Trader Vic’s Orgeat

Orgeat month continues with an orgeat that’s been widely available for some time: Trader Vic’s Orgeat

The Trader Vic’s syrups have had sort of a bad reputation in the past few years amongst cocktail aficionados due to their use of Corn Syrup and preservatives, but this is widely available so I decided to give it a try at home. I purchased my 1 liter bottle for $9 at BevMo and the Trader Vic’s products are also available online.

In a Mai Tai made with Denizen Merchant’s Reserve Rum and Ferrand Dry Curacao, the Trader Vic’s Orgeat adds a hint of almond and little bit of silkiness to the mouthfeel. I am not sure it adds a lot of the cocktail but at least it doesn’t introduce any objectionable flavors to the cocktail or have any unpleasant aftertaste.

So, it budget is an issue I think the Trader Vic’s is a better option than comparable mainstream orgeat brands like Torani.

Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix Market Analysis

Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix is now available, and the product it most closely resembles is the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate. Rarely available for sale at retail, the Mai Tai Concentrate has been available for a few months from the Trader Vic’s website as a result of new market opportunities in the time of COVID.

As with the Wiki Wiki mix, you bring Lime juice and Rum to the party, though Trader Vic’s does recommend 1 oz. of Gold Rum and 1 oz. of Dark Rum rather than light rum recommended by Latitude 29. The Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate has been in heavy use at Trader Vic’s restaurants for years, so it’s familiar to many customers.

There are three main points of comparison between the Trader Vic’s and Latitude 29 Mai Tai mixes.

Ingredients favor Latitude 29

The Latitude 29 Mai Tai Mix contains Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Almonds, Curacao Orange Peel, Carmel Sugar Syrup, Orange Blossom Water, Organic Almond Essence, and Rose Water. There are no preservatives.

The Trader Vic’s Concentrate contains High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Natural Flavor, Carmel Color, and Potassium Sorbate (a preservative).

Without question, Latitude 29 contains higher quality, more natural ingredients.

Price favors Trader Vic’s

The Mai Tai Concentrate is just $10 for 1 liter bottle, while the Latitude 29 is $18 for a smaller 375 ml bottle. Both Trader Vic’s and Orgeat Works are pricey on shipping.

Taste is Close

One of our local reviewers compared the two mixes with Real McCoy 3, a lightly aged Barbados Rum. They said that Trader Vic’s taste popped a bit more than the more subtle Latitude 29 flavor, so a slight edge to the Concentrate.

My own comparison test found that both products taste similar. There’s more of an orange flavor from Latitude 29, and more of an almond sweetness to Trader Vic’s. Basically a draw.

 

What’s the Market?

One of our local reviewers expressed confusion over the market for the Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix, noting that if you were able to order it you’d be able to order some excellent Orgeat varieties from Orgeat Works — which would seem to render the idea of a Mai Tai Mix useless. This reviewer noted that the problem most “lazy” home bartenders have is obtaining and using Orgeat and Fresh Lime. On this point I tend to agree, though Orgeat Works’ Adam Kolesar noted that vacation scenarios might provide a suitable use for this product.

If you’re bringing Rum and fresh Lime to the party, it’s not too hard to get Orgeat and Orange Curacao. A Mai Tai Mix that can include the Lime component would be even more suitable to vacations and “lazy bartender” scenarios, but none of the “just add rum” Mai Tai mixes are particularly good.

Still, Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix is a strong entrant into the market. We wish the distribution for the Orgeat Works products was more widely available, as we’ve enjoyed their Latitude 29 Falernum and Latitude 29 Orgeat in the past. Having the Latitude 29 Mai Tai Mix in beverage warehouse-style retail locations would present an opportunity for cocktail newbies to have a good experience making Mai Tais at home.

Expect the Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix to be listed on the Orgeat Works website shortly. In the meantime, you may order the Macadamia Nut Syrup and just write “Wiki” in the comments. www.orgeatworks.com

A review sample of Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix was provided by Orgeat Works. Thanks to Julio, Alex, Sean, Brent, and Melissa for comments and contributions to this series of articles.

Previous: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix

Previous: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix Experimentation

Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix Experimentation

Orgeat Works provided a review sample of the Wiki Wiki Mai Tai mix, and we thought we shouldn’t have all the fun so I put out the word about providing some samples to others to try. Like Johnny Appleseed, I drove samples to Campbell, San Jose, Fremont, and San Mateo. Soon, Mai Tais were sprouting!

