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Oahu / Honolulu - Good Liquor Store

I wasn't sure how easy it is to get ingredients to make cocktails with versus bringing them myself, is there a good liquor store on the way from the airport to the Royal Hawaiian that I can check with to see if they have what I am looking for ? (good high end rums & orgeat)

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  1. Not exactly on the way, but check out Tamura's in Kaimuki. Good selection, decent prices. Not too far off your path.

    1. Are you bringing your own jiggers, hand juicer, shaker tins? They don't take up much space in a suitcase but ours are heavy duty and add a bit of weight.

      It is easy to find Coco Lopez, Angostura bitters, orange bitters. We had some trouble finding fresh pineapple juice but maybe were looking in the wrong places.

      Also Tommy Bahama of all places had a selection of Bittermens Bitters! Next to a pile of lame cocktail books, but still.

      We found Tamura's to have the best selection of rums. And an excellent poke counter! You can get your spicy ahi poke and rum shopping done at the same time!

      I found it difficult to find good orgeat without artificial flavoring in Hawaii. We usually bring the 5 oz size of BG Reynolds brand wrapped in bubble wrap in our checked bag. We've also been known to bring a tiny bottle filled with a few oz of Pernod from home. And to make grenadine in Hawaii using the cold process method:

      Cold Process — Pour one cup pomegranate juice (POM) and one cup of sugar into a tightly sealed jar and shake vigorously. Then add another ounce or two of sugar and repeat.

      3 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        I figured I could fit a jigger and a tin / plastic cup http://barluxe.com/ wont break and travel nicely, they form a seal with a boston shaker just fine

        I like the weighted shaker tins as well :


        Rum + Poke sounds like a winning combination to me

        I generally just use Dole Pineapple juice in the little cans for pina colada's but i use Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup which puts the drink over the top (adds great flavor and viscosity to the drink) - Have not tried it with fresh Pineapple juice instead of the canned, wasn't sure the extra cost was worth it and I don't make pina colada's often

        Do you like BG Reynolds over Small Hands Orgeat? They did a taste test for orgeat in Imbibe this month but they didn't pick any winners, it was kind of a pointless page

        Haven't used BG but have heard it is good

        I will call tamura's and see if they have what I am looking for and bring whatever they are missing :)

        Thanks everyone

        1. re: Dapuma

          Fresh pineapple is definitely worth it in some drinks. My husband is addicted to the Jungle Bird variation they serve at Lantern's Keep here in NYC. They always use fresh pineapple juice (they juice it themselves).

          I haven't done a side by side comparison and it's been a while since we've gotten Small Hands' orgeat. I do like their pineapple gum syrup a lot esp in a Pisco Punch. But my faint recollection is that the BG Reynolds brand is nuttier/darker. Probably he toasts the almonds more.

          We tend to use the BG Reynolds brand since he had better distribution in NYC first. When traveling, the 5 oz bottles seem like a good amount to me as the bottle is small, so you are wasting less. Depends how many Mai Tais you are going to make, though!

          Also, I don't know where you can buy these in stores on Oahu, but you'd probably dig the Hawaii Bitters Company:

          1. re: kathryn

            I'd also bring a tiny bottle of curaçao, since you won't need much. Please report back what you find on Oahu!

      2. Tamuras surely has the best selection and good prices.

        Slightly more convenient, but less selection and generally much higher prices is the Liquor Connection at Ward Warehouse, right on Ala Moana Blvd just before you get to Waikiki.


        1. The Wine Stop on King St. has a good high end selection of what you are looking for also cheeses and other things like that. Really friendly wonderful people there, very knowledgeable. Try them.

          1. There are ABC stores on every other corner, and it seems half the store is booze. I was pregnant at the time so I didn't look much, but a casual glance indicated plenty of options.

            4 Replies
            1. re: autumm

              What ABC Stores carry is not really what is considered high end rum (lots of Malibu, flavored rums, etc). They do have smaller bottles, which is nice.

              1. re: kathryn

                Well they always have a great price on Tito's and ABC.

                1. re: manomin

                  Looking at Dapuma's previous posts, the main concern appears to be making a Trader Vic 1944 mai tai:

                  1 oz fresh lime juice
                  1/2 oz orange curacao
                  1/2 oz orgeat
                  1/4 oz simple syrup
                  1 oz aged Jamaican rum (we use Appleton Estate VX usually)
                  1 oz aged Martinique rum (Rhum Clément VSOP or St. James Hors d’Ages)

                  Shake well with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Sink your spent lime shell into drink. Garnish with a mint sprig.

                  Appleton V/X is sometimes in ABC stores, but I've never seen the others.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    yes, I am very particular when it comes to Mai Tai's :)

                    Or cocktail's in general

                    Now subbing out the v/x with Smith and Cross is certainly an acceptable/funky sub, the Rhum Clement I have never subbed, but I have never had the St James though to compare how the drink changes

                    I do cut the lime juice in half (.5oz) and skip the simple syrup, and keep the orgeat at .5 - I like it a bit less limey

                    Will report back once I have called them to see what they have and what I should bring with

            2. costco? the one on maui had a small decent selection

              1. FYI I emailed a list of what I was looking for to them and no response so I think I will just bring my own items :)

                1 Reply
                1. I called as well

                  Seemed like a bit of a language barrier and no Rhum Clement VSOP and no Smith and Cross

                  So I didn't go any further - I can bring my own stuff :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Dapuma

                    Fujioka's Wine TImes
                    2919 Kapiolani Blvd
                    Honolulu, HI 96826
                    (808) 739-9463

                    Not the BIGGEST selection out there, but they're always very helpful!

