Saul’s Own Punch at Trader Vic’s

Had a great time on Sunday for the Holiday Bazaar and Brunch at Trader Vic’s Emeryville. So many great vendors, and we bought from several. There were two rooms of vendors and it seemed like business was booming. The mug release for the Tiki Diablo mug seemed to be pretty successful, though we didn’t partake.

For brunch I tried the monthly special cocktail, Saul’s Own Punch. An original cocktail from Vic’s longtime bartender, featuring Red Wine, Citrus, Honey, Passionfruit, and Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum. Longtime readers know I’m not big into wine but this was just the right amount for a rum-soaked Sangria. The Kulua Pork Hash was pretty amazing, too.

Service was pretty good at Vic’s, especially considering it was a packed house. We were seated by DJ Otto who provided a varied mix of retro and retro-inspired tunes. And we got to sit by the window on a picturesque afternoon in Emeryville. Good times at Trader Vic’s.

Tiki With Ray Episode 142: Can The Mai Tai Evolve Again?

It’s always a pleasure talk with Tiki with Ray off or on camera. This conversation was on camera for Ray’s YouTube show, and he asked me the provocative question – can the Mai Tai evolve again?

The Mai Tai evolved around a decade after it arrived in Hawai’i, so it seems like a possibility that it could evolve again? Ray put out some theories and I reacted with some opinions. Be sure to check out the video on YouTube.

The episode was filmed at Tiki Tom’s. Be sure check out Ray’s interview episode with Tiki Tom’s owner Darrin DeRita from a couple weeks ago.

Mai Tais at Sparks Water Bar

Not entirely a coincidence that we chose this restaurant on the waterfront of Sparks Marina Park Lake, since this was located very close to our hotel. But I was all too happy to take Mrs. Mai Tais suggestion for Sparks Water Bar for dinner on Saturday.

The lake is obviously man-made, and there are some nice beach styled houses near the marina, including some with some impressive backyard tikis. The two-story restaurant was busy on Saturday, so it seems like the place to be. Food is a mix of this and that American fare, along with the extensive Gar Woods cocktail menu.

1944 Old Way Mai Tai

So, a “Trader Vic’s Mai Tai” (the one made with Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Concentrate) and a “1944 Old Way Mai Tai” were there for a little comparison testing. Unlike our visit to sister property America’s Bar in Truckee, the mint was in great shape for the garnish. The 1944 comes with the Menehune spear, and did taste a bit better – just a little more rich. Both were well-done and authentic.

Mrs. Mai Tai tried one of Gar Woods’ “Woody” cocktails, a blended Daiquiri style drink which she plussed with some Prickly Pear puree and a float of Myers’s and Captain Morgan rums. I thought it was pretty good for this style of drink and certainly the pear flavor did come through. She didn’t love the Pomegranate Martini though, but I thought it was a pretty good Cosmo riff.

Can’t say enough good things about the food here. My Teriyaki Salmon Salad was delightful, with the teriyaki glaze perfectly grilled to a crisp. There were lots of things in the salad besides lettuce, and I really enjoyed this. The Scallops that Mrs. Mai Tai had were pricey but she said were excellent.

Local Tikis

Pumpkin Spice Mai Tai Recipe

Check out this cool new Hulaween-themed Mai Tai glass from Trader Vic’s. Available now in their online store.

To celebrate, I took a run at doing a Pumpkin Spice Mai Tai. In the past I’ve used the Captain Morgan Jack-O-Blast Rum as an accent rum in a standard 1944 Mai Tai. That rum isn’t being produced anymore, so I decided to try this a different way by making a pumpkin spice simple syrup.

Pumpkin Spice Mai Tai
1 oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Pumpkin Spice Syrup
½ oz Orange Curacao
2 oz Aged/Gold Rum
Shake with ice and garnish with a burnt cinnamon stick and a couple cherries.

The rum here should be flavorful but not overpowering. I used Appleton Reserve 8 but your favorite moderately aged or “gold” rum will do fine.

