Was feeling like I wanted something tropical but without the booze, so I thought I’d try the “No Tai Mai Tai” that offer at Trader Vic’s. Since I have a bottle of the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate this seemed like a good test.
When I’ve had this in the restaurants, the flavor unexpectedly leaned very heavy in the orange direction – so much that I thought orange juice was added. But having made it at home just with equal parts of lime juice and Mai Tai Concentrate I taste the same thing. This is really curious because when I make a Mai Tai with the Concentrate (albeit with a slightly higher proportion of citrus) it doesn’t taste so orange-forward.
In any case, this isn’t bad.
No Tai Mai Tai 1½ oz Lime Juice 1½ oz Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate Shake with crushed ice and garnish with lime wedge and mint
We enjoyed a trip up to the Napa Valley Museum Yountville to view the exhibition running now through through December 31, 2023. The collection is curated by Baby Doe & Otto von Stroheim of Tiki Oasis and it tells a chronological story of tiki in popular culture with an emphasis on venues from the Bay Area. Those venues include Trader Vic’s of course, but also The Lanai, Tiki Bob’s, and more. Each named venue features a nice chronology and plenty of historical details and artifacts.
The collection includes some large tikis, a tiki mug collection, and plenty of artwork. There’s an incredible tiki by Crazy Al (unfortunately not attributed in the museum) that has nods to the different carving styles from across the Pacific. And there’s a custom-built bar built by Woody Miler and used for events.
Overall, the exhibit is well worth the drive and modest entrance fee. We went first thing on Saturday and avoided the typical weekend traffic jams. A California Road Trip exhibit downstairs will also scratch the itch for fans of midcentury kitsch.
The exhibit also features a gift shop with a great selection of items from Trader Vic’s, McBiff, Heidiline, Tiki and Stitch, and more. The great looking event mug by Woody Miller that pays tribute to the Barney West tiki outside Trader Vic’s is only available at the ~monthly ticketed special event receptions: June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16, October 7, December 2. Check the website for event details and ticket links.
A wonderful evening at Trader Vic’s where Eve Bergeron welcomed authors Garret Richard and Ben Schaffer who discussed their new book Tropical Standard. The authors signed copies and held a Q&A about topics within the book. We thought Schaffer did a good job sort of leading the discussion points and throwing it to Richard for deep dives on various topics. Lots of smiling head nods when Richard noted “Lime, sugar, and spirit is nature’s alcohol delivery system.” A very tight and breezy hour or so.
Richard also discussed the approach for his Mai Tai recipe, noting that he uses ⅝ oz of Latitude 29 Orgeat (2:1 syrup) and two orange liqueurs to provide an ounce of sweet to balance the ounce of lime juice. He mentioned going to 2¼ oz of rum to deliver the equivalent of the booziness of mid-century rums.
The authors also brought Tommy’s Margarita creator Julio Bermejo to discuss his approach to that cocktail, procuring and using limes, and more. Bermejo’s adjustment to use a watered down Agave Syrup in lieu of Triple Sec in the Margarita reinforced some of the author’s ideas around Sugar Adjustment for preparing cocktails, and Bermejo is a charismatic speaker in his own right.
Three cocktails from the book were featured and prepared in the Cook Room where the book discussion was held. I heard only great things about Yacht Rock, which I did not try, but I did enjoy the two others.
From Dusk Till Dawn was quite delightful, featuring a delightful Blood Orange Syrup. The use of a Blood Orange Syrup allows the flavors of that fruit to be used but in a format that is sweet enough to work with the spirit and doesn’t water down the drink.
Pineapple Princess was a delicate cocktail that uses a Pineapple Syrup and milk washed rum. I thought this was great.
We thank the authors for signing the book and for bringing forth the ideas about preparing tropical cocktails using these different techniques.
Appleton unveiled details of their forthcoming Appleton Estate 17 Year Old Legend Jamaica Rum release this week. The rum was developed by Appleton’s master blender Joy Spence using four rare distillates to replicate the formula for Wray & Nephew 17, the original rum that Trader Vic used in the Mai Tai. Issued at 49% ABV and aged in ex-Bourbon oak barrels, Legend replicates the original by being 100% pot still distillate.
Spence was quoted in a Forbes article about the release, saying “When I made the Mai Tai with this rum. I tell you, I was in heaven. I sat in my garden and I said this is most amazing Mai Tai ever.”
Due to the rarity of the distillate, only 1500 bottles will be available globally, never to be produced again. Legend will be available at select “premium retailers” starting in June 2023, in the United States, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Denmark, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong. List price is $500 per bottle.
Their hyped May 17 announcement date coincided with the selling of a few bottles via Blockchain broker BlockBar, where the early adopters are guaranteed an NFT and a bottle. Or, they are now in a position to flip the rum to the highest bidder, with some bottles now well over $1000.
The Mad Scramble Starts in June
You’d think that with a $500 list price that maybe it would keep away some buyers. Heck, even Appleton’s $300-$400 Hearts releases are still found out there here or there. But given the hype it seems that Legend will be very difficult to obtain. We know a few famous venues and collectors who won’t be getting Legend even after they asked.
Personally, I’ll be traveling in the British Isles for the last two weeks in June. So, there’s nary a chance I’ll be able to jump on my favorite retailer’s customer email and snap this release up like I did with the Appleton Hearts release. The whole NFT thing left a bad taste in my mouth.
