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.

Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk

Fun times in downtown San Jose on a Tuesday night with the Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk with DJ SamoaBoy play vintage 1960s 45s. Quite a nice mix of retro tunes, mostly upbeat and peppy to go along with seeing some of the tiki ohana at the venue. It is nice to see Dr. Funk doing some things to draw folks mid-week, and a special DJ is a great option. Drink specials would also be nice, if the good Doctor would like to write some special prescriptions.

Check the Dr. Funk social accounts for future special events such as this.

I enjoyed the Three Dots & a Dash, prepared expertly by resident master bartender Paul McCoun. The Mai Tai, of course, was also quite on point. Mrs. Mai Tai really dug the Vacation in Valhalla with Venus Gin Aquavit, Apis Kurpiowski Honey Mead, RumHaven Coconut, lemon, Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters. I thought it was pretty great, too.

Jamaican Highball at Dr. Funk

Dropped by Dr. Funk on Monday before the Surfrajettes show for dinner and some cocktails. Aside from continued “product testing” of Dr. Funk’s still awesome Mai Tai, I tried the Jamaican Highball this time.

More than just a “Wray and Ting”, the Jamaican Highball features Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum, lime, turbinado, grapefruit soda, and Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters. Those additional ingredients and flavors help to enhance the the rum and soda base. I was looking for a slightly lower ABV and asked for Rum-Bar Silver to sub for the Wray. This still provided that classic unaged Jamaican rum flavor and worked great in this cocktail.

Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

The list includes commercial restaurants and bars, plus Mai Tais we had at home tiki bars and events. You can view the full list and additional details on our page:
Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

10: The Rum House

Trader Nic’s Mai Tai, named after the head bartender, features Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black and unaged Rhum JM, plus a tiny float of OFTD.

9: Dealer’s Choice Mai Tai by Adrian Castañeda at The Kon-Tiki Room

Adrian used 1 oz of Worthy Park Kon-Tiki Single Barrel (aged 5 yrs, cask strength), along with ½ oz each of Worthy Park 109 and Uruapan Charandra Anejo.

8: Sunken Harbor Club

Everything they say is true! The famed Mai Tai created by Garret Richard for Sunken Harbor Club in Brooklyn is indeed a top-notch Mai Tai.

7: The Kon-Tiki Single Barrel Mai Tai

This version with Kon-Tiki’s special single barrel release from Worthy Park was totally fantastic.

6: Dr. Funk (original blend)

The original rum blend in the Dr. Funk Mai Tai featured two of our favorite rums, Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross.

5: Smuggler’s Cove with Appleton and Hamilton Rums

We thank bartender Steven Liles for indulging us with the custom order and for making a great Mai Tai.

4: Hale Pele

Who knew that a combination of inexpensive Jamaican rums like Coruba Dark and Wray & Nephew Overproof could be so flavorful and memorable?

3: Maunakea Mai Tai at Skull & Crown Trading Co.

Skull & Crown three Mai Tais on their menu but we prefer this traditional 1944 style Mai Tai made with Appleton 12, Clement Select Barrel, Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum.

2: Classic Mai Tai with Appleton and Hamilton Rums by Skipper Nate at Trader Sam’s

I found myself at the bar at Trader Sam’s on a slow afternoon and Skipper Nate totally willing to work with me to find the very best Mai Tai that could be made on the premises.

1: Birds of Paradise Lounge

This Mai Tai features a complex four rum blend of Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Plantation Xaymaca, and Kō Hana Kea.

It seems impossible to believe that a party Mai Tai served in a plastic cup could be the best this year but when the Correy and Mariella Bravo make a Mai Tai their way you know it’s going to be Maita’i roa ae.

View the full write up for the Top 10 Mai Tais of 2022

Dr. Funk Holiday Brunch

We had a great brunch in downtown San Jose today at Dr. Funk, featuring some traditional breakfast favorites and some tropical cocktails. There was an okay sized crowd today, due to some local Ohana deciding to meet up, plus a big table of locals who were taking advantage of the bottomless mimosas. And the Tequila shots. And some more cocktails.

There are some Christmas lights and some decorations inside and outside, but the holiday decor is not over the top. Lots of vintage Christmas music helped set the mood though.

Unusual for brunch here, the bar staff said in additional to regular brunch cocktail menus that they could do anything from the regular cocktail menu too. So I had to have their amazing Mai Tai, still so delicious.

It does seem like maybe this is the last brunch for a while, though. Gotta give the team credit for trying something with the extended hours, but I can see that patio seating especially would be tough in the winter. Hopefully it’ll come back in the spring or summer.

Sippin Santa at 55 South in San Jose

The annual holiday pop-up with a tiki theme is back at 55 South in San Jose. This craft cocktail bar and restaurant did the decor even more elaborately this year, and staff was ready to serve us at opening on Sunday. Music was peppy and got everyone in the mood.

Sippin Santa comes from the our favorite cocktail historian, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, in partnership with Cocktail Kingdom that also runs the Miracle pop-ups (including two downtown San Jose locations within a 5 minute walk of 55 South, Paper Plane and Miniboss).

This year the Mersanta mug is available for sale after the cocktail debuted on the menu last year. Such a cute mug, and the cocktail with tequila, applejack, and maple-cranberry syrup is quite a delight. I went with the classic Sippin’ Santa cocktail that has Demerara rum, amaro, and gingerbread mix. Really great, and prices for both the cocktails and merch are pretty reasonable.

Sippin’ Santa Cocktail

A new drink this year is Island of Misfit Toys, featuring Jamaican Rum, Chai Tea, cream, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree. If you like Pina Coladas and Pumpkin Spice, this will be your new all-time favorite. I like both, as does Mrs. Mai Tai, so this cocktail is right up there with Sippin Santa’s Kris Kringle Colada as something to go out of your way to try.

