Modern Caribbean Rum

Cocktails reach new heights of creativity at Miami Rum Festival

Miami Rum Festival Cocktail WeekFueled by the first Miami Cocktail Week, mixologists upped their game at the 2014 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April, presenting new and classic drinks with a modern flair. From the full week of events hosted by area bars, to the three-day Grand Tasting exhibits attended by more than 10,000 enthusiasts, there were plenty of opportunities to sample some of the best rum drinks being created today.

This story covers my search for the tastiest and most creative cocktails of the entire week. Click here for an overview of the festival and reviews of the best rums.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival was held April 25-27 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. Miami Cocktail Week was April 21-27 at venues throughout South Florida.
See recipes below: Don Q Cocktail | Miami Swizzle | Passion Fontaine | Good Head
Jump below: The Grand Tastings | The Top 10 cocktails
Related coverage: Upstart spirits share spotlight with major players at Miami Rum Fest
Atomic Grog photo gallery | RumXP International Tasting Competition results

Matt Robold pours Plantation Rum as he mixes up Caña Rum Bar cocktails
Matt Robold pours Plantation Rum as he mixes up Caña Rum Bar cocktails at The Broken Shaker on Monday, April 21. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

THE PRE-PARTIES: Cocktail Week kicks off

It’s fitting that the first event of the week was held at Miami Beach’s The Broken Shaker, one of the most acclaimed cocktail bars in South Florida. But this was not just an ordinary evening at the funky indoor/outdoor bar, which would have been just fine. I did manage to squeeze in one of the establishment’s carefully hand-crafted rum cocktails before I left, but the main attraction of the evening was the pop-up bar sponsored by Plantation Rum and featuring mixologists from Caña Rum Bar in Los Angeles. [See the flyer]

There were four complimentary drinks [see menu] expertly mixed by Daniele Crouch and Matt Robold, aka Rumdood. This was no easy task considering the temporary bar set up on the patio, not far from the pingpong table and quite a distance from any traditional bar fixtures and plumbing. But the drinks were spot-on, made to order and consummately garnished. This pair deserves an award for most impeccably produced drinks under strenuous circumstances. I noticed Rumdood sweating in the Miami heat, but he and Daniele never lost their cool. My only complaint would be that they ran out of their homemade peach cordial before I could try the Gypsy Cab cocktail, which got high marks from the folks I talked to.

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Minimalist Tiki

Mai-Kai cocktail review: Tiki Swizzle bows out, joins list of ‘lost cocktials’

Updated June 2018
See below: Our Tiki Swizzle review | UPDATE: Official recipe
Related: New cocktail menu unveiled at anniversary party | Mai-Kai cocktail guide
NEW: The Mai-Kai updates bar menu, adds classic ‘lost’ cocktail

In 2014, when The Mai-Kai rolled out the first major update of its classic menu of tropical drinks in decades, it also made the rare introduction of a new cocktail. The Tiki Swizzle also held the distinction of being the only drink on the menu to feature spiced rum.

The Tiki Swizzle in September 2016. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Tiki Swizzle in September 2016. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Unfortunately, the Tiki Swizzle’s a run on the menu didn’t last long. It was removed during the next major menu update in May 2018, replaced by the iconic Suffering Bastard.

While four years may be a long run on a menu at a modern craft cocktail bar, it’s merely the blink of an eye at The Mai-Kai. Most of the drinks have been on the menu for decades, and a majority date back more than 60 years to the restaurant’s 1956 inception.

The Tiki Swizzle now joins a small group of “lost cocktails” that were removed from the menu over the years. While certainly not as iconic as the Demerara Float or Liquid Gold, it does have a back-story and history that connects it to the current Tiki revival.

The drink was introduced at The Hukilau in June 2013, created by The Mai-Kai for Kahakai Tiki rum. It was promoted in the months that followed on special table cards in The Molokai bar and proved to be so popular that it made its way onto the revamped menu.

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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.

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Lost cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Classic Daiquiri lost favor when Cuba fell, but influence endures

Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Classic Daiquiri lost favor when Cuba fell, but influence endures

Updated August 2023
See below: Cuban Daiquiri review | NEW: Official Mai-Kai recipe
Related: The Derby Daiquiri: The Mai-Kai’s ‘$100,000 drink’ is worth its weight in gold UPDATED
* The story of the Floridita Daiquiri rivals any novel
More Mai-Kai Daiquiris: Special Reserve Daiquiri | Banana Daiquiri | Strawberry Daiquiri
* Mai-Kai cocktail guide | More “lost cocktails”
* More Daiquiri recipes | Cocktail Recipes, A through Z

The humble Daiquiri is arguably the most definitive rum cocktail, perhaps even the prototype for the 20th century tropical drink explosion. It influenced Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic, and countless others who followed in their footsteps.

