Pipeline Cocktail at Trader Vic’s

The Pipeline is a new limited time cocktail this week at Trader Vic’s Emeryville . Mrs. Mai Tai and I were planning to visit Vic’s after her COVID shot on Friday but couldn’t make it since the lines were so long. So, I got some to-go cocktails from Vic’s today and enjoyed the cool but sunny and clear Bay Area weather on the drive up to Emeryville.

I joked with Julie that the “meal” option for Trader Vic’s would be their utterly decadent peanut butter spread and crackers, but that’s exactly what I did. Three orders of peanut butter and crackers is more than a meal for some and gave us enough food to order Trader Vic’s cocktails.  (note: I dearly miss the Aloha Bowl that was a staple during the initial take-out period and if anyone is listening at Vic’s – please bring it back!). The peanut butter spread at Trader Vic’s so maybe our favorite thing there – besides Mai Tais.

Pipeline is made with Overproof and Spiced Rums, Pineapple Juice, Citrus, and a bit of Blue Curacao and is the signature cocktail at the Abu Dhabi Trader Vic’s.  The initial taste was unexpected and a little bit of a funny taste. Definitely not made for craft cocktail connoisseurs. But second and third hit? Well, I definitely enjoyed it. I also (surprise!) had a Mai Tai that was plenty good. Mrs. Mai Tai had the Banana Batida which hits the coconut and banana notes that she loves. I tasted this and it’s great.

Final Trader Vic’s Mai Tai of 2020

Mrs. Mai Tai and I ran some errands and landed at Trader Vic’s for lunch. It was nearly outdoor dining as we enjoyed the view of the restaurant and lush greenery from our car.

Lunch was fab. I had the Kalua Pork Sandwich with fries and it tasted great. Even better was a bun that completely held everything together. Mrs. Mai Tai had the Volcano Shrimp bowl and once again really liked it. Though, we both really miss the Aloha Bowls. Please, Trader Vic’s, bring back the Aloha Bowls!



The cocktail was the San Francisco Mai Tai, the Mai Tai served with a float of dark and 151 rums. Though it’s all mixed together when served to-go, this Mai Tai had a deep and rich flavor no doubt influenced by those float rums. It was really great and made two full Mai Tais. I don’t know what it is about the Vic’s Mai Tais but they travel very well.



One of the few benefits this year has been the generally reduced freeway traffic, though today was much heavier than expected. Nonetheless, that light traffic has given us the opportunity to patronize Trader Vic’s many times during the various phases of quarantine, take-out, outdoor dining and everything in between. Today, the Trader Vic’s Captain Cook room was all set up for merchandise sales and there was plenty to choose from (I’ve bought plenty of merch this year, too). Thanks to the lovely day in Emeryville, it was a nice way to cap more than a dozen visits to Trader Vic’s this year.

2nd Best Mai Tai of 2020

Mai Tai at Trader Vic’s (Emeryville, CA)

Mai Tai Day in August was crazy in 2019 for the 75th anniversary of the Mai Tai, so 2020 was bound to be a smaller event. But even with COVID we were able to celebrate in the Trader Vic’s outdoor space with a special internet-based toast to Trader Vic and the Mai Tai. Mai Tais came packaged in custom Mason Jars, too.

I had a lot of Trader Vic’s Mai Tais in 2020, before and during COVID. But none tasted as good as this one that somehow was chilled and balanced to perfection.

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.

Order the Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix on the Orgeatworks website.

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.

Order the Wiki Wiki Mai Tai Mix on the Orgeatworks website.

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.