Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide: Discover a fruitful and delicious tropical drink family tree

Updated October 2016
Related: Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide | Index of 100 recipes
Heeeeeeere’s the rich history and lost stories of The Mai-Kai

Jump below: List of reviews and recipes | Retired cocktails

Okole Maluna Society membership card

While earning my Okole Maluna Society card by reviewing every cocktail on the legendary tropical drink menu at The Mai-Kai, I learned quite a bit about the history of these tasty concoctions.

I knew that many were based on the classic templates laid down by the godfather of Tiki mixology, Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber). But I had no idea that total would hit 40 as I discovered more “ancestor drinks” along the way. Of course, many of these were reinterpreted by The Mai-Kai’s late, great mixologist Mariano Licudine, under the direction of owners Bob and Jack Thornton.

Licudine worked for Don the Beachcomber for 16 years before the Thornton brothers spirited him away to the grand Polynesian palace they were building in Fort Lauderdale in 1956. By the time Licudine retired in 1980, they had firmly established a tropical drink menu that not only still holds up, but puts most trendy craft cocktail bars to shame.

Hurricane Hayward (left) with Mai-Kai owner Dave Levy, April 2011.

Hurricane Hayward (left) with Mai-Kai owner Dave Levy, April 2011.

Below is a list of all the cocktails listed by their ancestry, to the best of my knowledge, plus a still-growing list of more than 90 recipes. The main page of the cocktail guide lists all the drinks by rating and by strength, but I thought it would be interesting to trace their lineage and list them here for the true cocktail geeks. Don’t forget to click on any review of a current drink to rate it on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. I’d like to see what you think.

I’d also like to use this space to send out a huge mahalo to owner Dave Levy, manager Kern Mattei, marketing director Pia Dahlquist and everyone else at The Mai-Kai who makes it the special place that it is. Also, much gratitude to two people without whom this guide probably wouldn’t exist: Author/mixologist Jeff “Beachbum Berry,” whose six books on tropical drink history are beyond essential; and Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner, who keeps the stories and spirit alive through his great research and reverence for The Mai-Kai.

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Mai-Kai cocktail ancestry
Based on research by Hurricane Hayward for The Atomic Grog. Click on hyperlinks for full reviews and recipes.

Drinks are listed in alphabetical order with ratings in parentheses, 1-5 stars.
Click here for the full list organized by rating.
* Drinks on current menu: 47

MAI-KAI ORIGINALS (10)
(Created by Mariano Licudine or other Mai-Kai mixologists)

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)

Black Magic (3 1/2)
Chocolate Snowflake (3 1/2)
Derby Daiquiri (3)
The Hukilau (4)
Mai-Kai Blizzard (3 1/2)
Mai-Kai Special (3)
Mara-Amu (3 1/2)
Mutiny (4)
Mystery Drink (4)
Tiki Swizzle (3)

NOTE: Moved to the dessert menu in January 2014: Mai-Kai Cappuccino (2)

TROPICAL STANDARDS (5)

Banana Daiquiri (2 1/2)
Floridita Daiquiri (3)
Piña Colada (3)
Sidewinder’s Fang (4)
Strawberry Daiquiri (2 1/2)

DON THE BEACHCOMBER DESCENDANTS (32)
(Mai-Kai name / Don the Beachcomber name and recipe)

A vintage Don the Beachcomber menu

151 Swizzle (4 1/2) 151 Swizzle
Barrel O’ Rum (4) Beachcomber’s Rum Barrel
Bora Bora (3) Donga Punch
Cobra’s Kiss (4) Cobra’s Fang
Deep Sea Diver (3 1/2) Pearl Diver
Gardenia Lei (3) Mystery Gardenia
Hidden Pearl (3 1/2) Don’s Pearl
Hot Buttered Rum (3) Hot Buttered Rum
Jet Pilot (4) Test Pilot
K.O. Cooler (3 1/2) Q.B. Cooler
Kona Coffee Grog (3) Kona Coffee Grog
Mai-Kai Swizzle (3) Don’s Swizzle
Mai Tai (3 1/2) Mai Tai
Malayan Mist (3) Sumatra Kula
Martinique Milk Punch (3) Martinique Milk Punch
Moonkist Coconut (3 1/2) Coconut Rum
Oh So Deadly (3) Never Say Die
Piña Passion (3 1/2) Pi Yi
Planters Punch (2) Planter’s Rum Punch
Rum Julep (4) Rum Julep
Samoan Grog (3 1/2) Colonial Grog
Shark Bite (4 1/2) Shark’s Tooth
Shrunken Skull (4) Skull & Bones
S.O.S. (3 1/2) Three Dots and a Dash
Special Planters Punch (4 1/2) Don’s Own Planter’s
Special Reserve Daiquiri (3 1/2) Don’s Special Daiquiri
Tahitian Breeze (3 1/2) Tahitian Rum Punch
Tahitian Coffee (2) Tahitian Coffee
Wahine Delight (2) Missionary’s Downfall
Yeoman’s Grog (4) Navy Grog
Zombie (5) Zombie
Zula (3 1/2) Penang Afrididi

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A 1970 Mai-Kai cocktail menu

A 1970 Mai-Kai cocktail menu still includes many early classics that later disappeared.

Retired drinks, aka the “lost cocktails” (12)

We’ve also identified 11 cocktails from the 1956-57 menu that were “retired” at some point prior to our research, plus one off-menu classic.

MAI-KAI ORIGINALS (1)
(Created by Mariano Licudine or ancestry unknown)

Big Bamboo (4)

DON THE BEACHCOMBER DESCENDANTS (10)

Cuban Daiquiri (2 1/2)
Demerara Float (4 1/2)
Demerara Cocktail (3 1/2)
Dr. Fong (3 1/2)
Hanalei Bay (3 1/2)
Impatient Virgin (3)
Island Queen (3)
Last Rites (3 1/2)
Liquid Gold (3 1/2)
Martinique Cocktail (3)

RETIRED OFF-MENU DRINKS (1)

Suffering Bastard (3 1/2)

We’ll be posting more info on the history of these classics, so stay tuned as we continue our journey back in time to some of the best cocktails ever created.

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 Guide: Discover a fruitful and delicious tropical drink family tree

  1. Swanky says:

    Great piece of work. You should be proud!

  2. Tony Licudine says:

    “HURRICANE”

    Great work. I’ve been in touch with Jeff, and my sister and I might have a few things to share at next year’s Hukilau.

    Best regards,

    Tony Licudine

  3. Chi-Chi says:

    Aloha! I’m a big follower from the history of the Mai-Kai and I love how detailed this posting was. I learned a few new things. Big Mahalos from NYC (an ex-resident from Sofla).

    • Mahalo Chi-Chi. Beachbum Berry’s new book, “Potions of the Caribbean,” has revealed the ancestry of several more current and retired Mai-Kai cocktails. We’ll be updating this page soon with more history.

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