Pumpkin Spice Simple Syrup
¾ cup Sugar
¾ cup Water
⅓ cup Canned Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Pumpkin Spice

Heat water until just before boiling, take off heat and stir in the sugar. Once dissolved, add the pumpkin puree and spice, stirring for several minutes until the liquid has a consistent orange color. Add a little light rum and then bottle and refrigerate.

With this recipe the syrup does not hit you over the head with the pumpkin spice flavor, so you can add more spice if it suits you. I think it’s better when you just get a hint of the pumpkin flavor in the cocktail.


The Murderqueen Cocktail: a Dark Cocktail for Halloween

This original cocktail was developed by Tonga Tim Harnett of Tiki Underground bar in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It was featured last week on Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour on YouTube, named in honor of Spike’s girlfriend Larissa – otherwise known as the Murderqueen. Check out the video on YouTube, and then check out the amazing surf/horror single “Theme from The Murderqueen” that Spike put out a couple years ago on Hi-Tide Recordings.

The Murderqueen Cocktail by Tim Harnett
1½ oz Pink Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Solerno Blood Orange Cordial
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Passion Fruit syrup
½ oz Raspberry syrup
1 oz Plantation OFTD Overproof Rum
1 oz Rum Bar Overproof Rum
4 heavy dashes Peychauds Bitters
Shake with ice and garnish with three dark cherries

I subbed Liber for the Blood Orange Cordial, and Chambord liqueur for the raspberry syrup. I used Latitude 29 Orgeat and Small Hand Foods Passion Fruit Syrup.

Despite the grapefruit juice and heavy rums, this cocktail is actually pretty easy to drink. It has a real nice set of flavors and seems timely for Halloween season.

Glassware: new Halloween Mai Tai glass from Trader Vic’s, available for sale online.

Kunia Cooler at Trader Vic’s Emeryville

Look at this amazing cocktail that won the cocktail competition at Mai Tai Day and is now on the menu at Trader Vic’s Emeryville for the month of September. Created by Marisa Miller, the cocktail is a blend of flavors including orange and coconut and features Kō Hana Rum. Garnished with toasted coconut and a sliced passionfruit, so cool and tasty. Mrs. Mai Tai had the Vic and Dotty. She’s a sucker for cherries.

Lunch was great on Sunday and Mrs Mai Tai has been getting me into the Cheese Bings: “Nutmeg seasoned béchamel with Gruyére cheese & smoked ham, rolled in a crepe. Finished in a crispy panko crust.” So good. I enjoyed the salmon sliders as well. Mrs. Mai Tai’s Kapiki Pepe salad was quite picturesque and tasty.

Cheese Bings

Very relaxed at Trader Vic’s on a Sunday at opening, though the dining room was pretty full by the time we left.

Another Use for a Canned Mai Tai: COVID Isolation

This was dinner that Mrs Mai Tai made the other night, which I ate while isolating in my office since the weekend with COVID again. Only a mild case, thankfully.

So, having the option for a Trader Vic’s canned Mai Tai was pretty nice. Add this to the reasons to get these and gave them on hand at home. Plus a reminder that among the canned Mai Tais in this price tier, the Trader Vic’s is the best we’ve tried so far. Available at BevMo and online.

More info: Ready to Drink Mai Tais

Tiki Kon Seminar: The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai

Recorded July 1, 2022 at Tiki Kon, we’ve combined the professionally recorded audio with the slides so that you can experience it at home. There are a couple bonus slides during the Q&A.

Everyone is familiar with the iconic Hawaiian Mai Tai that features pineapple juice and a dark rum float. This version of the Mai Tai is quite different from the original 1944 Mai Tai created at Trader Vic’s. When did the Mai Tai in Hawaii become the “Hawaiian Mai Tai?” It wasn’t in 1953 when Trader Vic brought the Mai Tai to Hawaii and is later than you might think. Learn more about this iconic cocktail and how it evolved over the years based on contemporaneous reports and published recipes.

Note that this presentation was updated for Mai Tai Day at Trader Vic’s. That presentation wasn’t recorded but you can view the slides on this site.

Additional Referenced Links

The Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Recipe

The iconic Mai Tai at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki was introduced by Trader Vic Bergeron in 1953. During the 1950s the reputation for this cocktail built such a following that it was described as the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959. But the Mai Tai you get today at the Royal Hawaiian differs considerably, since it uses the Pineapple Juice and Orange Juice commonly seen in Island-style Mai Tais.

