Mai Tai


One of the hallmarks of Tiki culture in the 50’s and 60’s was the cocktail done polynesian style and of those none was so famous as the Mai Tai.  The name is a corruption of the tahitian word Maita’i which means really good and from the couple of these I’ve made so far the name is well earned.

A search of the net revealed no less than eleven versions of this drink.  This is not surprising, once you get more than three ingredients into a beverage there is going to be a lot of flex in the production.  One night someone runs out of lime juice and all of a sudden you have to scramble for something similar, bam new formula.


My own recipe comes partly from necessity and partly from laziness.

1 oz white rum (for this run I used baccardi)
1.5 oz blue Curacao
0.5 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Spiced Rum (Captain Morgan)

Shake everything but the spiced rum in a shaker over ice and strain into a glass.  Float the Spiced rum on top, garnish with maraschino cherry.

Most of the original formulas call for orange Curacao but blue is the same product with a flashier color.  Orgeat (pronounced or-ZHA) is an almond syrup with some other things like orange flower water in it.

What the various versions of this drink have in common is Rum and sweetness.  The few with the closest claim to the original use two kinds of rum and the effect here is certainly worthwhile.  It has inspired me to find a dark un-spiced rum as well as to finally pick up that bottle of Demerara rum I’ve been pondering.

In sweetness the variations waffle back and forth.  Orgeat isn’t a common kitchen ingredient and unless you’re running a coffee cart or tiki bar it’s the kind of syrup that just hangs around because you don’t use it for non-tiki related cocktails that often.  If you can’t find Orgeat look for Torani Almond.  I have it on good authority that they’re the same thing, they just changed the label because they got tired of people asking what Orgeat was.  Many of the other formulas call for simple syrup, rock candy syrup, amaretto or even Falernum.  I haven’t had a chance to try Falernum yet but it’s showed up in a half dozen things I’ve been reading lately so it’s worth the time to hunt some down.  What they all have in common is sweetness and a cherry/almond flavor which is the hallmark of the tiki in this case.

What many of the other variations have in common is citrus.  Lime juice is a given, that’s going to cut your alcohol taste and let the rum flavors shine.  Some people cut down on the syrups and change out for grapefruit and lemon juice.  The dirty way to get around a lot of that is sweet and sour mix, which is really just lemon, lime and simple syrup.

In that same citrus category is the Curacao.  Variations calling for cointreau, triple sec and even orange rum are all known but the intent is the same.  There needs to be the essence of orange peel in the mix and one of these is the way to get that.  Curacao and Triple sec are essentially the same animal.  The peel of the bitter lahara orange steeped in some kind of alcohol and distilled.  With Curacao it’s a brandy base for triple sec it’s usually a neutral spirit.

My standard drink of choice at unknown bars right now is the kamikazi.  There’s really very little to screw up and you can always count on vodka and triple-sec.  I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t been cheating myself by not going with a rum and triple-sec concoction instead.

If I had this drink to do over I for sure would use better rum.  I think my next version will use cointreau instead of curacao since I have some left and it’s a better product than the cheap curacao I can find locally.  Also I want to get my hands on some real maraschino cherries.  I’ll tell you why in another post.

Review: Below Deck Rum (Coffee)

Below Deck Coffee

One of the best of the local distilleries is Eastside Distilling.  Not only do I love their location, but they appear to be infinitely creative. They are willing to experiment with the kind of liqueurs that are both pleasing, and potent.

See my review of Burnside Bourbon for some of their other fantastic potables.

Today, we take a look at one of the their three (Yes I said three) varieties of rum.  In addition to a wonderful silver, they also bottle a Ginger and a Coffee rum.  Since I think I’ve done enough things with ginger in them lately, I wanted to show you the coffee instead.

Now, there are a couple of ways to get flavor into alcohol.  You can put extracts into the still during distillation so that the flavor compounds wind up in the vapor.  This is pretty standard for any clear, flavored vodkas.  Your bacardi limon, stoli blueberry and 360 cherry all use this format to one extent or another.  Another way to get flavor is to add extracts to the product after distilling, I’m pretty sure that is what happens here.  This is a cold pressed coffee extract being added to a rum base, which results in a very strong, very dark and flavorful product.