55 South has a pretty decent food menu. I enjoyed the Shrimp Roll and we all looooved the Cream Cheese Bread, a small loaf of Olive bread covered with cream cheese. Probably the best thing in the entire building.

Trying it Once at Dr. Funk

Landed again at Dr. Funk to try more cocktails from the refreshed menu.

Phoenix Rising – mezcal, rum, Aperol, pineapple, lime, coconut cream, cinnamon, serrano tincture. Plus, fire. This is a pretty good cocktail, but too spicy for me. Probably from the serrano – but honestly mezcal isn’t really my bag either. One and done, I guess. Your mileage may vary.

Missionary’s Downfall – white rum, peach liqueur, lime, pineapple, and mint. The original Don the Beachcomber version was blended, a format I’ve struggled with at home. This way may not be as frothy and rich on the tongue, but all the flavors are there. It’s a big plus that they use Probitas Rum, a blend of Foursquare rum from Barbados along with some Jamaican rum from Hampden. Really helpful to stand up to the other ingredients in this tropical cocktail that has plenty of mint.

Note that there’s going to be World Cup Viewing Parties out in San Pedro Square from November 20 – December 18. So, I’d expect a lot of folks to be out cheering for their favorite team. But, thankfully, Dr. Funk doesn’t have any TVs inside so if you’re looking for a tropical escape you still have this option.

Sampling New Cocktails at Dr. Funk San Jose

The Dr. Funk cocktail menu was refreshed a couple months ago, rotating out both classics and originals (where even the namesake Dr. Funk cocktail was dropped). This visit I made sure to sample some more of the new cocktails.

A.H. Cooler features Probitas white rum, Uncle Val’s Botanical gin, Yellow Chartreuse, raspberry, watermelon, and lemon. This leans a little tart but the blend of flavors do work really well here, and the ingredients are all top quality. Definitely fruity but not in a Hawaiian Punch sort of way. Crisp and refreshing.

Bali Bali (not pictured) is served frozen and unlike most slushy cocktails isn’t a sugar bomb. It features Appleton Signature and Probitas rums, Cognac, Gin, Velvet Falernum, pineapple, orange, lime, passionfruit, and turbinado. This also leans tart and certainly tastes as more layered than the average frozen cocktail, but at the same time it doesn’t taste nearly as complex as the myriad ingredients would indicate. Great change of pace in any case.

Tehuacan Gold really impressed me with some unusual flavors. It features El Dorado 3 yr rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, orange, pineapple, lime, and Cardamom bitters. It also notably includes “buttered corn” as a creamy and sweet base. I’m really not sure what this is exactly, except that for sure this lends a unique and elegant taste. This should appeal to the folks who liked the Dead Man’s Isle from the original menu.

The strong cocktail program at Dr. Funk continues, and most of the bartenders are able and willing to go off menu when asked nicely. We were particularly impressed by the fire display by Paul McCoun when a Jet Pilot was ordered. Music continues to be retro exotica and Hawaiian, which sets the mood perfectly inside.

Dr. Funk Mai Tai Still Delivers

It seems impossible to believe that Jamaican’s leading rum brand is having supply chain issues, even with being owned by liquor superpower Campari Group. Yet that’s exactly the situation for Appleton Estate 12 year Rare Casks and also Appleton Estate 8 year Reserve. Bars cannot get these popular rums in volume. Perhaps Appleton is running short of their iconic bottles and getting bottles to Jamaica is tricky (can we start a bottle return program, stat?). In any case, let’s hope this gets resolved soon.

In the meantime, bars that use Appleton 12/8 in their cocktails need to find alternatives. Appleton’s lightly aged Signature blend seems to still be in ready supply, but may not be a perfect sub for the longer-aged expressions.

Such is the case for the Mai Tai at San Jose’s Dr. Funk where they replaced Appleton 12 with another longer aged Jamaican-led rum, Denizen Merchant’s Reserve. It is then blended 50/50 with Smith & Cross Jamaica Rum. And nothing against Denizen, a fabulous rum blend of mostly Jamaican and some Martinique rum, but Appleton was a better companion to the Smith & Cross.

Nonetheless, the new formula Mai Tai at Dr. Funk is still outstanding. The house orgeat really shines in this bright cocktail that highlights delicious Jamaican rum. And a reminder that it’s only $10 during happy hour – a total bargain.

It sometimes seems passé to include a Mai Tai on the menu at a tiki bar that serves craft cocktails. Of course they can make it, why take up space on the menu? But to me it is important to include the specs on the menu, not just to show newbies this isn’t a pineapple/orange juice Mai Tai, but also to make a statement with the rums being used. Denizen and Smith & Cross? You know this is a serious Mai Tai. And it’s one of the best anywhere.

Tipsy Terrier Halloween Party

Thanks to Amy and Kirk for throwing another amazing backyard Halloween Party last night in San Jose. Their large home tiki bar, the Tipsy Terrier, is the centerpiece and fantastic but we most spent time in the yard and patio enjoying the myriad Halloween decorations.

They served a wide assortment of boozy beverages including fantastic versions of the 1944 Mai Tai, Three Dots and a Dash, and great blood red Zombie. Super flavorful and definitely not watered down for a general audience. There were also Aperol Spritz’s and Champagne Cocktails. So nice when the host give you the fixing and you can prepare it to suit. Beer on tap and Sangria from a fountain were available for those with less ambitious prep desires, or just because they prefer it.

Mrs. Mai Tai came up with the idea for our costume – Jack and Wendy from The Shining. All works and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Some truly outstanding costumes at the party, and nice to see some familiar faces but also to meet some new people too.