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.
November 14, 2013 at 10:36 AM
I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but the Mai Tai is probably the most important drink LA has and I can’t overlook a wrongly defined one when I stumble across it. I’m sure Joel’s drink is delicious as he sounds like a cool guy that takes this seriously. BUT…
Call it a re-imagined mai tai. Call it a mai tai, deconstructed. Just don’t call it classic. If you dash bitters over spheres of rye and vermouth it’s not a classic manhattan now, is it?
Mai Tai = very old rum (usually old Jamaican rum smartly blended w/ an Agricole to evoke the now-extinct rum that birthed the drink) + lime + curaçao + rock candy syrup + orgeat. You can skip the thick simple and limeshell garnish without compromising the drink, but the crushed ice is a must. The temp and dilution are key.
That being said, this mai tai sounds damned tasty and when I finally cash in that vacation time I look forward to having a few.
November 14, 2013 at 10:44 AM
Thanks for weighing in with your considerable Mai Tai expertise. It sounds like Joel probably should have dropped the word “Classic” from the menu listing. Given that, this was still a really good cocktail, and if you’re ever on Kauai, give it a try. I look forward to trying another one of your Mai Tais at Cana.