Mrs. Mai Tai hosted her monthly Book Club with friends and asked me to make cocktails for the group. This was the menu I came up with, intended to present some different kinds of flavors than are usually seen on mainstream cocktail menus.
The Pampanito: a Smuggler’s Cove recipe featuring Molasses Syrup
Saturn: a Gin-based cocktail with exotic cocktail sweeteners
Blue Hawaii: I included a little quarter ounce of Wray & Nephew Overproof to give this a little extra kick of flavor
Tradewinds: a great combination of coconut plus Apricot Liqueur
The cocktail that blew everyone away was the Saturn, served up. Even the attendees who said they didn’t like Gin found this delightful. I made more of these than the other cocktails combined.
I can see why people build or acquire bars for their homes; trying to make this many drinks sink-side in the kitchen is kind of a pain. But at least the results came out great.
I ran across this recipe from cocktail developer extraordinaire Nathan Robinson and thought I’d try it. It didn’t hurt to use one of my favorite rums, the unaged Clairin from Saint Benevolence. This is a wonderful cocktail.
I still had more White Grapefruit Juice so I did a little riff that actually ended up tasting quite nice. This is definitely grapefruit-forward, but I think it pairs well with the gin and the hints of orange and the rich orgeat syrup. This leans tart, so if you like it sweeter I’d suggest bumping the Cointreau to ¾ oz.
London Dry Spin by Kevin Crossman 1 oz Fresh White Grapefruit Juice ¼ oz Fresh Orange Juice ¼ oz Orgeat ½ oz Cointreau 2 oz London Dry Gin (Beefeater) Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass
The Orgeat used was homemade from Pearl’s Hideaway and is bit on the cloudy side compared to some commercial syrups such as Latitude 29. In this case, the cloudy white cocktail made this look a bit different from Daiquris and other cocktails served up. Liber & Co. orgeat would have similar cloudy results.
Speaking of Orgeat… I finally obtained a bottle of this and put it to the test. Giffard is a product of a brand who’s liqueurs I really love, especially their Blue Curacao and Banane du Brésil. So, I was really eager to try this.
A unique aspect to Giffard’s Orgeat is that it is somehow shelf-stable and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Handy, since it is such a large bottle. Ingredients are sugar, water, and almond flavoring (including almond extract).
This tastes okay when sampled directly but when I made the Mai Tai there was a strange and unpleasant aftertaste. Perhaps your mileage will vary, but I’ll stick the Orgeat you have to store in the fridge.
That little half ounce of Orgeat can be more important in a Mai Tai than you might think, so it is always fun to try a new one and compare it to your favorite.
I was fortunate to procure a bottle of Pearl’s Hideaway Orgeat from local tikiphile Laura Murphy. This is homemade the right way with freshly made almond milk from real almonds, along with sugar, rum, orange blossom water, and rose water. The milky consistency is similar to craft brands Liber and Small Hands, but with far less settling to deal with. Just a quick shake is all that’s needed.
Pearl’s Orgeat is pretty good. There’s a nutty flavor that’s a plus for the Mai Tai. The Mai Tai I made was our standard ratio including ¼ oz of Demerara syrup, plus Ferrand Dry Curacao. Rums were an ounce each of Denizen Merchant’s Reserve and Plantation Xaymaca. Very good Mai Tai with Pearl’s.
Homemade Orgeat can be a great thing to pair with a specific Orange Liqueur or rum blend. I’m still partial to Latitude 29 but a different rum or Orange Liqueur might switch the results. Check out our Orgeat page for more recipes and home Orgeat tips.
I don’t have a ton of these smaller “lowball” glasses, so this seemed like the opportune time to toe-dip into House of Tabu’s “Order of the Golden Fez” brand (or maybe it is a cult, I’m not sure). The glasses are still available, along with a pre-sale for the new issue of Exotica Moderne where I have an article about local favorites The Kon-Tiki in Oakland.
The Mai Tai was made with a freshly prepared bottle of Ultimate Mai Tai rum blend. That’s equal parts Appleton 12, Plantation Xaymaca, Smith & Cross, and Plantation OFTD. Rich, boozy, and delicious.
The orgeat comes from our buddy Tony Dunnigan who lives in San Jose. Tony’s homemade orgeat is pretty easy to make even if you’re lazy like I am. But I was happy to trade a couple rum samples for some of Tony’s orgeat. I noticed Tony has a couple Order of the Golden Fez mugs, so I guess he’s part of the secret society, too. Oops, maybe I have said too much.
Orgeat by Tony Dunnigan 2 cups Unsweetened Almond Milk 4 cups Granulated Sugar Heat in saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves Add 1 “light” teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water Add 2 tablespoons of Almond Extract Add ⅓ Cup Cognac Continue to stir, then bottle
Latitude 29 Orgeat has been my favorite commercial Orgeat for several years. It’s a high-quality product made with Water, Pure Cane sugar, Almonds, Orange Blossom Water, Almond essence, and Rose Water. It is fairly clear, easy to maintain and pour, and tastes wonderful. The floral elements pair well with the almond flavor.
Orgeat Works has a couple additional products and I’m always interested in trying some new Orgeat, so bought some bottles and did a comparison test.
Each Orgeat is made using the same high-quality ingredients, such as pure Cane Sugar and Orange Blossom Water. The Macadamia Nut Syrup uses Macadamia Nuts rather than Almonds, of course. Each comes in a 375 ml plastic bottle that will last for quite a while for home cocktail use.
I made several cocktails with each of these Orgeat varieties and did comparison taste tests. For this comparison I made a couple different 1944 Mai Tai recipes, a Saturn, and a Blood Orange Eastern Sour. One Mai Tai was made with Denizen Merchant’s Reserve as the rum base, along with Ferrand Dry Curacao. The other Mai Tai was a lighter style using Probitas and Clement Premiere Canne rums, with Cointreau as the orange liqueur.
In each case I found the Latitude 29 Orgeat to be the best overall, tasting brighter in each cocktail and adding a rich mouthfeel. It worked very well across each of the cocktails, from the heavy juice-forward Eastern Sour to the lighter Gin-based Saturn.
But the T’Orgeat Toasted Orgeat was really great too. It has a pronounced toasted almond flavor that is unique and delightful. It is a rich taste that’s very different from many of the craft Orgeat brands that have a marzipan flavor, and I find T’Orgeat more suitable for most uses. T’Orgeat worked well across all cocktails but was best used in a Mai Tai where the Orgeat is a more central focus.
Orgeat Works Macadamia Nut Syrup has a more subtle flavor which doesn’t present itself as forward as the other two syrups.
3rd place: Orgeat Works Macadamia Nut Syrup 2nd place: Orgeat Works T’Orgeat Toasted Almond Syrup 1st place: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Formula Orgeat
Not just for Zombies. It makes an excellent Mai Tai too!
This new rum blend is a 118 proof delight, so aromatic and flavorful. With this kind of ABV it isn’t a sipper for most people, but inside a Mai Tai it really punches through and coats your tongue. Of course, our house Mai Tai rum blend is over 100 proof, so we’re used to boozy Mai Tais. But we think anyone will find this rum to be amazing in a Mai Tai.
The Mai Tai is best prepared with Latitude 29 Orgeat from Orgeat Works, a house favorite of the Bum himself who helped develop it. It is our favorite orgeat.
Not a bad choice Mai Tai Monday.
The Zombie blend is rolling out now and is available in many states with more to come. Bottles are going fast but Ed Hamilton says this product is here to stay and that more is in the pipeline.