Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Hukilau is worthy of its famous company

Updated April 27, 2012
See below: Our Hukilau review | Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | Latest news on the annual Hukilau event

Like an ugly stepchild, The Hukilau drink at The Mai-Kai is often shunned in favor of its more glamorous siblings. But don’t under-estimate this newcomer. It’s one of the more accessible strong cocktails and worthy of inclusion on the iconic menu.

The Hukilau (right) with the Black Magic (left),  and the Mutiny, April 2012

The Hukilau (right) with the Black Magic (left), and the Mutiny, April 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Hukilau was added to the menu in the fall of 2006, named in a contest by attendees of the fifth annual Polynesian Pop festival of the same name. But the contest was merely to name the drink. The actual recipe came from an in-house source and was selected by owner Dave Levy.

We’ve been unable to confirm the drink’s exact origins, but it’s obviously a close relative to both the Mutiny and Black Magic (see photo). All three are served in large snifter glasses, appear on the strong menu and share many of the same ingredients. We like to call them the “Holy Trinity” of Mai-Kai coffee drinks.

The Hukilau is quite a bit sweeter than its siblings, and the coffee is kept to a minimum. It’s perfect for those who may not care for the intense blast of caffeine and who like their drinks more tart than exotic and spicy. And it’s also a fine way to honor an event that has called The Mai-Kai home since 2003.


The official menu description
The Hukilau

The official drink of “The Hukilau,” an event held yearly at The Mai-Kai, is full flavored with a splash of coffee and served with Appleton Rum.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

The Hukilau, November 2010

The Hukilau, November 2010. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Size: Large

Potency: Strong

Flavor profile: Passion fruit, tart juices, honey, cinnamon, coffee.

Review: The sweetest and least coffee-centric of the The Mai-Kai’s three large snifter drinks. A smorgasbord of juices and gold Appleton rum shine through the sweetness to create a perfect balance.

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

Ancestry: Added in 2006, The Hukilau is the newest cocktail on The Mai-Kai’s menu, but it’s unclear how old the recipe is. It could be an unused vintage recipe, or perhaps one crafted by one of the current mixologists.

Bilge: The Hukilau is one of four Mai-Kai cocktails that specifically call for Appleton rum (along with the Shark Bite, Mai-Tai and Special Reserve Daiquiri). No other rum brand is mentioned by name on the menu.

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!


Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Hukilau

Hukilau tribute by The Atomic Grog, April 2012

Hukilau 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 fresh-squeezed lemon juice
* 3/4 ounce white grapefruit juice
* 3/4 ounce rich honey mix
   (2:1 honey to water, mixed and cooled)
* 1 ounce passion fruit syrup
* 1/2 teaspoon rich cinnamon syrup
* 1/4 ounce strong Kona coffee,
   freshly brewed, then chilled
* 1 1/2 ounces light Virgin Islands rum
* 1 1/2 ounces Appleton Special gold Jamaican rum

Blend with up to 1 1/2 cups of crushed ice in a top-down mixer for 3-5 seconds. Pour into a large snifter glass with more crushed ice to fill.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

The Hukilau is more accessible than the Black Magic or Mutiny, so we’ve created this tribute as a more mainstream version of those two iconic cocktails. It’s not an exact duplicate, but it’s definitely in the ballpark.

A sacrifice to the Tiki gods: The Hukilau at the 2012 Hukilau

A sacrifice to the Tiki gods: The Hukilau at the 2012 Hukilau. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* There are lots of juices, syrups and flavors at play here. On our most recent visit, at Hukilau 2012, we clearly detected cinnamon syrup, which we hadn’t tasted in the past. B.G. Reynolds makes the intense, rich syrup that you’ll need. If you make your own or use a lighter brand, you may need to add more.

* The amount of orange juice may also depepend on whether you use fresh-squeezed (preferred) or a bottled brand. If you’re tasting too much OJ in the final mix, just reduce to 1/2 ounce. You also may need to slightly adjust the coffee, depending on its strength.

* Appleton Special is likely used in lieu of an aged rum, but if you’re looking for a premium version of The Hukilau feel free to step up to Appleton Estate V/X.

It’s very difficult to get the balance of this drink correct, but when you do it’s one of the best, hence the high rating.

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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2 Responses to Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Hukilau is worthy of its famous company

  1. lc says:

    This drink is basically the same as Mutiny, both are in your top 4/5 list. How do you feel about them?

    • I prefer the Mutiny, but The Hukilau is a nice alternative. Slightly different rum profile and a bit sweeter.

      There will be some updates coming soon. The Hukilau no longer features coffee, so that separates it from the Black Magic and Mutiny a bit.

      Okole maluna!

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