Maui Time Bar Guide & Our Favorite Cocktails

We wanted to post the fantastic article published in Maui Time last month featuring some of the top bartenders and mixologists on Maui. It was a wonderful, informative feature showcasing the best Happy Hour spots from every part of the island. We love the fact that each individual takes great pride in the cocktails they masterfully prepare and serve their guests...because who doesn't love a delicious cocktail while in Maui? We know we do! And since we are sharing some of the beloved favorites from Maui Time, we thought we'd also share a few of our own personal favorites as well! 

First, is our newly discovered favorite from Alan Wong's delicious new restaurant at The Grand Wailea,Amasia. Small plates make for a unique evening of Asian fusion flavors, some of our favorites included the tomato salad with li hing mui dressing (a must! the dressing is to die for) as well as the mouthwatering, tender short ribs. And the perfect cocktail to pair with an evening out at Amasia is their spicy cucumber martini-subtle, sweet, spicy, and a truly unexpected but delicious drink! 

One of our family's favorite Upcountry restaurant features a refreshing island cocktail we should all know well-a fresh lilikoi margarita! We love enjoying their weekly happy hour tapas and drinks, and can never deny our love for their incredible crepes (sweet or savory, we can never choose one), hummus and pita appetizer, and our favorite shrimp curry! This yummy passionfruit margarita is the perfect way to enjoy the incredible Mediterranean & Indian cuisine of Cafe Des Amis in Paia.

This is one of our favorite new happy hour spots to share with visitors not only for the delicious Merriman's menu but also for the relaxing, chic atmosphere at Monkeypod as well. We love their Ocean Breeze cocktail which is an effortless fusion of local ocean vodka, St. Germain, lime and simple syrup. With their crispy rock shrimp and calamari, garlic truffle fries and one of their amazing wood fired pizzas, its a fantastic way to enjoy great food, drinks and laughter with friends. Not to mention their convenient location at The Wailea Gateway center, if you happen to be staying at our Grand Champions condo it is literally right up the street, so make sure to check it out!

This last cocktail is a very recent family favorite, coming directly to you from our very own kitchen! Since our starfruit tree has been bursting at the seams with beautiful fruit, my husband, daughter and I have been busy harvesting (nearly 50 lbs yesterday!) and juicing them so as not to waste this incredible, seasonal fruit! We paired the sweet starfruit juice with pinnacle whipped vodka for a delicious cocktail that is uniquely our own-we love it!

So without further adieu, here is an excerpt from last month's fantastic Bar Guide feature in Maui Time...check out their website here for the full article and for more information on wonderful happy hour specials and bars to check out in every corner of the island! 

2012 MauiTime Bar Guide
by Jen Russo
October 10, 2012

"The hard part about being a bartender," said the writer Richard Braunstein, "is figuring out who is drunk and who is just stupid."

Bartending is, without a doubt, the toughest of all service industry jobs. Especially on one of the most popular tourist islands in the world.

Part chemist and part psychologist, a bartender has to managed both the often contradictory wishes of the customer with the physical science of alcohol. There's a good reason why the words "balance" and "patience" appear often in the document that follows.

As in year's past, we went to a wide variety of establishments around the island–locals only dives, touristy restaurants, fine dining establishments in luxurious resorts–and talked with the men and women behind the bar about what made their jobs wonderful, and wonderfully difficult. What follows is a fascinating series of snapshots into the exacting work that goes into the seemingly simple act of making someone a drink.

Going out for an evening that includes an alcoholic beverage should be a fun and enjoyable experience, and everyone we spoke with does his or her best to make that happen. But please remember to drink safely. Bartenders can do outstanding and incredible things with the simplest of ingredients, but it's up to us customers to behave responsibly.

Jeff Groh: Merriman's Kapalua

What spirit do you like to work with the most?

As spirits go I would have to say Bourbon, but if you ask my bartenders they'll laugh and tell you I can't make a cocktail without bitters. The last drink I made with bourbon was Elijah Craig: homemade ginger beer, lime juice and Fee's Old fashioned bitters.

What would you change about the liquor business on Maui?

Less sugar, better spirits, and a controlled use of tropical fruit. Also, I might ban blenders.

What's your bar's signature drink?

Any response other than a Mai Tai is probably wishful thinking. I'd like to think that our bar's signature is using great spirits and keeping them prominent in our cocktails. Yeah there are tropical elements–mango in the tequila drink or pineapple with the vodka but you can taste the spirits. It's a cocktail, damn it–not fruit punch! We also make more ingredients in our bar than in any other I know of but that's another story.

What's your signature drink?

Bourbon and Hibiscus with Peychauds bitters. It's a slant rhyme off a Manhattan but made "island-style" and not too sweet.

What are your influences?

My children are huge influences. My youngest daughter Madeline will ask me, "Dad did you do wine today?" and I'll be like, "Oh yeah, Daddy totally did wine today" and then my oldest wants to help me make cocktails, which I know is trouble. I tried teaching them about fermentation this summer. We made a Kula strawberry ginger soda and lost two-thirds of the batch to bottles violently exploding, which was a pity because it was easily the best soda I'd ever tasted. It was just kind of dangerous to drink. I think it's important to make science fun and half of drinking is science.

What's your ultimate dream bar like?

I think my ultimate bar would be a tiki bar in Indo that was built palapa-style right on the beach, complete with thatch roof and sand floor. There'd be a perfect point break in front and I'd surf half the day and start work in the afternoon when the winds came up. There'd be hammocks as well as tables and all the fruits and juices would be sourced locally. We'd distill our own rum from cane juice and have a reserve bottling that was 30 years old. Our clientele would be ex-pats, supermodels, surf pros, unpretentious artists and philosophers. Half the people are drinking cocktails, and the other half champagne–champagne sales are very important to my ultimate bar. We'd have a rad house band. Then one day Sally Fitzgibbons comes in to surf and we fall madly in love and get married out in the lineup, then party back at the bar.

What's interesting about being a bartender on Maui?

There's a new plane arriving every hour and you never know who's going to walk into your bar.

What makes a good bartender?

The best bartenders are always still learning and looking for something new, whether it be technique or an ingredient that's going to make a drink better. I'm curious by nature and I'd like to think I stay true to this goal, but I'm not a bartender day-in and day-out. I wear a lot of hats in our restaurant.

What's the newest drink you have created?

Big Island Honey, tamarind and a Cognac "Sidecar." It's a combination of the sweet and sour that you get from tamarind rounded out by honey and then enlivened with the woodsy spice of Hennessy Cognac. It reminds me of biting into the perfect apple, but the apple bites back! Oh yeah, it has bitters–all my cocktails tend to have bitters...

Click here for the full feature at Maui Time