Mai-Kai cocktail review: Robust flavors and potency are hallmark of 151 Swizzle

Updated November 2021
See below: Our 151 Swizzle review | Ancestor recipe
Tribute recipes UPDATED
Postscript: The 151 Swizzle tribute on social media NEW
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | All 100+ Mai-Kai cocktail recipes
Demerara rum: The Mai-Kai’s secret weapon
Rums of Guyana star in classic cocktails

NEW: The Atomic Grog on Tiki Trail Live

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, Hurricane Hayward was the special mixology guest on Tiki Trail Live on Zoom, mixing up the new tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle.
* Click here to jump to the recipe below
Tiki Trail Live: Get more show details on Instagram and Facebook
* Buy the 151 Swizzle Cup from Cocktail Kingdom

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The 16 deadly drinks in the “strong” section are no doubt the stars of The Mai-Kai’s legendary cocktail menu. There’s a reason they comprise 13 of the Top 20 in our rankings. They’re by far the most inventive, mysterious and flavor-packed drinks on the menu.

The only thing more dangerous than a 151 Swizzle: Two 151 Swizzles
The only thing more dangerous than a 151 Swizzle: Two 151 Swizzles. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2015)

Just be careful when imbibing. The Mai-Kai doesn’t use the word “strong” lightly. Some contain 3 ounces of rum (or more), others a healthy dose of overproof. Among these, there are “strong” drinks and then there are “STRONG!” drinks. In the latter category, one of the first cocktails that comes to mind is the classic 151 Swizzle.

Like many Mai-Kai drinks, this deliciously dangerous concoction dates back to Tiki originator Donn Beach (better known as Don the Beachcomber) and has been on the Fort Lauderdale restaurant’s cocktail menu since its opening in 1956. It has become an iconic standard at some of the world’s top Tiki bars, from the 60-year-old Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles to the 5-year-old False Idol in San Diego. At Hale Pele in Portland, The Mai-Kai gets a shout-out in the menu description, and the presentation is very familiar. It’s likely they’re using a variation of one of our seven tribute recipes below.

Martin Cate, one of the world’s top rum and Tiki cocktail authorities, considers the 151 Swizzle his favorite drink on The Mai-Kai’s menu. [See interview] “When it’s made perfectly, it’s a wonderful drink,” he said. “That to me is my mothership.” At his acclaimed Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, he serves a souped up version called the 2070 Swizzle, which he calls “my giant killer.” [See recipe]

The Swizzle Cup is part of the Tiki barware collection produced by Cocktail Kingdom in association with Beachbum Berry
The Swizzle Cup is part of the Tiki barware collection produced by Cocktail Kingdom in association with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. (Cocktail Kingdom photo)

Revealed in Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s groundbreaking 1998 cocktail guide, Grog Log, the original Don the Beachcomber recipe is fairly simple (see below). As the cocktail sleuth pointed out in the book, it was originally served in a metal cup with a flared top, “but good luck finding one.” The Mai-Kai, of course, follows tradition and has always served its 151 Swizzle in a chilled metal cup.

Finding the correct cup outside of the handful of bars mentioned above, however, has traditionally been difficult. You could typically find a Mint Julep cup or other close approximation on eBay, but they fall short of the sleek, flared design of the original. Berry took matters into his own hands in May 2015, when he released a new line of Tiki barware via Cocktail Kingdom, including a Swizzle Cup. [See story]

When metal cups are in short supply, this is how you're likely to be served the 151 Swizzle at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2017)
When metal cups are in short supply, this is how you’re likely to be served the 151 Swizzle at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2017)

Beyond the cup, The Mai-Kai’s version of the 151 Swizzle is unlike any other. Like many Mai-Kai drinks, it’s based on the Don the Beachcomber version but was given a unique twist by original owner Bob Thornton and mixologist Mariano Licudine, who learned his craft from Donn Beach. We’ve taken a stab at re-creating the same flavor profile and have posted an ever-evolving list of “tribute recipes” below. Like Thornton, his stepson Dave Levy also tinkered with the recipe from time to time when he was in charge over the past 30 years, especially when changes were made to the rums.

The recipe grew out of discussion on The Grogalizer, a site highly recommend if you’re a fan of classic Tiki cocktails. Developed by The Swank Pad’s Tim “Swanky” Glazner, The Grogalizer is a database of hundreds of recipes from all of Beachbum Berry’s books, plus a few select others. The site allows you to rate the drinks, see how other mixologists rank them and share comments on each.