Mai Tais being served at the Royal Hawaiian, June 2022

1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai

The earliest known recipe for the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai comes via a letter written to a customer by Trader Vic himself. This is still substantially similar to the original 1944 recipe, though with different proportion of sweeteners and notably using both a Dark Jamaican rum and also a light rum. It is light and refreshing and a good dark Jamaican rum does punch through in this recipe. Try Worthy Park 109.

1956 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
Juice of One Lime
Dash of Rock Candy Syrup
Dash of Curacao
Dash of Orgeat
1½ ounces Trader Vic’s Puerto Rican Rum
¾ ounce Myers’s Plantation Punch Rum
Stir and decorate with fresh mint

1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai – Classic Recipe

The use of Pineapple Juice became common in Mai Tais in Hawaii starting in the 1960s, but The Royal Hawaiian seems to be a late convert. There’s a published recipe from their sister hotel The Moana Surfrider in 1968 that’s substantially similar to the 1956 version. However, there must have been pressure to include Pineapple Juice from many tourists.

This recipe comes from Drinks of Hawaii, 2nd Ed. 1972, by Paul B. Dick. The entry describes this is “now being used by the Sheraton” implying a recent change. The recipe included in the book did not specify an exact amount of Pineapple or Orange Juice except to say that they should be used in equal parts. The recipe is notable in that it describes using 3 ounces of rum, including two flavorful dark rums. But a rum float is not specified.

This recipe was later used in many books by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who designated 1 oz each for the Pineapple and Orange Juice. This seems like the correct choice, keeping the balance with the other ingredients.

1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
½ oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz unsweetened Pineapple Juice
¼ oz Sugar Syrup
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Demerara Rum
1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Light Rum

2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai: Headscratcher

This devolved “secret recipe” was published on the Royal Hawaiian’s website, and includes some curious ingredients. The use of almond-flavored Amaretto liqueur in place of Orgeat syrup is sadly not uncommon in Mai Tais. Amaretto is fine elsewhere but doesn’t add the right flavors or body to the cocktail like Orgeat does. The use of Cherry Vanilla Puree, even in a small amount, is also a noteworthy head-scratcher.

2010s Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
Build in shaker with ice:
1 oz Bacardi Rum
1 tsp Cherry Vanilla Puree
½ oz Amaretto di Saronno
½ oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh Govinda Orange Juice
2 oz Fresh Govinda Pineapple Juice
½ oz Whaler’s Dark Rum Float

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, 2019

2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Returns to Normalcy

In mid-2022, the Royal Hawaiian updated their website to include this updated “secret recipe” and thankfully it’s much more of a standard Island Mai Tai. It is nice to see Orgeat coming back, though I don’t find Old Lahaina rum to be particularly good. Nonetheless, I did very much enjoy the cocktail in June 2022 when I sat looking out at Diamond Head.

2022 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Orange Curacao
1 oz Old Lahaina Light Rum
1 oz Old Lahaina Dark Rum (float)
Shake all ingredients except the Dark Rum with ice. Pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float the Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Day 2022 Recap

Such a fun day in Emeryville yesterday at Trader Vic’s. Lines for cocktails and food were very well managed and plenty of outdoor seating.

My seminar on the Hawaiian Mai Tai went pretty well. A great turnout even in room doing cocktails and rum tasting and (after the door to the outside was closed) which was a little warm. Thanks to those who attended, for being engaged, and laughing at my jokes. The meme got a big laugh. Slides are available here on the site.

Photo courtesy Trader Vic’s Emeryville
Photo courtesy Trader Vic’s Emeryville

I was pleased to be a judge for the cocktail competition. Some great cocktail entries. Congrats to Marisa Miller for winning, and be sure to check out her Kunia Cooler cocktail during September at Vic’s.

Marisa Miller

So much going on. Wish there was time to socialize with more people but it was nice to see so many familiar faces. Thanks to @westcoastmseve for getting me onto the program.

And now for the actual Mai Tai Day on Tuesday Aug 30th. Cheers!