Minimalist Tiki

UPDATE: Cocktail quarts join gallons as The Mai-Kai expands takeout menu

Updated Oct. 15, 2020

Safe and scary fun: Hulaween Drive-In Movie at The Mai-Kai on Oct. 30
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

The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum from The Real McCoy, plus new glassware and spirits menu
The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum, plus new glassware and spirits menu
The Fort Lauderdale restaurant hosts virtual seminar with The Real McCoy Rum creator Bailey Pryor. Also check out our 12-year-old rum showdown plus info on the summer cocktail menu.
Bonus recipes: The Real McCoy Shark Bite and Special Reserve Daiquiri


June 26 update

The Mai-Kai continues to adapt and adjust to meet guest demand after the historic Polynesian restaurant reopened less than a month ago amid Florida’s struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. Following the popularity of the cocktail “Gallons to Go,” locals can now pick up quarts of five different popular topical drinks.

The Hukilau, Mai Tai and three other classic Mai-Kai cocktails are now available for curbside pickup in 32-ounce jars in addition to gallon jugs. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Hukilau, Mai Tai and three other classic Mai-Kai cocktails are now available for curbside pickup in 32-ounce jars in addition to gallon jugs. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The 32-ounce glass mason jars were introduced during the special virtual event in honor of The Hukilau on the weekend of June 5-6. Online videos hosted at The Mai-Kai by Jupiter Jones and Retro Rekindled were streamed worldwide, but local guests had the added treat of picking up a special Beachbum Berry mug from sponsor Real Cocktail Ingredients, plus quarts and gallons of The Hukilau cocktail featuring Don Q Rum.

Since that event, the curbside pickup cocktail menu has been updated to include 32-ounce jars of the four favorites that had been available only in 128-ounce jugs, plus several variations of the classic Rum Barrel. The Hukilau has also remained on the expanded menu. The quarts are a great option, allowing smaller groups to partake, or larger groups to sample multiple cocktails. Planning a backyard Fourth of July bash? Look no further.

Here’s the takeout cocktail menu and pre-tax prices as of June 26:
* Barrel O’ Rum – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart
* Black Magic – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart
* The Hukilau – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart
* Jet Pilot – $122.90 gallon, $32.71 quart
* Mai Tai – $112.15 gallon, $32.71 quart
By request, if available:
* Coconut Barrel (rum) – $74.77 galllon, $23.37 quart
* Vodka Barrel – $74.77 gallon, $23.37 quart

Select Mai-Kai tropical drinks are available by the gallon
Select Mai-Kai tropical drinks are available by the gallon. (Mai-Kai photo)

Each quart contains at least four servings of the robust Barrel, Black Magic and The Hukilau, but even more of the Jet Pilot and Mai Tai, which are usually served in smaller glasses. The gallons include 15 servings at 8 1/2 ounces each, but you’ll get many more servings of the smaller drinks. All are great deals compared to the prices for single servings in the restaurant.

Of course, since May 29, guests have been able to enjoy happy hour in The Molokai Bar from opening until 7 p.m., featuing half-priced cocktails and appetizers. In addition, The Mai-Kai recently announced the return of the Wednesday night free sushi buffet. A minimum $10 bar tab comes with a complimentary buffet featuring sushi and other finger foods from 5 to 9 p.m.

As they have since the reopening, The Mai-Kai management and staff are taking extra precautions to keep guests safe. “Masks are required when approaching the buffet, there are clear lines on the floor keeping everyone 6 feet apart and guests do not serve themselves,” according to a June 24 announcement on Facebook.

The restaurant and attached bar have been operating in accordance with all state and local guidelines, going above and beyond with additional measures in sanitization, distancing, team wellness, and training. Face coverings are required for all guests when entering, according to the latest Facebook post (see below). “We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in keeping each other safe. Mahalo!”

