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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Drinks and Food » » How do I get the most authentic Mai Tai possible at TVs, or my local bar?
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How do I get the most authentic Mai Tai possible at TVs, or my local bar?
TorchGuy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 24, 2008
Posts: 209
From: Renton, WA
Posted: 2010-04-27 05:16 am   Permalink

I go visit my BF in San Jose a few times a year, and we always go to TVs at Dinah's Garden, Palo Alto. I admit I'm a poly drink neophyte, and I drink all manner of sweet liqueurs normally, but I've never had a drink there that I didn't like, nor has my BF, and we usually try each other's when it's something the other hasn't had yet. They tend to be complex, not too sweet, all-around tasty stuff. He's had the Mai Tai - I tasted it, and I honestly forget what it was like, but I haven't had one yet.

I'm sure any vintage Chinese restaurant in Seattle can give me a horrible, syrupy-sweet Mai Tai with tons of maraschino syrup or Rose's grenadine, but I've heard bad things about the TVs version, too. The rum(s) used is subpar; the TVs Mai Tai mix (the bar version) is good but "not authentic", the San Fran (did I get that right?) version uses curacao and orgeat but the rums used are still not great; etc. etc. etc.

We usually strike up a rapport with the tender. Next visit, I want to order a Mai Tai, the classic "we're certain Vic invented it beyond all doubt" cocktail. The tender I usually see there is quite willing to alter drinks for us, and discuss traditional vs. current recipes; he was, for example, willing to say a concise 'yes', and then give details, when I asked if the Suffering Bastard was basically a Mai Tai clone with a cucumber spear, and was willing to give his thoughts on what's different between bar and sale Mai Tai mixes. So I chat up the tender, and I want as traditional a Mai Tai as I can get, and we're assuming he's willing to make it to my given specs. What do I tell him? Which rum(s) in what amounts? Mix, or curacao + orgeat? As much detail as you want to give; I live for details and will write 'em down.

On the same line, there are two bars I visit in Seattle which have good tenders who like to discuss recipes, and are willing to make drinks to spec. Are there any nice complex, not-too-sweet drinks on the Vic's average menu that a well-stocked bar should be able to make, or approximate well? I really need my Vic's Fix up here, since our TVs closed! Big TVs faves are the Zombie, Navy Grog, Dr. Funk, Gun Club Punch, Queen's Park Swizzle, Fog Cutter, and Menehune Juice; I'm sure I can find recipes here, but I've no clue about adapting them to the products found in an only slightly above-average bar. I'd also love to ask them to make me a Black Stripe (I have the recipe for that), it's always my last drink of the night.

...if only I could bring in my own mug and have them mix in that... I know one of the two *might* greenlight that, as they know me well enough. I'll put a question regarding that in another new thread.

[ This Message was edited by: TorchGuy 2010-04-27 05:16 ]


 
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The Gnomon
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 01, 2007
Posts: 1293
From: MD-DC-VA
Posted: 2010-04-27 07:59 am   Permalink

A bigger question is how to get an authentic Mai Tai at all, anywhere.

None of the rums that VJB Jr ever used in his original and subsequent adjustments is available today. The 17 year old J. Wray and Nephew Jamaican rum he used was having consistency issues so he changed to other rums as needed to preserve the integrity of the Mai Tai flavors.

While J. Wray and Nephew distillers are still in the game, along with plantation partner Appleton Estate, none of the rums today seem to reflect the distant relatives that the Trader used while working his craft. Instead, we are relegated to employ all sorts of other rums in all sorts of combinations in an effort to match the elusive qualities that the Mai Tai once possessed.

The orgeat that the Trader used is no longer available, so we have to use substitutes, most of which does not seem to fit the descriptions of what went into the original Mai Tai.

The orange curaçao he used, I believe was DeKuyper in the beginning, but when the quality of the product became a problem, he switched to Bols. I myself use Bols because it's the best I can find locally. I'm pretty sure that if the Trader was alive and well today, he would have switched from Bols to something else long ago. Like so many other products, the Bols of today is not nearly as good as the Bols of yesteryear.

