The Evolution of the Mai Tai on Make and Drink YouTube

We were pleased to be the inaugural guest on Derek Cole’s Make and Drink channel on YouTube. In the video we discuss how the cocktail evolved in Hawaii and even make the original Hawaiian Mai Tai that did not include Pineapple juice. Make and Drink is a really great cocktail channel and Derek’s production values are off the chart.

The thumbnail for the video includes some “Easter Eggs” about the Mai Tai and even some forthcoming content. Stay tuned for future collaborations.

Now is also a good time to recommend subscribing to the Make and Drink Patreon, where you can support high-quality content like this as well as being able to interact with other patrons and Derek who is also producing patron-exclusive content. Check it out.

2023 Hawai’i Trip Mai Tai Recap

Someone commented about all the Mai Tais from our recent trip to Hawai’i and asked which was my favorite.

The Banyan Mai Tai at the Skull & Crown Trading Co. pop up at Don’s Treehouse at the International Market Place was by far my favorite. This one really hit all the right notes and was complex and so full of flavor. It also features three outstanding rums, all of which are amongst my favorites: Appleton Estate 12 Jamaica rum, Kō Hana Kea Hawaiian agricole rum, and Smith & Cross Jamaica rum.

Others that were top-tier included Heyday, Skull & Crown’s Maunakea Mai Tai, Hau Tree Lanai, and the Halekulani House without a Key. For those with pineapple, I liked Duke’s ’44 and the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai best.

Only one I wouldn’t recommend was the Royal Hawaiian’s $40 Ali’i Mai Tai. Not that good period, much less for a premium price.

Cocktails and Hula Pie at Duke’s Waikiki

We had a little free time after the Tiki in Waikiki cocktail competition and went to Duke’s Waikiki for drinks. We enjoy this restaurant but it is always really crowded and hard to get in without a reservation. But the bar is open seating and we were lucky that server at the bar let us sit at a table that technically wasn’t open. Our service was very prompt and he was super friendly, too.

The very good Duke’s Vintage ’44 Mai Tai is made with Koloa rums from Kauai, lime, and a splash of fresh pineapple. I don’t mind a little bit of pineapple juice in a Mai Tai, though of course it really shouldn’t be called a ’44 if there’s pineapple in there. Nevertheless, this was the right balance and I thought this Mai Tai was pretty good. Definitely different than the traditional Duke’s Mai Tai made with POG juice.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai had the pretty and sweet Lava Flow. Nothing fancy but this is the kind of drink she loves.

We couldn’t leave Duke’s without some Hula Pie. There’s something about a Hula Pie in Hawai’i that makes it taste better than one you have from a restaurant in California. Maybe it is how it melts just a little faster, but boy it was fab.

Afterwards, we wandered out to the for some photos and great views of the beach and Diamond Head.

Return to the Tipsy Tiki at International Market Place

Tipsy Tiki is the bar located in the food court at the International Market Place, previously known as Myna Bird. When we visited last year we appreciated that while this location was connected to the nearby La Pina Cantina there was also a separate list of tropical drinks under the Tipsy Tiki moniker. We enjoyed the Hawaiian-style Tipsy Tiki Mai Tai made by the bartender last year.

This year the Tipsy Tiki-specific menu has gone away, so when you ask for a cocktail menu it’s a Margarita-heavy menu for La Pina. There isn’t even a Mai Tai on the menu, which seems shocking given the still-present Tipsy Tiki signage.

Nonetheless, I’m pleased to report that my friendly bartender was easily able to make a Mai Tai and even went to extra effort to procure an orchid for garnish. It was an entirely serviceable Mai Tai that tasted just fine.

While a food court tiki bar doesn’t really scratch the itch of the hardcore tikiphile, there are far worse “tiki” experiences in Waikiki than this one (hello Cuckoo Coconuts!). I like the tiki touches here and did find the service to be very good. Plus my 11:00 am Mai Tai wasn’t half bad.

Heyday at White Sands Hotel

The White Sands Hotel was the host hotel for the Tiki in Waikiki weekend event, a refurbished historical hotel with plenty of midcentury design goodness. We chose not to stay there because we wanted someplace more modern and larger, but we spent plenty of time there. We thank Mike and Holly for hosting a fun room party with great drinks on the Friday evening as well as during the Saturday pool party.

