Updated Oct. 15, 2020
NEW: The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party after closing for renovations
The historic Polynesian restaurant transported revelers to a socially-distanced celebration like no other, including an appearance by Appleton Rum’s Joy Spence. FULL EVENT RECAP
News: Latest on the temporary closing
Photos: Hulaweeen Drive-In Movie scene, costumes
Tribute recipe: Blood Island Green Potion #2
In honor of National Rum Month, The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale has released a new batch of its first-ever signature rum for guests to enjoy in the restaurant or take home in limited-edition bottles. The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend can be paired with new branded glasses also available for purchase.
See more below
* New sipping rum menu introduced
* Cocktail menu reduced, experience remains
Bonus recipes: The Real McCoy Shark Bite and Special Reserve Daiquiri
Previous coverage: More on Bailey Pryor, The Real McCoy and the new Mai-Kai rum
The initial batch of the 92-proof rum, aged and blended by Richard Seale at Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, was quickly snapped up during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic in April. But the closing of the historic restaurant for two months forced the release party and seminar by The Real McCoy’s founder to be canceled. That presentation will now be held virtually, and everyone who buys a bottle of the rum is invited.
Thursday, Aug. 13: Rum Runners of the Prohibition Era Virtual Seminar featuring Bailey Pryor of The Real McCoy Rum and hosted by The Mai-Kai. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker and founder of The Real McCoy Rum will discuss the history of rums during Prohibition along with the creation of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend. Guests can ask questions at the end of the presentation. [Facebook event]
An invitation to the Zoom event will be sent to anyone buying a bottle of the newly released Batch 131. It’s available at the restaurant for $64.20 (including tax). To order and arrange for pick-up, call marketing director Pia Dahlquist at (954) 646-8975 or email Pia@MaiKai.com. Unfortunately, you must pick up the rum in person. Shipping is not available. Those who bought a bottle of Batch 130 in April can also reach out to Pia to attend the event, which will include tastings of the rum.
The limited-edition glassware can be purchased along with the rum. The square shot glass ($10.70, including tax) and double old-fashioned rocks glass ($13.85) are both etched with The Mai-Kai logo and artwork. After picking up the new rum and glasses and enjoying the seminar, guests are invited to The Mai-Kai for National Rum Day on Aug. 16. A updated rum menu is now available featuring 49 different choices from The Mai-Kai’s “cellar,” including The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend. Scroll down for more on the new rum choices.
The Mai-Kai’s first branded rum is touted on the menu as a “single-blended Barbados rum, exceptionally smooth with unmistakable notes of toasted pecan, vanilla and wood spice, with a long, elegant finish.” It’s The Real McCoy’s latest partnership with an acclaimed Tiki bar after working with Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco on a similar 92-proof, 12-year-old rum in 2017.
But The Mai-Kai blend, created by Pryor and Foursquare master distiller and blender Seale, is a bit different than that rum as well as The Real McCoy’s flagship 12-year-old rum. The label, launched by Pryor in 2013 after his documentary on pioneering rum-runner Bill McCoy, also features 3-year-old and 5-year-old rums, all from Foursquare..
The Mai-Kai rum is a blend of rums from copper column and pot stills, aged in heavily charred American oak Bourbon barrels. As noted in our May blog post, it was produced at a higher proof than The Real McCoy’s 12-year-old single blended rum (92 vs. 80) and has more pot still rum in the blend. This “heavier” blend is a better fit with flavor profile of the rums used in The Mai-Kai’s signature cocktails, typically higher proof rums from Jamaica and Guyana.
But don’t expect The Mai-Kai blend to be used frequently in cocktails. It’s designed (and priced) as a “super premium” rum like its predecessors and presented that way on The Mai-Kai’s new menu (see below). But it would not be out of line to feature it in a Daiquiri or other simple and elegant cocktail that showcases the rum. We’ve featured a few of these below as well.
Previous coverage: The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend introduced
News and background on the April release, plus tasting notes.
SHOWDOWN OF THE 12-YEAR-OLD RUMS
Lacking a bottle of The Real McCoy’s standard 12-year-old rum to compare – as our friends at The Rum Traveler blog did [see video] – I took a different approach. My mind jumped immediately to another 12-year-old rum that is highly regarded as both a sipping and mixing rum, a longtime favorite at The Mai-Kai that appears in several highly-regarded cocktails.
Essentially, I wanted to know how The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend held up, both neat and in cocktails, against Appleton Estate 12-year-old Rare Blend (soon to be known as Reserve Casks) rum from Jamaica. Both come from well-respected distilleries and acclaimed master blenders in the English-speaking Caribbean’s two islands with the richest history of rum production.
There are distinct differences when you compare Barbados and Jamaican rums more broadly, but these two particular premium rums are closer than you might think. At 86 proof, the masterfully blended juice in the Appleton Estate flagship product is also aged in American oak Bourbon barrels and is a combination of column and pot still rums. After extensive tastings, I have no problem declaring it a virtual tie in my own informal rum ratings (3.7 out of 5). They’re easily distinguishable from each other, but both display the unmistakable characteristics of 12-year-old blended rums made with care and precision.