In addition, I made a bunch of Mai Tais with different rums. The results were a little surprising.

#4: Wiki Wiki Mai Tai with Cruzan Light Rum
This cocktail was the least satisfying. The light rum did not provide the requisite “heft” for a cocktail that is best experienced with a bold, heavy rum. Still, not bad.

#3: Wiki Wiki Mai Tai with Appleton 12 Rum
Shockingly, my favorite Mai Tai rum wasn’t nearly as good as I expected. Something about the flavor profile of the aged Jamaican rum just didn’t mesh with the mix.

#2: Wiki Wiki Mai Tai with Real McCoy 5 / Bacardi 4
Much better was this half/half blend of two medium aged rums, Real McCoy from Barbados and Bacardi from Puerto Rico. Just enough age and flavor from the rum to compliment the Mai Tai mix.

#1: Wiki Wiki Mai Tai with Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum
Royal Amber is the rum that Trader Vic’s uses in the restaurants to pair with their Mai Tai Concentrate, and the results were equally solid with the Latitude 29 mix. The rum is from Puerto Rico and lightly aged, but colored. So in a way it is not too far off from the product’s intended rum pairing. This one had a great mouthfeel and best overall flavor balance.

Feedback from the locals matched my own view: this is a quality mix but white rum is probably not the winning formula. Everyone did praise this as ending up with a good cocktail, though nothing close to scratch. But, as one of our reviewers noted it seems like this is a product designed for more casual cocktail drinkers and not hard care craft cocktail junkies.

Expect the Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix to be listed on the Orgeat Works website shortly. In the meantime, you may order the Macadamia Nut Syrup and just write “Wiki” in the comments. www.orgeatworks.com

Previous: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix

Next: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix Market Analysis

1944 Mai Tai at Lake Tahoe

Following up from yesterday’s post about the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Gar Woods, I also wanted to try their “1944 Old Way” Mai Tai. Regular readers may recall that the term “Old Way Mai Tai” has different meanings, depending on who you ask and when you asked. In this case, it is a scratch Mai Tai (made with the Trader Vic’s Royal Amber rum) and topped with a float of Trader Vic’s 80 proof Dark Rum.

That particular Dark Rum isn’t my favorite but I scanned the spirits at the bar and spotted Pusser’s Rum. So, I asked for the 1944 made with Pusser’s instead. Well, it turns out there’s a no substitution policy for the Trader Vic’s Mai Tais (perhaps related to their licensing agreement) so the standard issue it was.

The second drama was that I didn’t use the gigantically wide straw that was provided (large enough to suck up small ice cubes) so I was sipping directly on the glass. Which meant that my first taste was nothing but the Dark Rum float. But, after a little stir with said straw, I am pleased to report that this was a really good 1944 Mai Tai.

Gar Woods has seating down on the pier and directly on the lake, so if you visiting in good weather and don’t mind a little sun, this could be a unique opportunity.

Worth noting that sister location Riva Grill in South Lake Tahoe also has a Trader Vic’s license, so give these restaurants a try the next time you’re in the area.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai at Lake Tahoe

We had a great lunch on the lake at Gar Woods Grill and Pier. The lakeside dining includes indoor and patio dining. We loved the Lobster Deviled Eggs and I loved my Crab Sandwich.

Gar Woods is notable in that they serve a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, officially licensed and everything. Comes complete in a Trader Vic’s glass and is made as per the “Trader Vic’s Mai Tai” in the restaurants with the Mai Tai Concentrate and the Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum. Mrs Mai Tai had the Lemon Drop.

It was outstanding. The lakeshore views. The fine food and great cocktails. Really great.

Part two: 1944 Mai Tai at Lake Tahoe

1947 Zombie

I’m sure some of you reading this might be thinking, “1947 Zombie? Your year is incorrect.” Well, friends, it is correct and it is delicious.

Behold the Zombie recipe from Victor Bergeron’s 1947 Bartender’s Guide. Trader Vic didn’t have Don the Beachcomber’s secret recipe but his Zombie is no slouch. It is boozy but very easy to drink.

