Tiki Kon Seminar: The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai

Recorded July 1, 2022 at Tiki Kon, we’ve combined the professionally recorded audio with the slides so that you can experience it at home. There are a couple bonus slides during the Q&A.

Everyone is familiar with the iconic Hawaiian Mai Tai that features pineapple juice and a dark rum float. This version of the Mai Tai is quite different from the original 1944 Mai Tai created at Trader Vic’s. When did the Mai Tai in Hawaii become the “Hawaiian Mai Tai?” It wasn’t in 1953 when Trader Vic brought the Mai Tai to Hawaii and is later than you might think. Learn more about this iconic cocktail and how it evolved over the years based on contemporaneous reports and published recipes.

Note that this presentation was updated for Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s. That presentation wasn’t recorded but you can view the slides on this site.

Additional Referenced Links

The Alibi

One of the oldest tiki bars in the world, Portland’s Alibi Restaurant and Lounge has a lovely feel early in the day when we visited on the Tiki Kon Sunday Bar Tour. It is even nicer when vintage exotica and lounge music is played rather than the classic rock that usually plays. Karaoke is a big thing here most evenings.

The Mai Tai was okay. Definitely using some cane-juice based rum, which surprised me. Needed to be a little sweeter though. And Mrs Mai Tai’s Pina Colada was on point.

So many little details with the vintage seating and decor.

Tiki Kon Presentation

Had a great time with my presentation “The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai” at Tiki Kon.

This was the first seminar of the day and everything ran pretty smoothly thanks to the fab AV and event staff (@elvis.hart, @kristin_v_s_, @kylevanderschick and team) and the excellent Tiki Kon management team of @jookygreg and @marquisdupre. Mahalo to all.

Truly appreciate the opportunity and also the audience which seemed to be very engaged taking photos of the slides and asking great questions at the end. Thank you for attending. And thanks to the Ultimate Mai Tai rooting section up front with @juliebeane @tikiwithray @dork_bot.

There is a recording and somehow we’ll make the session available, and we’re exploring additional speaking opportunities for this session that breaks several longstanding myths about the Mai Tai.

Rum Club Portland

We had dinner at this very nice neighborhood restaurant and bar in Portland. Food featured Empanadas, Dumplings, and other small bites and were really good. Many vegan options.

The cocktails came recommended including their fabulous Punch offering including four Jamaican rums. Right up my alley, and very easy drinking! Mrs Mai Tai tried the Strawberry blended cocktail featuring locally grown strawberries and I have to say it was quite fruity and light. Really good. As was as her second, the Water Wings featuring Cuban rum, Apricot, Honey, and Coconut Water – topped with bitters.

Though the rum selection seemed modest, I figured this was the place to go off menu for a Mai Tai and thankfully it was fantastic. Definitely incorporating some cane juice rum, the rich Mai Tai was really savory and had a rich mouthfeel.

National Mai Tai Day at Hale Pele

Tiki Kon weekend is here, and the first event was a ticketed, private seating at Portland’s world class tiki bar Hale Pele.

Of course we started with Hale Pele’s Mai Tai, and damn that is a fantastic cocktail! This is still made according to their longtime specs with 1½ oz Cobura Dark Jamaican rum along with ½ oz of Wray & Nephew Jamaican Overproof rum. So flavorful, and one of the best Mai Tais you can buy anywhere on planet earth.

Such a great time at Hale Pele when filled with tiki people, and the Hale Pele team really put on a great show with the fire drinks. Mrs. Mai Tai started with her default cocktail the Lava Flow (yummy!) and then we shared a flaming Jet Pilot. Such a great cocktail and even more special when set on fire by Hale Pele’s team of fire experts.

We really like the food at Hale Pele. My Mahi Tacos were fantastic, as was the Kalua Pork sandwich.

We also have to thank Appleton rum for the wonderful pour of their incredible Appleton 15 rum, along with a small rocks glass. Thank you to Martin and Rebecca Cate for hosting the event, and the entire Hale Pele crew.

Hale Pele’s World Class Mai Tai


Tiki Kon Presentation

Starting to get really excited for our return to Tiki Kon next week. We had a great time in 2018-2019, and I love the venue and management of this event. We’re starting with the Thursday 4 pm private seating at Hale Pele and are also doing the Sunday home bar tour.

If you’re attending, please come check out my presentation on Friday at 1 pm on the (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai. There’s a lot more detail than in my article from Exotica Moderne or the version that’s posted at UltimateMaiTai.com. Learn how this iconic cocktail evolved over time and we’re even going to bust a couple longstanding Mai Tai myths.

I’ll have a bunch of Ultimate Mai Tai stickers on hand, featuring the fab logo by B-Rex, so if you’re at Tiki Kon please come say aloha and be sure to ask for some stickers.