Yacht Rock Night at The Reef

We had a great time cooling down from a hot (for us) day in Palm Springs with dinner and cocktails at The Reef at the Caliente Tropics Resort. We arrived shortly after 6 pm with the party in full swing and ended up being seated inside near the door (our first indoor dining in months). I’ve got a vaccine appointment for Monday, so somewhat looser considering the circumstances and the indoor seating was quite socially distant.

DJ Baz aka “Steely Cruise” was spinning a great selection of Yacht Rock tunes and put on a great show with retro audio clips, some additional percussion, and witty repartee. Unfortunately, he didn’t have my requested song, “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship, because the internet wasn’t around in the late 70s to early 80s and wasn’t able to download it, but still played some great songs. A couple regulars were prepared wearing “captain” hats and there was a great deal of revelry that we haven’t experienced in over a year.

Steely Cruise spinning Yacht Rock tunes

Mrs. Mai Tai and I did salads and lighter fare for dinner, but we enjoyed our cocktails. Julie had the Macadamia Nut Chi-Chi and I started with a Mai Tai (ordered with “heavy orgeat) that was truly fabulous; the best so far of 2021. I followed with the Planter’s Punch that I also found to be excellent.

Such a great time at the Reef!

Bali Hai Dinner

Mrs. Mai Tai and I had a great time at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park but we put in more than a days worth of exercise walking up and down the hills. So we chose the easy option for dinner, which was to walk over to Bali Hai.

We again went with the outdoor option, and there was a young man playing soft rock hits on an acoustic guitar (he seemed quite popular with the group of older ladies celebrating a birthday with Mai Tais). We had a great meal, including a delightful peanut shrimp plate that Julie said was amazing. I went with a smattering of apps, including the grilled Caesar salad and beef skewers again.

After nearly killing myself the previous day, I avoided the infamous Bali Hai Mai Tai and instead went with their signature Mr. Bali Hai cocktail. This isn’t the classic recipe with coffee liqueur but is made with light rum, blackberry brandy, juices, and a Demerara 151 float. I quite enjoyed it, and wish more people had the pleasure of drinking the balanced cocktails like this one or the Goof Punch rather than the glass of rums they call their Mai Tai.

Julie chose the Lava Slide, with Kahlua, Bailey’s, vodka, and chocolate syrup. Desert in a glass! And quite decadent.

I finished the meal with a pour from Bali Hai’s modest but well considered rum tasting list. They were out of Appleton 21, so my backup was the El Dorado Single Barrel PM Marque. Only $18 and quite a steal since I loved it. I saw some reviews bemoan the low 40% ABV and I appreciate where those heads are at. But the rich pot-still flavor really came through in this bold rum (it actually tastes similar to Mount Gay’s Pot Still release). I’m so glad I tried it.

We had a great time at two meals at Bali Hai. Such a wonderful place to be and while indoors would be better we still enjoyed our outdoor dining there.

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn

We enjoyed our stay at this Shelter Island hotel with its longstanding Polynesian theme. While the extended beams on the lobby A-frame aren’t there anymore, this place still has a lot of the old spirit. They even were playing Hawaiian music down by the pool one day when I went down to cool off.

Rooms are okay and nicely appointed, commensurate with the price we paid. The bed was a little creaky but WiFi was solid and while we were at the end of the wing, we didn’t encounter any noise issues. Overall the grounds were in good shape and while the on-prem restaurant is closed, there’s a takeout window that was handily available downstairs from our room. Cocktails were… not craft, but staff was friendly and efficient. We did take out dinner one night and everything came out just fine.

Humphrey’s Mai Tai (yes, it’s pink)

The vibe on shelter island is relaxed and perfect for our vacation. We enjoyed watching the Navy ships sail by, as well as the nearly marina views.

Bali Hai Mai Tai

Our first full day in San Diego was a lazy morning for Mrs. Mai Tai. Meanwhile, I crossed town to Quality Liquor to pickup a bottle of the Hamilton Florida Rum Society blend.

We walked over to Bali Hai for lunch and had a relaxed time outdoors under an umbrella, listening to Hawaiian music while glancing at San Diego bay. Our service was fast and friendly, and we enjoyed our meal. I stated with the beef skewers and had the kalua pork bowl as my main course while Julie had a tasty salad and finished with the poke bowl.

Julie had the Big B’s Bri-to, an original cocktail with vodka, soda, and juices. Meanwhile, I ordered the infamous Bali Hai Mai Tai, a drink that can barely be called that due to the minute portions of orgeat, triple sec, and sweet and sour mix. It’s mostly about five ounces of rum with ice and it honestly isn’t great except for getting you super drunk (I didn’t even finish mine). To be fair, the waitress was warning patrons about the strength of the cocktail and redirecting to other cocktails such as the Mr. Bali Hai instead. And, the Bali Hai Mai Tai is only $9.25, which is pretty cheap for such a boozy cocktail sold in California.

