It’s summertime and the sippin’ is easy, thanks to a number of revamped cocktail menus at bars and restaurants around Oahu.
Here are four new drinks for summer worth ordering:
Easy Cue Kailua
While putting booze in a slushy isn’t new — I’m a big fan of the offerings at Encore Saloon and Harry’s Hardware Emporium — Easy Cue Kailua has me ignoring the menu’s tasty barbecue offerings, for now at least, thanks to the slush machine behind the bar.
Using New Amsterdam vodka as the base spirit, Easy Cue is serving a house standard lilikoi sweet tea slushy ($10) along with a limited-edition guava-orange slushy ($10).
Pro tip: Order the guava-orange, backed up with an order of pineapple soft serve ($6). Combine the two at the ratio of your preference and you’ll have the BEST spiked slush float EVER. Trust me.
Easy Cue, 767 Kailua Road; 762-3089
The Hideout at the Laylow Waikiki has introduced a number of food and drink items for summer, with cocktails perfectly suited to lounging on Hideout’s outdoor lanai above Kuhio Avenue.
Mixologist Justin Kipapa describes the En-Thai-Cing cocktail ($16) as a drink that features “all these things that you would find in traditional Thai food.” Think coconut and lime; the drink also utilizes a kaffir lime and lemon grass shrub for that Thai vibe.
Orgeat and Canton ginger liqueur round this one out, creating a sweet, creamy summertime refresher.
Laylow Waikiki, 2299 Kuhio Ave.; 922-6600
Myna Bird Tiki Bar
The tiny Myna Bird Tiki Bar in The Street Food Hall at the International Market Place has consistently turned out quality cocktails since opening in 2017, thanks to head mixologist Andrew Woodley.
Woodley is at it again, having created seven new cocktails along with five “Tiki Classics” that are either brand new or feature a reworked recipe. While most of the drinks are rum-based, Woodley also has worked hard to include choices for those who enjoy whiskey or mezcal.
A great intro to the new menu is the Royal Jawaiian ($14), with a new “Myna Bird Rum Blend” that Woodley devised using a mix of Appleton Estate Reserve, Smith & Cross, Rhum JM Blanc and Hawaii-made Ko Hana Kea rums. While Woodley’s recipe also uses Banane du Bresil banana liqueur and a “macadamia- jerk” orgeat syrup with some fresh lime juice, the rum shines through in this one.
Myna Bird Tiki Bar, International Market Place; 377-4402
I’ve been a fan of Joe Arakawa’s creativity behind the bar since his days at the now-closed Avenue’s Bar + Eatery in Kaimuki. After a brief stint at Le Radici, he’s landed downtown at Pai Honolulu, which has launched new pau hana and dinner menus for summer.
With the new food come new cocktails, and Arakawa has already debuted three signature drinks — with at least three more to come. He’s also added four cocktails to the happy hour menu, available from 5 to 6 p.m. at the bar.
I’m planning to return for another Sassy Sazerac ($14), which Arakawa says is a tweaked version of the classic cocktail recipe. He uses a mix of Bulleit and Rittenhouse rye whiskeys and omits the cognac typically found in the drink, substituting it with his own fresh strawberry-Pernod-thyme syrup.
It’s that syrup that makes this drink special, and Arakawa’s decision to use rhubarb bitters instead of the traditional combo of Peychaud’s and Angostura to push the flavor profile from strawberry to raspberry-like with an extra kick, thanks to the whiskey.
Pai Honolulu, 55 Merchant St.; 744-2531
I’M A devotee of self-service bars like Off the Wall Craft Beer and Wine in Kakaako and Grace in Growlers in Kailua.
Just check in and register at the door, then you’re free to try as much (or as little) beer from multiple taps in the room. No muss, no fuss — and no waiting around for servers when it gets busy, either.
Kailua residents — and wine fans from around Oahu — now have another self-service option in the new D’Vine Kailua Wine Bar at the Lau Hala Shops (formerly Liberty House and Macy’s), which held a grand opening last week.
Sisters Maureen Nelson and Geri Bennett, along with Bennett’s husband, David, opened their tasting room out of a shared love for wine and Geri Bennett’s deep knowledge of the stuff — she’s a Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 wine and spirit professional and American wine expert, certified in both by California’s Napa Valley Wine Academy. She has also taught classes on the subject in the California state university system.
“Because we love wine, we’ve created the kind of place we’d like to go — a fun, relaxed atmosphere to taste and learn about wine,” Geri Bennett said in a news release.
D’Vine is able to feature 32 wines on any given day, thanks to a Coravin system that helps preserve wine and dispense it at the perfect serving temperature. Guests have the option of a taste, half-pour or full pour, with prices from about $4 to $10 and up, depending on the wine and amount served.
The sisters plan to offer regular wine education classes along with monthly wine tastings, food pairings and other special events. D’Vine is open from 2 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 1 to 9 p.m. Sundays, with happy hour 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays.
NOW IN its second year, Hawaii’s Best Mocktail competition is showing there’s room for alcohol-free drinks on local bar and restaurant menus.
Not only are bartenders taking the mocktail concept seriously, they’re embracing the challenge and creating drinks that are just as flavorful and complex as those made with booze.
Last month, DTRIC Insurance and the Hawaii Restaurant Association welcomed bartenders from Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island to the International Market Place for an afternoon mix-off. Guests were able to sample 14 different mocktails and vote for their favorite.
The Manifest’s Gwen Whiting came up with the crowd favorite, a Ginger & Rose Fizz that featured sugar-free Concord grape juice, rose water and fresh ginger juice in a drink that was both sweet and spicy. Whiting adds li hing mui for just the right sour note, too. This was easily my favorite of the bunch.
Mixologist Jasmine Wasan from Kailua- Kona’s Magics Beach Grill earned the Judge’s Choice Award for her Pahoehoe Plunge, which combined fresh honeydew melon, cantaloupe and Korean pear juice with Earl Grey-infused simple syrup, egg white, lemon juice and activated charcoal to make something truly original.
Get both Wasan and Whiting’s winning mocktail recipes, along with 12 others worth trying, online at dtric.com/mocktails.