Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Take a trip back to Hanalei Bay

Updated November 2016
See below: Ancestor recipe | UPDATE: Tribute recipe | Hanalei Bay review
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | More “lost cocktails” | Tropical drink family tree

Montego Bay

Some lost Mai-Kai cocktails are easier to trace than others. Even though the drink known as Hanalei Bay disappeared from the menu when the United States was still embroiled in the Vietnam War, its legacy is easy to figure out. This small but powerful drink was an obvious take on Don the Beachcomber’s Montego Bay.

Looking at old Mai-Kai and Don the Beachcomber menus, the resemblance both in name and menu artwork is obvious. Named for the second largest city in Jamaica, the Montego Bay cocktail dates back to the early days of Tiki. We’ve included a vintage recipe below, thanks to the research of tropical drink historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry.

Montego Bay was very similar to the Navy Grog and Zombie, also invented by Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber). All were re-invented by mixologist Mariano Licudine when The Mai-Kai opened in 1956. Licudine spent decades behind the bar at Don the Beachcomber restaurants in Los Angeles and Chicago before he was lured away to Fort Lauderdale. His re-creations of Beachcomber classics usually included a tweak or two, and the Montego Bay is no exception.

Hanalei Bay came out of retirement at The Mai-Kai in September 2016 for a special party marking the release of 'Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant' by Tim 'Swanky' Glazner. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Hanalei Bay came out of retirement at The Mai-Kai in September 2016 for a special party marking the release of ‘Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant’ by Tim ‘Swanky’ Glazner. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

But exactly how were we able to figure out those tweaks? Hanalei Bay was served at The Mai-Kai for the first time in nearly 50 years at a special event in September 2016 celebrating the release of a lavish new book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant by Tim “Swanky” Glazner.

It was one of the last remaining “lost” recipes (along with Dr. Fong) that had not been featured at special events over the past several years. I had almost given up hope of ever tasting it when The Mai-Kai’s general manager, Kern Mattei, revealed during the summer of 2016 that both had turned up in an old Mariano Licudine recipe book. It was great to take a trip back in time while enjoying the book release party with Tikiphiles and Mai-Kai fans who had traveled across the country for the event. [More photos on Tiki Central]

Glazner gave a guided tour of The Mai-Kai’s dining rooms, plus a special on-stage presentation featuring stories and photos from the book and his archives. The video clip of Johnny Carson enjoying a Mystery Drink on The Tonight Show is always a highlight (see past coverage). Be sure to pick up a copy of the book to check out the stories and more than 400 images, many revealed for the first time. You can find it in The Mai-Kai gift shop and other brick-and-mortar locations. It’s also available online via Amazon.

A well-worn 1966 Mai-Kai cocktail menu.

A well-worn 1966 Mai-Kai cocktail menu, which featured Hanalei Bay and other cocktails that were “retired” over the years.

Glazner will be returning to sign books and give a presentation at The Mai-Kai on Dec. 28 during the 60th anniversary customer appreciation party. [Facebook event] More details on the party will be announced soon. We’ve been told that some lost cocktails will also be returning. Perhaps we’ll get another chance to sample Hanalei Bay, which unfortunately took an early retirement way before its prime.

Hanalei Bay was perhaps the shortest lived cocktail from the original 1956 menu. We have seen it on the 1966 and 1968 menus, but it was gone by the time this menu was introduced in 1970.

Perhaps it was too similar to the more popular Yeoman’s Grog and Zombie. Or maybe it was just taken off to make room for the Mai Tai or Piña Colada or other more popular drinks that were added around this time.

We may never know the real reason. But we do know that it was a complex, potent concoction that deserves a place on any home Tiki bar’s menu.

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Don the Beachcomber's Montego Bay by The Atomic Grog

Don the Beachcomber’s Montego Bay by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, August 2012)

ANCESTOR RECIPE
Montego Bay

(By Don the Beachcomber, from Beachbum Berry’s Intoxica and Remixed)

* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce white grapefruit juice
* 1/2 ounce honey mix
   (equal parts honey and water, mixed well)
* 1 dash Angostura bitters
* 6 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon) Pernod
* 1/4 teaspoon pimento liqueur (aka allspice dram)
* 1 1/2 ounces dark Jamaican rum

Blend at high speed for 5 seconds with 3 ounces of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a sour glass.

Note that this circa 1940s recipe is different than the ingredients mentioned beneath the old Don the Beachcomber menu image shown above. It was not unusual for Donn Beach to change his recipes radically over the years.

Tasting notes

You’ll find familiar, classic flavors and ingredients in this complex and spicy creation. It shares four key ingredients with the Navy Grog. And all except pimento liqueur can be found in one Zombie recipe or another.

Remixed

The honey lends a nice sweet touch to balance the sour and spicy notes, something you’ll find often in Mai-Kai cocktails. I went with Myers’s Legend as the dark Jamaican rum in this cocktail in an attempt to replicate an older style aged rum that may have been used in the 1940s. Another premium option is Appleton Estate 12. But feel free to use a less expensive bottle, such as Coruba or Denizen Merchant’s Reserve.

Allspice dram is somewhat hard to find, but the St. Elizabeth brand seems to be more widely available than it used to. Feel free to use absinthe in lieu of Pernod, which is what New York City mixologist Brian Miller did in his take on the Montego Bay at one of his acclaimed “Tiki Mondays with Miller” events at the late, great Lani Kai in Soho. Miller also mixed up the rums, combining Appleton Reserve, Smith & Cross and El Dorado to give his version even more flavor and complexity.

