Ah, Kona, Hawaii. You may think its a sleepy little Kailua town on the big island of Hawaii. But, think again. Once a year the quiet town of Kona on the island of Hawaii gets transformed into a Mai Tai mecca at the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival, sponsored by Bacardi. With top mixologist talent showing up from all across the state, and international participants and judges, this island village goes all out. For this year’s second annual crowning of the “Master of Mai Tai”, the event held at the Royal Kona Resort‘s Mai Tai Bar stepped it up a notch with an oceanside concert headlining with Third Eye Blind, food booths and a barbecue tasting contest, live music by local entertainers Henry Kapono of Cecilio and Kapono, and Eric Gilliom of Barefoot Natives, and a nice ten thousand dollar cash prize for the winner.
With all that money on the line, the bartenders pulled out all the stops. Judged on presentation, nose, palate, finish, balance, creativity, and true to form, the mai tai could earn up to 350 points. Each competitor had just seven minutes to prepare their drink and serve it with memorable flair. Judges sniffed, scrutinized, sipped, and scored. Some mixologists stripped, some forfeited, and some served up amazing concoctions that wowed the judges panel, which consisted of William Ramos, Bacardi Brand Master; Juan Coronado, Bacardi Brand Master Apprentice; Chris Teves, Publisher of Hawaii Beverage Guide; Eric Gilliom, of the Barefoot Natives, and BeachBum Berry, author and rum expert.
In the end it was Christian Self, with his white shirt black tie and shades on, from Oahu’s ThirtyNineHotel who took the top score with his amazing Mai Tai Twist. Looking like a secret service agent of molecular mixology he whipped up the judges favorite with a finesse worth ten grand. He made an opulent deconstructed Trader Vic’s mai tai on the rocks topped in foam taking the flavor notes of lemongrass and lime and combining them with Bacardi rum, serving it with side of gelee with the same flavor notes minus the liquor served in a Hawaiian saimin spoon.
Judge Juan Coronado said of the winning drink, “If you closed your eyes and took a sip it was identifiable as a mai tai, when you opened your eyes to look at it it was 3-D with texture, lemongrass, lime, the foam. He created a complex cocktail with all the hard labor and delivered it with balance.”