If you squint you can see the essential oils floating in the shine of the liquor.  I’m not a coffee lover, but this is what I prefer to most other coffee liqueurs.   Living in the NW there are no shortage of coffee liqueurs.  House Spirits, New Deal, Eastside and even Stone Barn Brandyworks each make one and those are just the ones I know of right now.  The presence of so many good roasters in the area means no lack of good beans to put into the mix.

I think if anything I have to say that the coffee flavor bothers me more than the alcohol flavor.  It mixes very well with chocolate, creams, and you can spice it up with a hit of bitters or even a dash of something like an Amaro.  You get a much more noticeable bitterness which can play nicely with the right kinds of notes in any other cocktail.

The Dragons Tail: Cocktail Review

On quite possibly the hottest day of the year so far, with the thermometer topping 80 well before midday I and the rest of the family packed up for Fair in the Grove.

For those unfamiliar this is a yearly ren-fair sponsored by the SCA.  A nice batch of merchants and demos all wrapped around the Mcmenamins grand lodge out in forest grove.

Taking the opportunity since I wasn’t going to be driving I elected to sample a few things I missed on my trip out to Imbrie Hall on st Patrick’s day.  For starters I got a lemonade and Penny’s Gin.  The edgefield distillery has made a pretty comfortable non-threatening product.  A little lemonade and I could barely taste it.  I want to like this better so I’m going to reserve a full review for later when I can play with it a bit in tonics, cocktails and shots.

At lunch came a better surprise.  The Dragons Tail cocktail.  Nominally a rum drink, the amount of ginger in this cocktail was staggering at first sip.  Not sure what I was expecting from something with a ginger liqueur and a ginger syrup but this was a surprise.


Most ginger products I’ve run into lately shoot for more of the raw root burn common to ginger in Asian dishes.  This was a bit more akin to a ginger ale bite without the burn, pleasant and tart without really challenging your palate.


Not as refreshing as the lemonade but it cut to the core of itself nicely and went well with burger, salad and hummus.

I think it has inspired me to play around with the Jamaican Ginger Extract that I discovered online.  It’s one of those old medicinals that they used to prescribe for things like dyspepsia and hysteria.  I think the medicine went (Dram of Ginger extract, lemon peel and a health measure of gin.)  One could of course throw out the lemon peel and ginger and still be well on your way but I digress.

Distillery Crawl Portland

Ed Note (This info is obviously a little out of date,

This is my own personal route that I travel on my birthday week every year with a select group of friends.

I usually buy the Distillery Row Passport which for $20 covers all the tastings I would normally have to buy as well as some nice around town coupons.

I go on a saturday starting at around 11am.  Depending on the crew and how well we’ve eaten we might start the tour with a stop at the Beaverton Farmers market which is almost right off of 217 and has a fantastic BBQ guy who does a wonderful burnt ends plate.

Stop 1 is Clear Creek Distillery , 2389 NW Wilson St., Portland, OR

A great place to begin any tour, it’s almost all alone on the west side so we hit it first and get it out of the way.  The tastings here are also free so it’s a nice place to stop just about any day they’re open.  Clear creek runs a wide variety of Fruit Liqueurs, grappa, eau de vie and brandy in both pear and apple.  They also release a small batch whiskey called McCarthy’s which usually sells out in about a month after they release it in march.  The part I like is that while you only get 5 samples if you bring friends you can pass them around a bit and get a little of everything.

Stop 2 New Deal Distillery 900 SE Salmon

We cross the river and head to the first of our east bank locations.  New deal makes some good stuff too.  I like their #1 gin, Hot Monkey pepper vodka and ginger Liqueur.  They’re also always doing something new so it’s worth a visit any time.  I pick up my passport here more often than not.  The last time I was there you got a free shot glass as part of your tasting which brought my count of them up to 3.  They’ve moved since the last time I was there, can’t wait to see their new location.

