Many folks skip right over The Mai-Kai’s “mild” cocktails, heading straight for the medium-strength classics and high-octane strong drinks on the voluminous menu. But that would be a mistake.
There are many tasty cocktails on the less-intense side of the menu, including the Samoan Grog, one of the top picks among all the “mild” drinks. In the case of this and several others, “mild” is a misnomer.
Sure, it contains less alcohol than some of its stronger brethren, but the Samoan Grog packs quite a punch with its complex, exotic flavor profile. And like more than half the drinks on the menu, it’s a descendant of a Don the Beachcomber classic, the Colonial Grog (see ancestor recipe below).
Original Mai-Kai mixologist Mariano Licudine had a knack for turning old-school Don the Beachcomber cocktails from the 1930s and ’40s into sweeter, more accessible Mai-Kai staples. Sometimes, like in this example, all it took was a few simple tweaks.
This cocktail is also an example of how research into the link between Don the Beachcomber and The Mai-Kai can sometimes take a few twists and turns. It was originally thought that the Samoan Grog was a descendant of Don’s Own Grog, a similar drink that appeared in Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari in 2007. That drink dated back to to the 1930s, when Licudine worked at the flagship Don the Beachcomber location in Hollywood. So I was fairly certain that this had to be the inspiration for The Mai-Kai’s mild drink, which has been on the menu since opening day in 1956.
But luckily Jeff “Beachbum” Berry continues to unearth long-lost recipes (and puts them in some great books). His latest tome, Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them (Cocktail Kingdom), includes another deep dive into the legacy and history of Donn Beach (as Don the Beachbomber was known), among many others.
And right there in the middle of Chapter 5 is a full page dedicated to the Colonial Grog, which bears a striking resemblance to the Samoan Grog. Not surprisingly, this circa 1944 (previously unpublished) recipe comes from the private papers of Mariano Licudine, who worked at Don the Beachcomber from 1939 to 1956. You’ll find the recipe below, along with instructions on how to make its unique ice shell.
The Samoan Grog may not get the attention of its stronger cohorts on The Mai-Kai menu, but it’s a classic example of cocktail history in a glass.