Cuba’s most famous cocktail can be traced back to the late 1800s, but the simple combination of rum, lime and sugar was not groundbreaking. Martinique and Guadeloupe had the Ti Punch while Jamaica had its Planters Punch. An argument can be made that this intoxicating combination was invented on the high seas in the 1700s, when the British Navy introduced Grog to its sailors.

A vintage image from a Don the Beachcomber menu.
A vintage image from a Don the Beachcomber menu.

In this pantheon, the Daiquiri is distinctive for its precise craft and the clean, crisp rum of its homeland. In Potions of the Caribbean: 500 Years of Tropical Drinks and the People Behind Them (2014), Jeff “Beachbum” Berry praised the Daiquiri as the most perfectly balanced of all the rum-lime-sugar proto-cocktails.

Though deeply linked to Cuba, the Daiquiri was actually invented by an American engineer, Jennings Cox, who ran a mining company in the small village of Daiquiri during the Spanish-American War. The original was more like a punch, batched and served over crushed ice. It was not reconfigured into a single cocktail, strained into an empty coupe, until around 1913, after Cox’s death

That’s when the Daiquiri really began to take off. Its popularity grew from a local favorite to a destination drink for tourists who flocked to the Caribbean island’s legendary bars such as Havana’s La Floridita, especially during Prohibition. It also caught the attention of Facundo Bacardi, who used the simple drink to promote his expanding rum empire.

A vintage Bacardi ad from Cuba. Havana's La Floridita and owner/bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert became known worldwide for perfecting the craft of the Daiquiri.
A vintage Bacardi ad from Cuba. Havana’s La Floridita and owner/bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert became known worldwide for perfecting the craft of the Daiquiri.

It’s likely that both Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber) and Victor Bergeron (aka Trader Vic) ran across the Daiquiri during their travels in the Caribbean before opening their bars in California that kick-started the Tiki cocktail craze in the 1930s.

Their menus are loaded with Daiquiris, much like The Mai-Kai. Open since 1956, the South Florida historic landmark still features many drinks that can be traced back to Donn Beach, such as the Special Reserve Daiquiri.

There’s also a blended classic (Floridita Daiquiri) and an acclaimed original creation of mixologist Mariano Licudine, the Derby Daiquiri.

Of all the Daiquiris that appeared on a Mai-Kai menu, the Cuban Daiquiri is the only one that faded into the history books. It was an opening-day drink in 1956, but it likely became a victim of the era’s political upheaval, not to mention the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba that began in 1960 and lasts to this day.

The Mai-Kai's 1956-57 menu, which featured the Cuban Daiquiri (upper right).
The Mai-Kai’s 1956-57 menu, which featured the Cuban Daiquiri (upper right).

Before the 1958 revolution, Mai-Kai owners Bob and Jack Thornton were known to take weekend jaunts to the island aboard a private plane. They brought back rare bottles of Cuban rum, which can still be found displayed in the restaurant’s back bar (see photo below).

The Derby Daiquiri took the Cuban Daiquiri’s place on the menu in 1959. It was revived during a menu expansion in the early 1970s, but it was removed for good in the 1980s and became largely forgotten.

The Daiquiri was sullied during the cocktail dark ages of the late 20th century by cheap imitations and dreaded frozen slushie-style machines. But the classic recipe maintained a quiet dignity. The traditional Daiquiri has seen an amazing resurgence during the 21st century craft and Tiki cocktail revival.

Continue reading “Lost cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Classic Daiquiri lost favor when Cuba fell, but influence endures”

Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Search for authentic recipe strikes Liquid Gold

Updated June 2017
See below: Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe | Liquid Gold review
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | More “lost cocktails” | Tropical drink family tree
Liquid Gold returns for Flashback Friday in June 2017

Most classic cocktails at the venerable Mai-Kai Polynesian restaurant – both existing and retired – are descendants of Prohibition-era Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber. But even when it’s clear which drink is the ancestor, it can become a challenge to pinpoint the correct version.