Stop 3 Vinn Distillery 833 SE Main St. Ste 125

Practically right across the street from New deal this tiny hole in the wall is a tasting room for a distillery in wilsonville.  They make a traditional rice Baijiu and rice vodkas.  They weren’t really to my taste, I may stop in again this year to see if they have anything new but I doubt i’ll linger.  Give them a shot, the rice vodka is a nice change for the gluten free crowd.

Stop 4: Bunk Bar 1028 SE Water Ave

A bit of a divergence from the straight line but this is the point in the tour where the drink starts to catch up with breakfast.  Bunk bar is a wonderful little spot where you can get a pork belly cubano, Roasted Poblano Torta or even a PB & J, side of debris fries and even order a decent cocktail.  Their shelves are pretty well stocked, lots of local stuff and even a few things like Maraschino liqueur that you don’t often see.  Their menu drinks are often Beer+ which doesn’t help me much but they all sound interesting at the least.  Grab a sandwich and go or sit and let the last 3 places settle before heading out again.

Stop 5: House Spirits 2025 SE 7th Ave

A bit further out than the next stop would suggest but I have a reason.  House carries a wide array of spirits, everything from gin to aquavit to a white dog whiskey.  Their tasting tends to be a little more varied than some of the other places which specialize a bit more in one kind of spirit or another.  Additionally this is the point where heat, botanicals and liquor start to cause burn out.  Go light here, taste what looks good but don’t get carried away there are still a couple more places ahead.

Stop 6: Eastside Distilling 1512 SE 7th Avenue (at Hawthorne)

Best for last (so to speak).  Eastside has continued to impress me every time I go.  Over the holidays they had egg nog, holiday spice liqueur, and peppermint bark, On top of their line of already very drinkable rums, bourbon and vodka.  Try everything, you won’t be disappointed.  I’m a big fan of their double barrel bourbon and their burnside bourbon as well as the rums.

Stop 7 Pacific Pie Company 1520 SE 7th Ave (Last Stop)

Literally next door to Eastside Distilling is a pie shop.  It’s probably 5-5:30 by now, you’re toasted lightly from the heat, sauced and full of lord knows how many herbs, botanicals and crazy concoctions.  The best thing for you is Pie.  Their menu changes regularly but they offer a majestic line of both sweet and savory pies and pasties.  If you can get it I recommend the strawberry margarita pie or the chocolate bourbon hazelnut.  In addition their bar offers a lovely line of cocktails featuring the best of everything i’ve listed so far.  For $8 you can get anything from a Tom Collins with Aviation Gin to a Bondi using Hot Monkey Vodka.

Alternates for this coming year:  I’ve still got a few months planning to do so i’ve been poking around to see how I might change things up.  The following are options that i’ve seen around town.

Breakfast: Leave much earlier and stop at the Oven and Shaker 1134 NW EVERETT.  They have a brunch menu which starts at 11:30.  Not ideal time wise but a ham plate, gravlax or pizza with duck eggs sounds delightful.  And they have some cocktails there like the French 75 that would make for a nice opener.

Westside additions: Bull Run Distilling 2259 NW Quimby Street

Only about 6 blocks from Clear creek I found out about these guys at a friend’s birthday when someone presented him with a bottle of their Temperance Trader Bourbon

Rogue Distillery 1339 NW Flanders St,

One of the bigger names in the local brewing scene they still make rum, whiskey and gin which might make them worth a try.

Madam mimm

Someone posted a purple dragon martini on Facebook.  My contention was that a blended drink with soda in it and no gin isn’t a martini.  So they said “fix it” and I did.

Below please find the madam mimm.  Otherwise known as the “did I say no purple dragons?”.


1 1/2oz Bacardi silver rum
1oz grenadine
1oz blue curacao
1oz cranberry liqueur
1oz Orgeat Syrup

Shake in iced cocktail shaker.  Rim Collins glass with sugar strain shaker and pour over ice.