Looking for a fun way to spend pau hana that’s classy (i.e. no getting hammered and acting stupid) and doesn’t break the bank? Consider the cocktail omakase at Alan Wong’s on South King Street.
Introduced in July, the menu includes six “courses” of shots, each with a small bite described as a “topper.” Guests are guided through the hourlong experience by wine director Mark Shishido, who both educates and entertains as he shares the backstory of each drink.
“You know, this is stuff that we’ve always done, so it’s just a matter of finding a venue to share it,” said Shishido. “When we do cocktail development, we come up with all these cocktails, but it’s impossible for someone to sit down and have 10, or even five cocktails. So this allows our guests to come in and have small portions of many.
“What I’ve found is that it has appealed to a wide range of people. From the 24-year-olds all the way up to the 74-year-olds. Retail. Doctors. Lawyers. Teachers. Girls night out. It’s pretty broad.”
For $35, the value is amazing. Not only do you get to hang out with Shishido and pick his brain for an hour, you also get a half-dozen tastes that will both satisfy and surprise you.
Satisfy, because you’ll be served classic flavors with a twist, like Alan Wong’s take on a Hemingway daiquiri, made with locally produced rum and gin, and topped with a candied lemon wheel; or a Muddled Old-Fashioned, a straightforward shot made with Buffalo Trace that tastes as it should, but kicked up about 10 notches with the addition of a candied bacon-wrapped Luxardo maraschino cherry as a topper.
And you’ll definitely be surprised — in a good way — when Shishido slides you a shot of his Spiced Normandy Sour, especially if you’ve never tried Calvados brandy before (be sure to sip this one while chewing the Envy apple topper).
His take on a pineapple “margarita” is also the best example of Shishido’s introduction of shrubs, also called drinking vinegars, into the omakase cocktails. Whenever possible, the shooters are made with balsamic vinegars from Island Olive Oil; in this case, passion fruit and mango balsamics were mixed with a housemade paste containing ume, shiso and chipotle to provide an extra flavor boost.
And don’t get me started on the sweet potato lemonade. I’m still trying to process how a drink with the texture of Kerns fruit nectar and topped with a grilled sweet potato can taste as good as it did — but I’m glad I had the opportunity to listen to Shishido talk about its development, and trust him enough to take a sip!
Make a reservation for Alan Wong’s cocktail omakase at 949-2526. Keep in mind only five seats are available per session, and only at 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
MIXOLOGIST ON THE MOVE
Swimwear. Sunglasses. Sunscreen. Those are bound to be some of Jen Ackrill’s favorite things after five years of working just steps from the beach — but hardly ever having the time to visit. Until now.
After seven years at Rye, a popular craft cocktail bar in San Francisco’s trendy Tenderloin district, Ackrill boarded a plane in August 2014 and jumped right into the relaunching of the Top of Waikiki’s cocktail program, followed shortly thereafter by the grand opening of Sky Waikiki.
Now Ackrill, 48, is shifting gears, giving up a management role in Waikiki to join the bartending staff at Pint & Jigger in McCully.
“When I first moved here, I never had a chance to horse around and go to the beach three times a week, so it’ll be nice to do that,” she said during a recent interview in Kahala. “And I get to wear a T-shirt and sneakers! I like dressing up, believe me, but it’s going to be so much fun wearing a T-shirt to work.”
It’s also going to be fun watching Ackrill make mixology magic behind the bar at Pint, where she won’t have to worry about budgets or drink costs or the latest server to quit without telling anyone. And I bet we’ll start to see more bottles of Cocktail Artist triple sec syrup — which currently features Akcrill’s face on the bottle — used in drinks here, too!
Pint owner Dave Newman didn’t have to think twice when he realized Ackrill was serious about leaving Waikiki.
“For us, it’s just a huge coup,” he said. “We’re super excited to have her.”
Ackrill’s eyes light up when asked about the creative possibilities at Pint.
“I refer to all the spirits on the back bar as crayons, and I’ve used the same 16-pack of crayons for the past five years,” she said. “And I just went over to Dave’s place and I was like, ‘They have the 164-pack of crayons with the sharpener in the back!’
“But then I freaked out, because I haven’t played with those crayons in a really long time, so I have a lot of studying to do.”
Find Ackrill behind the bar at Pint & Jigger for now; once she gets settled there, it’s a good bet she’ll start showing up at Harry’s Hardware next door as well. She’ll also celebrate a reunion behind the bar with some of her old friends at Rye when they arrive for a two-day takeover at Pint on Sept. 22 and Sept. 23.
Follow Ackrill on Instagram at @jenackrill.
KOLOA RUM POISED FOR GROWTH
September marks 10 years since the first bottles of Koloa Rum rolled off the distillery’s bottling line on Kauai.
With a solid foothold in the visitor market and local retail outlets, along with distribution in more than a dozen states nationwide, the brand is poised for additional growth, with plans to build a 45,000-square-foot distillery and warehouse to replace its 20,000-square-foot facility. Groundbreaking is set for later this month.
Koloa also plans a new tasting room, cafe and museum, and will replant 10 to 12 acres of land with sugar cane in the area of the original Koloa Mill, to bolster fields owned elsewhere in Koloa and in Kamakani. According to Koloa Rum CEO Bob Gunter, the plan is to get as many people as possible growing cane.
“We’re truly not farmers,” Gunter said. “We want to have as many other people involved, so they can point to a bottle and say, ‘Hey, my sugar cane went into that.’ It’s more inclusive in getting our community involved in what we do.”
A number of new products will be released in the coming months, Gunter said, although he wouldn’t share much info just yet. He did say they would follow the same concept as Koloa’s Kauai coffee rum, which uses coffee from Kauai Coffee Co.
“That was part of our original plan,” he explained, “to support our agricultural industry here, not only with cane, but when possible to collaborate with other ag producers and feature ingredients from other products grown here.”