Mai-Kai cocktail review: The quest for the elusive Moonkist Coconut

Updated October 2015
See below: Our Moonkist Coconut review | Official Mai-Kai recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

The Moonkist Coconut is one of the most distinctive – and dodgy – drinks on The Mai-Kai’s vast and colorful cocktail menu.

Moonkist Coconut, September 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Moonkist Coconut, September 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Don’t get us wrong. This classic cocktail has been on the iconic Fort Lauderdale restaurant’s acclaimed tropical drink menu since it opened in 1956. And its quality and consistency are beyond reproach. It’s one of many “rum rhapsodies” on the menu that can be traced back to Tiki pioneer Don the Beachcomber. It’s a bolder and spicier option to the Piña Colada.

The trick is getting this puppy served in its trademark coconut. The young, green coconuts that The Mai-Kai fashions into drinking vessels are seasonal. And the off-season seemingly drags on forever. Not that you really should fret. When the smooth, heavy coconuts are unavailable (and also during happy hour), you’ll get your drink in a nice big old fashioned glass, often garnished with an orchid (see photo above). Note that you also will receive the drink in a glass during happy hour, when it’s half-priced.

Moonkist Coconut, July 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Moonkist Coconut, July 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward).

If you receive the drink in its traditional vessel, you’re encouraged to take it home as a souvenir. But unless you’re an expert at cleaning and preserving coconut shells, you probably won’t want to hold onto it for long.

When trying to duplicate this presentation at home, you have several options. The easiest is to employ a coconut mug, but if you’re really trying to impress you might want to explore the produce isle of your local grocery. While it may be tempting to pick up a hard-shelled mature coconut (the brown, husky variety), they’re extremely difficult to fashion into a drinking vessel. A better option, which is explored in more detail below, is a soft-shelled young coconut.

Whichever vessel you end up with, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the recipe below, which was recently updated to mirror the latest version of the classic served at The Mai-Kai.

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The official menu description

MOONKIST COCONUT

Moonkist Coconut
A cold, frothy blend served in a fresh coconut in the native tradition of the islands. Take the coconut home.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Moonkist Coconut, July 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Moonkist Coconut, July 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward).

Size: Medium

Potency: Medium

Flavor profile: Coconut and honey with hints of lime, bitters and falernum.

Review: Intense and exotic with a creamy mouthfeel and just a slight hint of gold rum.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (see how it ranks)

Ancestry: Appearing on the Mai-Kai’s original 1956 cocktail menu, this is one of the drinks that can be traced back to Don the Beachcomber, originally called Coconut Rum (see photo below).

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!

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OFFICIAL MAI-KAI RECIPE
Moonkist Coconut

Based on 1959 Esquire magazine article; reinterpreted by The Atomic Grog
(Updated September 2015)

Moonkist Coconut by The Atomic Grog, September 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Moonkist Coconut by The Atomic Grog, September 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1 ounce rich honey syrup
(2 parts honey to 1 part water)
* 1/4 ounce falernum
(Fee Brothers recommended)
* 1 1/2 ounces coconut milk
* 1/2 ounce coconut cream
(Coco Lopez or Coco Real)
* 1 1/2 ounces light Puerto Rican
(or Virgin Islands) rum
* 3/4 ounce gold Barbados rum
(such as Mount Gay Eclipse or Cockspur)
* 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
* 1 cup (8 ounces) crushed ice

Pulse blend (in a top-down mixer if available) for 5-7 seconds. Serve in a hollowed-out young coconut or specialty glass with more crushed ice.

September 2015 update: Increased honey mix from 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce; removed rock candy syrup (1/4 ounce); added 1/2 ounce coconut cream. This update boosts the sweetness and richness, bringing it more in line with what you’ll taste at The Mai-Kai today. It’s likely the recipe was updated after 1959 to accommodate modern tastes, which demanded sweeter drinks. Also, while rich and fresh coconut milk goes a long way, coco cream is required to add the necessary flavor.
* The Week in Tiki: Moonkist Coconut featured as the Cocktail of the Week

The Moonkist Coconut is a descendant of the Coconut Rum

The Moonkist Coconut is a descendant of the Coconut Rum; drink prices have increased just a bit in the past half century.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

* Mahalo to Sabu The Coconut Boy, who uncovered this recipe in Esquire and posted it in October on Tiki Central. The full Esquire article was subsequently posted by Swanky on his blog.

* As discussed above, the coconuts used at The Mai-Kai are seasonal and difficult to handle. Often a machete is required to open and cut them properly. But you might be able to find soft-shelled young coconuts, often imported from Thailand, in your supermarket’s produce department. They’re much more user-friendly than a hard-shelled mature coconut. I found the one shown in the photo above at Publix. They’re not toally trouble-free, however. You will need to remove the top with a saw or very sharp blade. Also feel free to use your favorite ceramic coconut mug, such as the Trader Vic’s Aloha Coconut (see photo).

* As pointed out on the Tiki Central thread, Mai-Kai drinks have a unique texture and intense flavor that we’ve been able to approximate in this instance by using a rich honey mix plus the highly recommended top-down mixer. As stated in our previous review of the Mai_Kai Special, a mixer such as the Hamilton Beach model we used to create the Moonkist Coconut [see photo] gives the drink a creamier texture since there is less dilution of the ice and more trapped air.

Okole maluna!

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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4 Responses to Mai-Kai cocktail review: The quest for the elusive Moonkist Coconut

  1. One other item of note on 2:1 syrups (my personal standard): the volume of the liquid is roughly quite equal to dry. That is, 1 tsp of sugar = 1tsp 2:1 syrup. You can substitute thus in other recipes with confidence.

  2. Thanks Craig, we welcome your input! That’s the standard we typically adhere to as well.

    FYI, we’ll be referencing your Dark Magic recipe some time down the road when we review the Black Magic. It was a key to understanding that complex creation.

  3. Arian says:

    Hi – Your recipe is missing an ingredient. According to that Esquire article, the Moonkist Coconut should also include 3/4 oz West Indies rum. Is that one of your “tweaks” or just an oversight?

    • I should have pointed that out. It has to be a mistake by Esquire. For starters, that’s too much rum for this “medium” drink. Most of the medium Mai-Kai drinks have around 2 ounces of rum. The strong drinks usually have 3 or more ounces.

      Also, Barbados and West Indies rum are technically the same thing. It doesn’t really make sense to call for both. My guess is the fine editors at Esquire goofed and should have left one of those out. I haven’t tried it with that much rum, but it tastes very close to the original with the 1 1/2 ounces of light rum and 3/4 ounce of gold Barbados rum.

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