There is the question as to whether or not the Trader used Persian Limes or Key Limes. The recipe calls for the juice of one lime, however, there seems to be possibly too much juice if you use a Persian Lime, whereas it is not too much if you use a Key Lime. On the one hand, it seems possible that he used Key Limes because one lime provides a good amount of juice. On the other hand, the most commonly available limes are the Persian variety, which is understood unless otherwise specified, which the Trader did not, so it is a question.

The drink is sweet enough without the addition of Rock Candy Syrup, which is a required component of the Mai Tai. The use of RCS in the presence of the mildly sweet orgeat and extra sweet orange curaçao is one indication that the Trader might have used Persian limes. The RCS seems to have a balancing effect upon the copious juice from one Persian Lime, whereas, by using a Key Lime, the resulting drink can be a little too sweet.

Then there is the matter of shaved ice. Shaved ice is completely different from crushed ice. Crushed ice is a mass of small ice chips. Shaved ice is paper thin and a fluffy mass like snow. Shaking a drink with shaved ice is totally different from shaking one with crushed ice.

Finally, you'll need a sprig of mint. Most likely, he used mentha sachalinensis, but then again the use of common garden mint is an assumption, since he never specified otherwise.

When you put all of these things together, it is hard enough to make an authentic Mai Tai yourself. You then have to wonder, how would you know that you're drinking an authentic Mai Tai even if someone makes you one.

Your best bet is to know that your bartender is using all of the correct ingredients as far as you know and hope you enjoy whatever the result happens to be.



[ This Message was edited by: The Gnomon 2010-04-27 08:03 ]


 
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rangda
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 13, 2010
Posts: 31
From: MA USA
Posted: 2010-04-27 08:05 am   Permalink

First off, I strongly recommend you purchase this book for recipes and some general tiki drink history:

http://www.amazon.com/Beach-Bum-Berry-Remixed-Jeff/dp/1593621396/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272379297&sr=8-1

As for substitutions, they can be hard to pull off w/o changing the flavor of the drink (in most cases substantially). Tiki drinks work by creating combining different flavors in specific ratios, if you change the flavors you change the result. It's like putting almond extract into a cake instead of vanilla, you can do it and it will bake fine but when you're done the cake tastes different.

That said, a "real" TV Mai Tai is:

1oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2oz orange curacao
1/4oz orgeat
1/4oz simple syrup (sugar syrup)
1oz dark Jamaican rum
1oz amber Martinique rum (really rhum agricole)

The best orgeat IMO is Trader Tiki but I strongly doubt you'll ever find that in a bar. Fee Brothers is OK and if a bar has orgeat, it's most likely going to be that.

For the booze, for orange curacao I prefer Senior Curacao of Curacao or Marie Brizard, but those are both very upscale curacao's that you are again unlikely to find in a bar. Any brand will do in a pinch but those two are a bit drier and crisper tasting.

For the Dark Jamaican rum, I like Appleton Extra 12 year old the best, followed by Coruba. Both of those make a nice Mai Tai. Myer's has a very strong molasses flavor and tends to overpower the drink, but Myers is probably the only dark Jamaican you're going to find in a bar.

Most bars won't have rhum agricole at all, and getting a real Mai Tai is pretty much impossible without it. It has a unique taste that can't really be replicated by anything else. My favorite is Clement VSOP, St. James Extra Old is also good, St. James Hors D'Age, J.M. Paille, and Neisson Eleve Souse Bois are other recommended brands that I have yet to try. If a bar has one of these (the St. James Royal Amber would do in a pinch as well) then you are GTG for a Mai Tai.

Sadly it's usually far easier to make them at home than to get one when out and about. And it doesn't get better for the other drinks. There are various Zombie recipes that are considered "real" (the recipe was tinkered with over the years) but pretty much all require 151 demerara rum which most bars won't have, and the spiced taste of the rum makes the drink (finding the stuff on your own can be almost impossible depending on where you live). The Navy Grog requires honey so that is probably out as well.

Your best bets at a standard bar are the Fog Cutter and Doctor Funk.