Hurricane Hayward is greeted by manager Kern Mattei while picking up quarts of cocktails to go. (Atomic Grog photo)
Hurricane Hayward is greeted by manager Kern Mattei while picking up quarts of cocktails to go. (Atomic Grog photo)

The Mai-Kai has also announced an expanded schedule of its legendary Polynesian Islander Revue for the July Fourth weekend. Check the official website for hours and showtimes or call (954) 563-3272. Reservations are required and can be made either online or by phone. The restaurant and gift shop remain open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday.

However, if you’re not quite ready to venture out for a meal or just want to enjoy a taste of The Mai-Kai at home, there are penty of take-out options available every day. You can place an order online or by phone and schedule your pick-up time seven days a week:
Curbside pickup hours
Monday-Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday: 3 to 9 p.m.

Note that if you prefer to stay in your car, the staff will bring your order to you. Also, if you live close to the restaurant, you may be able to get delivery of food and beverages on Wednesdays through Sundays.

The menu is expansive, perfect for upcoming Fourth of July family festivities. In addition to cocktails, the wine list features more than a dozen different bottles. But for a full Polynesian feast, you need to explore the distinctive food menu, which includes a delicious mix of classic Tiki bar staples and modern Pan Asian cuisine. As of late June, the menu included 23 appetizers, 36 entrees, six side dishes, and four desserts.
Official website: Check for updates

The Hukilau 2020: A week of virtual events honor 19th annual Tiki weekender, help those in need
The Hukilau 2020: Virtual events honor 19th annual Tiki weekender, help those in need
Pay 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


Expanded hot food menu joins cocktail ‘Gallons to Go’ as The Mai-Kai reopens to guests
Updated June 3

The Mai-Kai announced on May 21 that it will reopen for guests under the latest coronavirus rules for restaurants in Broward County and the state of Florida on Friday, May 29.

The Mai-Kai will reopen on May 29 after closing since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)
The Mai-Kai will reopen on May 29 after closing since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)

“Of course, our guests’ and employees’ health and safety are our first priority,” the email announcement said. “We have met and surpassed all CDC guidelines and mandatory government-issued operational requirements and we’ve taken additional measures in sanitization, distancing, team wellness, and training. Please note when entering the restaurant face coverings are required and temperatures will be taken. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in keeping each other safe.”

Reservations for dinner only or dinner and the legendary Polynesian Islander Revue are required and can be made online at or by phone at (954) 563-3272. Delivery options are also available.

The Mai-Kai's online ordering

The Molokai Bar will be open for happy hour prices on The Mai-Kai’s famous tropical drinks and appetizers from opening until 7 p.m. with socially-distanced table seating only but no reservations required. Check the website for the latest info on opening days, hours and showtimes. The Mai-Kai’s gift shop will also be reopening to guests.

The Mai-Kai also announced that the extensive menu of takeout food, wine and cocktails will still be available, even after the May 29 opening. Check out all the details below on the signature appetizers, entrees and “Gallons to Go” of tropical drinks you can order by phone for curbside pickup. To make the experience even easier, The Mai-Kai has just launched a new online ordering platform accessible directly from


Original story:
Expanded hot food menu joins cocktail ‘Gallons to Go’ as The Mai-Kai plans reopening

Like many other bars and restaurants across Florida and the U.S., The Mai-Kai was forced to close its doors suddenly in March when the coronavirus pandemic caused a statewide shutdown. Sadly, the 63-year-old Polynesian palace had no more work for its extensive staff, from the cooks and bartenders to the sarong-clad Molokai Girls and performers in the Polynesian Islander Revue.

The Mai-Kai's Gallons to Go cocktail menu includes the Rum Barrel, Jet Pilot, Mai Tai and Black Magic
The Mai-Kai’s Gallons to Go cocktail menu includes the Rum Barrel, Jet Pilot, Mai Tai and Black Magic.

But the Fort Lauderdale landmark quickly found a unique way to give South Floridians a taste of its historic cocktails: Thirsty patrons hauled away hundreds of “Gallons to Go.” This curbside takeout program was a smash success, leading The Mai-Kai to release a limited edition rum, then later launch an ambitious menu of wines, meats and desserts for Mother’s Day.

