Mai-Kai cocktail review: Suffering no more, this Bastard finally gets a chance to shine

Updated July 2018
See below: Suffering Bastard review | UPDATED: Tribute recipes
NEW: The Mai-Kai updates bar menu, adds classic ‘lost’ cocktail
Related: Trade in Vic’s Mai Tai for this classic | Mai-Kai cocktail guide
More “lost cocktails” | Tropical drink family tree
Three classic ‘lost cocktails’ drop in for a night of flights at The Mai-Kai

When The Mai-Kai updated its cocktail menu in May 2018, a decision was made to revive one of the classic “lost cocktails” from the notebook of original mixologist Mariano Licudine, who led the bar program from 1956 to 1979. There were nearly a dozen to choose from, many of them ionic drinks that Licudine had brought with him from his days working for Don the Beachcomber in the 1940s and ’50s.

The Suffering Bastard, a longtime off-menu

The Suffering Bastard, a longtime off-menu “lost classic,” was added to the permanent menu in May 2018. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Over the past five years, these lost cocktails have been featured at multiple special events, from The Hukilau to The Mai-Kai’s 60th anniversary party. In 2017, a special “Flashback Friday” promotion gave guests the opportunity to sample a different retired cocktail each month on that designated day. While many were popular, one stood out and earned a spot on the main menu, even though it was never on the menu to begin with.

The Suffering Bastard was de rigueur at mid-century Tiki bars. Like many other popular tropical cocktails of the era, it was bastardized (pun intended) and retooled to fit the needs of each particular establishment. The Trader Vic’s version was perhaps the most well-known, instantly recognizable by the iconic Suffering Bastard mug.

The Mai-Kai was no exception, but for reasons unknown it never appeared on the menu. Taking a cue from Trader Vic, Licudine created his Suffering Bastard as an alternative take on the Mai Tai. Of course, The Mai-Kai’s Mai Tai is nothing like Vic’s, and neither is the Suffering Bastard. Licudine did appropriate one distinctive touch from Vic: A large slice of cucumber as garnish. As odd as it seams, it really does work.

The Mai-Kai's version of the Suffering Bastard features a cucumber garnish, first popularized by Trader Vic. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2018)

The Mai-Kai’s version of the Suffering Bastard features a cucumber garnish, first popularized by Trader Vic. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2018)

The original Suffering Bastard, sans cucumber, was created in 1942 at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo by mixologist Joe Scialom, a fascinating story uncovered by tropical drink historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Scialom’s recipe – which includes gin, brandy, Rose’s lime juice, Angostura bitters and ginger beer – was revealed in the 2010 book, Beachbum Berry Remixed. An entire chapter is devoted to Scialom in Berry’s 2013 epic hardcover, Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them.

Before Berry and other Tiki revivalists came along in the 1990s, many of these classic cocktails were long forgotten. Without a slot on the menu at The Mai-Kai, it’s possible that the Suffering Bastard languished for decades in Licudine’s notebook before being rediscovered. The latest version includes a few new tweaks, so we’ve added a new tribute recipe below.

Younger Mai-Kai guests many do a double-take when they look at the new menu and see this odd new drink featuring a cucumber sitting right alongside such staples as the 151 Swizzle and Special Planters Punch. But to old-timers and Tiki revivalists, the Suffering Bastard likely brings back memories of the heyday of exotic cocktails, whether they actually lived through it or not.

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The official menu description
Suffering Bastard
SUFFERING BASTARD

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Size: Medium

Potency: Strong

Flavor profile: Sweet fruit juices, strong rum, hints of orange liqueur and a whiff of cucumber.

The Suffering Bastard was a popular Flashback Friday cocktail in April 2017, earning a place on the permanent menu.  (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The Suffering Bastard was a popular Flashback Friday cocktail in April 2017, earning a place on the permanent menu. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Review: Similar to the Mai Tai, with a few key changes giving it a unique character and the cucumber garnish adding a totally different aromatic.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (see how it ranks)

Ancestry: A descendant of the legendary 1940s drink in name only, The Mai-Kai’s version took its cue from Trader Vic and is a more robust version of the Mai Tai.