I took a chance on a second cocktail and tried the Goof Punch with Hamilton Demerara Rum, Coruba Jamaican Dark Rum, Cruzan Aged Light, Trader Vic’s Orgeat Syrup and a blend of fruit juices. I ordered this with “heavy orgeat” thanks to the light hand I experienced with the Mai Tai and was rewarded with a very tasty cocktail. I really loved the Goof Punch, with heavier rums and just the right amount of pineapple juice.

We enjoyed our visit and took the rest of the afternoon for a drive to various locales. Well, Mrs. Mai Tai drove, not me. I’m writing this after dinner and I’m still inebriated.

Trader Mort’s Liquor Store and Mai Tai

Mrs Mai Tai and I arrived in San Diego and checked into Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island. We are still not in indoor dining mode, so we did take-out from Ketch that was recommended. On the way to pickup I did a quick visit to the seminal Shelter Island liquor store, Trader Mort’s. Pretty good selection considering the store itself is fairly small. There are a couple Trader Mort’s mugs for sale that look great. I picked up some Myers’s Jamaican rum in a dainty 375ml bottle that will come in handy on our trip.

The dinner process from Ketch was weird. They have take-out available on their website via Chownow, but when I arrived to pick up they sort of treated it as if it was some sort of alien ordering system. And then the food pickup was in one place, but the to-go cocktails were a separate pickup. This is unusual 13 months into COVID take-out mode.

Thankfully, our dinner from Ketch was great. Some excellent salads and seafood cocktail apps, plus the cocktails were pretty good (considering the bartenders are free-pouring). Mrs. Mai Tai loved her Spa Day cocktail with vokda, elderflower, lemon, and cucumber soda. Meanwhile I enjoyed the “Trader Mort’s Mai Tai” featuring Trader Vic’s Royal Amber rum, orgeat, curacao, lime, and sugar.

We enjoyed dinner in the room, overlooking bayfront views from our second floor room at Humphrey’s. Vacation is going well, so far.

Bali Hai Mai Tai Take 3

I think I’ve cracked it. I have noticed that Bali Hai does list Orgeat and Triple Sec alongside the rum and other “no juice” ingredients, so my second version without either must not be correct.

This is was based on a comment from @icecrushersd in a previous Instagram post and indeed seems to taste like the Bali Hai Mai Tai that I remember. Except that I didn’t find this too bad. Maybe I’m just so used to drinking straight rum that the tiny affordances of other ingredients is feeling like a luxury. Your actual mileage may vary.

The True Bali Hai Mai Tai
½ oz Sweet and Sour Mix – or ¼ oz Lemon Juice and ¼ oz Simple Syrup
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Triple Sec
2½ oz Cruzan Light Rum
2½ oz Coruba Dark Jamaican Rum
Shake with ice

Yes, five ounces of rum.

I’m looking forward to comparing to the legendary Bali Hai original.

The True Bali Hai Mai Tai Recipe?

Following up on yesterday’s post, I found this recipe online and it seems to be much closer to what I remember of the potent Mai Tai from the Bali Hai restaurant in San Diego.

This version omits the Orgeat, the key ingredient in a Mai Tai, and suffers for it. This tastes like the Bali Hai Mai Tai that I remember though, so I’ll compare this to the one served there when we visit on April 5th.

Bali Hai Mai Tai (redux)
2 oz Sweet and Sour Mix
1 oz Triple Sec
2 oz Light Rum (I used Cruzan)
2 oz Myers’s Dark Rum 

The Bali Hai says that they have sold over 2.7 million Mai Tais since they opened in 1953. Good thing for us is that we’re staying within walking/stumbling distance of the restaurant.

Getting in Shape

We’re heading to San Diego after Easter, so I’m trying to get into shape to prepare for the legendarily lethal Bali Hai Mai Tai.

We visited Bali Hai in 2017 and one of their potent Mai Tais nearly killed me. They famously “don’t contain any fruit juice.”  This recipe was published so I thought I’d give it a try:

Bali Hai Mai Tai
1 oz Sweet and Sour Mix
½ oz Trader Vic’s Orgeat
½ oz Triple Sec
1 oz Light Rum (I used Cruzan)
1 oz Myers’s Dark Rum 

Unlike my experience in 2017, this wasn’t bad. Though, it must be said that I used Cointreau as the triple sec and fresh lemon juice in my Sweet & Sour mix, plus Latitude 29 Orgeat, so possibly these are “top shelf” compared to what’s actually used at Bali Hai. Still, I’m thinking that this isn’t the real recipe. I would have noticed that orgeat in the cocktail, even back in 2017 when my palette was less refined and when my booze tolerance was less.

Time to search for the true recipe.