Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Mutiny is a worthy foe in the battle of the tropical titans

Updated May 8, 2012
See below: Our Mutiny review | Tribute recipe | Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide
The Black Magic emerges from the shadows as a true classic

There are many great cocktail debates, most notably the Martini (gin or vodka?) and Old Fashioned (rye or bourbon?). At The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, it’s the Mutiny vs. the Black Magic in an epic battle between two classic rum-and-coffee cocktails.

The Mutiny (center) with The Hukilau (left) and Black Magic, November 2010

The Mutiny (center) with The Hukilau (left) and Black Magic, November 2010. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The only way to truly compare these titans until recently was to sit down at the legendary Molokai bar and taste them side-by-side. This can be a daunting task since they’re both very strong and very large cocktails, not that we haven’t tried (see photos). There’s also the new contender, The Hukilau, which has all the same attributes but may appeal to those who may shy away from so much coffee in their cocktail.

But thanks to The Atomic Grog, you can give it a whirl in your home bar with the tribute recipes posted below and on the Black Magic review. Some of the ingredients are tough to track down, but you’ll find the results well worth the effort.

I always come down solidly in the Mutiny camp. It’s always been decidedly higher in my Mai-Kai cocktail ratings and has an incredible complexity that keeps drawing me back. Although I’ll admit that the Black Magic is slowly but surely creeping up the charts, now sitting at the top of the 3 1/2 star reviews.

Mutiny stands above the Black Magic and The Hukilau in the Atomic Grog ratings

The Mutiny stands above the Black Magic and The Hukilau in the Atomic Grog ratings. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, November 2010)

So where did these distinctive cocktails come from, and why are they so similar? The Black Magic came first, reportedly created years before The Mai-Kai’s opening by mixologist Mariano Licudine, who was then working for Don the Beachcomber. It appeared on the original 1956 Mai-Kai menu and was joined some years later by the Mutiny.

According to legend, the Mutiny was conceived on one of the many Mai-Kai staff fishing trips at which the participants always brought an ample supply of two cocktails: the Black Magic and Barrel O’ Rum. According to the story, there was a rebellion against those two drinks always being featured. To quell an impending mutiny, an idea was hatched to somehow combine them into one monster drink, and the Mutiny was born.

It’s unclear if they were actually mixed together that day on the boat. More likely, Licudine put his talents to work later to create an amalgamation of two of the most popular drinks on the menu. This would not be out of line for the owners to request. The cocktails already share many of the same ingredients, so it took just a few tweaks to yield some amazing results.

Regardless of how it was created, the Mutiny stands on its own as a classic tropical drink, if not a true original.


The official menu description

A superb blend of the finest rums, fresh tropical juices and a splash of coffee. A daily ration, says the Skipper, prevents scurvy and discontentment within the crew.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Mutiny, April 2011

Mutiny, April 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Size: Large

Potency: Strong

Flavor profile: Coffee, lime, dark rum, hints of anise.

Review: Bursting with undefinable layers of flavor, an unlikely marriage of rum with sweet, sour, coffee and slight licorice-like notes.

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

Ancestry: It’s unclear when the Mutiny first appeared on The Mai-Kai’s menu. It was certainly inspired by the Black Magic, a 1956 opening-day classic, but wasn’t introduced until at least the 1960s, perhaps later.

Bilge: The name references the decor of The Molokai bar, which was inspired by the classic film Mutiny on the Bounty. The film is based on a true 1789 event in which a mutiny occurred aboard the British Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty. While at sea near Tahiti, the ship’s sailors were so enamored by the beauty of the island they rose up against their abusive captain. Descendants of some of the mutineers and Tahitians still live on nearby Pitcairn Island.

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!


Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Mutiny

Mutiny tribute by The Atomic Grog, April 2012

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

* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 3/4 ounce white grapefruit juice
* 1/2 ounce rich honey mix
   (2:1 honey to water, mixed and cooled)
* 1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup
* 1 1/2 ounces strong Kona coffee,
   freshly brewed, then chilled
* 1 1/2 ounces light Virgin Islands rum
* 1 1/2 ounces Kohala Bay dark Jamaican rum
   (substitution suggestion below)
* 1/4 ounce Don’s Mix
   (2 parts grapefruit juice to 1 part cinnamon syrup)
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters
* 2 drops Pernod or Herbsaint

Blend with up to 1 1/2 cups of crushed ice in a top-down mixer for around 5 seconds, or until frothy. Pour into a large snifter glass with more crushed ice to fill.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

Inspired by the story above of how the Mutiny is perhaps a mashup of the Black Magic and Barrel O’ Rum, we created this recipe based heavily on our Black Magic tribute, adding a few elements of the rum barrel.

Aunty Lilikoi's passion fruit syrup

* Passion fruit syrup is the most obvious addition, along with a lighter base rum. Just make sure you use a high-quality brand such as Fee Brothers or our favorite, Aunty Lilikoi. It’s also fairly easy to make your own, and there are many recipes available online.

* It’s believed that the Mutiny contains less coffee, but we kept that amount the same and instead dropped the allspice dram. This distinctly alters the taste, along with the addition of a few drops of Pernod. It’s not easy to detect, but I always seem to taste traces of the anise liqueur.

* We’re also assuming that the Mutiny also contains Kohala Bay dark Jamaican rum like its brethren. This is a very flavorful rum that’s also very hard to find. The recommended substitute is equal parts (3/4 ounce) Smith & Cross Jamaican rum and El Dorado 12-year-old Demerara rum. Or feel free to experiment with other dark Jamaican rums. Coruba and/or Myers’s would also work. Click here for more on Kohala Bay and other cocktails in which it’s featured.

* Again, we’re also urging the use of a top-down mixer if possible to get an aerated cocktail with the right consistency and foamy head. And make sure you brew the Kona coffee very strong, up to double the grounds of a normal pot. Adjust the strength if that’s too intense.

* Don’s Mix is easy to make fresh, but B.G. Reynolds also makes a bottled version (along with cinnamon syrup).

I must also again give props to author Jeff “Beachbum” for an outstanding recipe, but in this case it’s not a vintage Don the Beachcomber cocktail that he uncovered but one of his own outstanding creations. The mighty Krakatoa, which can be found in both Grog Log and Remixed, is one of my all-time favorite cocktails, surpassing even the Mutiny, which inspired it. Definitely seek this one out.

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 Mutiny is a worthy foe in the battle of the tropical titans

  1. Craig Hochscheid says:

    You hit another Grand Slam with this one, thanks for all of your hard work!

  2. Quince at Danny's says:

    Wow, another good one! I hate to say it but it’s a little off, because it’s quite a bit better than the last Mutiny I had at the Mai Kai.

    I did your Kohala Bay substitution, but I used El Dorado 15 instead of 12. Man, that’s good!

  3. Swanky says:

    I looked at this as a slight variation on the Black Magic and wasn’t sure it was much to consider. The way I make a Black Magic isn’t too far from this recipe. However, this is perhaps a superior drink. I struggle to get my Black Magic right and still can’t seem to nail it down. I made 2 rounds of this recipe and they were both quite good. Used my regular coffee with 50% more grounds and the drip machine set to Strong.

    Very good!

  4. Josh Q says:

    I have to say, I followed your recipe once or twice last year, and was quite pleased with the quality of the drink, but perhaps a little more focused on its uniquely exotic flavor than anything else. Revisiting it recently (and with a lot more “experience”) under my belt, I can confidently say, this is an EXCELLENT rendition. Had the Black Magic at Mai Kai in January, not the Mutiny; but, quite frankly, this far exceeds the balance of flavors than the Black Magic I had at at Mai Kai. One of those holy grails of the whole being much greater than the sum of the parts. Congrats, and thanks for sharing it. Perfect as is.

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