Beachcomber's Gold

This tendency of Don the Beachcomber namesake Donn Beach to create multiple versions of the same drink became a point of frustration for tropical drink historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry as more and more historic recipes turned up. One of the most confusing cases is that of Beachcomber’s Gold. Berry devotes five pages in his 2010 book, Remixed, to this dilemma and explores three different recipes.

All three are authentic and represent different eras in Beach’s career. Our task was to find the one that was most likely known best by original Mai-Kai mixologist Mariano Licudine when he created the restaurant’s 1956-57 menu and a drink called Liquid Gold. We also sought the drink that fit The Mai-Kai’s distinctive cocktail style.

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Mai-Kai cocktail review: True origins of a lost classic, the Island Queen, are revealed

Updated April 2, 2013
See below: Our Island Queen review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | More “lost cocktails”

Over the course of more than 50 years, the outstanding tropical drinks at The Mai-Kai restaurant have proved to be both enduring and mysterious. And some of the biggest mysteries involve those “lost classics” that no longer appear on the menu, such as the Island Queen.

Queen's Road Cocktail

I thought I had this mystery solved, posting this review last week declaring the drink a rare original concoction by the late, great Mai-Kai mixologist Mariano Licudine. But it appears I was out-sleuthed by another master, Tiki bar historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. As the Bum correctly pointed out soon after I published the original Island Queen review, it bears a striking resemblance to Don the Beachcomber’s Queen’s Road Cocktail, which appears in his excellent 2007 book, Sippin’ Safari. (Be sure to read the chapter on Licudine and The Mai-Kai.)

So after further research (see ancestor recipe below), the genealogy of the Island Queen has been updated to include it on the long list of Mai-Kai cocktails that are retooled versions of classics created in the 1930s and ’40s by Tiki bar pioneer Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber. The updated Mai-Kai family tree now lists a total of 40 drinks (including 31 on the current menu) that can be traced back to Beach, who originally hired Licudine at his Hollywood, Calif., flagship restaurant back in 1939. Prior to that, Licudine spent five years as a private chauffeur and personal mixologist for the legendary Laurel and Hardy comedy team.

Continue reading “Mai-Kai cocktail review: True origins of a lost classic, the Island Queen, are revealed”

Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: The late Dr. Fong has a funky and famous history

Updated March 2024
See below: Ancestor recipes UPDATED | Tribute recipe | Dr. Fong review
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | More “lost cocktails” | Tropical drink family tree

The concept of a “Polynesian” cocktail is somewhat of a misnomer. While most tropical drinks have names and imagery that recall Polynesia, most are actually Caribbean rum concoctions reinvented by American restaurateurs. One notable exception is the distinctive Doctor Funk, also sometimes known as Dr. Fong.

Bernhard Funk
The real Doctor Funk (from The Cyclopedia of Samoa, via TikiCentral.com)

Doctor Funk was an actual person as well as a real Polynesian drink. Born in 1844 in Germany, Dr. Bernhard Funk migrated to Samoa around 1881 and was reputedly the first medical practitioner in the capital city. He became friends with Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and was the bedside doctor when Stevenson died in 1894 in Samoa.

Dr. Funk was not only a skilled doctor but also a mixologist of some note. The Doctor Funk was a notorious drink that became known throughout the region. It was mentioned by travel writer Frederick O’Brien (1869-1932) in his books White Shadows in the South Seas (1919) and Mystic Isles of the South Seas (1921). The latter calls the drink “a portion of absinthe, a dash of grenadine – a syrup of the pomegranate fruit, the juice of two limes, and half a pint of siphon water.” It was apparently served by the doctor as a “medicinal tonic.”

Doctor Funk
From a Don the Beachcomber menu.

Dr. Funk thrived in Samoa, marrying the daughter of a chief, but health problems caused him to return to Germany, where he died in 1911. After his death, a granite stone was placed in his honor on the shore of the mysterious Lake Lanoto’o in Samoa, where Funk had built a health resort. The secluded lake still contains goldfish, illegally introduced to Samoa by Dr. Funk. For a lot more on the life and times of Bernhard Funk, check out this great research on Tiki Central by Sven Kirsten (bigbrotiki), Tom Duncan (TikiTomD), and many others.

A drink this legendary and rooted in the South Pacific was perfect fodder for Tiki bar pioneers Donn Beach (Don the Beachcomber) and Victor Bergeron (Trader Vic’s). Both created Doctor Funk cocktails in the 1930s and ’40s with pretty much the same flavor profile. But over the years there became so many different versions by Beach, Bergeron and many others, it became impossible to pinpoint a definitive “original” version.