Now, with the shutdown approaching eight weeks but with a reopening date on the horizon, The Mai-Kai has ramped up its takeout menu to include many favorites from its regular ala carte menu. You can pair your gallons of Rum Barrels and Mai Tais with hot appetizers, dinners and rice bowls.

Restaurants in Broward County will be allowed to reopen beginning Monday, May 18, but The Mai-Kai has not announced an opening date yet. “We are looking at the entire scenario and planning according to all rules for the safety of our guests and staff,” marketing director Pia Dahlquist said on Facebook. “Meanwhile, please enjoy our takeout food and favorite tropical Gallons to Go! And look for the announcement when we will re-open.”

The Mai-Kai’s takeout menu
Check the official website for the latest updates on pick-up hours plus new offerings.
Cocktails (Gallons to Go) | Food and desserts | Wines
On The Atomic Grog: The latest Mai-Kai news, plus our exclusive cocktail guide with 100+ recipes

With a 50 percent limit on capacity, among other restrictions, The Mai-Kai will certainly look to keep these curbside takeout offerings going even after the reopening. Judging by guest reaction, many hope they will remain permanently.

The Mai-Kai's new to-go menu

Said one comment in the Fans of The Mai-Kai Facebook group: “I am so impressed with what The Mai-Kai has come up with during these tough times. For a restaurant so steeped in tradition, they have surely thought outside the box to keep some revenue flowing. Their creative mindset is as stellar as ever! A lot of businesses could learn from them.”

Dahlquist said the success of the cocktails to go inspired management to increase the offerings. The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend, an exclusive new rum that was scheduled to launch at a special event in April, quickly sold out of its sneak preview allotment when it was added to the menu in April. [Check out our preview of the rum below] Then, on Mother’s Day weekend, bottles of wine (and signature glasses) joined the menu along with select meats and desserts to give Mom a proper holiday feast.

What’s even more impressive than the delicious selection of tropical fare is the fact that the entire operation has been run during the pandemic by a skeleton crew of mangers and owner Dave Levy. Like most others in the hospitality industry, The Mai-Kai faced the agonizing reality of having to let its entire staff of around 100 go. This was especially hard for the family-run establishment that prides itself on the loyalty of its employees, many of whom remain there for decades.

Now you can order Pupu Platters to pair with your Rum Barrels to go with The Mai-Kai's expanded take-out menu
Now you can order Pupu Platters to pair with your Rum Barrels to go with The Mai-Kai’s expanded take-out menu.

While we wait for news on the reopening, it’s a great time to take advantage of the extensive takeout menu and help support the owners and staff as they face another difficult task. We hope that the expanded food and cocktail offerings mean that some of the staff will be back in the kitchen and behind the bar and able to regain their salaries.

We look forward to a day in the not-too-distant future when we can once again enjoy a relaxing one-of-a-kind experience you can only get at The Mai-Kai, from the classic cocktails in The Molokai lounge to a quiet walk in the exotic Tiki garden, to dinner in one of the secluded and mysterious dining rooms, to a thrilling performance of the Polynesian Islander Revue. But in the meantime, we appreciate the ability to take a taste of The Mai-Kai home with us.

The menu of cocktails available for curbside pickup features the Barrel O’ Rum, Mai Tai, and Jet Pilot. Special requests can also be made for the Black Magic, plus the Coconut Barrel (a Barrel with coconut rum) and Vodka Barrel (with house or Absolut). The wine list features 25 different bottles (at 50 percent off regular prices).

And for the first time since closing in March, you can order appetizers and entrees direct from the kitchen. The menu features nine signature appetizers (pupu platter, crab rangoon, friend shrimp, etc.), 11 dinners (from Cantonese Shrimp to Ginger Garlic Lobster to USDA Prime Filet Mignon) and six rice bowls (with chicken, beef, shrimp and veggies). There are also four side dishes and four desserts.

