Modern Caribbean Rum

Mai-Kai cocktail review: The Barrel O’ Rum is the Rodney Dangerfield of tropical drinks

Barrel O’ Rum: The Rodney Dangerfield of tropical drinks

Updated May 2024
See below: Barrel O’ Rum review | Ancestor recipe NEW | Official recipe | Tribute recipe
NEW: How to make the Barrel O’ Rum (video)
* Christmas Barrel review and tribute
Postscript: The Rum Barrel on social media
Related: Mai-Kai cocktail guide

Don The Beachcomber had the Zombie Trader Vic had the Mai Tai. While South Florida’s iconic Mai-Kai has many cocktails worthy of classic status, it’s the mighty Barrel O’ Rum that has become the historic landmark’s signature drink, and one of the most underrated tropical drinks in history.

Barrel O' Rum
Barrel O’ Rum (The Mai-Kai photo)

Sure, it’s hugely popular. Just wind your way through The Molokai bar during any busy happy hour and you’ll see more Barrels than oil companies have lost in the Gulf. Among the general public and popular media, the Barrel O’ Rum and The Mai-Kai are synonymous.

But among the cocktail intelligentsia, the Barrel just doesn’t quite measure up. What gives? Come on guys, this is a great drink. A deceptively deadly celebration of rum and citrus that manages to be both simple and complex. This is a work of art courtesy of The Mai-Kai’s inimitable mixologist, Mariano Licudine, who took an often muddled concept and perfected it for the thirsty, rum-swilling masses during Tiki’s heyday. More than a half century later, it’s a timeless classic, often copied, never duplicated.

Barrel O' Rum
It’s not unusual to see the Barrel O’ Rum served en masse. (The Mai-Kai photo)

As Rodney Dangerfield (who probably drank many Barrels in his day) would say, the Rum Barrel just don’t get no respect.

On the other hand, who needs respect? The Barrel’s lowbrow appeal is what makes it the classic that it is. It’s the drink for the everyman (and woman). As Rodney so eloquently put it: “My doctor told me to watch my drinking. Now I drink in front of a mirror.”

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The official menu description

Barrel O' Rum

BARREL O’ RUM

Smugglers, pirates and rum runners took their pleasures with this spirituous libation, bold and big, but rightfully smooth.

Okole Maluna Society review and rating

The Mai-Kai's Barrel O' Rum, June 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The Mai-Kai's Barrel O' Rum, June 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Size: Large

Potency: Strong

Flavor profile: Dark rum, lime juice, passion fruit, bitters

Our take: An explosion of rums and juices in a prefect marriage of sweet and sour, strong and bitter.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (see how it ranks).

Ancestry: A variation on the original rum barrel popularized by Don the Beachcomber and other early Tiki establishments, this classic has been on the menu since The Mai-Kai’s opening in 1956. It was created by Mariano Licudine (1907-1980), who based The Mai-Kai menu on all the prototypes he’d been making during his years working for Donn Beach (1939-1955). He retired in 1979 after 23 years at The Mai-Kai.

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