The Dr. Fong cocktail returned to The Mai-Kai in September 2016 during a special event celebrating the release of the book ‘Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant.’ (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Dr. Fong cocktail returned to The Mai-Kai in September 2016 during a special event celebrating the release of the book ‘Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant.’ (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Doctor Funk also inspired variations with names such as Dr. Fong and Dr. Wong. Many of these became synonymous with the (now somewhat politically incorrect) Fu Manchu-style Tiki mug that was widely produced in the mid-century. Restaurants across the country simply invented their own drinks called Doctor Funk or Dr. Fong to go into the mug (see “bilge” at the very bottom of this review).

When The Mai-Kai opened in 1956, the menu included a Dr. Fong cocktail based on one of the Don the Beachcomber versions of Doctor Funk. This is where bartender Mariano Licudine worked for nearly 20 years, mixing the drinks that became the template for most of the original 1956-57 Mai-Kai menu.

Luckily for us, Tiki historian and author Jeff “Beachbum” Berry has over the past 15 years decade published two of Beach’s Doctor Funk recipes, which I’ve included below. In 2016, thanks to another author, guests at The Mai-Kai were finally able to taste the authentic Dr. Fong after an absence of more than 40 years.

Dr. Fong was featured on a special lost cocktails menu in September 2016 during the book release party for Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant by Tim “Swanky” Glazner.

The special event also featured several other long-lost cocktails (Hanalei Bay and the Demerara Float) plus two days of gatherings of Mai-Kai enthusiasts from across the country.

Dr. Fong, August 2017

The book chronicles the history of the iconic restaurant, named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. [Pick up a copy on Amazon]

Dr. Fong returned again in August 2017 as part of The Mai-Kai’s monthly Flashback Friday promotion, including a special new recipe. See more below under the Tribute recipe notes.

Continue reading “Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: The late Dr. Fong has a funky and famous history”

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

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)

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.

Continue reading “Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: Take a trip back to Hanalei Bay”

Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: A little patience yields the resurrection of a vestal Virgin

Updated January 2017
See below: Impatient Virgin review | Ancestor recipe | Tribute recipes
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide | More “lost cocktails” | Tropical drink family tree

The Impatient Virgin makes its return after decades in retirement at the Lost Cocktails Party in June 2013
The Impatient Virgin makes its return after decades in retirement at the Lost Cocktails Party in June 2013. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

When the original review of this “lost cocktail” was posted, it was just the second in a series that I hoped would shed just a little bit of light on some classic drinks that were retired from The Mai-Kai’s menu over the years and largely forgotten. Little did I know that nine months later, the light would be shining brightly on this and two other recipes returned from the vault for a special event at the conclusion of The Hukilau 2013.

More than three years later, at The Mai Kai’s 60th anniversary party, the same three cocktails returned from the vault once again to be enjoyed by a new generation of enthusiasts who may not even have been born the last time they appeared on a menu.
* See the 60th anniversary “lost cocktails” menu

In the interim, we explored what would eventually total 11 “lost cocktails” that came out of retirement, including the Demerara Cocktail, Last Rites, Demerara Float and Suffering Bastard. The Impatient Virgin first appeared in June 2013 during The Hukilau finale.

Mai-Kai general manager Kern Mattei, who worked behind the bar back in the 1980s and is familiar with many of the drinks before they were retired, was the driving force behind the return of these vintage recipes. Along with the current menu recipes, he keeps retired recipes under lock and key in his office and ensures their quality and authenticity. When it came time to select three drinks for the 2013 party, he committed to two of the previously revealed concoctions (Last Rites and Demerara Float) plus one newly revealed tipple.

The Impatient Virgin is makes a second return appearance in December 2016 during The Mai-Kai's 60th anniversary celebration. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Impatient Virgin is makes a second return appearance in December 2016 during The Mai-Kai’s 60th anniversary celebration. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Seeking a mild option, Mattei suggested the Liquid Gold or Impatient Virgin, and he prepared samples of both. We were both impressed with the flavor-packed Virgin and went with this slightly reconfigured version for the party. See the tasting notes and tribute recipe below for more info.

Like many of The Mai-Kai’s legendary tropical drinks (31 on the current menu and nine lost classics), the Impatient Virgin can be traced back to Tiki bar pioneer Donn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber. His Vicious Virgin was a staple at his chain of restaurants in the years prior to The Mai-Kai’s birth. As has been well documented on this blog, one of Beach’s top bartenders, Mariano Licudine, was hired away to The Mai-Kai, and the rest is history.