Sign up (it’s easy) and keep track of your progress through all the great recipes in these books. It’s also a seamless way to keep track of all the various bar ingredients you’ll need to re-create these classics, which include many in this guide. After compiling your online bar, you can figure out which drinks you can make with which ingredients, as well as resources for buying hard-to-find stuff. In September 2016, Glazner released his long-awaited book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, an essential addition to any Mai-Kai fan’s collection.

Metal cups for the 151 Swizzle, along with other frozen glassware, are kept in a special freezer in The Mai-Kai's kitchen service bar
Metal cups for the 151 Swizzle, along with other frozen glassware, are kept in a special freezer in The Mai-Kai’s kitchen service bar. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, November 2011)

The evolution of the tribute recipe has gone through several stages, as you’ll see below. The first big breakthrough came in March 2012, when I discovered Kohala Bay, a rare dark Jamaican rum that was a key ingredient in many of The Mai-Kai’s strong cocktails. In addition, a search of eBay yielded a set of metal cups that were similar to the real deal. With the cup and rum in my arsenal, I were able to come up a much more accurate tribute recipe.

But just when I thought I had it down pat, The Mai-Kai dropped a bombshell in late April 2012 with the reintroduction of Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum, which had been absent from its bars for some 15 years. This only made a great drink even better and returned it to its vintage recipe. This resulted in tribute recipes No. 2 and No. 3. The fourth variation of the recipe, created in early 2015 when Lemon Hart was replaced by Hamilton 151 rum from Guyana, is more complex and full of outstanding flavors.

But when it comes to obscure rums, change seems to be inevitable. Jamaican distiller, blender, and bottler Wray & Nephew ceased production of Kohala Bay in April 2016, leading The Mai-Kai to scramble to find a suitable replacement. Several different rums were tried and rejected before the Appleton Estate Signature Blend became the stand-in for Kohala Bay. Then, a new version of Lemon Hart 151 hit the market with a revamped blend, bottled with the classic yellow label. The Mai-Kai quickly brought the venerable rum back to its bars and into the 151 Swizzle.

The Mai-Kai recently switched to a julep cup for the 151 Swizzle, seen here in October 2018. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Mai-Kai recently switched to a julep cup for the 151 Swizzle, seen here in October 2018. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

That led to revisions of the 151 Swizzle tribute (versions 5 and 6), which account for the new rums and also our mistaken assumption that cinnamon syrup was featured in the recipe. The cinnamon stick garnish sure gives you that illusion.

UPDATE: Fast-forward to 2021, and the seventh tribute recipe, a record for The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide. It’s more balanced between sweet and strong, a happy medium between the previous two versions. It also should work well with any 151 Demerara rum, including Hamilton and a new offering from Demerara Distillers (Diamond Reserve 151 Blend) due on the market this year.

It features the same ingredients as the previous two versions, but we feel that it’s a tighter recipe, strong and bold like the 151 Swizzle should be. We hope this seventh Swizzle finally achieves the perfect strong/sweet balance, with spicy and savory flavors also right up front.

We now have an embarrassment of riches. If you dare, you could spend an entire week making a different 151 Swizzle tribute every night. Just remember, as always, to consume with caution!

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The official menu description
151 Swizzle
151 SWIZZLE
Strong rums and tangy juices make this a delightfully full flavored potion, only for the sturdy.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Size: Medium

Potency: Strong

Flavor profile: Strong and flavorful rums, sweet syrups including falernum, a touch of anise.

151 Swizzle, September 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
151 Swizzle, September 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Review: Served in the traditional metal Swizzle Cup, this very strong drink packs a punch yet is loaded with intense sweet and exotic flavors.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars (see how it ranks)

Ancestry: The Mai-Kai’s version of the Don the Beachcomber classic has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 1956.

Bilge: The distinctive metal cup is designed to keep the drink ice cold. The cup is so frigid, in fact, it’s often served inside a small glass to make it easier to handle. It’s also usually wrapped with a napkin. Until 2015, eBay was the easiest source for cups that were similar, but not exactly like the original. As noted above, Beachbum Berry and Cocktail Kingdom came to the rescue with a sleek, vintage Swizzle Cup with a flared top made from stainless steel. Berry’s design is very close in size and style to the cup used at The Mai-Kai and other bars in Tiki’s heyday. The only difference between these and the originals is that stainless steel is lighter than the heavier metal used in the 1940s and ’50s.

