Maui gets a bad rap for being behind the times. Is this is a little tropical island 3,000 miles away from everything–too far away to be trendy? The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Villas decided that this was not the case with their cocktail menu, so Food and Beverage Director Bob Megargle graciously invited San Francisco Bay Area mixology expert Manny Hinojosa to the property to show the staff the ropes.
“His superb craftsmanship combined with superb knowledge of ingredients influenced the resort’s seasonal cocktails,” says Megargle. “Manny explored and experimented with a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and botanicals native to Maui and the Hawaiian Islands to create signature cocktails. Our solid partnership with local farmers and vendors complemented the food and beverage team’s passion to introduce a new and trendy cocktail culture and promote Maui and Hawaii as an educational cocktail destination with a vibrant and vivacious edge to ‘pau hana’ sessions and themed events.”
Hinojosa was immediately impressed to find an herb garden and fruits growing on the resort property–within harvesting distance of the bar, in fact. Having consulted for Food Network and Guy Fieri and participated in the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour cocktail and food pairing dinner with chefs Michael Symon and Jonathan Waxman, there was no telling what direction he would take the menu.
Hinojosa says he comes from humble origins, growing up in Mexico City and working as a bartender. He says keeping the ingredients fresh and recipes simple is the key to his winning approach to handcrafted. He likes to make simple syrups and juices in house.
“My garden-inspired theme evolved into a series of cocktails using freshly grown lemon verbena, Thai chilies, local herbs and more,” he says. “The bartending and beverage associates representing the resort’s restaurants and bars, including Ocean Pool Bar & Grill, were most enthusiastic as we worked together in finessing the cocktail recipes. We created fresh fruit juices and syrups such as Maui sugar cane syrup and Maui pineapple juice to make the cocktails fresh and rich with local flavors.”
Part of the handcrafted mixology trend is education. Its roots lie in tasting and trying combinations of flavors to expand your palate in workshops where bartenders show off their skills, but it also breaks down the mysteries of the concoctions and gives you the guts to try this at home. So the Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Villas set up an outdoor mixologist workshop. There, Hinojosa accompanied Hawaii’s own mixologist Joey Gottesman to show guests and the public the alchemy behind his new cocktail designs. Hinojosa demonstrated that creating your own cranberry juice is a cinch and it tastes incredible compared with that found on store shelves.
“Our concept is simple: we have come to Hawaii to learn and introduce a classic twist to the theme of sustainability,” says Megargle. “It’s ‘the meeting of the minds’–possessing the knowledge of what we have already learned in our journeys as we design timeless cocktails and recognize the ingredients in the Hawaiian Islands. The agricultural richness impacts and innovates the characteristics of the cocktail trend.”
As the sun set on the West Side, Gottesman and Hinojosa demonstrated three drinks: the Smash, a Scotch cocktail with homemade cran and raspberries; the coconut hibiscus mojito; and the lemon Verbena strawberry fizz.
The Smash is amazing–people who don’t usually drink Scotch are going to be surprised at how well it goes down. Brilliant and bright cranberry and raspberry flavors perk up the smoky and woodsy Scotch.
The coconut hibiscus mojito is a pleasant twist on that popular rum drink, and now I know what to do with Bacardi Rock Coconut. As for the lemon Verbena strawberry fizz, it’s a great way to use the strawberries that grow year-round in Kula, accompanied with homemade lemon verbena syrup and vodka. It’s a refreshing enough to drink in the summer, too.
Of course, the drinks are featured on the menu at the Ocean Pool Bar and Grill, so you don’t have to get dirty if you want to taste them. You can just come down and enjoy along with the sunset views, their Taco Tuesday or Crab Fest night.
“Among my many journeys and travels all over the country to help define cocktail menus for restaurants, bar and night spots, I have found Hawaii to be a truly extraordinary destination,” says Hinojosa. “The tropical climate helps nurture fruits, vegetables and herbs that we could introduce with a sustainable twist when designing cocktails, similar to the culinary experience and chefs’ partnership with local farmers.”
Ocean Pool Bar & Grill
Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas
6 Kai Ala Dr., Ka‘anapali
Try these drinks at home:
1 oz. Dewar’s 12
1 oz. Disaronno
5 fresh raspberries (muddle)
1 small sprig of mint (muddle)
1/2 oz. Lime juice
2 oz. Cranberry juice (homemade)
4 cups water, 1 Cranberry, ½ cup sugar
Bring to a boil, blend and strain. Refrigerate for two weeks.
Glass: Collins glass
1. In a mixing glass, add raspberries and mint, then muddle.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Ice, shake and serve over the rocks with new ice in an old fashioned glass.
4. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
COCONUT HIBISCUS MOJITO
2 oz. Bacardi Rock Coconut
1 oz. Homemade hibiscus flower syrup
1 oz. lime juice
1 sprig of fresh mint
1 to 2 oz. Club Soda (Combined)
Glass: Collins glass
1. In a mixing glass, muddle fresh mint, add Bacardi rum, hibiscus syrup, fresh lime juice and ice.
2. Shake and serve over the rocks.
3. Top with club soda.
4. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and fresh hibiscus flower and hibiscus flower rim.
LEMON VERBENA STRAWBERRY FIZZ
1 1/2 oz. Grey Goose original
½ oz. Campari
¾ oz. homemade lemon verbena syrup
1 oz. local strawberry
¾ oz. fresh press lemon juice
seltzer water (to top drink)
1. In a mixing glass, muddle strawberry.
2. Add Grey Goose, Aperol, Verbena syrup, lemon juice and ice.
3. Shake, and serve topped with club soda.
4. Garnish with lemon verbena and lemon wheel.
Verbena Syrup Recipe:
1. Boil 2 cups of water with 3 – 8” Sprigs of fresh Lemon Verbena Leaves.
2. Stir in 2 cups of white cane sugar, remove from heat.
3. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
4. Note: Remains fresh up to 10 days.
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.