June 5th, 2012
While in hawaii this April, i was kindly introduced by Brice at the Okolemaluna Lounge tiki bar to an interesting new liquor i’d never heard of before: Okolehao. When i asked more about it, Brice kindly gave me a little shot to try, i ordered one of his good handcrafted cocktails with it in it, and he also kindly pointed me to where i could get some. With that, out came my geek / history obsessiveness– and i had to have it and learn more….
Okolehao is a moonshine from Hawaii whose recipes have varied, depending on time and who was making it (like moonshine recipes tend to,) but the one consistent is its core ingredient of fermented ti plant. Combine the fact that ti root was common throughout Polynesia, and rationing of spirit grain made alcohol began in Hawaii during World War II, and the populariy of Okolehao moonshine became took off: from the locals, to the stationed G.I.’s on the island.
After the war, Okolehao began to disappear, but today– thanks to several makers (i got mine from Maui Distillers,) the tradition lives on. Once i picked up a bottle, it took some time to find a cocktail recipe that included it. Eventually, i ran across the Happy Buddha:
4 oz. guava nectar
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1 1/2 oz. Okolehao
Shake with ice & strain into a double-old fashioned glass full of crushed ice.
(NOTE: I have tried this yet, as i dont drink so frequently– but i intend to over the coming weeks.)
While researching the Happy Buddha, i wondered if Benihana used to serve it in their Hotei happy buddha mug, which i remember as a kid when we visited the Encino, Ca location on Ventura Blvd…. Here’s a close up shot of a scene from the tv show Mad Men (shown above) of characters Don Draper and his wife enjoying the drink and the mug at Benihana:
While i havent watched many episodes, i dig that the writers of Mad Men do things pretty era correct, when it comes to mid century / early 60′s. In this example, they are right on again– as the first Benihana was opened on W 56th Street in Manahattan, NYC in 1964, by Japanese immigrant “Rocky” Aoki. During that same time, tiki was hugely popular– and Benihana rode that wave along with most everyone else, by releasing their happy buddha “tiki” mug and rum based tiki cocktails.
Unfortunately, i discovered that Benihana didnt actually serve the Okolehao based Happy Buddha cocktail in their happy buddha Hotei mug– but the thought was good Instead, they served their signature “Benihana Punch,” which consists of their “special rum blend,” along with peach & strawberry liqueurs, and pineapple & orange juice. Oh well, at least they’ve stuck to their guns, and still offer the drink and mug to this day.
Anyway– i’ll let you know how the cocktail is, once i make and taste…
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