Part of the exquisite enjoyment of the renaissance of cocktails is the incredible wealth of knowledge to be had about what you drink. And the beauty of it all is that you don’t have to depend on books. Case in point, Ron Taylor, one of the many talented bartenders at Mama’s Fish House.
I dropped in on Taylor without any notice on a sunny afternoon in Kuau. Mama’s Fish House has free valet parking, so you never have to worry about where to park there, just pull right in. With no reservation I was headed for the bar to check out some of the signature cocktails that the mixologists of Mama’s dream up. These cocktails are not on their regular menu but rather featured as specials of the day, around 45 of them rotate. The pupus and cocktails experience at Mama’s is unpretentious luxury, and can be spontaneous. The bar is one piece of shedua wood hand crafted by Bill Cole with ocean views of the private beach.
Taylor is a great tender of booze. The drink of the day was a Paniolo Lemonade mixed with fresh Meyer lemonade and Jack Daniels, one of his own creations. Taylor says, “Floyd Christenson gives us the freedom to try different things, and work with fresh ingredients. This cocktail is a twist on the Lynchburg lemonade. Not everyone comes in wanting Jack.”
In fact the tropicals are most popular here, and the Mai Tai’s are out of this world. With their polynesian inspired menu the tropicals pair perfectly. Their fully stocked bar can make you anything you ask for. I noticed that Mama’s bar carried Koloa Rum, made in Kauai, curious about the rum I asked Taylor about it and he promptly poured me a taste, telling me it was a very young rum. Then he poured me a taste of the Zaya gran reserve rum, aged for 12 years, so I could get a comparison on the particular tasting points between the two. You will have to try it yourself.
Taylor is a walking wikipedia of spirits, and the rest of the staff at Mama’s will tell you as much. Knowing background lore to the origins of drinks, and full of facts about the spirits you order, i kept the questions coming. Taylor never skipped a beat, and was a complete gentleman about answering, even enjoying sharing his information. What is the difference between brandy and cognac? What kind of cocktails can you make with it? Taylor says, “Cognac is distilled from grapes, and from a specific region in France. One of the cocktails made with it is the Sidecar, its known as an after dinner drink. The Sidecar was invented during world war I in France. There was a guy who came to this bar and ordered it, of course came in a motorcycle side car.”
Since I am a whisk(e)y fan, and the Paniolo lemonade featured Jack, he gave me a quick lesson in the particulars of this beautiful brown booze. Taylor explains, “Its name is gaelic in origin, and whiskey means water of life. In Scotland it is served with a few drops of spring water to open up the flavors. We do that here at Mama’s, a special treat for our Scotch drinkers.” He served me up the basics of the bar in easy to drink form, Irish whiskey is from Ireland, Scotch is whiskey made in Scotland, bourbon is whiskey made in the US. The barreling process is fascinating to me, and Taylor has traveled to nether parts of the world to witness it himself.
While I came to examine fine mixed cocktails, I found that armed with good knowledge you can enjoy your beverage experience even more. Finding a great bartender to help you along on that quest is one just part of the puzzle. I can’t wait to park myself in front of Taylor again at Mama’s Bar.
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.