Appearance: Appleton 12 is slightly more amber in color than The Real McCoy, which is closer to a deep straw. When viewed more closely, the colors are less distinct.
Nose: Surprisingly very similar, with the Appleton displaying more pungency and The Real McCoy a sweeter aroma.
Taste: Appleton 12 displays more fruit in the flavor profile, typical of a Jamaican rum. I would also venture to say there’s more pot still rum in Appleton 12, which also appears to have a more complex blend of rums. The Real McCoy is distinctive for its extra heat, but that quickly diminishes as the oak and vanilla flavors wash over the palate. It’s not as sophisticated, but every bit as delicious.
As a mixing rum: The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend makes an outstanding classic Daiquiri. (Recipe: 2 ounces of rum, 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup; shaken and strained into a coupe.) The rum is perfectly balanced in the middle of the mix, not too dominant and completely complimentary to the sweet and sour elements. The lime and sugar actually enhance the rum, elevating it to a special place that makes me want to mix with it more.
I tried it in two classic Mai-Kai cocktails, the Shark Bite and Special Reserve Daiquiri (see recipes below). Both are showcases for Appleton 12, so they were the most obvious choices. The results were very positive, indeed, and I highly recommended these alternate versions.
Cost and availability notwithstanding, I wouldn’t hesitate to experiment with other classic cocktails, such as a Rum Old Fashioned or Planter’s Punch. But as my current bottle continues to evaporate, I’ll most likely savor what’s left alone in a glass. The new batch could not have come at a more opportune time.
If you’re interesting in hearing more from Pryor on his rum and his industry insights, you can catch him and The Real McCoy brand ambassador Nathan Hazzard on Tuesday’s Tiki by the Sea discussion on the Zavvy network of live streaming rum seminars. They will discuss “Transparency in Alcohol Labeling” along with Tiki by the Sea co-founder Peter Nevenglosky.
NEW SIPPING RUM MENU INTRODUCED
Also delayed by the pandemic was the debut of an updated and enhanced sipping rum menu, topped by The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend. It was originally planned to be included on a refreshed cocktail menu introduced in April, but those plans were shelved when Florida regulations kept The Mai-Kai in take-out mode until late May.
The new menu features 49 expressions, from Appleton Estate 12-Year to Zafra 21-Year. That’s a slight reduction from the 54 on the old menu, but the new list has been carefully curated to include better rums that are more in The Mai-Kai’s wheelhouse.
Notable new additions include Appleton Estate 21-Year (Jamaica), Dos Maderas Luxus (multi-island blend), El Dorado 12-, 15- and 21-Year (Guyana), Hamilton Navy Strength (multi-island blend), Mount Gay 1703 Master Select (Barbados), and Plantation Barbados XO. If your budget allows, you could put together a mighty fine flight of Barbados rums featuring those last two along with The Real McCoy 5 and the new Mai-Kai blend.
RELATED: More on The Rums of The Mai-Kai
* What we learned at Appleton master blender Joy Spence’s rum tasting
* The Atomic Grog presents The Rums of The Mai-Kai class and symposium at The Hukilau
* Demerara Rum – The Mai-Kai’s secret weapon
* The history of the potent, funky flavors from Guyana and Jamaica
BONUS RECIPES: Cocktails featuring Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend
The Real McCoy Shark Bite
(Tribute recipe by The Atomic Grog)
* 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
* 1 ounce rich sugar syrup
(2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
* 1 ounce The Real McCoy 5
* 1 ounce The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend
In a top-down mixer or blender, pulse everything except the 12-year-old Distillers Proof rum with about 6 ounces of crushed ice until frothy, around 4-5 seconds. Pour into a small, chilled glass and float The Mai-Kai Blend.
The modification: Our Shark Bite tribute recipe already calls for an ounce of gold Barbados rum, so using The Real McCoy 5 is right on point. Completing this Barbados rum tour de force, the Distillers Proof Blend replaces Appleton’s 12-year-old rum as the “side of danger” that’s floated on top after mixing.
Tasting notes: Not quite as funky as the Appleton 12 version but just as delicious, featuring a bit more heat and rummy aftertaste. You might notice the same woody notes that you detect while sipping The Mai-Kai Blend neat. The two rums blend well, as expected, and make for a nice alternative to an outstanding cocktail that’s ranked No. 2 in The Mai-Kai cocktail ratings.
* More on the Shark Bite: Full history and ancestor recipe
The Real McCoy Special Reserve Daiquiri
(Tribute recipe by The Atomic Grog)
* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce rich honey mix
(2 parts honey to 1 part water)
* 1/2 teaspoon fassionola or passion fruit syrup
* 2 ounces The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend
Pulse blend with 1/2 cup crushed ice for 3-5 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, preferably one with a custom ice shell. If not using the special ice feature, strain into a chilled coupe with a few ice cubes to simulate its chilling and dilution effect.
