New Cocktail Menu at Trader Vic’s

Trader Vic’s Emeryville has updated their cocktail menu for the first time since Fall 2021. There are 15 new additions, some of which were developed in Trader Vic’s locations worldwide. There are still many Trader Vic’s favorites including the Original Mai Tai, with a gigantic total of 53 cocktails and eight non-alcoholic drinks on the menu. This also means Vic’s are resetting prices up a few bucks, consistent with price increases we’ve seen at many of our favorites lately.

The most noteworthy new item is the Smoke Show. The cocktail is intended to rotate monthly (ask the server) but launched as a very nice rum old fashioned that’s brought to the table and smoked in front of you in a small ceremony sure to delight guests and your social media followers. The smoke flavor lingers quite well in the cocktail.

We also tried the Lava Haze, served in the wonderful new Atahi A Kai Mug by Reesenik that we bought at a mug release event back in February. Described as creamy coconut and strawberry with smoked pineapple, this is quite smoky and isn’t overly sweet. If you love Mezcal or peaty Scotch this might be a winner for you.

I enjoyed the Captain Rilco’s Odyssey, a lighter cocktail with rum, grog, citrus, and pineapple. The garnish features a ‘coral’ twill and some banana whipped topping with lime zest that’s delightful, making this a non-assertive cocktail that is well balanced and not too boozy or juicy.

Everyone at our table agreed the best of the new items was the Bumbu Hunter, created by Wally Gringco of Trader Vic’s Bahrain. Served in a Headhunter mug, this rich cocktail has four rums, spices, and some sweet tropical flavors. The garnish includes a burnt cinnamon stuck, star anise, and a speared peach, so this is a feast for many senses.

It’s great to see Trader Vic’s continuing the tradition of pursuing complex and interesting cocktails that use current ingredients and techniques. We really enjoyed these cocktails.

“Donn the Blowfish” Tiki Mug

I’m not a huge mug collector but when this one came back on sale I thought I would pick it up. This is the second mug from Doc Parks Designs and pays homage to Donn Beach and also the blowfish that lived in the tank by the front door at Park’s old haunt, Pagan Idol. That fish had a name which especially this week is no longer a fun nod, so we won’t note it here. See the photo of me with the puffer back in 2017.

The mug comes with a few Doc Parks swag items so this was a pretty good deal and quite unique. The mug was produced by the Kon-Tiki Tiki bar and sculpted and glazed by Tiki Koa in Mexico. Really good quality and it continues my desire to have mugs that tend to be smaller and more suitable for single-serve cocktails.

This mug is sold out but keep an eye on for tshirts and future merch offerings. And then check out the dates for the Doc Parks 2024 Tour stops. We loved the Doc Park Tour stops in the past year so don’t sit on these if they come to your town.

Sven Kirsten The Tahitian Mug Release at Trader Vic’s

The Tahitian is the second of a series of mug/book bundles from Book of Tiki author Sven Kirsten, produced in conjunction with Tiki Farm and Trader Vic’s. The previous Tiki Portraits release was The Modernist tiki (2021) but the Tahitian is a more traditional style mug. Though, as Kirsten documents in the book, the style and proportions of the Trader Vic’s Tahitian tiki was actually a modern interpretation by artist Ahlo Leon of an older style tiki. The 60 page book is a fascinating read adorned with myriad historical color photographs and images.

The hefty mug produced by Tiki Farm comes in a single glaze, perhaps to avoid the FOMO frenzy that became associated with the multiple glazes of The Modernist. It fits well in the hand and is not improperly balanced despite being top-heavy.

The event at Trader Vic’s Emeryville on Friday consisted of a mug and book signing by Kirsten and some cocktails available at the Cook Room’s bar. The Anana Mango Punch being selected by Kirsten for this event. We didn’t try but heard from others it was a delightful mango-forward cocktail.

Retail price for the book and mug bundle was $120 + tax, and I’d expect any unsold inventory to be available at future events hosted by Kirsten in Southern California and in the Trader Vic’s online store.

Kirsten says that the third in the series is expected sometime next year.

