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: Cocktail 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

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.

Nocino Cocktails

In my last post I described how I began the process of making my own nocino. But for those who are less interested in making their own, or are curious to try nocino before making a batch, there are a number of great commercial versions for sale. I particularly like the Black Walnut Liqueur made by Davorin Kuchan of Old World Spirits in Belmont, CA and the Nocino made by Ryan Hembree of Skip Rock Distillers in Snohomish, WA.

Once you have a bottle of nocino at home, using it in cocktail is a great way to enjoy its complex flavors. Nocico pairs very nicely with brown spirits like whiskey, Scotch or brandy, and it can be used as a creative substitute for sweet vermouths like Carpano Antica. Below are a couple of nocino cocktail idea that are quite tasty and fun to try.

Black Walnut Old Fashioned
(from Liberty Bar, Seattle)
Black Walnut bitters
Angostura bitters
Served on a large ice cube.

Midnight Manhattan
2 oz Bourbon
1 oz Nocino
Dash of orange bitters
Stirred with ice
Served up with brandied cherry garnish.

(Absinthe, San Francisco)
1 oz Nocino
1 oz Bourbon
Splash of almond syrup
Stirred with ice Served in chilled Martini glass with freshly grated cinnamon floater.

The Boutonniere 
(The Alembic, San Francisco
Dash of orange bitters 
Served up

The Italian Sidecar
1.5 oz Brandy
3/4 oz Nocino
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Lemon juice
Served up with a lemon wheel garnish.

Negroni Umbria
(from Angele, Napa
1oz Nocino
1oz Gin
1 oz Campari 
Stirred with ice 
Served up or on rocks with orange twist.