Bilge: As Beachbum Berry tells us in Potions of the Caribbean, the Suffering Bastard’s creator, mixologist Joe Scialom, retired in the 1970s to Hallandale, not far from The Mai-Kai. It’s not a stretch to imagine the residents of his retirement community being treated to dinner at the grand Polynesian palace, and Scialom wandering into the back bar to make the acquaintance of Licudine. It would have been a true meeting of tropical cocktail geniuses.

Agree or disagree? Share your reviews and comments below!


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Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Suffering Bastard, v.2
By The Atomic Grog (May 2018)

Suffering Bastard tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2018)

Suffering Bastard tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2018)

* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
* 1/2 ounce all-natural pineapple juice
* 1/4 ounce rich honey mix
   (2 parts honey to 1 part water; mixed, then chilled)
* 1/4 ounce falernum
* 1 ounce gold Jamaican rum (Appleton Estate Signature Blend)
* 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum (Appleton Estate Rare Blend)
* 1/8 ounce 151 Demerara rum (Lemon Hart)
* 1/4 ounce orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or orange curacao)
* 2 drops of Pernod
* 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
* 1/4 teaspoon grenadine
* 1/4 teaspoon fassionola
* 1 ounce club soda

Pulse blend with 1 heaping cup of crushed ice for 5-7 seconds and pour into a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a cucumber spear.

There’s a lot going on here, to be sure. Like the Mai Tai tribute recipe, this is a wildly complicated combination that somehow combines into a coherent and straightforward cocktail that belies its complexity. There are a number of adjustments to the original recipe below, from tweaks to the juices, spices and soda to the addition of orange liqueur and 151 rum.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

* Be sure to use fresh juices, sourced from Florida if possible. Our Tiki Central thread includes a complete guide to The Mai-Kai’s distinctive juices.

* Most of The Mai-Kai’s syrups are house-made, but the falernum is provided by Fee Brothers.

* The distinctive Appleton Estate rums are clearly featured, and we’re guessing that the 12-year-old Rare Blend appears here just as it does in the Mai Tai. It’s also likely that Signature Blend is also in the mix since that has become the bar’s go-to Jamaican mixing rum since the disappearance of Kohala Bay (see below). A new feature in this version is a splash of Lemon Hart 151 Demerara rum, which gives the cocktail a slight kick to make up for the loss of Kohala Bay. Click here for our complete guide to all the cocktails featuring 151 Demerara rum. If you can’t find Lemon Hart in your area, Hamilton 151 is another fine choice since it was previously used by The Mai-Kai when Lemon Hart was unavailable. Using a non-Demerara 151 rum in such a small amount may not hurt, but you’ll miss that hint of rich smokiness that only comes from Demerara Distillers in Guyana.

* Check out the Mai Tai tribute recipe for details on some of the other ingredients, including the obscure syrup known as fassionola. Below is the original tribute recipe, based on the version that returned from retirement in 2013.

Now on The Grogalizer! This recipe and other Mai-Kai tributes have been added to this essential database of Tiki cocktail reviews, including the Beachbum Berry collection plus Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. Help boost our ratings. It’s quick and easy to sign up.
* Go to The Grogalizer now

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Suffering Bastard tribute by The Atomic Grog

Suffering Bastard tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, March 2013)

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Suffering Bastard, v.1
By The Atomic Grog (June 2013)

* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
* 1 ounce all-natural pineapple juice
* 1/4 ounce rich honey mix
   (2 parts honey to 1 part water; mixed, then chilled)
* 1/4 ounce falernum
* 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum (Kohala Bay or equivalent)
* 1 ounce gold Jamaican rum (Appleton)
* 3-4 drops of Pernod
* Dash of Angostura bitters
* Dash of grenadine
* 1/4 teaspoon fassionola
* 1 1/2 ounces club soda

Pulse blend with 1 heaping cup of crushed ice for 5-7 seconds and pour into a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a cucumber spear.

Notes

* This version is simply the Mai Tai with a stronger rum, the 87.6 proof Kohala Bay. The descendant of a distinctively funky Jamaican rum called Dagger, this now-defunct brand was unique to The Mai-Kai and just a few retail outlets in Florida. [Click here for more on the Kohala Bay saga.] The recommended substitute is equal parts Smith & Cross Jamaican rum and El Dorado 12-year-old Demerara rum, although there are many others discussed in the previous link.

Whatever rums you use, and whichever version you enjoy, be aware that this is a deceivingly strong cocktail that could easily turn you into a Suffering Bastard when you start feeling the after-effects. You are forewarned.

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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