We’ve seen a lot of attrition in the past few years in nightlife and late night bar entertainment. Seems like every month we’re losing another establishment. But now’s not the time to despair at what we don’t have–instead, revel in the lively energy of our existing and new spaces. Enjoy the thrill of legal drinking, or combine it with live music, dancing and dinner for the best results. This year, our annual bar guide checks in with Maui’s tastemakers–bartenders on a winning streak. We have award-winning cocktail recipes, a checklist of new bars and a few spotlights thrown on nightlife.
Best Cocktail, Best of Maui 2014
James Shoemaker is a master. He’s a tiki drink buff who’s worked behind the wood for several years. You can find him at Dazoo in Paia, where his cocktail menu is both sophisticated and approachable. He’s a humble bar servant, even though he got voted best cocktail in the most recent Best of Maui readers poll. He still names drinks after his wife Suzy, and seeks out some of the most interesting ingredients, or makes them himself, like his signature grilled lemon juice. Once a month, the bar puts on a themed specialty cocktail evening, lately featuring Pau Vodka, a spirit distilled just up the mountain. Always the gentleman, Shoemaker gives us some insight into his cocktail culture, and offers us a few goodies to try at home.
MAUITIME: Are you still blogging about your drinks?
JAMES SHOEMAKER: No, I should though huh ? People tell me our stuff is all over Instagram so I’m cool with that.
MT: I’ve been drinking your cocktails for years, and you seem to have no end to your creativity. Where do you get inspiration?
JS: You know, a good example would be the Pho Bang! We brought home a simple dish of Pho from Ba-Le and as we were unpacking everything, I looked at the baggie of side items for the Pho and all I could think about was “Yeah, we can make a cocktail with this” (except the bean sprouts, they’re unmanageable). So I got with Helen Hong, she turned me on to Lapsang Souchong tea and badda-boom, badda-bing it’s our most popular cocktail. Collaboration is a big part of what we do and we get our inspiration from each other… and the farmers market.
MT: Explain the art of Shrub. Is it hard to make? Can you give us a quick lesson?
JS: We have a whole Shrub Department and they’re not hard to make but it does take a touch, basically it’s fresh fruit and some kind of vinegar ( ie ..apple cider, champagne or balsamic). There is a gestation period and you need an industrial juicer so I guess that’s where our secrets dwell. Ryan Mabbutt is the head of this department and the reigning Maui King of Shrubs.
MT: Why do you think beer cocktails have become so popular?
JS: Beer cocktails are popular because you’re taking two different art forms–brewing and distilling–and forcing them to be buddies. Kinda like rice and gravy.
MT: What are the rules when you’re creating a beer cocktail?
JS: For us, the trick to beer cocktails is to think of the beer as your “water.” The Golden Rule is always: spirit plus bitters plus sugar plus water equals cocktail.
MT: What kind of ginger beer do you use?
JS: We use Goslings Ginger Beer.
MT: At Dazoo, what is your most popular cocktail?
JS: You know, the Happy Hour Margarita is our most popular cocktail. Paia is a Margaritaville and we take that shit seriously. We’ll put our Margaritas up against anyone, anytime.
MT: How often do you do specialty nights at the bar?
JS: Every third Wednesday of the month is Pau Night at Dazoo. We get in bed with our friends at Pau Vodka and create four one-of-a-kind cocktails for a one-night-only fandango. On Nov. 19, the theme will be “Things We’re Thankful For.”
MT: When is your Happy Hour?
JS: Our Happy Hour is 3-6pm daily.
