Wednesday, August 19, 2009

aloha in a glass

so, my good friend's know that when i'm not making films or surfing, i'm usually checking out new bars and restaurants with said friends who happen to own bodega wine bar. i love to cook and i love to make a good cocktail, so i'm always interested in what others are doing.

on a recent trip to hawaii, although i wasn't supposed to be "working", my wife and i did take it upon our selves to savour a tour-de-force romping of waikiki's various drinking establishments - in simple, to rate the region for one thing:
thy best mai tai.

i find most mai tai's on the mainland a bastardization of hawaii's most delectable treat. the manhattan beach "rock n fish" navy grog is the best rum drink i've found with close 2nds to the mai tai's from the "outrigger canoe club of newport beach", the "purple orchid" of el segundo and the "bel air bay club". if you've found another good one - let me know, i'd love to check it out. fresh juice, crushed ice and a dark rum top off are key for me, always served in a bucket glass-never a pint.

and yes, i know the grog is a grog and not a mai tai - but that's my point, it is better than most mai tai's i've had in california... damn the man who first put grenadine with rum in a pint and passed it off as something even similar to the discussion at hand.

for the most part - the old fashioned and the "Ivy gimlet" have won me over in LA for drinks with flair. the margarita and dirty martini for simple fun.

but alas - having recently built our late gramp's stebbins famous mai tai recipe - i finally feel ready to play with this hawaiian concoction. the stebbins mai tai is an absolute classic, a secret family recipe created over 25yrs of island living, cheers to him. any of these, taste better in hawaii but for the record - here is what we found out on the shores of waikiki.

Magnum PI's old hang-out, the waikiki outrigger canoe club (not the hotel) has one helluva meyers rum mai tai and an even better view of sunset, perhaps it's private club status make it taste even better but good all the same.

the mai tai bar at the royal hawaiian is also worth checking out - named after the drink itself, one can imagine, they offer a pretty good one but they also offer a couple "variations" and in my book, do one thing, really, really well. ditch the variations guys. or at least, don't call 'em "mai tai's", call 'em "rum punch", "waikiki willies" or "moon over mai tammy's".

that said, hands down, the BEST mai tai we found in waikiki is that of the "house without a key" at the Halekulani hotel, it's not as sweet as others, offering a fine blend of citrus and a power pack of rum - 3 and i was pretty much on my ass... and much like the grog and the ivy's happy drink - the crushed ice was a big plus.

no surveys are perfect but don't worry - we had a few to make sure. they aren't cheap but we found them worth every penny or at least after one, you don't really care that you are drinking your dinner (we did that). live, classic hawaiian music on the Halekulani patio is a big plus and so is the view of diamond head but either way, this is truly one first class drink - no paper umbrellas or pineapple slices to garnish, your drink comes with a slice of lime, fresh mint, a sugar cane stick for a swizzle and a beautiful orchid. amazing. a complimentary basket of maui potato chips pushes things over the edge.

i found the attached recipe - although one server slyly mentioned that fresh squeezed lime juice is the secret - so perhaps this recipe is a sham? but it looks really close. worth trying it out at home, no ?

Halekulani Mai Tai

3/4 ounce (1-1/2 tablespoons) Bacardi Gold rum
3/4 ounce (1-1/2 tablespoons) Bacardi Select rum
1-1/4 ounce (2-1/2 tablespoons) lemon juice
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Lemon Heart 151 rum
>> Mai tai mix:
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) orgeat syrup
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) orange curacao
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) rock candy syrup (simple syrup)
Combine mai tai mix ingredients and pour over crushed ice. Add Bacardi rums and lemon juice. Gently pour Lemon Heart rum on top so it floats.

Garnish with lime wedge, lime wheel, sugar-cane stick, mint leaf and a vanda orchid. Serves 1.

PS - for inner island travel, the mai tai at mama's fish house on maui and the princeville hotel on kauai both stand up as hawaii's best drinks. enjoy. a hui hou.