Maybe someone will take pity and offer me a tot or two.
I took two cocktails home with me from my visit at Trader Vic’s Emeryville, both of which were new to me. I chose these from the Coconut Concoctions section of the menu, hoping one of them would be a hit for Mrs. Mai Tai and where we’ve had great experiences with to-go Bahias and Chi-Chis. Both were prepared without ice and refrigerated for the afternoon before being lightly shaken and served over ice.
Sunset Swimmer – with Tequila, spiced coconut, and pineapple. Definitely something more than just a Pina Colada with Tequila, there are some very specific spices and flavors that can be hit or miss. I really liked it, but Mrs. Mai Tai thought it tasted weird. I felt that the combo of pineapple and spices worked very well.
Sea Dreams – Strawberry forward, with coconut, passionfruit, and “two types of rum”, both of us felt this seemed flat with very little coconut flavor. It felt like maybe there was an ingredient missing.
I challenged Trader Vic’s Emeryville bartender Troy to make a Banana Cow, one of the Trader’s earliest cocktail hits. And boy did Troy make it great, perfectly blended and totally icy smooth to the last drop.
There are two printed recipes for the Banana Cow, which evolved to be more of a true cocktail by the 1970s.
Banana Cow (1946) 1 crushed, ripe Banana 2 level teaspoons bar Sugar 3 oz fresh whole Milk 1½ oz Puerto Rican Rum (Ron Merito, Boco Chica, or Brugal) Plenty of Cracked Ice “Put the mess into an electric mixer and mix the hell out of it. Pour into a large glass and have at it. No foolin’ this is a pip.” Trader Vic’s Book of Food & Drink (1946)
Banana Cow (1972) 1 whole Banana 1 tsp bar Sugar 1 dash Vanilla (Extract) 3 oz fresh Milk 1 oz Trader Vic’s light Puerto Rican rum 1 dash Angostura Bitters ½ scoop shaved ice Blend in electric mixer. Serve in Planter’s Punch glass. “The world’s finest, greatest, oh-so-good peachy hangover special. That’ll do it when nothing else will” Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide Revised (1972)
Later, Vic wrote in Trader Vic’s Rum Cookery & Drinkery (1974) about the cocktail, saying “The Banana Cow is the greatest hangover drink as far as I’m concerned. People are in a rut serving Bloody Marys, and they really kill you rather than cool you. But milk is good for you, and bananas are good for your stomach. Many is a morning I could count a lot of people waiting for me to open my doors for a Rum or Banana Cow to cool it, heal it, and cure it completely.”
This cocktail appeared on the menu at Trader Vic’s Emeryville a couple years ago and I decided to revisit with lunch. The drink features unaged Cachaça and Tequila, along with Banana liqueur, grapefruit and lime juice, plus Trader Vic’s favorite ingredient – Orgeat. The Whipped Cream topping with Lime Zest makes this an attractive cocktail.
The blend of Cachaça and Tequila works really well here, providing different spirit notes than what you’d get with Rum or Bourbon. Cachaça is distilled from cane juice and the light herbal qualities pair well with Tequila’s agave-based flavor. The banana is there just as a hint, and when we upped the ratio at home it still wasn’t forward in the cocktail.
At Trader Vic’s the cocktail is served in this tall glass with nugget ice, which meant it was difficult to incorporate the topping into the drink due to the chunky ice. My preference would be for this to be in an old fashioned glass with a wider brim or with shaved ice that would be easier to work with.
Trader Vic’s hasn’t published the recipe but observing the prep and trying at home this seems pretty close. Give it a try!
Drunken Monkey by Trader Vic’s ½ oz Lime Juice ½ oz Grapefruit Juice (pink) ½ oz Orgeat ½ oz Giffard Banane du Bresil 1 oz Blanco Tequila 1 oz Silver Cachaça Shake with crushed ice and top with whipped cream and banana chips.
At home I used El Jimador Tequila and Novo Fogo Cachaça, along with Latitude 29 Orgeat, and I felt this tasted even better than the one at Trader Vic’s. I’m a newbie to both spirits, so I couldn’t tell which brands were used at Vic’s.
My company gave me the day off for a “wellness day” and so I popped over to Trader Vic’s Emeryville for a low-key lunch.
There are really few things that are as good as Crab Rangoon from Trader Vic’s when served fresh and hot. So delightful with the sauces too.
I also really enjoyed the Aloha Bowl with Kalua Pork. Some really great flavors here, including the salad portion with Trader Vic’s dressing.
Was sad to see that one of the statues outside the front door was split in half and the other one was completely missing. They’d been victims of vandalism (see the older photo) in the past and looks like they finally met their end.
The social media accounts for Appleton Rum in the U.S. and U.K. went live today with a teaser about the “legend” returning, with a subtle “17” as part of the design. We did see May 17 being mentioned earlier today.
The label says this limited edition rum expression is intended as a “re-creation of the legendary rum crafted by J. Wray & Nephew in the 1940s” that “inspired the bartending world.” There isn’t a specific mention of Trader Vic Bergeron or his most famous creation, the 1944 Mai Tai, but this certainly is intended to make you think of the legendary Wray & Nephew 17 that was the first rum using in Vic’s Mai Tai.