Mai Current Obsession

I have been “investigating” the Mai Tai for a couple of months. It is an elusive beast. The most elusive part is the gathering of ingredients. Atlanta has a number of very good liquor stores, but getting the desired/optimal pieces for this relatively simple drink has been a pain in the butt.

As stated, the mai tai is a simple drink. It has a storied history and many different interpretations. Beachbum Berry and Martin Cate go over the details in their exceptionally fine tiki drink books. The original 1944 Trader Vic recipe is just rum, lime juice, curacao, simple syrup and orgeat syrup ( an almond based syrup ).

My main procurement issues were looking for specific rums and trying to find a decent orgeat ( no high fructose corn syrup was my primary requirement ). I should have broken down and just made the orgeat ( or ordered from amazon ). It is not that difficult and I have the tools to do it pretty easily, but I kept seeing different types of orgeat during my rum quests and would try them. I am not sure if I have solved this problem yet, but I have tried a couple that have done well ( Gifford and Luxardo ).

The rums needed for the drink can be complicated. The original one ( Wray & Nephew 17 yr ) has been discontinued for a while. The mixology historians above have done a good job in tracing the the various rums used in the drinks over the years.  After the Wray & Nephew went away, Trader Vic decided on a mix of two different rums, a darker aged Jamaican rum and a Martinique Rhum Agricole. It is a real complex story, but this is the basic gist. In Martin Cate’s book, he classifies rums by distillation method and aging. This gives the ability to simplify the recipes and the rum requirements for the many tiki drinks.

I already had El Dorado 12 on hand as it was the favorite rum brand of my old boss and  is very tasty. That was on the list for the Blended Aged (to fulfill the aged Jamaican rum requirement ). The Rhum Agricole was pretty easy to find as Clement Single Barrel is in most of the bigger liquor stores here. This allowed me to try out these and other rums in my early Mai Tai attempts.

The main issue I had with the basic ingredients was the inability to find the overproof rum for the 151 floater that, while not canon, is an optional accessory.  Bacardi 151 and  J Wray & Nephew Overproof are pretty standard at the stores, but they are unaged and not appropriate for the style. Lemon Hart and Hamilton are desired rums for this task. And I could not find them anywhere. I was able to find Smith and Cross in the Navy Strength and I used that to make some flames, but not really a 151. I sent friends in the suburbs looking at their local stores for me, but still nothing. Finally, after a few months of searching, I found a stash of Hamilton ( 86 and 151 ) at Tower Package on Piedmont, I believe. The bottle of 151 is going to last for a long time.

Then, as with everything else, I wanted to optimize. Inspired by the Facebook Tiki Recipes group, I dove into more internet research. This lead to trying to find the prefered Appleton Estate Dark. Appleton Estate is a very popular high end rum. I was on Team El Dorado, so I didn’t have much experience with them. Their bottles are all the same distinctive shape and color with just changes to the name on the label. All similar names with no real gradation until you get to the years old stage. Names like Signature Blend, Reserve Blend, Rare Blend 12 yr Old, 21 yr Old and 50 yr old. Not to mention V/X, which I think was renamed to Signature. But no Dark anywhere! Turns out Dark is actually the Rare Blend ( thanks tiki recipes facebook group! ) and not hard to find. And this produced a very tasty Mai Tai…

Then I found out about Denizen’s Merchant Reserve! This is a rum that Martin Cate worked on with Denizen’s to try and reproduce the original mixture of rums.


And not in my nearest local stores. But, I was able to get back to Tower and found it there. As I was making Mai Tai gift bags for several Christmas presents for friends, I proceeded to buy most of their stock.

It also makes a very tasty Mai Tai.

Mai Tai Obsession Recipe #1

( based on the 1944 Trader Vic recipe in Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log )


Even with my desire to find the optimal ingredients, I don’t follow the recipe very well. I add more of both syrups than called for ( I like it a little sweeter, but it is not a sweet drink ) and more of the curacao. The lime juice I like to have between 3/4 – 1 oz, but this is dependant on the amount of juice produced by the lime. Sometimes half a lime will make 3/4 oz and others a whole lime is used to get closer to 1 oz.

So, like every other recipe, it only works until you get punched in the face.

  • 2 oz Denizen’s Merchant reserve ( or equal parts Clement SB and Appleton Rare )
  • 1 oz Pierre Ferrand Curaçao ( it is worth it, but other curaçaos, Cointreau or G. Marnier will work )
  • 3/4 oz of lime juice
  • 1/2 oz orgeat syrup
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • mint, for garnish

Shake with crushed ice and strain into a glass filled with finely crushed ice.

Garnish with spent lime shell and SPANKED MINT!


— Alternate finish

Turn your spent lime shell upside down and fill with Hamilton 151. catch on fire. don’t burn your mint leaves!  Or burn your house down.

Use flames responsibly. This blog is not responsible for any accidents.


Sous Vide Beef Brisket

I got a nice beef brisket at Costco while doing some stocking up over Christmas. Since I hadn’t done one before, I volunteered to make it for some friends on Christmas Eve. I like to try new things out at home before taking them to the more difficult tailgating environment.

Like so many of my recipes, this one was created from several sources on the web. My normal list is ChefSteps, Serious Eats and the Sous Vide Everything youtube channel. The ingredient amounts are sketchy since the rub depends on the size of the meat and how much is adhering to the brisket.


  • 4.5 lb Beef Brisket ( USDA Choice from Costco )

Seasoning Rub

  • Kosher Salt ( lots )
  • Crushed Black Pepper ( lots )
  • Granulated Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Prague Powder #1
  • 1 Tbls Liquid smoke ( Figaro Hickory )



  • Apply rub ingredients. I do this individually straight from the container and add the liquid smoke when bagging.
  • Bag the brisket and vacuum seal.
  • Cook sous vide for 27 hours at 145°F.
  • Remove brisket from bag and reserve juice.
    • ProTip – just cut a corner off the bag to remove meat juices before removing the meat.
      • ProTip+ – do this over the sink and make sure you are prepared to maneuver the hot 5 lb slippery bag in a way that the juice will drain into the container and not all over your stove, floor or dog.
  • Dry the brisket and reseason with salt and pepper.
  • Smoke brisket for 1.5 hours to develop flavor and bark.
    • My technique – Used Roadtrip grill, pellet smoker tube and aluminum foil pan to apply smoke.
      • ignited smoker tube to make smoke
      • placed brisket on one half of the grill
      • covered with foil pan
      • placed smoker tube under pan. This can take some maneuvering to try and get the smoke to flow over the meat as much as possible. You may need to shape the foil to try and direct the airflow.
      • after 45 minutes, turned on the other half of the grill to low. Probably should have had this on for the whole 1.5 hours.
      • Used torch to “bark up” the fat side and briefly on the lean side
  • During the smoking, reduce the reserved meat juice to make a sauce.
    • Deciding what to add to the meat juices is personal taste preferences. I added a little Hoff & Pepper BBQ sauce, adjusted the seasoning and probably reduced by half.
  • Serve with meat juice on the side. Or, if you want to be classy like me, in a squeeze bottle.



Be assured this was not the first piece I ate, nor the second.