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!

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ANCESTOR RECIPE
151 Swizzle

(From Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log and Remixed)

* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce sugar syrup
* 1/8 teaspoon (6 drops) Pernod
* 1 1/2 ounces 151 Demerara rum
* 1 dash Angostura bitters
* Ground nutmeg

Blend everything except nutmeg with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of crushed ice for 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled metal cup or pilsner glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Top with a dusting of ground nutmeg and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Served by Tony Ramos at Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood in the 1960s. Matt Pietrek (aka Cocktail Wonk) takes a closer look at the 151 Swizzle on the Distiller Blog.
* More 151 Swizzle history on the Cold Glass blog

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Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, v.7 NEW
By The Atomic Grog (updated November 2021)

The latest version of The Atomic Grog's tribute to The Mai-Kai's 151 Swizzle, served in Beachbum Berry's Swizzle Cup from Cocktail Kingdom. Rum Barrel mugs by Tiki Diablo. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The latest version of The Atomic Grog’s tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, served in Beachbum Berry’s Swizzle Cup from Cocktail Kingdom. Rum Barrel mugs by Tiki Diablo. Eco-friendly straw from Hay Straws. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce rich sugar syrup
* 1 teaspoon pomegranate grenadine
* 1/2 ounce falernum
* 1 1/2 ounces 151 Demerara rum
* 1/2 ounce dark Jamaican rum
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters
* 3-4 drops Pernod

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for around 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled Swizzle Cup or 12- to 14-ounce glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Tasting notes

Rich and spicy, resolutely rummy and very dangerous. The bitter and sweet spices are in perfect balance.

An initial burst of rich and sweet flavors gives way to spicy and strong notes that follow through to the finish. The bold and smoky 151 rum is right up front, tempered by the sour citrus and rich syrups. The whisper of Jamaican rum adds complexity and nuance.

The update

All of the ingredients are the same as versions 5 and 6, but the proportions have been adjusted. The lime juice and grenadine were reduced, while the falernum was increased. The 2 ounces of rum remains the same, but the portion of the 151 is increased to 1 1/2 ounces for the first time since v.2 in 2012. The result is a drink that’s not as tart but features more spicy and exotic flavors along with a bigger and bolder rum kick.

Version 7 of the 151 Swizzle tribute, served in a Mai-Kai glass and flanked by the two dominant overproof Demerara rums - Lemon Hart and Hamilton. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, November 2021)
Version 7 of the 151 Swizzle tribute, served in a Mai-Kai glass and flanked by the two dominant overproof Demerara rums – Lemon Hart and Hamilton. Eco-friendly straw from Hay Straws. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, November 2021)

News and mixing notes

* The cup: The Mai-Kai switched to a julep cup for the 151 Swizzle (see photo above) for several years before the October 2020 closing due to storm damage. (No worries: The restaurant is poised to reopen in 2022 with new partners on the ownership team.) These more common cups were presumably easier to source than the previous version, and we saw them constantly in use. Previously, you were just as likely to receive your 151 Swizzle in the stemmed glassware used for several other drinks (see photo above). So don’t fret if you don’t have a proper metal cup in your bar. Any nice glass between 12 and 14 ounces should work fine. If you’re lucky enough to have a Swizzle Cup, I’d highly recommend not only freezing it beforehand (see notes below) but also lining the inside with crushed ice like The Mai-Kai does. Our technique: After the cup is frozen, fill it with finely crushed ice (the same style used to make a Yeoman’s Grog ice cone or a Special Reserve Daiquiri ice cove). Pour out and refill several times, and a good deal of ice will stick to the inside of the cup. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to press more ice into the interior. Re-freeze it for several hours before serving, and the ice will form an interior coat.

* The rums: Since version 6 was posted, we learned that The Mai-Kai started using its own dark Jamaican rum blend in mid-2019. Intended as a replacement for the 87.6-proof Kohala Bay, a descendant of Wray & Nephew’s legendary Dagger brand, this new in-house blend is not a whole lot different than several of our suggested replacements. Check out our in-depth guide to Kohala Bay replacements and stay tuned for a full update. Feel free to use either Lemon Hart or Hamilton 151. Both have been featured at The Mai-Kai and each has its own attributes. Lemon Hart is darker and richer while Hamilton has more of a raw, rummy edge. While it has not yet hit the U.S. market as of this writing, the new Diamond Reserve 151 Blend should also be available soon. Not to be confused with the previous Diamond 151, this is an aged blend from the same distillery in Guyana (Demerara Distillers) that produces Lemon Hart, Hamilton and all of the world’s Demerara rums.