Heyday is a round bar in the middle of the White Sands grounds, adjacent to the pool. Food is available after 3:00. A notable feature are the swings that serve as barstools for most of the circumference of the bar. They look great, but are practically not as fun as you’d think – and they make it hard to get to your drinks. They have a good selection of spirits and had a special on Real McCoy 12. The bar has a varied menu with some inspired recipes. The common use of free-pouring most of the ingredients means this isn’t quite as “craft” as maybe they aspire to, though both Mai Tais I had here were well-balanced.

the backside of Heyday

The Mai’i Tai is a riff featuring tea-infused rum, aged Kō Hana Hawaiian rum, orange and lime juice, and orgeat. This didn’t blow me away but I thought it was worthwhile and nicely leaned a little light which seemed to hit the spot around the pool. And there was plenty of booze, too.

The 1944 Mai Tai features aged Jamaican rum, Hawaiian rum, and Martinique agricole, plus Dry Curacao, orgeat, and lime. This is a formidable Mai Tai with a great blend of rums, worth seeking out the next time you’re in Waikiki. Heyday also offers a Beachside Mai Tai with pineapple juice and a Cool Kid Mai Tai featuring Campari.

White Sands has another bar with a camouflaged entrance called the Green Lady Cocktail Room. “Ask for Room 8.” We poked our head in and this small space was packed and had a cool vibe inside. Hard to beat the relaxed ambiance of the poolside bar Heyday, though.

Hanging at Heyday with Bob and Ashley

House without a Key at Halekulani Hotel Waikiki

We wanted to revisit House without a Key, having been able to score walk-up seats the pool bar on our last trip but wanting to sit closer to the performances that start at 5:00. Our reservation was for 5:30 and we saw that “drinks only” guests were seated up front in the sun and many used the provided umbrellas to shade themselves. When we were seated for dinner, we opted to sit in the shade under covering.

The performers sing a variety of Hawaiian songs and at 6:00 a former Miss Hawaii comes out to dance. This is a very nice and relaxing locale and once you’re in shade a little is quite pleasant, so consider a slightly later reservation.

I ordered the Mai Tai, made to a 50s style Hawaiian Mai Tai spec (no pineapple) but with a dark rum float. I normally love these but found it to be flat this visit, and they’re probably still not using Lemon Hart 151 for the float, a rum that I think is essentially for adding a lot of flavor. It most definitely not Bacardi 151 per the menu, since Bacardi stopped making that years ago and for sure the float had more of a smoky flavor (I’m guessing it was Myers’s). We enjoyed the rest of our dinner and desert with the Halekulani’s famous coconut cake.

Top Hawaiian Mai Tai at Don’s Treehouse in Waikiki

One of the highlights of Tiki in Waikiki was the Friday cocktail reception at the International Market Place‘s treehouse. This was set up as a tribute to Donn Beach, who envisioned the original market place back in the 1950s. A treehouse for two was a key feature back in those days, used by honeymooners and others who wanted a private dining experience. A. Private. Dining. Experience. You know…

We can thank our friends at Skull & Crown Trading Co. for setting up the cocktails being served in the treehouse for the first time in decades. There were a series of delicious options, including a very nice Zombie, but I was totally blown away by the Mai Tai on the menu.

The Banyan Mai Tai was made with Appleton Estate 12 rum, Kō Hana Kea rum, Smith & Cross rum, Dry Curacao, Lime, Orgeat, Demerara Syrup, and a topping of Angostura Bitters. Purists would say that bitters don’t belong in a Mai Tai, but I’m here to tell you that it was just fine to add them. With three rums amongst my favorites, this Mai Tai totally hit me perfectly. Especially considering the setting, too. Cocktails, in a treehouse under the banyan tree, what’s not to love? One of the top Mai Tais of 2023 and it will for sure make the yearly top 10 list.

Skull & Crown will be doing cocktails here on Fridays and Saturdays through the rest of the year, so if you’re in Waikiki be sure to check it out.