Joined: Jun 07, 2008
From: 16 miles from The Mai-Kai
|Posted: 2014-09-23 12:52 pm  Permalink|
As Ron Burgundy once said, "Boy, that escalated quickly." There was a flurry of activity on The Atomic Grog involving Mai-Kai cocktails over the past week. I'll try to recap everything here. I was already working on several new ancestor recipes, the last two I gleaned from "Potions of the Caribbean," when word came down of a special event set for Saturday featuring a special flight of cocktails from the book.
First up, the lost classic Last Rites, which was originally posted in October 2011. But this is one cocktail from the graveyard that never seems to die. Beachbum Berry's "Sippin’ Safari" revealed an authentic recipe from Mariano Licudine, but when the drink was resurrected for The Mai-Kai's annual Hulaween party in October 2012, it was noticeably different. A tribute recipe was then added, slightly tweaked as we sampled the Last Rites a few more times over the past few years.
Then, before "Potions" even came off the press, the Bum told me, "You know, the Last Rites is based on Donn's Puka-Puka Punch." Said I, in my best Johnny Carson impression: "I did not know that." Fast forward to today, and the Last Rites review now includes ancestor, original and tribute recipes with the full backstory:
Puka-Puka Punch, the ancestor to the Last Rites
One interesting thing to note in the Puka-Puka Punch recipe is Berry's shortcut for making small batches of simple syrup via "cold process" by simply hard shaking organic sugar with room-temperature distilled water. He says it yields a "crisper syrup with a lighter density, one that plays better in cocktails than a ‘cooked’ syrup."
The next review was a milestone, the 12th and final "lost cocktail" to be reviewed. See the full list:
The ancestor recipe for the Martinique Cocktail published in "Potions" also brings the grand total of Mai-Kai recipes (including ancestors, originals and tributes) up to 92. Will there be more? Undoubtedly. I'm kicking around ideas for a few more tribute recipes, plus I've got at least one more ancestor recipe in my sights. It would be nice to hit 100 some day.
The Martinique Cocktail, aka Island of Martinique Cocktail, is an interesting story ...
Don the Beachcomber menus apparently used both names over the years, and the drink likely changed too (as Donn was always tinkering). The version published in "Potions" (circa 1948) also includes the first reference I've seen to "Don’s honey," essentially the rich 2:1 honey mix that I'm convinced The Mai-Kai has always used. I also reiterate my preference for Fee Brothers falernum, based on Berry's discussion in the book that it most closely resembles the mid-century A.V. Stansfeld brand. Also included is some discussion of the new debate on the use of agricole rhum in the early days.
Mai-Kai GM Kern Mattei came up with the idea for a flight of cocktails from "Potions" while reading the book and mixing up some of the classics at home. Later, when the Gumbo Limbo Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai approached him about hosting one of their charity events and serving some special drinks, he knew what he wanted to do. But it was a challenge narrowing the field down to a flight of three. The lineup was kept a secret while Mattei worked with his bar to fine-tune the drinks. They made an attempt to not duplicate the flavor or style of any existing Mai-Kai cocktail, and the flight was designed to be enjoyed in a particular order, from mild to strong.
Here's the menu:
For cocktail geeks, it was a unique experience to hang out in The Mai-Kai drinking cocktails from Trader Vic's and the Tiki Ti. All were very well crafted, with my favorite being Ray Buhen's Virgin Island Kula, which I also rated highly after making it at home in the wake of the book's release. More of a surprise was Trader Vic's Myrtle Bank Punch, which I considered much inferior to the Don the Beachcomber version when I compared them side-by-side. They were the first drinks I made from the book, and I posted a photo on the "Potions" thread back in December 2013:
The Mai-Kai was able to smooth out the very strong drink's rough edges and make it much more balanced. And it was a good sign that The Mai-Kai's supply of Lemon Hart 151 is still apparently robust enough for them to include it in the flight. The one drink I had not previously tasted, the Queen’s Park Hotel Super Cocktail, was the least appealing of the three but still worthy of inclusion.
The Virgin Island Kula, served at The Mai-Kai on Sept. 20, 2014.
My latest blog post includes more photos, recap and detailed review of all the cocktails:
Plus, if you don't have the book, I've included the Virgin Island Kula recipe.