The Mai-Kai's to-go menu includes 50 percent off bottles of wine, several pork tenderloin dishes, and a selection of desserts
The Mai-Kai’s to-go menu includes 50 percent off bottles of wine, several pork tenderloin dishes, and a selection of desserts.

You can also now order and pick up cocktails during an expanded window of office hours, seven days a week. Food is available for pick-up between 4 and 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Go to for all the info.

Members of The Mai-Kai Club also get the benefit of a 25 percent discount on all take-out food orders. You can join the club now for just $20 and continue your savings (up to 50 percent off food, drinks and merchandise) when The Mai-Kai reopens by clicking here.
* The Mai-Kai gift certificates: Treat the special someone on your list

More coverage below
Photos: Gallons to Go quench South Florida’s thirst for The Mai-Kai
Review: Exclusive new Mai-Kai rum introduced
Social media: Rum Barrel Challenge on Instagram

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 on social media
Twitter | Facebook: Official page | Friends of The Mai-Kai group
Instagram: Restaurant | The Molokai bar | Trading Post

The Mia-Kai Online Tiki Bingo Benefit
Aid for Mai-Kai employees
On May 7, an online Tiki bingo benefit raised $4,400 for employees of The Mai-Kai affected by the closing due to coronavirus. Players brought $10 bingo cards and played for donated prizes, including a Mai-Kai Club membership and other items from The Mai Kai. The check was presented by the event organizers to The Mai-Kai’s Pia Dahlquist (left) and Kern Mattei (right). (Photos from Facebook)

Support Tiki bars now by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers
UPDATES: Support Tiki bars by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers


Gallons To Go from The Mai-Kai

PHOTOS & RECAP: Gallons to Go quench South Florida’s thirst for The Mai-Kai

The Mai-Kai’s Gallons to Go take-out cocktail program launched on just one day – Friday, April 3 – and was an immediate success. Orders were received for more than 100 gallons during that initial three-hour pick-up window. Two weeks later, pick-ups were expanded to two days (April 17-18) and orders topped 200 gallons.

Manager Kern Mattei shows off the day's work: A full supply of Mai-Kai Rum Barrels to go. (April 15)
Manager Kern Mattei shows off the day’s work on April 15: A full supply of Mai-Kai Rum Barrels to go. (Mai-Kai photo)

The core offerings were four of the acclaimed bar’s most popular tropical cocktails: Barrel O’ Rum, Mai Tai, Jet Pilot and Piña Colada. Priced from $80 up to $131.50, the gallons are touted as serving around 15 drinks, a great value any way you slice it. A gallon yields more than 25 servings of the small but powerful Jet Pilot, so even at the top price point you’re getting a hell of a deal.

Word leaked out that the Black Magic was also available by special order, pleasing fans of that cult classic. In later weeks, guests could also order more mainstream offerings such as the Coconut Barrel, Vodka Barrel, and a virgin Pina Colada. The current menu is the same with the exception of the Piña Colada, which is temporarily not available.
Gallons to Go official menu: Click here to see that latest offerings

To meet the onslaught of orders, the bar staff had to kick into high gear in just a few days of production. By “staff” we really mean one hard-working bartender, the tireless Miles “Max” Vrahimis, who some readers may remember for his work with Lemon Hart Rum. He’s still a Lemon Hart rep, but Vrahimis has taken on his new role at The Mai-Kai with abandon, as you can see by the photos below.

ROUND THREE: Now a veteran at batching cocktails, bartender Max Vrahimis can pour multiple bottles of Lemon Hart 151 without even looking. (April 30)
Bartender Max Vrahimis pours Lemon Hart 151 into a batch of Jet Pilots on April 30. (Mai-Kai photo)

That’s not to say he didn’t have help. Owner Dave Levy and his management team were there running the show, and they also helped prep cocktails and orders. Kudos to director of sales and marketing Pia Dahlquist for personally handling all of the orders by phone and email. Manager Kern Mattei looked out-of-place without his usual dapper suit, but he and director of catering John Gelardi kept busy filling orders and helping Vrahimis in The Mai-Kai’s famous back bar.