Fog Cutter
2oz fresh lemon juice
1oz orange juice (does not have to be fresh)
1/2oz orgeat
2oz white puerto rican rum
1oz brandy
1/2oz gin
1/2oz cream sherry (float on top)
shake and float sherry

Doctor Funk
3/4oz fresh lime juice
1/2oz pomegranate syrup (sub grenadine)
1 teaspoon pernod (or herbsaint or absinthe)
1 1/2oz light puerto rican rum
1oz club soda
shake all but soda, add soda & stir.

Most of the puerto rican rum in the US isn't that hot, if you can sub Cruzan light or white Matusalem. The doctor funk will probably be a pale imitation because you'll get Rose's grenadine (which is more or less corn syrup & red food coloring), but it will still be in the ballpark.

The other problem is that most bars won't want to precisely measure, and tiki drinks are like baking, they need precise measurements. But at least you can ask for those two and probably be able to get them.


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Chip and Andy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2215
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2010-04-27 08:37 am   Permalink

First, get to know the bartender. Tipping well helps. Not necessary, but it does help.

Second, write/print the specific recipe you want to use on an index card (or something similarly unobtrusive)

Third, when the bartender is not busy (they're always busy, so when they are LESS busy) ask them nicely if they are up for a very specific request.

If the answer is yes, hand them the recipe card.

If the answer is no, don't give up. Try again at a future date. Any hesitation on the bartenders side may not be from the request but restrictions of ingredients or restrictions from management for going to far afield in drink making.

Lastly, if they do say yes and get it even close to correct, share with all of your drinking friends. The more people who request it, the bar will pay more attention to the drink and maybe even put it in regular rotation.
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Swanky
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5062
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2010-04-27 09:05 am   Permalink

Very simple answer. At TV, sit at the bar and ask the bartender to make you a Mai Tai "the old way". They should know what that means. That should get you as close at TV can do. A hand made drink, not using their mix.

Anywhere else, your results will vary by how much the place cares or knows.
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thejab
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 2986
From: Tradewinds Apartments, Alameda, CA
Posted: 2010-04-27 12:36 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-04-27 09:05, Swanky wrote:
Very simple answer. At TV, sit at the bar and ask the bartender to make you a Mai Tai "the old way". They should know what that means. That should get you as close at TV can do. A hand made drink, not using their mix.



This also works with the Navy Grog at TV.


 
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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 319
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2010-04-27 1:40 pm   Permalink

For establishments whose cocktail credentials you're unsure of, if they a mai tai on the menu, I tend to ask the server "What color is your mai tai?"

and then I remember the following axiom:
if it's RED, it's WRONG.

Lots of bars put in grenadine, which is just unspeakably incorrect.

Cheers,
Rupe

[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2010-04-27 13:43 ]


 
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Shangri-lodger
Member

Joined: Sep 07, 2006
Posts: 7
Posted: 2010-04-27 3:59 pm   Permalink

To set the record straight: Ordering a Mai-Tai "old way" at Trader Vic's will get you a 151 float on your drink that was made with TV Mai-Tai mix. Ordering a San Francisco Mai-Tai at Trader Vic's should get you a Mai-Tai made with the required, individual ingredients. The TV Navy Grog is a drink that has always and only been made using a prepared concentrate/mix. Ordering a Navy Grog "old way" will again get you a 151 float on your drink. These are actual facts from a person that worked at Trader Vic's for over two years. And yes, I had Navy Grog "old way" (not "the old way") last night.

[ This Message was edited by: Shangri-lodger 2010-04-27 16:01 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Shangri-lodger 2010-04-27 16:04 ]


 
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TorchGuy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 24, 2008
Posts: 209
From: Renton, WA
Posted: 2010-04-27 11:33 pm   Permalink

Thanks for all the info! Yes, I'm not necessarily asking for THE original Mai Tai - just, as good as TVs can make it with what they stock.

I'm pretty sure the tenders I know at Bleu on Broadway (if any of you are in Seattle) will be willing to make a drink to spec, if they're not too busy. Several of the drinks they have on-menu take careful prep, and a few (like the amazing "Spanish Coffee") are as much about the creation as about the end result.

