My-My-My Mai Tai

Mixologists and tiki bums can argue endlessly over the origins and history of the controversial Mai Tai. With two contending claims for invention, and nearly a century of tinkering (and bastardization), it’s hard to define the right way to make one.

Most people hear Mai Tai and think of a cheap, disgusting Kool-Aid version that dominates hotel bars and beaches around the world. The drink, done well, actually has a very powerful range of flavor, and should be quite strong. Think of sailors on shore leave, looking for trouble. A memorable bar on Oahu will not serve more than two rounds, for liability reasons.

The commonly agreed “original” recipe by Trader Vic (from 1944) is a very simple combination of rum, lime, orgeat, and sugar syrup, designed to showcase a rare, special rum. It has no pineapple or orange, and with fewer flavors it is a very delicate balance of sour/sweet/boozy. I myself have a hard time striking the right vibe with Trader Vic’s recipe, and only very staunch mixologists will adhere religiously to this approach. Even Trader Vic’s restaurants now use pre-bottled mixes that veer away from this purist’s pursuit.

Another camp believe that Don the Beachcomber invented it in 1933, and his ingredients are much more varied (and obscure.. Falernum anyone?). It’s a more complex drink, and a little impractical for the amateur bartender.

My introduction to the Mai Tai happened at the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki a few years back, and many memorable evenings at their beachfront Mai Tai bar have positioned their recipe as a personal favorite. So after much (joyful) experimentation, I’ve come up with my go-to, crowd-pleasing recipe, which is more or less my split between the two (and in my opinion, most similar to the Royal Hawaiian’s recipe). Still strong, still sour, but the extra juice broadens the flavors (and nullifies the addition of extra sugar syrup). Please forgive me, purist craft bartenders. I like what I like.

Note: I am currently in the process of experimenting with different rums, because I know I can do better than Bacardi and Meyers.. however these rums are easy to get and they work very well in this recipe. I’d love to hear any comments about stepping up my rums.

Corianton’s Mai Tai

1oz. Bacardi or any light rum
1 oz. gold rum (Mount Gay or Bacardi Gold, but not spiced)
1 oz. pineapple juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. orange liquer (Orange curacao, Triple sec, etc.)
1 tsp. Orgeat


Garnish with cherry (hopefully bing!), mint, and pineapple wedge.

Float one more oz. Meyers dark rum on top and “Okole maluna,” or, “Bottoms up!”


Best Blackberry Pie

Having done some experiments on whether cornstarch or tapioca was the best binder in a berry pie, then stumbling upon this recipe from Epicurious, I now have an answer. BOTH! I do still, however, use my own custom crust recipe whenever making pies or tarts. It’s buttery, flaky, and comes out perfect every time.

1 3/4 c. flour (I prefer to measure 8.5 oz. on a digital scale)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt (slightly heaped)
1.5 sticks of cold butter, cut into 16ths (cubes)
4 tbsp. cold water

Swirl dry ingredients in a food processor (I am personally devoted to this model). Prepare icewater by putting ice and a little water into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (this gets it much colder than just a glass of icewater. Then add cubed butter and pulse until a coarse meal texture is attained (pea size hunks). Then measure 4 tbsp. of ice water into the processor, pulsing a few times after each tablespoon. At this point you need to watch the texture, and continue pulsing until the dough starts to clump and look like it wants to bind together into a cohesive mass. At this point, turn out onto Saran Wrap and shape into a tight puck. Refridgerate at least a half hour. Overnight is good if possible.

Before rolling dough, remove from fridge and set on counter about 20-30 minutes. Multiply all ingredients by two for a double crust pie (shown).

Raw Corn & Bean Sprout Salad

I must admit, I’m getting a little obsessed with raw food lately. I love the idea that uncooked fruits and veggies could be profoundly more nutritious, and so I’m having a good time exploring meals that lean heavily (or completely) on the raw side. My other new hobby is sprouting, due to a similar fascination with the idea of a whole plant’s nutrition packed into one sprouted seed or bean. This salad combines the two, and came about because I had heaps of fresh farmer’s market corn and some sprouted lentils. If you’re unsure of whether raw corn sounds good or not, read this love letter from Slash Food.

Fresh corn (2 ears)
Sprouted lentils (about a cup)
diced cucumber
pickled green beans
salt-cured olives
sunflower seeds
cilantro, minced  

1/2 clove garlic
pinch kosher salt
olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
juice of 1/2 lime
ground black pepper

First, shuck, carve, dice, etc.. all the salad parts into a bowl. Then smash half a garlic clove (or a whole clove if small), finely dice, sprinkle with kosher salt, and smear repeatedly with the side of a 10″ chef’s knife. The process is described nicely here at

Mince the garlic with the “smash and smear” technique – you smash the garlic with the side of a chef’s knife, sprinkle it with salt, then smear everything together by drawing the edge of the angled blade across the ingredients. The edges of the salt crystals physically break down the garlic as well as chemically softening the garlic cell walls. After a good smash and smear mincing is effortless.

Put the ‘smeared’ garlic into a small jar with lime, olive oil, and pepper, and give a good shake. Dress the salad, and voila! This salad could take a lot of directions, Greek, Asian, Mexican… play with different herbs and spices and see what you like.