Check out the previous two versions below, along with more mixing and ingredient notes …

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, v.6
By The Atomic Grog (updated June 2017)

A 151 Swizzle tribute by The Atomic Grog featuring the new reproduction of the authentic cup by Cocktail Kingdom and Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Tribute to the 151 Swizzle by The Atomic Grog featuring the new reproduction of the authentic cup by Cocktail Kingdom and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, October 2015)

* 1 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce rich sugar syrup
* 1/2 ounce pomegranate grenadine
* 1/4 ounce falernum
* 1 ounce 151 Demerara rum (Lemon Hart or Hamilton)
* 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum (Mai-Kai blend or other)
* 1 dash Angostura bitters
* 2-3 drops Pernod

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled metal cup or pilsner glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, v.5
By The Atomic Grog (updated June 2017)

* 1 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce rich sugar syrup
* 1/4 ounce pomegranate grenadine
* 1/8 ounce falernum
* 1 ounce 151 Demerara rum (Lemon Hart or Hamilton)
* 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum (Mai-Kai blend or other)
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters
* 3-4 drops Pernod

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled metal cup or pilsner glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

These two versions represent the evolution of a seemingly simple cocktail that has been very difficult to nail down. Both are absolutely delicious (the drink continues to earn one of the highest ratings in our cocktail guide), but for some reason it’s not always consistent and you may encounter a sweeter or a stronger version when you come to The Mai-Kai. These two tributes represent these variations.

With or without the traditional cup, the 151 Swizzle is a potent classic.  (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2016)
With or without the traditional cup, the 151 Swizzle is a potent classic. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2016)

The differences are slight, but the additional Pernod and bitters, plus slightly less grenadine and falernum, does indeed make for a more intense drink (version 5). If you prefer the sweeter Swizzle that has been more common over the past several years, you’ll love version 6. Both contain the same ingredients, so feel free to enjoy both and compare. But beware, this is one of the strongest cocktails on the menu due to the healthy dose of 151 Demerara rum, the signature ingredient in this classic.

These latest recipes also account for the rums used in The Mai-Kai bars as of June 2017. The new release of Lemon Hart 151 returned in late summer 2016, replacing Hamilton 151. This was the second return for Lemon Hart, which was replaced by Hamilton in 2015 when its previous version (the “red label”) went off the market. Hamilton was a fine replacement, and could even be considered preferable if you’re looking for a more intense, punchy cocktail. But the 151 Swizzle at The Mai-Kai is fine with either rum. Both have the distinctive Demerara flavor that was featured in the original. Use a non-Demerara 151 rum at your own risk.
* More on the saga of 151 Demerara rums at The Mai-Kai

The other rum featured here also dates back to the early recipes of Don the Beachcomber. Though it doesn’t appear in his 151 Swizzle recipe above, Donn Beach was a fan of Dagger dark rum from Jamaica. This classic rum is no longer available, but the hard-to-find Kohala Bay is a very similar “punch brand” Jamaican rum that became the standard in many of The Mai-Kai’s best drinks. Unfortunately, it too went off the market and became unavailable in April 2016. Appleton Estate Signature Blend was the replacement, serving as a complimentary rum to add flavor and balance the heat of the 151.
* More on The Mai-Kai’s Jamaican rums: Dagger, Kohala Bay and Appleton

These two versions are perfect examples of the 151 Swizzle, showcasing the rums and punch of anise and spices with just the right amount of sweet and sour for balance.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

* The rich sugar syrup, falernum and grenadine give the drink a great underlying sweet and spicy base that perfectly offsets the high-octane rums. If you’re making syrups at home, use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water to duplicate the richness of The Mai-Kai’s syrups.

By October 2014, the 151 Swizzle featured a much more robust ice feature, but it had lost its cinnamon stick
In October 2014, the 151 Swizzle featured a much more robust ice feature. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* A good falernum, such as the Fee Brothers brand, is crucial. Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 Formula Falernum – featured at his New Orleans bar and crafted by New York City’s Orgeat Works – is also recommended. A syrup is preferred to a falernum liqueur, which is typically not as rich and flavorful. It’s also reverential to the style Donn Beach used.