The other bar I'll ask is Hazlewood in Ballard. They might just have some of these specialty rums, and they're into the craft cocktail thing. Their big menu hook is pre-Prohibition cocktails, and they've said "no" when I asked if they had any Polynesian drinks before, but I'm guessing they're thinking pineapple juice, genadine, blue curacao, paper umbrella etc. They'd also probably be willing to make a drink if I gave them a recipe, and better yet if I give them a few words about how it's a somewhat historic drink.


 
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Trader Tiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 06, 2003
Posts: 385
From: Portland, OR
Posted: 2010-04-29 01:59 am   Permalink

First off, rangda, thanks so much for your kind words. Just trying to keep a good quality product on the market so we can all make great drinks.

Torchguy, check in with my buddy Jim at Vessel on 5th downtown. We've had a Tiki night there a few times, and he's more than knowledgeable on the way to make a proper tropical drink. Keith at Victory is also a bit of a Tropaholic, and is maddeningly obsessed with the Missionary's Downfall. Or take a short drive down to Portland and come visit Thatch! Every Mai Tai made to order with fresh-squeezed lime, a blend of good quality rums (or ask for it Tiki Kon style for an upgrade to top shelf).



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WestADad
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 31, 2009
Posts: 745
From: Tornado Alley
Posted: 2010-04-29 1:57 pm   Permalink

Hi Blair! Enjoy your site very much. Since I won't make it to your bar any time soon, can you list the ingredients in the top shelf upgrade?

I'd like to try that at home.

Chris

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[ This Message was edited by: WestADad 2010-04-29 13:58 ]


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Melintur
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 23, 2002
Posts: 306
From: Portland, OR
Posted: 2010-04-29 4:06 pm   Permalink

I'll be rude and answer for Blair, since it seems he, myself, and matt 'rumdood' robald each separately came to the same conclusion using modern ingredients:

1oz Appleton 12-year 'extra' Jamaican Rum
1oz Rhum Clement VSOP

Those are the rums you'll get if you order a Mai Tai 'Tiki Kon' style at Thatch. (Come Wednesdays for the Craig & Blair show)

p.s. For fun and leisure, check out Matt's post on rum combos:
http://rumdood.com/2009/01/26/a-month-of-mai-tais/

p.p.s It looks like rangda above shares our position on the matter. Mahalo!



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Colonel Tiki's Drinks
TIKI KON 2010: Atomic Tiki : July 30 - Aug 1 : Portland, OR

[ This Message was edited by: Melintur 2010-04-29 16:08 ]


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Melintur
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 23, 2002
Posts: 306
From: Portland, OR
Posted: 2010-04-29 4:10 pm   Permalink

One more thing, in researching lime history I discovered that the persian lime was not widely distributed until post WWII, so most likely the limes used in the mai tai were 'key' limes.

They are (were?) also known as 'Mexican' limes as well as 'Bartender's' limes...

cmh
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TorchGuy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 24, 2008
Posts: 209
From: Renton, WA
Posted: 2010-04-29 8:08 pm   Permalink

Thanks for the suggestions, Trader! I'll have to check those, and... I take it he makes the Missionary's Downfall well? I mean, I've never had this cocktail or any of the various similarly-named ones, nor do I even know what's in it, but if I try his, can I call it a fine example of the drink?

I'll head down to Portland soon, too. Need to go down in the next few months for some stuff...


 
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Hakalugi
Site Administrator

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 3093
From: Redondo Beach, CA
Posted: 2010-04-29 8:49 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-04-29 20:08, TorchGuy wrote:
...I take it he makes the Missionary's Downfall well? I mean, I've never had this cocktail or any of the various similarly-named ones, nor do I even know what's in it, ...



As rangda pointed out earlier, you need to buy this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Beach-Bum-Berry-Remixed-Jeff/dp/1593621396/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272379297&sr=8-1

Get it and soon the best cocktails you've had will be ones you are making at home.


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