The secret hidden lair behind the kitchen is also strategically located near the restaurant’s back door, which made production and distribution of the massive amount of cocktails just a bit smoother. After the first round of gallons, the two-week breather became necessary to secure more containers and gear up for the next round.

The reaction was immediate and overwhelming. The Mai-Kai closed its doors after service on March 25, so the ensuring weeks had built up quite a demand from its South Florida faithful. Social media posts boosted interest (see below), with envious fans from around the country inquiring hopefully if they could get gallons shipped to them.

The distance was not too much for many Floridians. Posts on social media included happy customers from as far away as Orlando and St. Augustine showing off their Gallons to Go. I joined the fray during the second round, on April 17, recording my journey for an episode of the Inside the Desert Oasis Room podcast:

Hurricane Hayward on Inside the Desert Oasis Room
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.

I had ordered a gallon of Black Magic and a bottle of the new 2-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend rum, produced by The Real McCoy and launched that weekend along with the Gallons to Go. But much to my surprise, Levy treated me to a gallon of Rum Barrels, and my destiny was sealed. I spent the next two weeks enjoying the cocktails and rum in the privacy of my own home bar.

Full disclosure: I shared my booty with an equally fanatic Mai-Kai cocktail aficionado [see photo]. The rum remains in my possession, however, and will continue to be enjoyed slowly until I can secure another bottle. Check out further details on the rum below.

Safely ensconced at The Atomic Grog on April 17, Hurricane Hayward can't wait to mix up Black Magic and Rum Barrel cocktails, then taste the new 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend from The Real McCoy. (Atomic Grog photo)
Safely ensconced at The Atomic Grog on April 17, Hurricane Hayward can’t wait to mix up Black Magic and Rum Barrel cocktails, then taste the new 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend from The Real McCoy. (Atomic Grog photo)

Both Gallons to Go were outstanding and representative of what was until recently only served fresh to most guests in The Molokai bar and dining rooms at The Mai-Kai. In fact, the Black Magic was one of the best versions of that classic and complex cocktail that I’ve ever tasted. Vrahimis told me that even though he was batching up huge portions, he went to great lengths to make sure he followed the original recipes as closely as possible. He claims to have taste-tested every batch for quality. That’s dedication!

Those original recipes, of course, date back to The Mai-Kai’s opening in 1956, when master mixologist Mariano Licudine was hired away from Don the Beachcomber in Chicago to help brothers Bob and Jack Thornton open their dream Polynesian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Together, they carried on the tradition of secret recipes and ingredients (such as mix #7 in the Black Magic), which continues to this day. Vrahimis doesn’t even know exactly what #7 contains, but he sure makes an impressive batch of Black Magics.

The Black Magic gallon I brought home was rich, bold and spicy with the sharp citrus perfectly balanced by strong coffee and rum flavors, a healthy dash of allspice making it a complete package. While not as mysterious, Licudine’s version of Don’s Rum Barrel is The Mai-Kai’s signature drink and easily the most popular. It’s a rich and robust citrus-forward rum punch with plenty of nuanced flavors, led by a dark Jamaican rum blend with its own mysterious history.

After bottling, the Gallons to Go need to be labeled. (April 15)
After bottling, the Gallons to Go are labeled for customers on April 15. (Mai-Kai photo)

I’m sure the other gallons are just as outstanding. You see, batching up large amounts of their tropical drinks is not a new concept at The Mai-Kai. For quite a few years, we’ve enjoyed large batches during presentations at The Hukilau by Tim “Swanky” Glazner, author of Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, as well as other special events.

What most people might not know is The Mai-Kai has a robust banquet and catering business. Check out the new website and you’ll find a large menu of such offerings, both on- and off-site. Upon request, large batches of popular cocktails can be provided. In this new age of social distancing, these private parties have a whole new appeal.

Whatever drink you bring home, I’d suggest going the extra step to pulse blend with crushed ice before serving, just as they do at the bar. If you have the proper mugs, glassware and garnish, all the better. And If you aren’t throwing a small party or sharing with friends, don’t worry, you can still enjoy the gallon for an extended period. The shelf life for these batched cocktails is longer than you might think.