1.5 oz Pau vodka
MBC Bikini Blond
0.75 oz Ginger / Lemongrass syrup
1/2 fresh Lime
1 large Hawaiian chile pepper
• In a chilled pint glass, muddle pepper
• Squeeze & drop lime
• Add ice, syrup, vodka & finish with beer
• Give a little stir & Bob’s yer Uncle
Mother of Dragons
2 oz Pau vodka
1.5 oz Lilikoi shrub
1/2 fresh Lime
6 sprigs fresh Mint
• In a copper cup, squeeze & drop lime
• 2 dash bitters on belly of lime
• Give mint a slap and drop in cup
• Add ice, vodka & shrub
• Stir vigorously while finishing w/ginger beer
Winner, Ultimate Ocean Cocktail Contest
Ferraro’s, Four Seasons
Gabe Harvey started mixing cocktails before he was old enough to drink them. His lifelong dedication to the craft is paying off–he just won Ocean Vodka/Sheraton Maui’s Ultimate Ocean Vodka Cocktail with his Mill Camp Mojito. The drink is truly a melting pot of flavors, just like the mill camp that inspired it. In fact, the Mill Camp Mojito will be featured at all Sheraton Maui’s bars for the next year. Harvey has been with the Four Seasons for 15 years, and you can find him at Ferraro’s these days. His keen palate fancies fresh tropical juices, local herbs and a strong dose of distilled artistry.
MT: Tell us about that winning cocktail.
GH: The Mill Camp Mojito was inspired by all the nationalities that worked the sugar cane plantation. There were Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Filipino [workers]. So I included kim chee powder for Koreans, shiso leaves for Japanese, ginger for Chinese and calamansi for Filipino. I wanted to use Ocean Vodka since it was made from sugar cane. All these nationalities make Hawaii what it is, the melting pot.
MT: Can you describe that evening, the making of the Mill Camp Mojito, and the moment you found out you won?
GH: The Ocean Vodka contest was a great experience. We all met at the Sheraton and prepped our ingredients. We were talking story and having fun with the other entrants. That made it a great event. The doors opened and there were people everywhere. Everyone was very interested in the drink and the story. When they announced me as the winner I was blown away. I didn’t think I was in the running. There were a lot of great drinks there in the competition.
MT: What is your must have spirit or spirits?
GH: They are all good–can you tell I drink? I hate to say vodka is very important, but it is. You can either mask it with other things or make it the main attraction. Other must-haves are bitters. Many flavors of bitters. Cachaca is a great spirit to use. And, of course, gin. You know, I don’t know what I could do without–maybe the flavored vodkas and rums. I also like to use smoke and homemade jams and jellies and maple syrup. They can add a level to cocktails unknown to most.
MT: Tell us about Ferraro’s.
GH: [It’s] probably one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had. I watch the sunset every day, talk to great people and have the opportunity to make my cocktails. Does it get much better? We have Happy Hour from 3:30-5pm everyday and now a TV for sports. So we are busy. Gotta know that.
MT: You came close to winning another competition last year. What was that drink all about? Can we get it at your bar?
GH: I got second place nationally. The cocktail competition was that all ingredients had to be from within 100 miles of where the drink was made. I used Okolehao, Chocolate manoa ginger bitters, Kona coffee and a Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter Foam I made. The rim is sugar in the raw. I just took it off the menu a couple weeks ago but I still can make it if people want it. It just takes a couple extra minutes to make the foam. I just did another cocktail with local organic honeycomb, rosemary and bourbon. It was unreal. I used fresh pressed pineapple, too.
MT: How did you start bartending?
GH: I loved making drinks for family parties as a kid. Still do to this day. I made the best Bloody Mary’s back then. I always loved tasting different things and blending items together when I cook. So doing this at the bar seems natural. I’ve been with Four Seasons 15 years. I opened the Vegas Four Seasons as a kitchen expo, working behind the chef’s line as well as a server and then moved to bartender. I also worked at Mandalay Bay as the pool assistant manager, taking care of the VIPs for the opening of that hotel. I went to bartending school here on Maui when I was 21.
MT: I didn’t even know we had a bartending school. What was it called?
GH: I went to the school years ago. It was called Valley Isle School of Bartending and Mixology. It was at this guy’s house in his backyard, in this huge cabana bar. His name was Rey Castillo. Great guy. Very talented. Gotta be dead by now.
MT: What kind of cocktails are you known for?
GH: My favorite drinks are combinations of ingredients that people normally wouldn’t put together. Things people usually don’t drink. I like to open their minds.
