Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Tiki Bars

Review: Smuggler's Cove Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki

Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate, Smuggler's Cove: Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016), 352 pages, $30.00. ISBN: 9781607747321

Martin Cate has long been a champion of rum, exotic cocktails and the tiki community as well as a proprietor of several award-winning drinking establishments, including Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco), Whitechapel (San Francisco), False Idol (San Diego), Hale Pele (Portland) and Lost Lake (Chicago). Along with his wife, Rebecca, Cate has created a comprehensive guide to tiki culture; it’s history, techniques and, most of all, the drinks— Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki.

Smuggler’s Cove is a fantastic achievement and a beautiful monument to the influence of tiki, rum and exotic cocktails on American culture, and it is a fun read, told with Cate’s impish sense of humor. Part one of the book tells the engaging story of the birth, rise, decline and revival of Polynesian Pop. In part
two, the Cates tell their own story of how Martin and Rebecca became captivated by tiki and built one of the country’s preeminent bars for rum and exotic cocktails. Part three describes the history of rum, how it is made and the various styles and categories that define it. For distillers who want to better understand how bartenders use different styles of rum to create exotic cocktails, this is a must-read. Part four covers the nuts and bolts of what goes into making the cocktails. And in part five, how to deck out your home and wardrobe for your new found (or long-held) love of tiki aesthetic is covered.

Smuggler’s Cove is a wonderful book in terms of its prose, humor, completeness and graphic design. The story of the rise,fall and rebirth of tiki culture is fascinating, and numerous photos connect readers to the people and places that made Polynesian Pop and exotica nationwide phenomena. The Cates intersperse more than 100 drink recipes within the book and close each chapter with a smattering of cocktails that match the narrative. Smuggler’s Cove allows the audience to not only read the history of exotic cocktails but also to drink that history, if they choose.

First appeared in Distiller. (Summer 2017): 167

What's Going on with Rum?

Designed by Annabel Emery

Rum is an interesting class of spirits.  Rum is a distilled spirit made from any sugar cane byproduct (fresh cane juice, molasses or refined sugar) and it can be made anywhere in  the world. For a number of years now, rum has been the third largest selling class of distilled spirits in the US (12% market share in 2014) behind Vodka (34%) and Whiskey (24%) yet I almost never hear regular people talk about it. Many of the of the social media accounts and drinks writers I follow hardly ever post about rum. In terms of its overall market share, rum shrank 1% since 2012. So it begs the question, what's going on with rum?

While it is certain that the craft cocktail movement has largely been stoked by a renewed interest in whiskey and gin; rum is an incredibly important base for cocktails and it has a very rich history. During the US Colonial era, huge amounts of rum were produced in New England and consumed throughout the colonies. And while most domestic whiskey production was outlawed during National Prohibition, rum from the caribbean became very popular and inspired a number of phrases such as "rum runner" and "the real McCoy." Lastly, the Tiki movement which began at the end of Prohibition, created a number of complex and delicious cocktails that centered around rum. 

Two years ago I edited a book called the Distiller's Guide to Rum, and ever since then small US rum distillers that I've talked to want to know, when is rum going to have its moment? When will be the Summer of Rum? Whiskey gets a huge amount of press and gin has an incredibly passionate fan base, but rum rarely gets mentioned outside discussions of Tiki drinks. 

It is possible that rum's lower profile might be in part due to the fact that 80% of the rum market in the United States is dominated by 10 brands with the two largest being Bacardi and Captain Morgan (Beverage Information Group Handbook Advance 2013). The remaining 20% of the rum market is filled with hundreds of brands from around the world, many of which have amazing aromas and flavors you just can't get in whiskey. At a recent industry event a retail spirit buyer made the comment that in his experience Bacardi drinkers are often not rum drinkers. He explained that for these people if Bacardi isn't available they are more likely to turn to vodka as their next choice rather than another brand of rum. While this statement was purely anecdotal it rings true in my experience. In contrast, if a bourbon drinker's favorite brand isn't at the bar I think there's a better chance they will try another bourbon rather than get something completely different.

However, there are a couple of encouraging signs for rum. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago The Rum Lab which put on the California Rum Festival also sponsors a couple of other rum festivals around the country. Both the California and the Midwest festivals are only in their second year but like many festivals, if the quality stays high, the number of attendees will likely continue to grow and increase the number of people who become more familiar with the vastness that rum has to offer. Similarly to whisk(e)y in the mid-90s there is some incredible value in the market as long as drinkers aren't obsessed with extra aged rums like they seem to be with whiskey. The second encouraging sign was the publication of Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki written by Martin & Rebecca Cate. This fantastic book has helped to spread the deep love and passion for rum and tiki culture outside the confines of the country's few tiki bars. While I want to see rum move beyond the overly sweet and kitschy drinks that mask the beauty of the spirit, for many people this is their entry point and bars like Smuggler's Cove and False Idol know how to move people from zero to a deeper appreciation of rum.

