Keeping with the theme for this year’s Tiki Month of “Modern Tiki”, I’d like to present what has become a staple when I entertain during Tiki Months: Mai Tai Gels. These are cool for a variety of historic, philosophical, and practical reasons. When you consider truly 21st Century trends in the cocktail world over all, none is more truly such than Molecular Mixology in general and especially solidified cocktails. I like these treats in particular, as they combine perhaps the perfect classic early Tiki Cocktail with modern technique, all in a kitschy late-era Tiki look.
And as an added bonus, they are bog easy to make.
Rather than use any of the fancier liquid solidification techniques, I simply use gelatin. The result is sturdier than other methods, and since they are meant to be eaten as candies, that is a good thing. Aside from said gelatin, the recipe is exactly the same as the Mai Tai recipe that I believe to be closest to Trader Vic’s original cocktail superweapon.
- 1 oz. Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still rum (alternatively Smith & Cross)
- 1 oz. gold or aged rum (e.g. Appleton V/X, Coruba, etc.)
- 0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
- 0.5 oz. Dry Curaçao (or Cointreau)
- 0.5 oz. orgeat
- 0.25 oz. simple syrup
- 1 packet Knox Gelatine
- 1.5 oz. water
The water is about the amount of melt you’d get from the ice if you were drinking it. It makes the gels taste right, and helps the gelatin bloom and set.
Pour the gelatin into the water and stir. Let sit for five minutes to activate, then stir again. While this is blooming, heat the lime juice, orgeat, and simple syrup in your smallest pot to almost a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and scrape in the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and add in the rums and curaçao. Stir some more.
Set aside and prepare your molds. I use this cool moai ice tray. It has the virtue of being nearly the exact size needed to accommodate this recipe, with but a drop or two of waste. Before filling, simply give the tray a light spritz with Pam, and wipe off all excess with a paper towel. You will want to fill each mold to the brim, so I advise setting the mold on a tray or piece of cardboard. The molds are very flexible, and without support, you will spill some.
Once you pour, carefully place in your fridge for at least three hours, preferably more.
When you are ready to serve, peel the gels out of the ice tray with your fingers. Flexible silicone ice trays like the one I linked make this process easy. It will look like you are going to squash or tear the gels, but go slow and they will peel out perfectly. They are quite sturdy while chilled and can be eaten with you or your guests’ fingers. Garnish as befits a true Mai Tai by laying each on a large mint leaf.