                  2. I was in a similar predicament to you a couple weeks ago, wanting to have nightly Mai Tais on vacation. Packed my own shaker, jigger, and lime squeezer, but no booze.

                    I got bottles of Appleton 12yo and Extra Reserve from Tamuras, but they didn't carry any non-blue curacao, so I had to go to the Liquor Collection in the Ward Center for a bottle of Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao. Couldn't find any decent orgeat (e.g. Small Hands or BG), so I made my own passable batch in an empty water bottle using this very simple recipe:


                    (couldn't find orange flower water so had to use rosewater


                    Limes and mint were the hardest things to find, surprisingly!

                    All in all much cheaper than going out and probably better than 99.99% of the Mai Tais being served on the island.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: TomMeg1970

                      Yep--that's why we always bring our own curaçao and orgeat. You seemed to have done alright though!

                    2. Dapuma-do I have this right? you are staying at the Royal Hawaiian and you want to haul or buy your own liquor?? Why go through the trouble!!! You have several bars in hotel PLUS room service PLUS neighboring hotels at your feet!! What am I missing?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: UES Mayor

                        The man wants his Mai Tais a certain way... You know?

                        What most places in Hawaii call a Mai Tai has very little relation to the original Mai Tai. Trader Vic's 1944 recipe is very boozy and not very sweet, unlike most Hawaiian mai tais. The Hawaiian version has FOUR juices in comparison to the 1944 Trader Vic version (lime juice only).

                        Here's the Trader Vic version:

                        1 oz fresh lime juice

                        1/2 oz orange curacao

                        1/2 oz orgeat

                        1/4 oz simple syrup

                        1 oz aged Jamaican rum (we use Appleton Estate VX usually)

                        1 oz aged Martinique rum (Rhum Clément VSOP or St. James Hors d’Ages)

                        Shake well with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Sink your spent lime shell into drink. Garnish with a mint sprig.

                        From tiki historian Beachbum Berry's site:

                        "Vic created his Mai Tai to showcase a 17-year-old rum imported by J. Wray & Nephew. “The flavor of this great rum wasn’t meant to be overpowered with heavy additions of fruit juices and flavorings,” warned the Trader, a warning that has since fallen on deaf ears – specifically, the ears of bar owners and tenders who have transformed Vic’s signature drink into crayon-colored liquid candy."

                        The Hawaiian mai tai is an evolution of the Trader Vic recipe, and VERY different. From tiki historian Beachbum Berry's books, about the Hawaiian Mai Tai variation:

                        "From the Surf Bar of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Beach, where Trader Vic introduced his original Mai Tai to the islands in 1953. Over the ensuing years, this recipe (which dates from 1971) evolved from Vic’s into its present form.

                        Mai Tai (Hawaiian)

                        * 1 oz. orange juice, fresh

                        * 1 oz. pineapple juice, unsweetened

                        * 1/2 oz. lime juice, fresh

                        * 1/4 oz. lemon juice, fresh

                        * 1/4 oz. orange curacao

                        * 1/4 oz. orgeat syrup

                        * 1/4 oz. simple syrup

                        * 1 oz. Demerara rum

                        * 1 oz. dark Jamaican rum

                        * 1 oz. light Puerto Rican rum

                        Shake well with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a pineapple finger, sugar can stick, orchid, and mint sprig."

                        I really enjoy Hawaiian Mai Tais, and as you can see it is a completely different drink in Hawaii, especially taking into account the sweetness of the orange juice and pineapple juice.

                        But they both have lime juice, curacao, and orgeat. Without the curacao and orgeat, what you have is rum and juice. I would not call that a Mai Tai. Neither recipe does any sort of float of dark rum, either, or have lilikoi or any POG (which is basically sugar water) or whatever random stuff bars do nowadays, and still try to call it a "Mai Tai." It may be tasty but it's not a Mai Tai. There's very little consistency in what constitutes a Mai Tai.

                        Additionally, when Don the Beachcomber & Trader Vic were alive, you didn't have all of these Hawaiian local rums, so who knows how they might have tweaked their recipes for Koloa rum, etc.

                        Both men were also INCREDIBLY secretive about their recipes so if you were a competing bar or restaurant, you could only guess what was in the drink. So naturally the copiers' recipes would be "off."

                        Vic’s original goal was “creating a drink that would be the finest drink we could make, using the finest ingredients we could find.”

                        So the tastiest Mai Tais will come from using good ice, high quality rums, fresh lime juice, high quality orgeat (most of what is sold is artificially flavored so the best places make their own with real almonds), and by jiggering/measuring the ingredients and tasting the results before serving the drink. Bars that do this are the exception, not the rule.