Story by Becky Speere
Ingredients have escaped the kitchen to find their way into the bar: not just the expected fruit and honey shrubs and herbaceous mixers of rosemary and basil, but surprising items like chili peppers, mushroom infusions and li hing mui (salty dried plum). Adventurous and “cheffy” bartenders have discarded bottled mai tai mixes and build their own flavor profiles with fresh local fruit and locally crafted distillates.
Even the ice for that perfectly chilled cocktail has undergone some cool reappraisal, as the rate it melts at has become a science. And so, there is ice. And there is ice. Square ice. Rectangular chunks. Flaked ice. The folks behind the bar at Pulehu Grill use a Macallan aluminum-alloy ice-ball maker that creates round ice.
Bartenders are commanding our attention, creating drinks to pair with Hawai‘i’s eclectic menus. Reinvented as mixologists — bar specialists — they have taken command of the cutting board and stove, with results that make us cheer.
Andaz Maui’s Ka‘ana Kitchen and the Sheraton Maui’s Black Rock Lounge tied for the Gold ‘Aipono this year for Best Cocktail and share their expertise with a cocktail recipe each, and this advice: Have fun, be creative, and enjoy!
Ciso’s Passion Mai Tai
Courtesy of Sheraton’s Black Rock Lounge
“This recipe was crafted by our bartender of twenty-eight years, Ciso Corpuz,” Chef Greg Gaspar says. “Ciso’s mai tai pairs well with our new pupu, Hawaiian flatbread topped with sweet Maui Gold pineapple, tender pork belly, mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce.”
- 1 1/2 oz. Old Lahaina Light Rum
- 3/4 oz. peach liqueur
- 1 oz. passionfruit puree
- passion, orange, and guava juice (POG)
- 1 oz. Old Lahaina Dark Rum to float
Method: Fill a highball glass with ice cubes (not crushed ice). Pour the first three ingredients into the glass. Fill with POG, almost to the top, or as desired. Stir to mix. Slowly pour the dark rum to float. Garnish with a pineapple slice and maraschino cherry.
Courtesy of Andaz Maui’s Ka‘ana Kitchen
Mixologist Travis Gyarmaty adds just the right amount of refreshing, chilled fruit flavor and sweetness to local vodka in this cocktail created for Ka‘ana Kitchen. He says, “Add large cubes of ice, not crushed ice, to the shaker. This decreases the dilution factor, so you get a more flavorful drink that’s less watered down.” As for food pairing, Travis suggests Ka‘ana Kitchen’s ‘ahi tataki. “It has local heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, seared ‘ahi and a liliko‘i [passionfruit] reduction that pairs great with the cocktail.”
- Pulp from half of one liliko‘i
- 3/4 oz. ginger syrup
- 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
- 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 oz. fresh pineapple juice
- 2 oz. vodka of choice
Method: Place liliko‘i pulp in a martini shaker. Muddle lightly with the next four ingredients. Add vodka and ice cubes, and shake. Fine-strain into a coupe or martini glass.
Courtesy of Cow Pig Bun
Greg Shepherd, owner of Cow Pig Bun, created this classic Old Fashioned, and makes it with Japanese whiskey, which he says “tends to be a little peaty, more like a scotch. The staff named it the Gregular because it’s all I order.” The Gregular helps explain why the Kihei-based restaurant won the 2015 Silver ‘Aipono Award for Best Cocktail. (Cow Pig bun also tied for Gold as Best New Restaurant, and scored a Gold for Best Burger.)
- 2 oz. Akashi White Oak Japanese Whiskey
- 1/4 oz. gomme syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 dash Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Method: Combine all ingredients and stir. Pour over a two-inch block of ice. Garnish with Luxardo Cherry and orange peel.