The rum market like others spirits is veering towards premiumization. While some aspects of this trend are misguided (more expensive does not always mean higher quality), there  is an incredibly strong demand for quality and transparency. Hopefully rum producers will embrace this trend which I hope will be be a boon for the entire industry. All in all, while rum took a slight dip in market share I am hopeful about its future. And, in the end as the hula girl above suggests, keep calm and drink rum. Because the time for rum has arrived and is yet to come.


EZdrinking in Hawaii: Cocktails on Maui

When I think of cocktails in Hawaii, tropical drinks like Mai Tais, Daiquiris and Pina Colada immediately come to mind. The irony is that the Mai Tai and many other famous tiki drinks were invented in California. The first tiki bar, "Don the Beachcomber" was founded in LA in 1933, quickly followed by Trader Vic's in Oakland while the first Hawaiian tiki bar didn't open until after World War II. But, despite being about a decade late to the tiki scene, Hawaii has fully embraced these tropical cocktails as their own.

To be certain there is no shortage of Mai Tais on Maui, and even though almost all of them claim to best on the island, most of Maui's bars are well behind the cocktail revival that has transformed mixology into a culinary art form. Unfortunately, my search for great cocktails on Maui started off on the wrong foot with a horrible pre-mixed Mai Tai complements of Alaska Airlines. Even the Mai Tai at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel's historic Tiki Bar was boozy and unbalanced. However, a few duds not withstanding, Maui has a couple of fantastic spots for cocktails that are definitely worth seeking out.

Aloha Mixed Plate

Photo by Alex Pollitt

Located in Lahaina, Aloha Mixed Plate is a nice beach side restaurant, that serves local food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Along with their tasty food, Aloha Mixed Plate has a full bar and makes a variety of tropical cocktails. We came for the lunch and I honestly didn't expect much from cocktails but I was pleasantly surprised. We both ordered Mai Tais and they came garnished with a lime wedge and a flower. The Mai Tai was well balanced, so that neither the alcohol nor the juice overpowered the other. It was simple, well executed, and perfectly suited to pair with lunch or dinner. The Mai Tai at Aloha Mixed Plate demonstrates that not every cocktail needs to be overly fancy or complicated to be enjoyable.

Monkeypod Kitchen

Located in Wailea, Monkeypod Kitchen is a full service bar and restaurant that prides itself on using fresh local produce. The food menu has a wide range of option and everything we ate was quite tasty. Also, if your are a fan of craft beer, they have the best selection on the island. We came to Monkeypod Kitchen in part because of their cocktail menu and we were not disappointed. Their Mai Tai was probably the best I had on Maui. Served in a large old fashioned glass, it features locally distilled Old Lahaina Light Rum and Maui Dark Rum, and comes topped with a delicious house-made honey-lilkoi (passion fruit) foam. Our second cocktail, the Pod Thai, was a tasty rum drink that captured the spirit of Pad Thai and came in a fun tiki glass. The last drink I tried was their D'yer Mak'er cocktail, in part because I wanted to try a drink that use Swedish Punsch. The D'yer Mak'er had complex flavors that were well balanced between sweet, sour and baking spicy. The drink had a dry finish which worked well with our food. Besides rum drinks, their menu includes a dozen vodka, gin, tequila and whiskey cocktails that are sure to catch your eye and entertain your palate.


In the heart of Paia, on Maui's North shore, Dazoo is a farm to table restaurant that has an amazing cocktail program that is creative and artfully crafted by a great team of bartenders. Visiting the bar at Dazoo is a must for any local or visiting cocktail enthusiast. We popped in for drinks on our second to last night on Maui only because a local told me how good their cocktails were. I got excited to try Dazoo because my source told me that they make their own falernum, an essential ingredient for one of my favorite rum drinks, the Corn N' Oil. I was very glad he told me about it because none of my research on where to find great cocktails in Maui had mentioned it, and they didn't have their cocktail menu online.

When we saddled up to the bar I studied their cocktail menu that offered a dozen drinks created by James Shoemaker and his team. Two called out to me, and we spent the next half-hour sipping them and marveling at how incredibly unique and delicious each one was. The Dharma Initiative was the perfect blend of sweet, sour, and bitter with a fantastic creamy texture. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Pho-Bang was an incredibly tasty cocktail that mimicked all the key characteristics of Vietnamese Pho: savory, tart, slightly spicy, and fresh. If we had discovered Dazoo sooner we would have returned to try more of their cocktails, but since our trip was at an end we will just have to wait till next time. But, if you happen to find yourself in Paia, do yourself a favor and stop by for a cocktail.