I have been interested in the drinks a while, amassing a rather large tiki mug collection. I had yet to actually make a tiki drink so a workshop was perfect for me! I rallied my husband and my tiki drinking buddies and bought a $59 (this was including tax) ticket to the workshop.
Before I dive into the workshop itself I thought I would give a brief history of tiki and Trader Vic’s. Trader Vic’s is a Polynesian themed restaurant chain headquartered in Emeryville California. The chain was started by Vic Bergeron who made the first mai tai cocktail at Trader Vic’s in 1944. The he introduced it at Honolulu’s Royal Hawaiian Hotel, altering the recipe, pineapple juice instead of the more labor-intensive, fresh squeezed lime, so the bar staff could make the distinctive cocktail in quantity.
I am happy to say I came in to the workshop not thinking it would be so amazing, but it was. It felt well worth our money. As soon as we arrived our cars were promptly valeted. Then we were directed to a huge and immaculately decorated private room with bar. Almost immediately we got tasty mai taus and pupus. There were a few tables set up so my group and I found one to get settled on. There were servers passing apps like crab Rangoon and breaded fried green beans. I don’t eat fish but my party mates loved the crab Rangoon I ate my fair share of the beans and other veggies. Once everyone was settled the trader Vic’s staff read from a original 1940’s signed my trader Vic’s himself cocktail book. Each of us (2 at a time) had a couple of chances to go behind the bar and receive personalized instructions. I never been behind the bar before so I felt like this was a special honor.
The drinks we made were 1944 Mai Tai (Royal Amber rum, almond concentrate, fresh lemon and lime), Mahukona (brugal rum, triple sec, fresh lemon juice, and bitters), La Florida Daiquiri (brugal rum, maraschino liquor, fresh lemon, and grapefruit juice), Gilded Lady (brugal rum, peach brandy, Hendrick’s gin, and fresh orange juice). If I had to pick a favorite it would probably be the La Floridia Daiquiri, I loved the combo of maraschino cherry liquor and grapefruit. Also very fun to make was the mai tai, not only did you have to vigorously shake the drink but you had to slap the mint to add as the garnish. This method apparently releases the flavor and it’s pretty fun to slap the mint. This exercise just means laying out the fresh mint on your hand and slapping it with the other.
I think it was Trader Vic’s intention to have each guest (I think there was about 25 attending this workshop) do one round behind the bar but since there was a lull of guests right before the ending of the workshop my friends and I all got another chance to make another cocktail. I loved the personalized instructions and access to all of Trader Vic’s bar accessories and ingredients. It was nice to have apps and snacks before the drinking began as tiki drinks are extremely strong.
Once the session concluded we each left a workshop with an amazing gift bag! The trader Vic’s designed bag had their signature Mai tai mix, Mai tai glass, magnet, and recipe card. Any time I go somewhere and get a gift bag (or I used to call it “goody bag) I’m a happy camper. I haven’t tried the mix yet but I have heard it is one of the better mixes on the market and the recipe is fairly straightforward. My group also decided that the party had simply not ended at the workshop and that we all wanted more food so we sat down in the bar area to enjoy a late dinner.
It sounds like Trader Vic’s does these cocktail workshops quarterly and I definitely plan to do another. Cheers!
Tell me in the comments… what is your favorite drink recipe?
Music for your Tiki Bar:
Further Tiki Reading:
Critiki (Find a Tiki bar near you)