Licudine took Beach’s classic recipes and ran with them. Many stayed virtually the same, but he also did a lot of tinkering with ingredients and flavors. He also tinkered with the names, documented by Tiki drink historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry in his definitive book on the heyday of tropical mixology, Sippin’ Safari.

Vicious Virgin

Mariano’s son, Ron, told Berry about how the task of naming the drinks became a family affair. Before The Mai-Kai opened, the Licudine family gathered in the living room to come up with new (often better) names for the Beachcomber drinks that the master mixologist had reconfigured (and usually reinvigorated). “They changed the Vicious Virgin into the Impatient Virgin, the Cobra’s Fang into the Cobra’s Kiss, and the Never Say Die into the Oh So Deadly,” Berry wrote.

Most of the names were improved, with an obvious attempt to be more tourist-friendly at the fledgling Fort Lauderdale restaurant. The inspiration of those names remains a secret of the Licudine clan who gathered for those early brain-storming sessions.

However, one name in particular remained a favorite of Mariano’s son, Ron Licudine, who elaborated on the history of the Impatient Virgin in an interview for the PBS documentary Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession. Coincidentally, the film premiered at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau 2013, just before the Lost Cocktails Party. Sadly, two weeks after The Hukilau, Ron Licudine lost a long battle with cancer at age 69.

The namesake of the drink, Licudine relates in the film with a smile, was actually a cousin in the Philippines named Virginia. We won’t speculate on the degree of her patience, but we certainly appreciate the purity and virtue of this lost-but-not-forgotten classic cocktail.

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IMPATIENT VIRGIN

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

Impatient Virgin

Size: Medium

Potency: Mild

Flavor profile: Intense sweet and sour juices, falernum, and a hint of gold rum.

Review: A tantalizing combination of juices, syrups and rum with a distinctive Mai-Kai flair.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (see how it ranks). If this were on today’s menu, it would rank near the top of the mild drinks, just below Oh So Deadly.

Ancestry: Based on Don the Beachcomber’s Vicious Virgin, the Impatient Virgin was on the original 1956-57 Mai-Kai cocktail menu and spotted as recently as the mid-1980s. At this point, however, drinks in small cocktail glasses were quickly losing popularity, a factor that might have had something to do with the Impatient Virgin’s demise.

Bilge: The Vicious Virgin is one of a handful of Donn Beach originals available on the current menu at the Don the Beachcomber location in Huntington Beach, Calif. There was also a special mug made for the drink, designed by Crazy Al Evans, manufactured by Tiki Farm, and released in 2011.

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

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Don the Beachcomber's Vicious Virgin by The Atomic Grog
Don the Beachcomber’s Vicious Virgin by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, July 2012)

ANCESTOR RECIPE
Vicious Virgin

(By Don the Beachcomber, from Hawai’i – Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine)

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce Cointreau
* 1/4 ounce falernum
* 1/2 ounce Puerto Rican dark rum
* 1 ounce Virgin Islands light rum

Pour into blender. Add a handful of cracked ice. Blend for 15 seconds at high speed. Serve in a thin 6-ounce champagne glass that has been frozen in a deep freezer.

Don’t confuse this drink with Vicious Virgin #2, a tequila drink featured in Beachbum Berry Remixed.

Tasting notes

I went with Bacardi 8 and Cruzan Estate as my rums. My falernum choice, as usual, was Fee Brothers.

The result is quite sour and tart, with a nice kick from the aged Bacardi. The absence of a overtly sweet syrup makes for a drink that’s on the sour side. It’s similar to a classic sour frozen daiquiri, Hemingway style.

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Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Impatient Virgin, v.2 – circa 2013-2016
By The Atomic Grog

Impatient Virgin tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2017)
Impatient Virgin tribute by The Atomic Grog. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, January 2017)

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 3/4 ounce fresh orange juice
* 1/4 ounce falernum (Fee Brothers)
* 1/4 ounce grenadine (Fee Brothers)
* 3/4 ounce Appleton Special gold Jamaican rum
* 3/4 ounce white Virgin Islands rum
* 1/2 teaspoon fassionola (see below)

Pulse blend with 1 cup of crushed ice for 3-5 seconds. Serve in a small rocks glass. Or strain into a small martini glass or cocktail coupe. Garnish with a optional maraschino cherry.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

The Impatient Virgin was originally served in a small cocktail glass, just like its ancestor. According to Mattei, it even had the same maraschino cherry that settled in the bottom of the glass (see Vicious Virgin artwork above). When it was first resurrected from the lost cocktails graveyard in 2013, it was served in a rocks glass with ice (see photos above and below).

