Top 10 Mai Tais of 2023… So Far

Ranking the top Mai Tais we’ve tasted so far this year. Note that some of these include rum substitutions, indicating that calling for premium spirits often elevates the cocktail.

10. Strong Water Anaheim with Lost Voyage Rum
Made with Strong Water’s Lost Voyage Rum released in conjunction with Hamilton Rum. Bold and very flavorful.

9. Tangaroa Terrace with El Dorado 8
We really appreciate the Trader Sam’s bartenders ability to improvise with called spirits. This one featured an aged Demerara rum and was totally rich and satisfying.

8. Trailer Happiness
The best Mai Tai in London was made with Appleton 8 and Grand Marnier and was really complex with a wonderful mouthfeel and long finish.

7. Smuggler’s Cove
As per the photo, there were some drunken shenanigans at the Cove that evening. But there’s nothing frivolous about the Cove’s legendary Mai Tai.

6. Ultimate Mai Tai at Tiki Tom’s
We were honored when Tiki Tom’s put our Ultimate Mai Tai on the menu, featuring our hand-picked blend of heavy rums. They make it great there, and we pop in occasionally for “quality control” tasting.

5. Buz-Tai at Hula Hoops
The boozy Buz-Tai is a Mai Tai riff created by local impresario Buz Deadwax and has been on the menu at South San Francisco’s Hula Hoops for years. Set on fire and including a complex blend of rums plus pimento dram.

4. Dr. Funk
San Jose’s Dr. Funk is still making excellent Mai Tais. This was their standard issue and I loved it.

3. Kon Tiki with Saint Benevolence Aged Clairin
The Kon-Tiki’s standard Mai Tai is excellent, but we really loved this one made with an aged Clairin from Haiti. Savory but still with good barrel aging notes.

2. Trader Vic’s San Jose Airport
There’s no way that this airport Mai Tai should rank so high, but a second that day confirmed that it was perfectly made and balanced. Mai Tais at sunset are just fine before a flight.

1. Mai Tai with Appleton 17
Appleton created this rum replicate the Wray 17 used in the original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. And, yes, it is spectacular in a Mai Tai. Made by Chris Dennis at an Appleton 17 event with Ferrand Dry Curacao and homemade orgeat / rich simple.

Honorable mentions: Red Dwarf, Formosa Cafe, High Roller Tiki Lounge

Logo Glassware at Dr. Funk in Downtown San Jose

When Dr. Funk opened in December 2021 they had a souvenir Mai Tai glass featuring artwork from B-Rex, similar to the B-Rex designed logo that is still featured on their cocktail napkins. That run of “1st edition” glasses sold out immediately and it seemed like Dr. Funk had forgotten that patrons so often want to take home something from the venue.

Well, this may not be the B-Rex second edition, but Dr. Funk is now selling glasses featuring the logo designed by @gennbunn. Each is $10, or $8 with a cocktail. Each features a heavy base.

These aren’t really anything unique or irresistable, but it is really nice to sip a Mai Tai with Dr. Funk himself providing inspiration for travels to Polynesia. Or just to take home as a souvenir of a night out on the town.

Get them now before they’re gone. Do more of this please, Dr. Funk.

The Mai Tai pictured was a special from Tuesday’s “Traditional Tiki Night” and featured Myrtle Bank Jamaican Rum and Cointreau as the orange liqueur. Just a little lighter than Dr. Funk’s always excellent Mai Tai but still really great in its own right. Dr. Funk is now doing these tiki nights every Tuesday, featuring a rotating set of DJs. Having a DJ is great, and adding drink specials is even better. Do more of this please, Dr. Funk.

Fire Drinks

Always a big hit in the tiki bar, and did you ever notice that once someone orders one that’s all anyone else orders for a while? People want to experience a fire drink for themselves.

Especially when they’re as well done as this one here from Dr. Funk in San Jose. Mrs. Mai Tai and I were downtown and popped in around 3:30 on Sunday for a quick drink.

Behold the Phoenix Rising!

In this case the fire is no mere gimmick. Phoenix Rising features smoky Mezcal, along with Mexican rum, Aperol, pineapple, lime, coconut, cinnamon, and Serrano tincture. So, it’s quite spicy and smoky, where the smoking ciders of the flaming garnish actually serve to enhance the cocktail rather than detract from it.

This drink was too spicy for me but Mrs. Mai Tai loved it and I think it’s a great option to have some different kind of flavors in your tropical cocktail.

Funky Doctor Bird Mai Tai

Was feeling like I hadn’t had a rich and funky Mai Tai in a while, so I pulled out this wonderful bottle of Doctor Bird Jamaica Rum. This is the special Madeira cask release that was put out in conjunction with Bitters and Bottles a couple years ago, and I prefer this to the standard-issue Doctor Bird that’s finished in Moscatel casks. It is also issued at a hearty 59.2% ABV.

The result was a very chewy Mai Tai that tasted fantastic. Totally savory to have funky rum like this delivered in the Mai Tai format, where some of the rough edges are minimized.

I’m even getting a little fresh mint from a nascent planting in the backyard.

Glassware is obviously inspired by the rum. It’s an opening day B-Rex design for Dr. Funk San Jose. It would be great if the good doctor would do more of these, just saying.

White Sangria at Olla Cocina in San Jose

A fun Saturday night to see Depeche Mode in San Jose. We had intended to pregame at Dr. Funk but we got a little bit of a late start and there were already patients in the waiting room see the Doctor, so we had dinner at Olla Cocina a couple doors down instead.

We’ve enjoyed this restaurant over the years, and see it has returned to a traditional table service restaurant after a little while where their method was to order food when you entered. The food here is pretty good, but I do need to rave about the cocktails.

Traditional favorites the Margarita and Paloma were well-received, as was the Chicha Sangria that blends red wine with sherry and vermouth.

But the standout for us was the White Sangria, with white wine, grapefruit, elderflower, pisco, agave, pineapple, and lime. Garnished with a blackberry and grapefruit wedge. The elderflower was really forward in this cocktail and I didn’t really taste the wine much – fine by me as I’m not a big wine person. Really rich and very satisfying. So good that all ordered it for a second round and took advantage of the offer to have it served in a carafe for a little bit of savings.