Mai-Kai cocktail review: A delightful after-dinner drink for wahines … and kanes too

Updated June 2018
See below: Our Wahine Delight review | Ancestor recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide
NEW: The Mai-Kai updates bar menu, adds classic ‘lost’ cocktail

A common misconception about tropical drinks is the notion that they’re “girly.” While they do tend to be sweet and flamboyant, many of the best Tiki cocktails – especially those at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale – are powerfully potent and worthy of any serious drinker, male or female, wahine or kane.

Ordered after dinner, the Wahine Delight arrives dusted with powdered sugar and presented as a desert course. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2013)

Ordered after dinner, the Wahine Delight arrives dusted with powdered sugar and presented as a desert course. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2013)

One possible exception is the Wahine Delight, an after-dinner drink most likely aimed at the fairer sex. It’s actually not too cloyingly sweet, a well-balanced and distinctive frozen daiquiri that goes light on the alcohol. Men may even appreciate it, especially as a follow-up to one of the restaurant’s spicy entrees or flaming deserts.

But it’s definitely designed as a lighter alternative to the Zombie and the Jet Pilot and the many other more masculine drinks on the menu.

This is not surprising when you consider the cocktail’s ancestry. The Wahine Delight was originally called the Missionary’s Doom and appeared on the opening day menu in 1956-57. It’s Mariano Licudine’s version of a Don the Beachcomber classic aimed at the fairer sex, the sweet and minty Missionary’s Downfall.

Missionary's Doom

Tiki cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry published Donn Beach’s recipe in his influential first book, Grog Log, in 1998. He often refers to it as a classic example of the Tiki cocktail pioneer’s talent in creating a farm-to-glass culinary cocktail almost 70 years before those terms existed.

The Missionary’s Downfall was one of many drinks that experienced a revival in the wake of Berry’s revelations, and it’s been a mainstay on the menu at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29, the author’s acclaimed New Orleans bar and restaurant that opened in 2014. A Google search shows just how popular it remains today.

Licudine cut his teeth as a tropical mixologist at the original Don the Beachcomber in Los Angeles in 1939, before spending 16 years at the Chicago location. He was recruited to Fort Lauderdale by The Mai-Kai’s owners and founders, the Chicago brothers Bob and Jack Thornton.

Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)

Original Mai-Kai owners Jack (left) and Bob Thornton. (Courtesy of The Swank Pad)

The Thorntons and Licudine tweaked most of the secret recipes that their bar manager brought south in his little black book. The original Missionary’s Downfall is sweeter and, in our opinion, a better drink. The Missionary’s Doom (now the Wahine Delight) seems to have been reconfigured as more of a refreshing, minty drink.

Missionary’s Doom was a mainstay on The Mai-Kai menu for nearly four decades, moving to the new after-dinner menu in the early 1970s. In the early 1990s, it was renamed the Wahine Delight, according to an analysis of historical menus. Was the name too provocative? Wahine Delight is certainly more user-friendly and befitting the drink’s feminine aura.

The Wahine Delight experienced another change in May 2018, when it was removed from the main cocktail menu to make room for the return of the Mai-Kai Cappuccino. It remains on the dessert menu that guests receive after dinner in the dining rooms.

Though it’s near the bottom of our Mai-Kai cocktail ratings, it still has its place and should appeal to those looking for an icy mint drink to cleanse their palate.

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The official menu description
Wahine Delight
WAHINE DELIGHT

Light and mild, refreshingly cool and fragrant with the smack of crushed fresh mint.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Wahine Delight, November 2011

Wahine Delight, November 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Size: Small

Potency: After dinner / dessert

Flavor profile: Mint, light rum, sugar syrup, a touch of Pernod.

Review: A sweet frozen daiquiri dominated by very strong and earthy fresh mint. It lacks the sweetness of the Missionary’s Downfall, instead opting for a more herbal twist with anise overtones from the Pernod. Our guess is that the peach and honey elements of Don’s original were dropped.

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

Ancestry: The Wahine Delight started out as the Missionary’s Doom, which was featured on the original Mai-Kai bar menus and was based on a Don the Beachcomber classic, the Missionary’s Downfall. The name changed during a 1990s menu update, but it remains essentially the same drink. It’s a staple of the after-dinner menu, even though it was removed from the main cocktail menu during a menu revision in May 2018.

Bilge: Wahine, the Maori and Hawaiian word for woman, is also used to refer to female surfers.

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!

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Missionary's Downfall by The Atomic Grog, July 2012

Missionary's Downfall by The Atomic Grog, July 2012. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

ANCESTOR RECIPE
Missionary’s Downfall

(From Beachbum Berry Remixed)

* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce peach brandy
* 1 ounce honey mix
   (combine equal parts honey and water, chill)
* 1 ounce light Puerto Rican rum
* 2 ounces (1/4 cup) diced fresh pineapple
* 2 ounces (1/4 cup) fresh mint leaves, tightly packed
* 6 ounces (3/4 cup) crushed ice

Put everything in a blender. Blend at high speed for 20 seconds. Pour into saucer champagne glasses or cocktail glasses. Garnish with the tip of a mint sprig (3 or 4 leaves on a short stem), placed in center of drink. Serves two.

Missionary's Downfall

Note that Berry revised this recipe from the version that was in his original book, Grog Log. He notes that this 1940s era version, given to him by the family of Hank Riddle (who worked at several Don the Beachcomber restaurants from the 1940s through the 1980s), is much better. There’s also a version published by Donn Beach’s widow, Phoebe, in Hawai’i – Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine, which contains many of the same ingredients, just slightly tweaked. It’s not unusual to find multiple recipes for Don the Beachcomber cocktails, which tended to evolve over the years (see Test Pilot, Tahitian Rum Punch and Zombie).

This is a sweet and decadent drink but also cool and refreshing. All the flavors stand out. The mint, honey and pineapple hit on your first sip, followed later by a touch of peach and just a hint of rum. The smell of the mint garnish also enhances the sensory experience.

In Remixed, Beachbum Berry writes that the earliest version of the Missionary’s Downfall dates from 1937, making it more than 70 years ahead of its time. “Only recently has Donn’s penchant for building recipes around fresh herbs and produce been rediscovered by contemporary mixologists, exemplified by the ‘farm-to-glass’ cocktail movement.”

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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