Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Hidden Pearl reveals a long-lost craft

Updated June 30, 2014
See below: Our Hidden Pearl review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

Ice molds and other frozen glassware is kept in a special freezer in The Mai-Kai's kitchen service bar.

Ice molds and other frozen glassware is kept in a special freezer in The Mai-Kai's kitchen service bar. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, November 2011)

The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale is not only keeping alive the tradition of classic Tiki cocktails, but also the lost art of the ice shell. One good example of this frozen throwback is the Hidden Pearl.

Like several other classics (Special Reserve Daiquiri, Gardenia Lei, Tahitian Breeze, Shark Bite), the Hidden Pearl comes in a glass fashioned with a special ice feature in The Mai-Kai’s mysterious kitchen service bar (see photo at right).

And like the others, the Hidden Pearl tastes just as good as it looks. It’s actaully very similar to the more complex Tahitian Breeze, and a little easier to make.

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The official menu description
Hidden Pearl
HIDDEN PEARL

The delightful tang of fresh juices and golden rums.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Hidden Pearl, November 2010

Hidden Pearl, November 2010. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Size: Small

Potency: Medium

Flavor profile: Honey, passion fruit, light rum, bitters.

Review: A mouth-watering combination of sweet flavors with a healthy dose of rum and bitters.

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

Ancestry: An opening-day drink in 1956, the Hidden Pearl is a retooled version of Don’s Pearl by Don the Beachcomber.

Bilge: According to Don the Beachcomber legend, every fifth Don’s Pearl was served with a real pearl.

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!

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Don's Pearl
ANCESTOR RECIPE

Don’s Pearl
(By Don the Beachcomber, from Hawai’i – Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine)

 
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce passion fruit juice
* 1 ounce guava juice
* 1/4 ounce honey cream mix (see below)
* 1/4 ounce club soda
* 2 ounces light Puerto Rican rum

Pour all of the above into a blender with 1/2 cup of crushed ice. Blend for 15-20 seconds, then pour into a chilled glass with more crushed ice.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

* Honey cream mix is equal parts sweet (unsalted) butter and honey. Heat both separately in the microwave, then combine and whisk until well blended. Use immediately. This old-school ingredient is now rarely used, but it pops up occasionally in Don the Beachcomber recipes. It helps add a sweet creaminess to drinks like this one, the Gardenia Lei and the Deep Sea Diver

* You won’t have much ice left after blending for up to 20 seconds, but the drink should not be slushy. The goal is to chill and dilute the drink slightly, dissolving most of the ice. At The Mai-Kai, the Hidden Pearl is served in an ice shell, which eliminates the need for more ice (see above and below).

This is very close to the flavor of the Hidden Pearl, but it doesn’t quite match the intense sweet/bitter combination of The Mai-Kai’s version. With a few tweaks, we came up with …

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Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Hidden Pearl
By The Atomic Grog

Hidden Pearl tribute by The Atomic Grog, February 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Hidden Pearl tribute by The Atomic Grog, February 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup
* 3/4 ounce guava juice
* 1/2 ounce rich honey mix
   (2:1 ratio of honey and water, mixed and chilled)
* 2 ounces light and/or gold Virgin Islands rums
   (see below)
* 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Blend with 1/2 cup of crushed ice for 15-20 seconds, then pour into a medium glass with a frozen ice shell (see story above and tips below).

Notes and tips for home mixologists

* We substituted passion fruit syrup for juice, adding a richer flavor. Be sure to use a high-quality syrup, such as Fee Brothers or B.G. Reynolds. Our personal favorite is the hand-crafted syrup from Hawaii’s Aunty Lilikoi. Or make your own adding frozen passion fruit pulp to rich sugar syrup as you heat it on the stove.

* The guava juice is reduced slightly, and the honey is increased to push the sweetness to the forefront. Instead of honey cream, we’re using a rich 2:1 honey mix that can be found in other Mai-Kai cocktails such as the Jet Pilot and Rum Julep. Although a Don the Beachcomber honey cream mix is featured in several other cocktails (see above), we’re fairly certain this drink contains the more common honey mix without the butter.

Hidden Pearl ice shell by The Atomic Grog, February 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Hidden Pearl ice shell by The Atomic Grog, February 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* The menu description refers to “golden rums” but it’s unclear if that means “gold rum” is included in the current cocktail. Whatever it is, it’s very mild. A combination of 1 ounce of a mild gold rum and 1 ounce of a sweeter gold rum such as Mount Gay Eclipse yields a nice flavor, although just a bit too strong. A combination of light and gold Virgin Islands rums is probably a better approximation of the Hidden Pearl’s flavor.

* The key element is the addition of some Angostura bitters, which helps offset the sweetness of the honey and passion fruit syrup. It teams with the guava juice to create a distinctive bitter flavor balance.

* Creating an ice shell may seem daunting, but the one pictured at right was quite easy. We packed a glass with crushed ice, then left it at room temperate for around 15 minutes to let the ice melt slightly. We then packed the ice slightly and put the glass in the freezer for 2-3 hours. The melted crushed ice should cling to the sides and bottom of the glass. Remove from the freezer when the cocktail is ready to pour. Take a knife and chip away a pocket in the middle of the glass just large enough to hold the drink. If all goes well, the ice on the sides of the glass will remain intact. This nifty ice feature keeps the drink nice and cold with a minimal amount of dilution while you savor every last drop.

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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3 Responses to Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Hidden Pearl reveals a long-lost craft

  1. Fallenstar says:

    Made the tribute drink tonight. Excellent! Very close to the Mai-Kai. I used 3/4 oz. Cruzan light and 1 1/4 oz of the gold Cruzan. Worked well, but the drink went down almost too quickly.

  2. Tiare says:

    This is the best friggin`tiki drink blog on the Internet!

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