934. That bar was named Hinky Dinks but just a couple years later was rethemed and renamed to Trader Vic’s. Thereafter, nobody thought much of “Hinky Dinks” or “Victor Jules.” Trader Vic’s stuck.

The small original Trader Vic’s location closed in the early 1970s, replaced by the still operating Trader Vic’s in Emeryville. The building at 65th and San Pablo is long gone but you can still visit the location where one of the original two palm trees is still standing. The lot is for sale, if you have money in your pocket you want to burn.

So, let’s raise a glass of rum or brandy, or maybe a famous Trader Vic’s cocktail such as the Fogcutter, Eastern Sour, or a Mai Tai. Cheers and happy birthday to Trader Vic.

Kon-Tiki Room Mai Tai

Good times on Friday night continued at The Kon-Tiki Room at Palmetto, where I landed to resample their Mai Tai. I really liked it when I tried it a couple months ago, but wanted to give it another taste. There wasn’t a show at the Fox Theater across the street, but the bar was still pretty full, so much that the tables by the door were in use. Nice to see that business is doing well. There was a sidewalk sign outside but Kon-Tiki Room needs some more obvious lighted signage.

It was super cool to receive a printed menu, done in the same graphic style as the “original Kon-Tiki” location at 14th and Webster. Same drinks and food offerings that have been there at Kon-Tiki Room from day one, but I love a great cocktail menu with illustrations and a design that tells you more about the place you’re in. And so much better than dealing with QR codes and tiny type on your phone’s screen.

The Kon-Tiki Room Mai Tai is made with Jamaican and Martinique rums, and definitely leans towards the funkier side. Quite savory in initial flavor, with a sweeter finish that’s tastes rich. Bartender Jeni Raye made it great and I’m solid in declaring it the best in the city. Leave a suggestion or other Oakland Mai Tais in the comments.

Kon-Tiki Room’s bar bites are fried staples with some twists on the toppings. This visit I tried the Fish Sticks with miso creme fraiche and tobiko. Really liked them.

Music was retro leaning punk and underground rock. If you’re going to go 80s this ain’t bad for a Friday night and way better than Phil Collins in a tiki bar.

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.