Make & Drink Lapu Lapu

There are a number of historical recipes for the Lapu Lapu / Chief Lapu Lapu cocktail, described in a recent video from Derek on the Make & Drink channel on YouTube. Besides going into the history of the cocktail and its notable presence as the featured cocktail at The Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach, Derek came up with his own Lapu Lapu recipe that we are trying tonight.

Make & Drink Lapu Lapu
½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz lime Juice
2 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Passion Fruit syrup
¼ oz Rich Simple Syrup
1½ oz Light Rum
1 oz Pot Still Rum
1 oz Club Soda
¾ oz 151 Rum
Flash blend all ingredients except 151 rum for five seconds, then pour over crushed ice in a large snifter. Float ½ oz of 151 rum. Garnish with mint and a passionfruit shell with 151 rum, set on fire.

I took a few liberties here, notably on the garnish side since I had no mint and decided to use a lighted lantern pick. I used Liber Passionfruit Syrup, a light rum blend of Trader Vic’s white and Hamilton White Stache, Hamilton Pot Still Black Jamaica rum, and Hamilton 151 Demerara rum.

This is a really juicy cocktail and the excellent tangy Passionfruit Syrup from Liber really shines in this. I’m not getting much of the Pot Still rum, and if I was going to do this over I’d probably go 2 oz Pot Still and 1 oz Light rum. Or maybe just incorporate all the rum and not leave the 151 as a float, since a little of that famed Overproof Demerara rum can really add some great flavors to a cocktail.

Nonetheless, this is a really great version of this cocktail. Do you have a favorite Lapu Lapu recipe? Leave it in the comments.

Palm Breeze Bar at Disneyland Hotel

The new DVC Villas at Disneyland Hotel opened recently and so we went to check it out during an afternoon break from park touring. The midcentury-inspired touches look nice, though this wing does not really integrate with the rest of the hotel towers. There’s only a minimal lobby space here, but the Palm Breeze Bar is adjacent to that entry and also to the small pool for this wing.

There are a lot of fun touches here, and plenty of midcentury design elements. We sat at the bar and ordered a Blue Bee’s Knees, which is a traditional gin-based Bee’s Knees with muddled blueberries. The level of skill and technique from the bartender was not as strong as we’ve grown accustomed to at Trader Sam’s / Tangaroa Terrace across the way, and so the drink was just so-so. Hopefully, this will improve over time.

We did see some other guests order an off-menu Mai Tai, which was prepared with BG Reynolds Orgeat (same is as used at Trader Sam’s). But, the limited rum selection at the Palm Breeze Bar meant this was mostly made with the sugar-heavy Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, so not really a great choice for this cocktail.

The rest of the cocktails at Palm Breeze Bar lean to inspired but tourist friendly recipes, including a few highballs, some frozen drinks, and quite a few mocktails. There’s a food menu which we didn’t try, but otherwise this place looks like a nice place to hang out if you can’t get into Trader Sam’s or Tangaroa Terrace.

Rebirth at the Royal Hawaiian Laguna Beach

There’s been a Royal Hawaiian restaurant in Laguna Beach for decades, but the venue has gone from great to terrible to okay to terrible and now once again to great thanks to an impressive rebuild led by Notch Gonzalez (Dr. Funk, Smuggler’s Cove). We made sure to visit the refreshed location on our trip and met up with friends but had a late 8 pm reservation on a Wednesday.

Inside, the Royal Hawaiian looks completely gorgeous and the modern “Fire Grill” elements that led the 2019-2022 RH version are completely gone. Instead, it’s an explosion of bamboo and thatch that is quite immersive. We were seated in a booth in a back corner of the restaurant and indeed we seemed completely shut off from the outside world (and the staff, as it would happen). Food is Polynesian inspired and we liked what we tried.

The cocktail menu is nicely varied, including the Royal Hawaiian’s signature Lapu Lapu, a bold grog served flaming. I found the Mai Tai to be just okay but did really love the Saturn riff Passionate Maiden, with Elderflower liqueur subbing for the Orgeat in the original. Really great.

Our service was good and we were having a great time. At some point the excellent surf and exotica soundtrack transitioned to a nice but out of place post-punk / post-punk revival soundtrack. This should have been our clue we were staying past closing at 9 pm, though remember we were all the way in the back corner and didn’t catch the drift (nobody reminded us of the closing time, either). Sorry about that, RH crew, alcohol may have been involved.

On the way out we saw jade tiles, artwork, and other lighting elements that were a feast for the eyes. The overall build and vibe here is absolutely breathtaking and we enjoyed the traditional cocktails and food inspired by tiki bars of the past.

Day Time is the Right Time at Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel

Our usual plan for park touring at Disneyland is to avoid the heavy crowds during the afternoon and explore other parts of the resort. Such was our journey last Friday to check out Trader Sam’s in mid-afternoon. We checked in to see if something was available inside and they said they could seat us immediately if we took two seats on a corner of the bar. This wasn’t perfect but seating at the bar is pretty great and with no wait was even better.

We love Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. Such a great vibe inside where everyone was in a great mood, friendly but not out of control. Our bartender Maddie did a great job with our drinks and then eventually let us move over a couple sets to let the next walk-up couple take the corner seats.

