I’ll put my Mai Tais up against anyone’s.
The Mai Tai from Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina won a recent competition as the best on the Hawaiian Islands, so my wife Beth and I decided to find out for ourselves during past two trips to Maui. I certainly would rate it as excellent, and the recipe is not too far from mine. However, there are several differences, and my choices are more to my liking. Both of us use fresh ingredients, including muddled limes, pineapple juice and fresh orange juice. We both use several different rums. However, Mala uses orange-flavored rum, while I rely Malibu coconut rum and add Grand Mariner for the added orange flavor. We both use Amaretto in lieu of Orgeat syrup and a quality Hawaiian dark rum. They use Old Lahaina Dark Rum, which is excellent. I’ve used Koloa Dark Rum (made on Kauai). I also like to float a splash of Diet Coke to give it a little fizz. But the key difference – and I’ve seen this at several places along Front Street in Lahaina – is that Mala uses crushed ice instead of cubes. I find that the crushed ice quickly waters down the drink and dilutes the flavors.
I love Mala, and it is a must-visit destination every time we are on Maui, including our upcoming trip in August. I will continue to order their Mai Tais when I’m there. But they have much more to offer, including the fabulous Heavenly Hibiscus martini (favored by Beth Robinson and Susie DesCombes), Cane and Coco (Jim Moore’s drink), and Lime in the Coconut (Jeannie Seligman’s recent discovery).
That certainly won’t be the only Mai Tai I’ll enjoy, starting with our traditional first-day (of many) visit to the Sea House at Napili Kai. From there I’ll have plenty more to evaluate, while also enjoying plenty more of my own POGs on the beach.