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Hanalei Bay tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, November 2016)

Hanalei Bay tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, November 2016)

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Hanalei Bay, v.2
By The Atomic Grog (updated November 2016)

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
* 1/2 ounce rich honey mix
   (2 parts honey to 1 part water, mixed well)
* 1 dash Angostura bitters
* 3 drops Pernod
* 1 teaspoon Don’s Spices (see below)
* 1 ounce gold Jamaican rum
* 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum

Pulse blend with 8 ounces of crushed ice in a top-down mixer for 5-7 seconds. Pour unstrained into a stemmed glass, adding more crushed ice to fill.

A few changes were made to the original version of this tribute recipe (see below), which was created before we had the opportunity to sample Hanalei Bay during the summer of 2016. The revived classic is spicy and sour, with rich allspice notes dominating along with grapefruit and a hint of sweetness from the honey.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

There’s not a whole lot different from the Montego Bay recipe, but there are some key changes that give it that Mai-Kai flair. Mixologist Mariano Licudine worked closely with original owner Bob Thornton to fine-tune the recipes before adding them to the menu.

Hanalei Bay was a nearly forgotten cocktail before it returned in September 2016 for the book release party for 'Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant.' (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Hanalei Bay was a nearly forgotten cocktail before it returned in September 2016 for the book release party for ‘Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant.’ (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

* The additional lime juice and rich honey mix make the drink slightly more accessible, a Mai-Kai hallmark. The juices used behind the bar are distinctive, sourced fresh from Florida citrus groves. [More on the juices on Tiki Central]

* The anise notes from the Pernod are less intense than Don the Beachcomber’s version, but a heavier dose of Don’s Spices (equal parts pimento liqueur and vanilla syrup) brings more spicy sweetness to the party. The Mai-Kai uses a house-made pimento liqueur both sweet and spicy, so we recommend Don’s Spices if you’re using a bold allspice dram such as St. Elizabeth. If you make a sweeter homemade version, just use that.

* Most of The Mai-Kai’s cocktails feature multiple rums, so we combined gold and dark Jamaican styles to make this version bold yet also highly drinkable. Appleton is currently the go-to Jamaican rum, so we recommend Appleton Special as the gold rum and Appleton Estate Reserve Blend as the dark rum. Until recently, Kohala Bay (formerly known as “Dagger”) was the secret, slightly higher proof dark Jamaican rum used in many of the bar’s strong cocktails. It has ceased production indefinitely, we’re afraid, so if you’re looking to duplicate the same funky flavor you’ll probably want to substitute equal parts Smith & Cross dark Jamaican rum and El Dorado 12 Demerara rum. Our in-depth guide to The Mai-Kai’s rums includes lists of Appleton and Kohala Bay cocktails.

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Hanalei Bay, v.1
By The Atomic Grog (October 2012)

Hanalei Bay tribute by The Atomic Grog

Hanalei Bay tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, October 2012)

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce Don’s Mix
(equal parts white grapefruit juice and rich cinnamon syrup)
* 1/2 ounce rich honey mix
(2 parts honey to 1 part water, mixed well)
* 1 dash Angostura bitters
* 4 drops Pernod
* 1/8 teaspoon pimento liqueur (aka allspice dram)
* 3/4 ounce Appleton Estate Extra dark Jamaican rum
* 3/4 ounce Kohala Bay dark Jamaican rum

Pulse blend with 6 ounces of crushed ice in a top-down mixer for no more than 5 seconds. Pour unstrained into a sour glass or other specialty glass, adding more crushed ice to fill.

In creating the updated tribute recipe above, we dropped the Pernod by one drop, replaced Don’s Mix with grapefruit juice, replaced pimento dram with Don’s Spices, and increased the rums from 1 1/2 to 2 ounces. Cinnamon syrup is not featured in any cocktails, we’ve been told. The revived recipe that we tasted in September was dominated by the allspice and rum.

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HANALEI BAY

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Hanalei Bay

Size: Medium

Potency: Medium

Flavor profile: Sweet spices, dark rum, lime.

Review: A sour and complex lost classic with heavy up-front allspice notes and a potent rum kick.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (see how it ranks). It would rank above or near the Deep Sea Diver on today’s menu.

Ancestry: A direct descendant of Don the Beachcomber’s Montego Bay, Hanalei Bay was on The Mai-Kai’s menu on opening day in December 1956 but was removed during a menu overhaul between 1968 and 1970. It returned for a special event in September 2016.

Bilge: Hanalei Bay, the largest bay on the north shore of Kauai, is one of the most picturesque locations in Hawaii. In August 2016, more than 150 people gathered there for a traditional hukilau, the first time this ancient Hawaiian method of fishing has been practiced on this scale in the iconic north shore town in as many as 40 years, according to Hawaii Magazine. The hukilau provided the community’s kupuna, or elders, a rare opportunity to share an ancient style of fishing with the younger generation. This historic practice is what inspired The Hukilau, the modern Tiki event that casts its net to lure Polynesian Pop enthusiasts from across the globe to the June event in Fort Lauderdale, including The Mai-Kai.
* The latest from The Atomic Grog on The Hukilau

Agree or disagree with this review? Share your comments below!

Postscript (November 2016)

Since we posted the updated tribute recipe above, Hanalei Bay has popped up as a special off-menu cocktail at Howie’s Tiki, bringing a little bit of The Mai-Kai to Texas. (Click here if you can’t see the photo below)

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 Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Take a trip back to Hanalei Bay

  1. Arriano says:

    Out of curiousity, do you think the “other” Don the Beachcomber recipe subbed the maraschino liqueur for the pimento liqueur?

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