* Use a rich and potent grenadine, such as the Fee Brothers and B.G. Reynolds brands. You want a product that has both bold flavor and color.

The frozen metal cup with ice mold is this classic’s coup de grâce. It makes for an incredibly cold cocktail that manages to be both decadently drinkable and highly potent. The stainless steel Swizzle Cup from Beachbum Berry and Cocktail Kingdom is ideal for this. Before this was available, we would troll eBay for high-quality aluminum cups, seen in the photos below. The Everlast brand is typically the best of these. Keep your cups in the freezer for special occasions that call for the potent but delicious 151 Swizzle.

Even if you don’t have the cup, don’t skip the cinnamon stick. While The Mai-Kai doesn’t always have the authentic metal cup in stock (and foregoes the traditional nutmeg), you’ll almost always get the cinnamon stick. It’s a crucial element that adds to the sensory experience.

Okole maluna!

PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY!

NOTE: Scroll below the social media posts to see the earlier versions.

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Postscript

Like other popular Mai-Kai tribute recipes, such as the Black Magic, the 151 Swizzle has a loyal fanbase that enjoys mixing up the cocktail at home and sharing photos on social media.

We’re flattered by the shout-outs and happy to bring enjoyment to our home-bartending brethren. Here are some recent posts …

Previous tribute recipes

Due to popular demand (see comments below), and also to document the metamorphosis that the tribute recipe went through, following are the first four versions as they appeared here. While they may not be as accurate as the latest versions above, they’re definitely tasty and potent.

A 151 Swizzle containing Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum in early May 2012
The 151 Swizzle returned to using Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum in early May 2012. Seeing the drink in a glass yielded clues to its ingredients. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

For many years, we were under the false impression that the 151 Swizzle (and many other cocktails at The Mai-Kai) contained cinnamon syrup. But this proved to be just an illusion, with other rich spices confusing our senses. The cinnamon stick used for garnish added to the confusion.

As Martin Cate pointed out in our 2013 interview, this drink isn’t always made correctly. It has also been tweaked somewhat over the years, so I was trying to hit a moving target. Versions 2 and 3 did not include Pernod or cinnamon syrup, while version 4 was the most complex and hit all the right notes that are the hallmark of Mai-Kai cocktails. Starting with version 2, I realized (and had it reliably confirmed) that falernum – that mysterious Caribbean syrup with hints of almond, ginger and lime – was also included in Mariano Licudine’s 151 Swizzle.

Also, when the Swizzle cups were in short supply, we were able to take photos and examine the color of the drink. I always knew there was a rich sweetness that helped offset the 151 rum, and my first two versions used sugar and/or cinnamon syrup. But the reddish orange hue confirmed that something else was at play here. A rich pomegranate grenadine fit the bill nicely, resulting in version 3. Version 4 brings everything together in one great, harmonious crescendo.

151 Swizzle tribute (v.1) by The Atomic Grog, July 2011
151 Swizzle tribute (v.1) by The Atomic Grog, July 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

So, which recipe is your favorite? The new tribute recipes above or one of these prior versions? Let us know in the comments below.

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, v.1
By The Atomic Grog

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1 ounce rich cinnamon syrup
* 3 drops Pernod
* 2 ounces dark 151 rum
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled metal cup or pilsner glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Top with a dusting of ground nutmeg and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, v.2
By The Atomic Grog

151 Swizzle tribute by The Atomic Grog, April 2012
151 Swizzle tribute by The Atomic Grog, April 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
* 3/4 ounce rich sugar syrup
* 1/4 ounce falernum
* 1 1/2 ounces dark 151 rum
* 1/2 ounce dark Jamaican rum
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Blend with a half cup (around 4 ounces) of crushed ice for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled metal cup or pilsner glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, v.3
By The Atomic Grog

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1 ounce rich sugar syrup
* 1/4 ounce falernum
* 1/4 ounce pomegranate grenadine
* 1 ounce dark 151 rum
* 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum
* 1 dash Angostura bitters

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled metal cup or pilsner glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

151 Swizzle tribute by The Atomic Grog, April 2015
151 Swizzle tribute by The Atomic Grog, April 2015. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s 151 Swizzle, v.4
By The Atomic Grog, April 2015

* 1 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce rich sugar syrup
* 1/2 ounce pomegranate grenadine
* 1/8 ounce falernum
* 1/8 ounce cinnamon syrup
* 1 ounce dark 151 rum
* 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum
* 1 dash Angostura bitters
* 2 drops Pernod

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chilled metal cup or pilsner glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Okole Maluna Society: The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide
Okole Maluna Society: The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide

Hurricane Hayward reviews and rates the historic restaurant’s current and past tropical drinks, plus reveals a treasure trove of ancestor and exclusive tribute recipes.

