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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

The Halekulani

A classic Hawaiian Tiki Drink

Halekulani Cocktail

The Halekulani cocktail is a rarity among Tiki cocktails. It contains no rum, and everyone seems to agree upon using the exact same recipe! I went through every Tiki book in my (ever growing) library and came across three different references to the the Halekulani, all of which contained the exact same recipe. Of course I haven't seen it in any book released before Sippin' Safari so maybe they just all ran with the Bum's version...

At any rate, this cocktail is named after the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki where it was invented. The hotel bar at the Halekulani Hotel was named the "House Without a Key" and had a lot of the things we now think of as Tiki by 1932 - long before Tiki was considered an entertainment option. We're talking a lounge with native lava rock, tapa cloth, and tribal art (according to the Bum). Interestingly, the liquor of choice in the Halekulani is Bourbon. I discussed the Hawaiian Islands' history of distilled spirits at some length when looking at the Polynesian Paralysis. The same history applies here. Apparently, you could get the Halekulani with Bourbon or Okolehao. Given the scarcity of Okolehao here on the mainland, I'm using Bourbon. But this does bring up the issue of which Bourbon one should use. Neither Smuggler's Cove nor Sippin" Safari recommend a particular bourbon. Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails recommends Booker's or Old Grand-Dad 114 proof. I've heard Okolehao described as strong which would explain the higher proof recommendations, but I've also heard it described as Hawaiian moonshine and both of those Bourbons are at the top of their game. I'd say Booker's is as far from the taste of moonshine as you can be given the similarities in their ingredients! In the end, my default bourbon for mixed drinks is Maker's Mark. Maybe it's my Tennessee roots, but anybody mixing with Booker's is wasting damn fine sipping bourbon IMO.

When it comes to the flavor profile of the Halekulani, Tiki Modern describes it as a "punchier Whiskey Sour" which is correct assuming they mean more punch-like ingredients (or a higher proof kick given their Bourbon recommendations). I would describe it as a slight reduction of a cocktail that falls dead between an Old Fashioned and a Mai Tai. Either way, it's been around for 90 years for a reason.

The Halekulani

Source - Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails, Shannon Mustipher

Halekulani Cocktail

  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice

  • 1/2 ounce orange juice

  • 1/2 ounce pineapple juice

  • 1/2 ounce Demerara syrup

  • 1/2 tsp grenadine*

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon*

  • dash Angostura bitters

Put everything in a shaker with cubed or cracked ice. Shake well and strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish is varied by author. Tiki Modern says dehydrated pineapple and citrus slices, Beachbum Berry shows a flower floating in his, while Martin Cate recommends an edible orchid on the rim.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations - As mentioned earlier, I prefer Maker's Mark for the bourbon. I cannot stress this enough, make your own Grenadine. It's stupid simple (1 part cane sugar to 1 part pomegranate juice) and if you were surprised it was pomegranate instead of cherry then you now know why you should make your own. It's like getting street tacos in LA for the first time when you're only reference for Mexican food is Taco Bell.

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