Zombie (Trader Vic’s)
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
½ oz Grenadine
1 oz Orange Curacao (Cointreau)
1 oz Jamaican Rum (Plantation Xaymaca)
2 oz Puerto Rican Rum (Bacardi 4)
½ oz 151 Proof Demerara Rum (Hamilton 151)
1 dash Pernod
Stir in mixing glass with large ice cube, then pour over shaved ice in a tall glass.

A few months ago I posed a question in a Facebook group to ask what were the seminal ingredients for a Zombie (in the same way that Orgeat is the seminal ingredient for a Mai Tai). I honestly did not get any sort of consensus answer, except for a mix of rums and maybe Cinnamon syrup. We also know that Grenadine is a key differentiator between the 1934 Zombie and a Jet Pilot.

All of which means that Trader Vic’s Zombie is probably not quite as spice-forward as those who love the 1934 Zombie are expecting. But it isn’t a terrible “guess” by Vic at what made the Don the Beachcomber Zombie world famous. The grenadine is there, along with Pernod/Herbsiant that often used in Don the Beachcomber cocktails. And, the rums are pretty much exactly as what Donn used in his various Zombie recipes.

Is it as good as a 1934 Zombie? Certainly not. But I’ll tell you that it is miles better than most Zombies I’ve had at good craft-oriented tiki bars.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Happy Hulaween.

The glass is from last year’s kickstarter from Will Penny.

 

Trader Vic’s Warehouse Sale

Robust crowd for today’s once-in-a-decade warehouse sale at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville.

You can see how long the line stretched, a factor on the social distancing in the line and also the total crowd size. I was in the far right section just before it snaked back upon itself. Arriving at 10:00, I was able to enter the parking lot and peruse the wares at around 11:40 or so (I was the last of the third group let in). Credit to the hearty souls who waited in line even longer – they got the really impressive stuff (not idea for how much $$ though). The day was beautiful and people were in good spirits.

I didn’t go home with anything, but I was glad to see what was available. It’s always a pleasure to visit the home of the Mai Tai.

Rum The Spirit of the Ages

This essay has been gracing the back cover of the Trader Vic’s Cocktail Menu for decades. It serves to highlight the spirit that is most prominent in Trader Vic’s cocktails, and is both a history lesson and a list of “shout outs” to famed mixologists. This is a scan of a menu circa 1965.

Click to view larger

This is one area where I think that Victor Bergeron deserves more credit, as quite often he would credit the original creator of a cocktail on the menu or in his books. In the essay he highlights a number of 20th Century barmen including Frank Meier of the Ritz Bar in Paris, Constantine at La Florida Bar in Havana, and Albert Martin of Con Ton Bar in New Orleans. He ends with several pointed salutes to Don the Beachcomber of Hollywood.

The design includes pictures of some of the famous venues and a caricature of Don the Beachcomber himself. 

Closer view of the text

 

Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s

Great day at Trader Vic’s for Mai Tai Day

Firstly, it is nice to see this being labeled “Mai Tai Day” this year rather than “Real Mai Tai Day”. It celebrates the birth of the Mai Tai in 1944, using the date for Mai Tai Day designated by Oakland several years ago.

Vic’s opened at 11 am for Brunch and cocktails, and several of us made the trek to be there at opening. Plenty of souvenir Mai Tai Day Mason Jars were available and they’re a timely design. My Mai Tai looked great and was refreshing on Vic’s outdoor patio/picnic space (in the corner of the parking lot). Good social-distancing employed.

Brunch was a little tricky in that you still have to order food via telephone (brunch menu isn’t in the online system yet, though I’d expect that to be fixed soon). And so you have to go over to the main building to pick it up. But otherwise, this is pretty nice. The morning fog was actually a welcome component and then slowly burned off by around 12:30 pm. My Salmon Toast was delightful and Mrs. Mai Tai’s Eggs Benedict was great too. Supposedly brunch will be an option every week going forward.

Aside from the tikiphiles in attendance, there was a special online toast for Mai Tai Day, featuring Vic’s CEO Rhett Rosen. Eve Bergeron set up a monitor and so everyone in attendance could participate. While this wasn’t as grand as last year’s incredible Mai Tai 75 celebration, this was still pretty good considering the restrictions on indoor gatherings.

Long live the Mai Tai, long live Trader Vic’s!