The Gallons to Go of the Rum Barrel and Black Magic were good to the last drop
The Gallons to Go of the Rum Barrel and Black Magic were good to the last drop. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2020)

Over the years, The Mai-Kai has perfected these large-volume orders and tells guests that gallons should stay fresh for two weeks if kept cold. I can verify this, and then some. After three weeks, the remnants of my Black Magic gallon were still very much worth drinking. It remained rich and spicy with no signs of citrus past its prime. The Barrel, while not as bright and citrusy, still retained all its signature flavors and was perhaps even more rummy.

The secret might lie in the signature juices, which aren’t squeezed in-house but rather come freshly bottled from Florida groves via a local citrus provider. They’re non-pasteurized and contain no preservatives, but they’re designed to retain their consistency and flavor for several weeks.

A side benefit of having such easy access to mass quantities of Mai-Kai cocktails in my fridge was, of course, the opportunity fine-tune the recipes featured in The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide. The Black Magic had been tweaked recently, but I knew it needed another update. And the Rum Barrel has long been in need of a tribute recipe that comes closer to the current version than the decades old (but still excellent) recipe that I had gleaned from an old Beachbum Berry book. I hope you enjoy the results …

Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Black Magic emerges from the darkness as a true classic
Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Black Magic emerges from the darkness as a true classic
Inspired by one of The Mai-Kai’s Gallons To Go, we’ve mixed up a new version of this classic Tiki cocktail.

The Atomic Grog's tribute to The Mai-Kai's Barrel O' Rum, as seen on The Trader Brandon Transmissions
The Atomic Grog joins The Trader Brandon Transmissions
VIDEO, RECIPE: Watch the live interview, see Hurricane Hayward mix up the new Barrel O’ Rum tribute, see the recipe.


PHOTOS: Gallons to Go at The Mai-Kai
(Click on thumbnails to see larger images)
Photos by The Mai-Kai unless noted

Gallons to Go on social media

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Does it get any better? @markzaden @the_maikai_restaurant #rumbarrel #tiki #southflorida

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* Instagram: More #maikaigallons and #gallonstogo


The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend

EXCLUSIVE NEW RUM: The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend

In addition to curbside cocktails, guests were able to pick up a new aged rum that was blended and bottled exclusively for The Mai-Kai, starting April 17. The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend, aged and blended in Barbados and bottled at 92 proof, was a huge success and quickly sold out of its initial shipment.

The signature rum, the first of its kind ever produced for The Mai-Kai, was scheduled to be revealed at a presentation and tasting event on April 16 hosted by The Real McCoy’s owner, Bailey Pryor. It was designed as a special release to be available by the bottle only in The Mai-Kai’s gift shop. That plan will still be fulfilled eventually, and it will also be available on a new sipping rum menu.

The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend (92 proof) is a product of Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. (Photo provided by The Mai-Kai)
The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend (92 proof) is a product of Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. (Photo Credit: © Mai-Kai)

But with the state and nation shut down by the coronavirus, The Mai-Kai moved forward with sales of the rum as a huge perk for those able to make a curbside pick-up. By early May, the initial supply had been depleted but guests seeking the rum are encouraged to email marketing director Pia Dahlquist and be added to a waiting list for the next shipment.

I was one of the lucky ones who picked up a bottle, documented in my Inside the Desert Oasis Room podcast appearance. Priced at $64.20 (including tax), it came with a special Mai-Kai tumbler you’ll see in some of the photos. I’ll share my initial tasting notes here and look forward to further explorations.