The modification : Swapping out the 86-proof, 12-year-old Jamaican rum from Appleton with the 92-proof, 12-year-old Barbados rum from The Real McCoy makes a lot of sense. Both are rich and smooth aged rums, but the extra heat is appreciated. Our Special Reserve Daiquiri tribute recipe is very close to what you’ll taste at The Mai-Kai, where they use proprietary syrups that are hard to duplicate. We recommend fassionola (either the Jonathan English or BG Reynolds brands), but feel free to use a rich passion fruit syrup if necessary.
Tasting notes: The slightly more potent rum gives this version a bit more kick. It’s tart and dry with hints of honey and fassionola. A true elevated Daiquiri.
* More on the Special Reserve Daiquiri: Full history and ancestor recipe
Previous coverage: Cocktail quarts join gallons as The Mai-Kai expands takeout menu
Full coverage of how The Mai-Kai is handling the pandemic, including behind-the-scenes photos.
MENU REDUCED, BUT THE MAI-KAI EXPERIENCE REMAINS
Among the many unfortunate economic disasters in the wake of the pandemic is the drastic downturn in the restaurant business. The Mai-Kai is one of the lucky ones. The landmark restaurant, which had never before shut its doors for so long since opening in 1956, was allowed to reopen on May 29. Since then, the owners and staff have been following all of the required state and local requirements, which include masks, social distancing and capacity reduced by 50 percent.
To offset the loss of on-site business, an ambitious and highly recommended takeout menu was rolled out during April, then expanded and refined in June and July. You can find our complete coverage, including exclusive photos and details on what’s available in our previous blog post. The pick-up menu includes a limited number of cocktails to go, both in gallon jugs and quart mason jars. Check the official website for the latest food and drink offerings for curbside pickup, which is available seven days a week. You can also arrange to pick up a bottle of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend and to-go cocktails after visiting The Molokai bar or dining rooms.
The restaurant remains busy during its peak hours, mainly due to the popularity of the Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. Performances that include music and dance from native islanders have been a staple of The Mai-Kai since the early 1960s. Combined with the vintage decor collected by original owners Bob and Jack Thornton, the historic cocktails that date back to the groundbreaking creations of Don the Beachcomber, plus the tasty Asian-fusion cuisine, The Mai-Kai remains a total sensory experience.
Check MaiKai.com for hours and showtimes. Call (954) 563-3272 or make reservations online. The restaurant and gift shop are open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. The Molokai bar opens for happy hour at 5 p.m. (4 p.m. on Saturdays) with half-priced drinks and appetizers until 7. There’s also a complementary socially-distanced sushi buffet every Wednesday from 5 to 9.
A byproduct of the reduced capacity and staff is a necessary downsizing of the menus. Many of the 47 tropical cocktails on The Mai-Kai’s long-running menu are complicated and labor-intensive to make. To be made properly, they require proprietary syrups and mixes, custom ice features, plus a full staff in the secluded back bars. As a result, during the pandemic, the cocktail menu has been replaced by a smaller version …
The Mai-Kai’s summer 2020 cocktail menu
The Mai-Kai’s slimmed-down cocktail menu (see above) includes 22 alcoholic drinks, omitting 25 from the regular, full menu. The non-alcoholic offerings were also cut from six to two. But if you have a favorite that’s missing, all hope is not lost. Cocktails from the regular menu may be available upon request. Please ask your server.
This could change, so check the online menu for updates. As a public service, here’s a list of all of the alcoholic drinks currently available, arranged according to our ratings in The Mai-Kai Cocktail guide. Included are links to the cocktail’s history, plus authentic, ancestor and tribute recipes.
RATINGS: The Mai-Kai’s summer 2020 cocktails
4 1/2 stars
3 1/2 stars
2 1/2 stars
21 – Mai-Kai Cappuccino
The Mai-Kai online store
The Mai-Kai Trading Post is the historic restaurant’s online version of its vast on-site gift shop, offering custom mugs, apparel, jewelry, Tikis, artist prints, menus, and more.
* The Mai-Kai gift certificates: Treat the special someone on your list
* The Mai-Kai Club: Get up to 50 percent off food, drinks and merchandise
The Mai-Kai official sites and social media
* MaiKai.com | MaiKaiTradingPost.com
Twitter | Facebook: Official page | Friends of The Mai-Kai group
Instagram: Restaurant | The Molokai bar | Trading Post
The Hukilau 2020: Virtual events honor 19th annual Tiki weekender, help those in need
Villagers paid homage to the canceled Tiki weekender with educational symposiums, a special virtual event at The Mai-Kai, plus more.
* See video replays, all of the activities
Hurricane Hayward on Inside the Desert Oasis Room
Listen to the “Covid Chronicles” episode recorded live with Adrian Eustaquio as The Atomic Grog blogger made his way to The Mai-Kai to pick up Gallons to Go. Also available on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.