Atomic Grog Cocktail Recipes, A through Z
Atomic Grog Cocktail Recipes, A through Z

A comprehensive list of every recipe we’ve posted on the site.

17 Replies to “Mai-Kai cocktail review: Robust flavors and potency are hallmark of 151 Swizzle”

  1. Thanks for the work to decipher these recipes. I’ve visited the Mai Kai a couple of times, but being out on the west coast I can’t visit that often. Mixing your interpretations is a lot of fun.

    Kevin

  2. Your old recipe with the cinnamon syrup was very good, even if it wasn’t totally accurate to the Mai Kai.. If you’re willing, you should keep that one on your site as a variation or original recipe. Sometimes the journey can take you to some great places, don’t be afraid of them!

  3. Had a 151 swizzle at the Mai Kai yesterday. It was excellent, I never had the Bacardi version, but I really enjoyed the swizzle.

  4. I’d like to echo the request for inclusion of the cinnamon syrup version of the 151 Swizzle. Close to the Mai Kai version or not, it was a really good version. I was making it with Lemon Hart 151 the entire time. 🙂

    Mahalo!

    Kevin

  5. Cool, thanks! It’s fun to see the evolution of the recipe. And thank goodness for Smith & Cross, as there’s no Kohala Bay out here in California.

  6. Made 2 of these tonight. Tasted just like the Mai Kai, or as I remembered it. I used El Dorado 15/Smith & Cross as I haven’t picked up an Kohala Bay yet. Thanks for the recipe!

  7. Just had a 151 swizzle last night at the wonderful Mai Kai for a late b day celebration. Fantastic drink and a fantastic place. Thanks for posting the history and variations of the recipe. I am lucky enough to have a great local liquor store nearby that carries both lemon hart and kohala bay. Now I just need the cups!

  8. I’ve been going to the Mai Kai for years and have been to 7 Hukilau’s. But last year was the first time I had a 151 Swizzle and it immediately became a favorite. I couldn’t believe that I took so long to try it. So right away I bought a big bag of 5″ cinnamon sticks online and found some flared aluminum cups on Etsy. And now with the latest update Its just like having one at the Mai Kai. This is of course without stumbling around the tiki gardens with a huge buzz after looking at sarong clad cocktail wahines. BTW…everyone should ask for the cinnamon stick when they order at the Mai Kai. Hopefully they will bring them back.

  9. I arrive at the Hukilau and since I wasn’t going to the party tonight…off to the Mai Kai instead. So in the Molokai my girlfriend and I order a Jet Pilot and a 151 Swizzle. The cinnamon stick was back in, but instead of the ice cone around the top it was filled with ice cubes. Not crushed, but cubes. One step forward.. 2 steps back. The presentation just wasn’t what I enjoyed in the past. Part of the enjoyment was the frozen aluminum cup w/ice cone so cold it had to be placed in a glass cup. Maybe it was just an off night and they just weren’t prepared.

    1. Tonga, if you were there during The Hukilau, it’s possible there was a rush on 151 Swizzles. But as documented above, the presentation has been erratic lately. The glass is not always used, and the ice can vary too. Good to see that the cinnamon stick is back, however. And the drink has been consistently following the latest recipe, which is good to see.

  10. I made a return trip on June 30. Both my friend and I ordered a 151 Swizzle. It had the cinnamon stick and was in the metal cup, but still had the ice cubes not the frozen snow. We arrived just as they opened and only 8 people were in the Molokai. I understand that things change and maybe the frozen metal cup with snow maybe no more. However, the ice cubes just don’t seem right…I suggest they go with crushed ice at least. It still tasted great, but the presentation is lacking for such a popular drink.

    1. Yes, that’s how it has been served since The Hukilau, so perhaps they’ve taken a step back from the snow ice. It was actually served for many years this way (see the photo from 2011 above), so it’s not surprising. The cup should still be frozen, with a coating of ice inside, even if they don’t pile the snow on top. It would consider that optional.

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