Mrs. Mai Tai ordered a Krakatoa Punch but was informed the special effects weren’t working, definitely a bummer but this longtime menu favorite delivers. She then went for her favorite, the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum which is Sam’s version of a Painkiller. She also ordered some Panko-crusted Long Beans that were savory and tasty.

I ordered a Mai Tai with Smith & Cross rum which was truly outstanding. Maddie knew I wanted it in an original 1944 Mai Tai format and it came out exceptionally balanced and so flavorful. In this case, as the customer I’m calling for a better rum than the standard light/dark used in Trader Sam’s standard-issue Mai Tai, and its nice that a hotel bar has so many great rums to choose from and that bartenders are willing to make a cocktail with a called spirit.

The exceptional part of Trader Sam’s is the talent of the bartenders to go off menu. Most skippers have their own secret menu of original cocktails and most seem familiar with the classics as well. I asked Maddie for a Navy Grog and was served an excellent version that was rich with flavors and spices and included three different rums. Really a couple a fantastic cocktails from Maddie.

There were a few empty spots during our stay, even by later in the afternoon on a Friday, so it can be possible to get seated inside even if you don’t have a reservation. Trader Sam’s remains one of my favorite tiki bars anywhere.

Escapist Tiki at San Clemente’s Lost Inferno

The Lost Inferno is the sister property of Stowaway Tiki and we ended up having a couple hours to kill in southern Orange County so decided to make a quick trip down to San Clemente to check it out. This is tiki bar with thematic decoration from the 1985 movie The Goonies. As such, there are pirate elements including a great grotto cave featuring a waterfall and skulls embedded in the rock (thank you Bamboo Ben) but also a few tikis. The music is exotic and there’s a nice back bar with plenty of interesting rums and other spirits to choose from.

As regular readers are familiar, when I visit a new tiki bar the first cocktail is always a Mai Tai. This seemed like a poor choice when I remembered that I had the Mai Tai at Stowaway the previous day, and when delivered the cocktail looked identical. But something about this version was better balanced and more rum-focused (something I’ve heard subsequently from others, go figure). Mrs. Mai Tai’s Rocky Road cocktail was right up her alley featuring vodka, chocolate liqueur, marshmallow, and peanut butter.

This venue is not well advertised from the street, though the Sushi place upstairs is (ironic since that restaurant has a speakeasy entrance). The venue isn’t large but there are a few standing room spots and tables scattered throughout. Lost Inferno’s twist on the theme is welcome, while still providing an authentic and cohesive tiki bar experience that is definitely worth checking out.

Stowaway Tiki: Orange County’s Fabulous and Unpretentious Tiki Bar

We were excited to try the Stowaway tiki bar located in Tustin, just a few minutes down the Santa Ana Freeway from our hotel near Disneyland. This is Stowaway’s new location, much larger and nicer than than old one we were told. We met up with local tikiphile Chris Van Horn who was a great help working through the menu and the venue’s features. Our server Michelle works as a bartender on the weekends and couldn’t have been nicer and kept everything moving promptly. We also got to meet the owner Leonard Chan who discussed the bar’s features (and sister bar The Lost Inferno) and guided us through the bar’s infamous frozen Fernet shots.

Michelle Lights the Cococano

There’s a pretty large cocktail menu and a bunch of island-inspired dishes, including a Happy Hour menu that includes a $9 Mai Tai! It’s a good Mai Tai and a steal for that price. I definitely enjoyed the Chicken Skewers that are severed with rice and salad. I also ordered a Singapore Sling that came in a cute mug and the cocktail inside was a cherry-forward flavor bomb. So good, as was Mrs. Mai Tai’s Dragon Lady cocktail with rum and dragonfruit. A fairly large rum selection is also available here.

The highlight of our experience was Stowaway’s signature Cococano cocktail with rum, coconut, pineapple, orgeat, lemon, and fire(!). Michelle got everyone in the bar to chant along with the fire and the cocktail itself was a delightful twist on the Piña Colada.

Shag wallpaper

Mrs Mai Tai came back from the restroom gushing about the clean design and amazing Shag wallpaper inside. Chris mentioned that Leonard is friends with Shag, which made me think like well I wonder how true that is – but a couple minutes later who should walk into the bar but the artist himself with entourage in tow!

Stowaway is a great time, a tiki bar without pretension. The dark and enclosed interior is effective to immerse you in the space where you’ll find plenty of opportunities to escape.


We visited Stowaway Tiki Bar in Tustin, CA. This drink was drlicious. We had the best sevice, great drinks and yummy food.

♬ original sound – Juliebeane

Blue Bayou Hurricane

This is the restaurant in New Orleans Square at Disneyland, in the same building as Pirates of the Caribbean. The advanced reservations always book up fast but we approached the entrance about 15 mins before they opened and were able to score a table off the waitlist. We were seated about ten minutes after opening in the middle/back of the restaurant, so no dockside view of the Pirates boats but plenty nice anyway.

I had a great and pretty large winter salad and the Brioche bread was delicious. I also had the Hurricane, an option for the last couple years where the sit down restaurants do serve beer, wine, and a specialty cocktail. This seems appropriate considering the New Orleans theme, where the Hurricane was (likely) invented.

The Hurricane is very fruity and very easy to drink. Not too sugary though. It uses light and dark rums and these aren’t challenging or overly potent but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Really great time at Blue Bayou, with excellent service. We also got some branded coupe glasses as a nice takeaway and a birthday present for Mrs Mai Tai.