Scratch The Old School Drink; The New One Is Not As Good Or Strong
Perhaps I was spoiled.
Well, I was spoiled. And I freely admit it.
But when you get used to something and then it changes – and not for the better – you get a little bit out of kilter.
I am referring to a changes to the signature drink at the Mai Tai bar at the Royal Hawaiian. That’s where I usually start my drinking for the day in Waikiki. Or used to anyway.
In the good ‘ol days (which was just a few years ago), the Royal Hawaiisn made the best Mai Tai you could have anywhere. It was full of fresh juice, packed with rum and topped with a (very) generous floater of Meyer’s dark rum.
It was highly toxic and even us drinking veterans had to monitor our intake. We would sit for a couple of hours on the lanai right alongside the beach with Diamond Head in our field of vision. I’ve had some great times at the Mai Tai bar!
Well a few years ago they remodeled the hotel and revamped the menu at the bar. They also changed the formula of the mai tai to a more tourist-friendly version. At first, to get the original, you had to ask specifically for it; the “Old School” was the secret password.
It’s now back on the menu as the “scratch” Mai Tai (and at $12 its two bucks cheaper than the tourist version!), but at least on my most recent visit in May of 2013 it lacks the power punch of rum of the real original.
For starters, it’s not topped with Meyers. The floater is Whaler’s dark, a marginal at best rum from Hawaii.
And some floater; it barely makes any change to the color of the juice. You can barely tell it’s there, in fact.
It used to be that when you took that first sip your body, acting completely on its own, would sling itself in the back of the chair, the eyebrows would act as if they wanted to launch from your face and you would let out an automatic “WHOA!” This, by the way, was a great way to start to train newbies to the drinking that lay ahead of them in Waikiki.
I was at a table and looked over at the bartender. He was fairly young by this bar’s standards – upper 30s, perhaps – and that explained it. I needed one of the older bartenders, one who has been working there for decades and actually made those original Mai Tais. I’m not knocking the guy that was there already, mind you, but he’s following corporate orders and a specific recipe. The old-school guys poured by instinct, not by a book.
You can bet I’ll be checking the bartender before I go there again for another Mai Tai. If there’s a old-school guy behind the bar, then I’m getting an old school Mai Tai!
And to top it off – not with Meyer’s, of course – the drink was served not in a solid glass but a plastic cup! Okay, it was a glass that looked real, but it was light plastic.
The drink is still good and it does have a good bit of rum in it. But when you are used to something that is so perfect, it’s disappointing when it’s changed. Especially when it’s been cheapened.