But first, the facts and a little background:

William McCoy was one of the first rum runners, famous for smuggling the outlawed booze into the United States during Prohibition. Unlike other bootleggers, he refused to water down his stash in order to make more money, leading to the popular term “the real McCoy” becoming attached to his rum before it became part of the pop culture lexicon. McCoy’s fascinating story was documented in 2012 by award-winning filmmaker Bailey Pryor.
* Watch The Real McCoy documentary on

The Real McCoy made its debut at the Miami Rum Festival in 2013
The Real McCoy made its debut at the Miami Rum Festival in 2013. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Pryor’s research into the life and times of this historic figure, and the integrity of those authentic spirits, inspired him to start The Real McCoy Spirits in 2013. All of The Real McCoy rums are produced at the acclaimed Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and are a blend of pot- and column-still rums. In the spirit of Bill McCoy (and following Barbados standards), no sugar or coloring is added to the rums.

The Real McCoy rums are made in small batches and single-distilled, then aged in American oak Bourbon barrels for a minimum of three, five or 12 years. My collection includes the 3-year-old and 5-year-old rums, both regular weapons in my cocktail arsenal and highly recommended. But I don’t have a bottle of the 12-year-old Single Blended Rum, the brand’s 80-proof “super premium” entry and starting point for The Mai-Kai’s special blend. It’s known to be exceptionally smooth, mature and balanced with complex wood and spice notes on the palate. Like many aged Barbados rums, it pleases a wide spectrum of drinkers with its caramel overtones, hints of orange, and soft finish.

This is not the first time The Real McCoy has teamed up with a famous Tiki bar to produce a limited edition, 12-year-old rum. In 2017, rum expert and bar owner Martin Cate collaborated with Pryor and master distiller Richard Seale to produce The Real McCoy 12-year-old Smuggler’s Cove Limited Edition. Also bottled at 92 proof, it was billed as a “double-barrel blend” featuring rums from just two ex-Bourbon barrels.

The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend is great as a sipping rum or mixed in a premium Daiquiri
The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend is great as a sipping rum or mixed in a premium Daiquiri. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, April 2020)

Like all of The Real McCoy’s rums, The Mai-Kai blend was created by Pryor and Foursquare’s Seale. And, like the other 12-year-old releases, it’s a combination of rums from copper column and pot stills, blended with spring water and aged in heavily charred American oak Bourbon barrels. It’s being touted as “exceptionally smooth with notes of vanilla and wood spice and a long elegant finish.”

The Mai-Kai rum is a unique blend at a higher ABV and possessing more pot still rum than the traditional rums from The Real McCoy. The Mai-Kai worked carefully with Pryor and Foursquare to create a “heavier” blend, presumably to be reminiscent the Jamaican rums found in the historic bar’s Tiki cocktails. To achieve this, sources tell me, they used more pot still rum aged in virgin oak casks. The virgin oak imparts more intense lignin and tannins from the wood than a cask that was previously used for Bourbon.

Our friends at the Rum Traveler website treated us to a comparison of The Real McCoy’s 12-year-old Single Blended Rum vs. the 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend in a video review. South Florida residents and regulars at many rum events as well as The Mai-Kai, Myssi Davis and Joe Horstkamp posted the video shortly after picking up their bottle:

Myssi and Joe agree that the 92-proof blend is quite different than the regular blend. They recognized the difference in the barrels, noting that there was less smoky char in The Mai-Kai blend. They also said they appreciate its sweet tobacco finish and seemed to prefer it to the regular 80-proof blend.

My take: This is one of my favorite new sipping rums. I appreciate the unadulterated nature of the spirit, like many of the aged Foursquare rums. I love the strong oak and vanilla flavors, as well as the sophistication of the blend. The intended “heaviness” is apparent, not in a funky Jamaican sense but in a more approachable Barbados style. While not priced to be a traditional mixing rum, it could certainly be used effectively in premium cocktails.

Coming soon: Check back for news on the next shipment of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend. We’ll post more tasting notes, including a head-to-head comparison with The Mai-Kai’s longstanding favorite 12-year-old rum. We’ll also put it through the paces in a few cocktails, and we’ll have a sneak preview of the new sipping rum menu.

Okole maluna!

The Hukilau hits the road to spread aloha, benefit closed Tiki bars
The Hukilau hits the road to benefit closed Tiki bars
The tour will include The Mai-Kai, other stops across U.S., plus The Hukilau London in October.


