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.

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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!

Mai Tai Day is Here

August 30 is Mai Tai Day, the date where true Mai Tai fans celebrate the birth of the Mai Tai in Oakland, California in 1944.

I celebrated by making a standard proportion 1944 recipe Mai Tai with some special rums. A tribute to fine rums that belong in the finest cocktail. And a salute to Mai Tai Nation.

¼ oz Mount Gay XO
¼ oz Pampero Aniversario
¼ oz Clement VSOP
¼ oz Hampden Estate Overproof
½ oz Denizen Merchant’s Reserve
½ oz Appleton 12 Rare Casks

Float ¾ oz Ultimate Mai Tai Blend (Appleton 12, Smith & Cross, Xaymaca, OFTD)

A delicious Mai Tai, slightly boozier than average. Though by Frankensteining the rum blend it doesn’t have a particularly unique character that you’d get using one of these rums all by themselves.

1956 Mai Tai Recipe

This recipe differs significantly from the classic 1944 Mai Tai recipe, and Bergeron indicates this is the recipe that’s served both in the stateside Trader Vic’s restaurants but also the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu. This recipe seems to predate the widespread use of pineapple juice in the Hawaiian style Mai Tai. 

1956 Mai Tai – Adjusted for 2020
1 ounce Lime Juice
¼ ounce Rock Candy Syrup
¼ ounce Curacao
¼ ounce Orgeat
1½ ounces Lightly Aged Puerto Rican Rum
½ ounce Hamilton Pot Still Black Rum
¼ ounce Coruba Dark Rum 

Mix in 16 ounce tumbler glass with shaved ice. Drop half a spent lime shell in the glass. Stir and decorate with fresh mint.

Learn more: 1956 Mai Tai

Mai Tai Rums

What kind of rum should you use in a Mai Tai? We discuss the history of Mai Tai rums and offer some suggestions for making great Mai Tais at home.

Samoan Fog Cutter with Harvey’s Bristol Creme

Finally got some Sherry so I could try this Trader Vic’s classic at home. It’s delicious.

The classic Fog Cutter recipe dates from the 1940s and was included in the 1947 Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide. With four different spirits, it has been compared to a Long Island Iced Tea.

Fog Cutter (1940s)
2 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
½ oz Orgeat
2 oz Puerto Rican Rum
1 oz Brandy
½ oz Gin
Sherry wine float

Shake all except for Sherry with cracked ice. Pour into 14 oz glass and fill with more cracked ice. Add Sherry float.

The original Fog Cutter is also notable in that it is likely one of the first exotic cocktails to be served in a ceramic mug.

In the 1950s, Trader Vic adjusted the recipe to reduce the amount of rum and brandy. This new recipe was given the moniker Samoan Fog Cutter and remains on the Trader Vic’s menus today. 

Samoan Fog Cutter
2 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
½ oz Orgeat
1½ oz Light Rum
½ oz Brandy
½ oz Gin
½ oz Cream Sherry, floated

If I was going to make it again, I probably would float a full ounce of sherry on top. It really is the special ingredient in this cocktail.

As a kid growing up in the 1970s, commercials for Harvey’s Bristol Creme were common. It’s actually pretty tasty.

International Mai Tai Day 2020

June 30 is a perfect time to highlight my Top 10 Mai Tais of 2020 (so far). My own homemade Mai Tais not included (with one exception). However you can celebrate, give a toast to The Trader today.

1) The last Ultimate Mai Tai from Terry Six at The Kon-Tiki
No bartender has made me a better Mai Tai than Terry.

2) Take Out 1944 Mai Tai from Trader Vic’s
It was so great to have a wonderful take-home Mai Tai. Gave me hope for lockdown.

3) 1944 Mai Tai with Appleton 12 at Trader Sam’s
Bartenders at Sam’s are always willing to go a bit off-menu.

4) Smuggler’s Cove
I landed here in February sort of by accident but it worked out perfect when I had a great Mai Tai.

5) Buz-Tai from Hula Hoops
Another take-out Mai Tai that was amazing. Bold variant.

6) Coruba / Hamilton 86 Mai Tai at Fred & Ginger’s
Home bar Mai Tai made by Terra Fritch
for a socially distant cocktail hour.

7) Trader Vic’s Mai Tai with Mai Tai Concentrate
I’ve been waiting years to try this at home. It’s finally available.

8) Grand Mai Tai
Pretty much a ’44 with the dark rum presented as a float. Good stuff from the Craftman’s hotel bar at Disneyland.

9) Blue Hawai-Tai
My own Blue Hawaii/Mai Tai riff that got press in Exotica Moderne and seemed to make fans worldwide.

10) Kai Mai Tai
Blood Orange in a Mai Tai? Yes, it’s delicious. And somewhat deadly.