Even though the Mai Tai has roots in California, the cocktail has become synonymous with Hawaii, bringing to mind visions of swaying palm trees and rolling Pacific waves, and bartender Joel Downs created a deluxe version for Kauai’s Oasis On The Beach. The open-air bar at Waipouli Beach Resort, which resembles a gigantic Polynesian canoe, can get pretty experimental, with cocktails that include the bacon-garnished Elvis Presley Boulevardier. Downs, who honed his craft in L.A. and Seattle before returning to Hawaii, also applies his “farm to liver” approach to classics like the Mai Tai.
Downs goes by Pickled Pueo (drunk owl) on Instagram, and pays close attention to his Classic Mai Tai ($10), making sure to avoid mythical fruit juice pitfalls that plague misunderstood takes on the drink. He makes gritty housemade almond, mac nut and cane sugar orgeat, seasoning with orange essence and rose water and floating the orgeat on top of three harmonious rums that he mixes with lilikoi and mac nut liqueur. The result is positively Pacific.