Quarantiki cocktails: Rum Barrel Challenge on Instagram

While stay-at-home restrictions kept many of us away from The Mai-Kai, it didn’t stop fans worldwide from whipping up cocktails in their home bar to pay tribute. In recognition of this, The Mai-Kai created the “Rum Barrel Challenge” @the_maikai_molokaibar on Instagram, asking home bartenders to show off their Rum Barrel mugs.

Only one requirement: The photos had to adhere to a “marooned” theme (plus the hashtag #maikairumbarrelchallenge). The competitors were so creative, three winners were named. All received special Mai-Kai goodies as prizes.

Here’s the announcement plus all the participants:



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Isolation cocktail for 3/25/20: While #marooned here on my own personal desert island (which is far from dry), I decided to tackle rhe @theatomicgrog tribute to the @the_maikai_restaurant Black Magic cocktail, which is a trademarked drink created in the 1950s by head barman Mariano Licudine (who was a former Don the Beachcomber bartender). It’s a LARGE cocktail volume-wise, has a whopping 2+ standard shots of booze (mostly dark rums) and is normally served in an oversized snifter glass, which I do not own. Coincidentally, one of the only vessels I DO have big enough to contain it is a Mai Kai rum barrel that I purchased at the famous Fort Lauderdale tiki mecca last year during the first ever @tikibytheseanj alumni event. It was in their Molokai bar that my tiki pal @doc_parks let me have a taste of his Black Magic. I was all about it. I’m a HUGE fan of coffee flavors in tiki drinks (several of my favorite original tiki drinks contain coffee) so I was effectively all in. Recipe as follows:? ? BLACK MAGIC? •3/4 ounce orange juice? •3/4 ounce lime juice? •3/4 ounce white grapefruit juice? •3/4 ounce rich honey mix (2:1, honey:water)? •1/2 ounce Don’s Mix (a 2:1 blend of grapefruit and cinnamon syrup)? •1 1/2 ounces strong, dark roast coffee, freshly brewed, then chilled? •1 1/2 ounces Coruba dark Jamaican rum? •1 1/2 ounces Kohala Bay rum clone (see notes below)? •1 teaspoon St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram? •2 dashes Angostura bitters? ? Pour all ingredients into a shaker tin with about a cup of crushed ice and blend (ideally with a spindle blender, but a standard kitchen one will do). 5-10 seconds or until nice and frothy. Add to your glass or mug and add more crushed ice to fill. The traditional garnish at the Mai Kai is a long twist of orange peel. ? **Kohala Bay Clone** -Half El Dorado 12yr -Half Smith & Cross #tiki #tikidrink #tikidrinks #tikibar #maikai #rumlife #rhumlife #tikibartender #tikiaf #hukilau #blackmagic #maitai #rum #rhum #tropicalcocktails #cocktail #cocktails #craftcocktails #maikairumbarrelchallenge

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Marooned… with all the essentials. #maikairumbarrelchallenge #maikai #molokaibar #stayhome #tp @the_maikai_molokaibar

A post shared by Aaron Chapnick (@achapnick) on

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Marooned, but in good spirits!#maikairumbarrelchallenge #tikicocktails #maikairestaurant

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Castaways at the Shipwreck Lagoon #maikairumbarrelchallenge

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We know everyone is stuck at home under quarantine, so we want to make your home time a little more interesting. This is a photo challenge, so we want everyone to break out those Mai Kai Rum Barrel Mugs off your desks and shelves and share your best pic of that mug right here on instagram. Well not just any pic, there’s a theme here and for this challenge the theme is “marooned”. That’s it. Now, get your phones and cameras out and have fun, get creative, tag us and use the hashtag #maikairumbarrelchallenge We’re going to review the pics and pick our favorite on Sunday night to win some Mai Kai goodies. #maikairumbarrelchallenge #maikairestaurant #picturechallenge #quarantiki #maikai #molokaibar #fortlauderdale #florida

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