Since you’ve already read Taylor’s Origins post on Mai Tais—the first of our Mai Tai series—I don’t have to explain to you how Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipe differs from the modern incarnation.
You already know that instead of using fruit juice, Vic started with orgeat syrup and curacao.
If you’ve gone out looking, however, you’d find that the vast majority of modern Mai Tais use the fruitier version, making Vic’s recipe difficult to find.
So it was almost pure luck that I had the pleasure of visiting “the nook” in Puck’s Alley.
An appropriately named bistro, this restaurant is hidden away in the back of Puck’s Alley, just off University Avenue.
Originally a brunch restaurant, The Nook only recently expanded to serving dinner (and dinner cocktails).
The restaurant itself is pretty small (make dinner reservations!), with indoor and outdoor seating.
All of their menu offerings seem local in both style and source—their ingredients are local and the dishes are heavily influenced by what’s available in Hawaii.
What initially drew me there was the cider: The Nook offers cider on tap created by Paradise Ciders, a local hard cider brewery (cidery?).
Once I spotted the Mai Tai on the cocktail menu, though, I knew what I had to do.
I’m a professional, after all, and there’s a certain measure of professional obligation I feel when visiting any establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.
Or maybe I just like to drink—you decide.
The Nook’s Mai Tai was especially enticing since it’s actually based on the original Trader Vic recipe.
The Nook’s Classic-ish Mai Tai:
Koloa Gold and Dark Rum, Grand Marnier, lime, orgeat, bruleed pineapple
The differences between Vic’s recipe and Nook’s take are minor—the addition of dark rum, Grand Marnier substituting curacao, a “bruleed” pineapple to garnish.
(For those as confused as I was, bruleed pineapple is just a typical pineapple wedge that’s been broiled to create a hard brown crust.)
Taking a sip of the classic-ish Mai Tai was, at first, strange.
Let’s back up for a second.
The vast majority of my prior experience with Mai Tais comes from Tiki bars around Waikiki.
As such, my expectation of what a Mai Tai tastes like generally involves fruity flavors, or at least something sweet.
The Mai Tai I drank at The Nook was not sweet, at least not obviously so.
The initial impression I got was that of citrus muddled with something I couldn’t quite place—it may have been orgeat or the mix of rum they used.
The cocktail wasn’t difficult to drink, though.
Rather, the blend of flavors was much more subtle than I expected, especially after having cheaper rum-and-fruit concoctions.
In fact, after a few minutes I could actually taste the pineapple and mint garnishes in my drink.
(The bruleed pineapple was quite good, by the way.)
I’ll have to try another of Vic’s Mai Tais to get a better impression of the drink since the first one caught me by surprise.
I wasn’t able to jot down any notes, either, since a series of mishaps in the week prior had led to me not having a phone with me that night.
This just means I’ll have to visit The Nook again, something I’ve no complaints about—I hear they also serve absinthe.
The featured photo for this post is used with permission from the nook’s official instagram. Check it out if for some mouth-watering pictures that’ll work up your appetite for brunch foods & delicious cocktails!