“Who here is ready for a 2-day hangover?” Maleko asked the crowd as the Mai Tai contest had just gotten underway.
The main event in Don’s Mai Tai Festival at Royal Kona Resort, the Mai Tai contest brings bartenders and mixologists from all over to compete to see who can mix up the best Mai Tai cocktail in 10 minutes.
The winner goes home with a cool $10,000, while second and third place get $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.
Arguably better than the money, though, is the title of “World’s Best Mai Tai,” which the winner holds for at least a year.
August 19th, 2017 marked the day of the 9th annual Don the Beachcomber’s Mai Tai Festival, taking its name from the father of Mai Tais.
Held at the Royal Kona Resort on the Big Island, the festival began at 11 am with a variety of local food and craft vendors.
The restaurants who had set up food booths were also participating in a BBQ contest, with a panel of four judges who were sampling each offering.
In addition, festival-goers could also participate in voting for a “People’s Choice” winner by casting voting tickets, acquired by buying 10 scrips. (Everything at the festival was sold for scrips, where one dollar got you one scrip.)
The venue had a variety of local arts and crafts for sale, including jewelry, photography, paintings, clothing, and woodwork.
Live music was playing all morning and afternoon, too.
Oh, and Mai Tais were served all day for 7 scrips a glass.
The main event, without a doubt, was the Mai Tai contest at the end of the festival, featuring bartenders and mixologists representing establishments from all over the country.
Entrants compete to create stunning, unique, and delicious Mai Tais for the six judges within a ten-minute time limit.
Final score is based on flavor, presentation, aroma, and skill in mixing the drink (no wasted liquor!), allowing participants to go wild with creativity and showmanship when mixing up their concoctions.
The only stipulation is that every Mai Tai recipe needs to be based on Bacardi 8-year rum, as Bacardi sponsored the event.
Since you’ve educated yourself as to the true recipe of a Mai Tai, you understand that at it’s basic components, each Mai Tai is fundamentally a mix of rum, fruit juice (or liqueur), syrup, and citrus.
From this basic recipe, a wide variety of unique cocktails can be mixed, blended, and stirred—as clearly evidenced by the staggering diversity in the contest entries.
The winners of the contest were:
Third Place: Paul Schreuder
It shouldn’t be a surprise Paul placed in the top 3. From Bar Leather Apron in downtown Honolulu, Paul Schreuder works under Justin Park, world-renowned bartender and mixologist who has won the Mai Tai fest twice previously. In addition, Art Deakins, also from BLA, won first place in last year’s festival. Schreuder’s Mai Tai was presented in a tall glass on a round wooden base, over which he placed an empty, bottomless Bacardi bottle.
Second Place: Justin Kipapa
From The Myna Bird here in Waikiki, Justin Kipapa has competed in multiple mixing competitions, including earlier Mai Tai fests in Kona. Kipapa’s entry was a pretty, magenta-colored Mai Tai topped with pink foam and served with a yellow hibiscus.
First Place: Kevin Beary
Coming all the way from Three Dots & a Dash in Chicago, IL, Kevin placed third last year. This year, his presentation was probably the most extravagant, complete with orchids, little umbrellas, and mini volcanoes with dry ice “smoke.”
Check out more pictures of the event down below.
If you couldn’t go this year, I hope you can make it to Kona next August for the 10th Annual Mai Tai Festival!