But in December 2016, we were pleased to see it return to its old form as a strained cocktail, served in a small martini glass. A small detail, but much appreciated. Otherwise, the drink seemed to stay pretty much the same. It’s a rich and sweet cocktial, with hints of gold rum offsetting the juices and syrups.

Prior to its 2013 appearance, we posted this a tribute recipe that isn’t too far off the latest version above …

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Impatient Virgin, v.1
By The Atomic Grog

Impatient Virgin tribute
Impatient Virgin tribute, v.1. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, September 2012)

* 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
* 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
* 1/4 ounce falernum (Fee Brothers)
* 1/2 ounce Appleton Estate Extra dark Jamaican rum
* 1 ounce Appleton Special gold Jamaican rum
* 1/2 teaspoon fassionola (see below)

Blend with 1/2 cup of crushed ice until smooth. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry. Wahine optional.

Notes and tips for home mixologists

In both tributes, I went with Appleton Jamaican rum, which is used in many of the restaurant’s current cocktails. It gives the drink a richer rum flavor to accent the sour notes.

The latest incarnation of the Impatient Virgin appears at The Mai-Kai's Lost Cocktails Party in June 2013
The Impatient Virgin first appeared at The Mai-Kai’s Lost Cocktails Party in June 2013. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The addition of both grenadine and fassionola give the drink a pink hue and intense sweetness. The original Impatient Virgin was indeed a “girly drink,” Mattei confirmed, and it has a distinctive color. Fassionola, an obscure bar syrup from the early days of tropical mixology, is used here much the same way as the similarly colored Tahitian Breeze. Used in small doses, it adds color but doesn’t alter the flavor.

Fassionola substitute: The intense red and fruity syrup is an old-school ingredient that’s rarely used today. The Atomic Grog endorses the Jonathan English brand that we found on eBay. But an easier solution is to mix equal parts of a dark, rich grenadine (Fee Brothers does the trick) and Smucker’s Red Raspberry Syrup.

Both fassionola and grenadine are necessary to achieve the full, rich flavor – much like the Cobra’s Kiss. In fact, this could be considered a mild version of that drink with that same combination of falernum, grenadine-fassionola, OJ and lime used to great effect.

Was the Impatient Virgin too similar to those other, more popular, cocktails to survive a menu purge in the 1980s? Perhaps. We’re just grateful it returned, undefiled, from the ranks of The Mai-Kai’s long-lost cocktails.

Okole maluna!

Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: The classic Demerara Float rises again … and again

Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: The classic Demerara Float rises again ... and again

Updated April 2024
See below: Demerara Float review | Ancestor recipe
Official recipe | Tribute recipe
Related: The delicious Demerara Cocktail just can’t stay retired
Mai-Kai cocktail guide
More “lost cocktails” | Tropical drink family tree
Demerara rum – The Mai-Kai’s secret weapon

Most fans of the spectacular tropical drinks at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale are content with the current menu’s 47 cocktails, a majority of them classic concoctions that have withstood the test of time for more than 65 years. But The Atomic Grog can’t get enough of The Mai-Kai, so we like to crank up our flux capacitor and go back in time to dig up a few “lost cocktails” that disappeared from the menu over the years.

A classic returns: The Demerara Float in March 2013
A classic returns: The Demerara Float in March 2013. (Photo by Christie J. White)

Consider this the advanced level of the Okole Maluna Society, our cocktail guide that includes reviews and recipes of every current drink and a few long-lost classics.

When the Demerara Cocktail came out of retirement in August 2012, it gave us the inspiration to dig deeper into the history and explore some of the other long-gone drinks. Here’s the cool part: They’re not really long gone. The old recipes are still kept in The Mai-Kai back offices, safely under lock and key.

So after the return of the Demerara Cocktail, the next logical step was to revisit its sister drink, the Demerara Float. It took more than six months, but our wish was granted unexpectedly in early in 2013, when the photo above popped up on the Facebook news feed of The Hukilau organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White. It looked like a Shark Bite with its Appleton rum floater. But this was no Shark Bite. The rum was noticeably darker. Could it be?

Continue reading “Lost Cocktails of The Mai-Kai: The classic Demerara Float rises again … and again”