Samoan Fog Cutter Modified

I got this Tiki Tolteca mug at the Alameda Point Antiques Fair (thank you @smuggler_steve), so wanted to make a drink in it. I had a great time visiting Tiki Tolteca in New Orleans in 2018, now sadly shuttered.

The drink was a Samoan Fog Cutter, though I misread the ingredients and ended up switching the ratio of Lemon and Orange Juice. I also used a Cara Cara Orange, so this ended up quite a bit sweeter than it would have been otherwise and I think was a more balanced ratio. I also used a lot more Sherry than what the original recipe calls for and to me is better for it.

I thought this tasted great, and I did find that even the small amounts of Brandy and Gin were providing a more complex blend of noticeable flavors than if this just used light rum.

Samoan Fog Cutter Modified
2 oz Cara Cara Orange Juice
1 oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Orgeat (heavy pour)
½ oz Gin (Beefeater)
½ oz Brandy (Korbel)
1½ oz Light Rum (Trader Vic’s)
1 oz Sherry (Harvey’s Bristol Cream)
Shake ingredients with ice, saving the Sherry for a float.

Atahi A Kai Mug by Reesenik for Trader Vic’s

Fun time at Trader Vic’s last night for a little informal discussion with Matt Reese (Reesenik) and Chris Shima who recently designed mugs for Trader Vic’s. There was a little panel discussion with the artists and you could purchase a mug. Trader Vic’s has been partnering with artists for a few years now and while some of the previous products were hand-crafted, limited edition, and expensive, these were more affordable but still very nice for the price/scale of production. The Kia’i mug from Shima is in the Trader Vic’s online store and I’d expect the Reesenik mug to be there any day.

I was really interested in this unusual design of Atahi A Kai mug that’s so easy to hold in the hand and is so thin it’s only about 15 oz, which means you can fill with a normal drink and not have five times more ice than you normally would. I picked one up and you can see Matt posing with his work.

We also got to see a sneak preview of the movie Cabali & the Tiki Mug Obsession with the director Josh Dragotta and the subject of the movie Doug “Fini” Finical (co-owner of the new Cabali tiki bar in Tuscon). This documentary includes interviews with numerous mug makers and tiki bar owners and is on track for a release later in 2024.

Christmas Suffering Bastard

Not the most traditional Christmas cocktail, but with the new green glaze I think the Suffering Bastard Mug is a perfect vessel. In order to prepare the cocktail we need to make some decisions about the ingredients.

The Trader Vic’s Suffering Bastard is very different from Joe Scialom’s original from the World War II era, and is basically a larger and boozier Mai Tai.

This is the recipe from Trader Vic’s 1972 Bartenders Guide Revised and from 1974’s Rum Cookery and Drinkery. Noteworthy that it specifically calls for an aged Rhum Agriole. But what’s missing? The lime, for one.

Suffering Bastard (1970s)
3 oz Trader Vic’s Mai Mix
1 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum
2 oz Rhum St. James
Shake with ice and garnish with spent lime shell, mint, fruit stick, and cucumber

The same books list the Mai Tai as using 2 oz each of Mai Tai Mix and Trader Vic’s Mai Tai rum, so we must assume the lime is incorporated into the Mai Tai mix. As for the blend of Orange Curacao and Orgeat, I thought I’d try the ratio used for the 1958 Mai Tai from the Trader Vic’s in Havana, 12 parts Curacao to 7 parts Orgeat, and make 2 oz of this mix to go with the 1 oz of lime. I don’t have any Rhum St. James but substituted Clement VSOP Rhum that’s also from Martinique. Plus Trader Vic’s Light Rum from Puerto Rico.

Christmas Suffering Bastard
1 oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Orgeat (Latitude 29)
1¼ oz Orange Curacao (Ferrand)
1 oz Trader Vic’s Light Rum
2 oz Rhum St. James (sub Clement)
Shake with ice and garnish with spent lime shell, mint, fruit stick, and cucumber (if you have one)

This was very satisfying. You certainly get a bit of that aged and grassy taste from the Clement, but it is balanced well by the subtle sweetness of the Mai Tai mix blend. The use of the light rum softens the edges of the Martinique rhum and keep this as the boozy cocktail it was meant to be.

Mele Kalikimaka