MT: What will the drinks of the future look like?
GH: The drinks of tomorrow will be more based on the flavors of the alcohol they include. They won’t be overbearing with juice and the added accompanying ingredients. I think gin is gonna make a huge part of new cocktails and also small batch alcohol. Pairing food with cocktails is going to become a popular option for people. Not just pairing wine with food. Don’t get me wrong–food and wine is and can be fantastic. Just the same, opening up your mind to cocktails with food can be an amazing experience.
Mill Camp Mojito
1 ½ oz Ocean Vodka
1 ½ oz calamansi lime juice
1 ¼ oz raw sugar simple syrup
3 shiso leaves
3 calamansi, halved
3 ginger slices (nickel size)
Sugar cane stick
Kim chee powder
•Muddle the Shiso leaves and ginger together until the oil are extracted from both and the leaves break apart.
• Add Ocean Vodka, calamansi lime juice, raw sugar simple syrup and crushed ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a stemmed tropical glass.
• Cut 3 Calamansi limes in half. Add 3 of the halves into the glass and stir lightly.
• Skewer the remaining 3 halves with the sugar cane stick and dip them into the kim chee powder.
• Place one shiso leaf and the cane skewer into the drink as garnishment. Enjoy!
Fred (Freddie) Sconfienza
Star Mixologist, 2013 & 2014
Westin Maui Resort and Spa, Relish Burger Bistro and Beach Bar
Sitting with Freddie Sconfienza at his bar has always lead to a lot of firsts. The first time I tried Maui Rum and Haleakala Distillers Okolehao; the first time I had seen gorgeous deep red hibiscus buds pulled out of a jar of syrup and go into a drink; the first time I tried a beer cocktail and loved it. Sconfienza likes to play with ingredients and combinations, and it’s working. He’s won the top honors at Starwood Resorts, beating out other candidates for Star Mixologist two years in a row. When I want to try something new, I head to Fred.
MT: What makes a winning cocktail?
FS: Balance, flavor, depth and the ability to really hit the three most important senses when eating and drinking: sight, smell & taste. The cocktail needs to look good, smell good and taste good for it all to come together. On balance, it is important to balance the different flavors that you are trying to highlight in a cocktail, with the spirit and citrus, if citrus is used. Too much of any one of these in relation to the others will throw the drink off. On depth, I feel it is always good hit as many taste buds as possible to give a cocktail legs, like a good wine would. Sweet, sour, bitter, and sometimes adding in a little heat/spice helps a beautiful cocktail linger a little longer.
MT: What is behind-your-bar philosophy?
FS: Every cocktail has a story. With tropical climate and abundance of natural resources, the Hawaiian Islands provide a variety of fresh produce and delectable fruits that fit perfectly with this innovative and artful beverage concept. For me, I like creative, thought-provoking, interesting and a blend of flavors that someone would not traditionally think of. It almost has a culinary twist, similar to how chefs design and create a dish with sustainable dining in mind. I particularly enjoy experimenting with ginger, cucumber, passion fruit and other locally-grown fruits and vegetables that someone wouldn’t usually find in the mainland. If I find guests who visit Hawaii regularly and have already tried Mai Tais, I share with them my unique version of Mai Tai by excluding pineapple and using instead fresh lime juice, ginger liqueur, passion fruit, mint, light aged rum and dark rum.
MT: What makes mixology interesting to you?
FS: It’s a way to challenge myself to continuously research and think outside the norm when designing new cocktails. Participating in contests such as Starwood’s Star Mixologist and World Mai Tai contest held on the island of Hawaii are great opportunities to meet like-minded bartenders and gather knowledge on new trends and innovative twists. I enjoyed the recent Mixology 101 organized during Ka‘anapali Fresh food and wine festival as I was fortunate to partner Southern Wine & Spirits director of mixology Chandra Lucariello in presenting beers with cocktails.
MT: What cocktails are on the horizon for you?
FS: I’m working on using lots of shrub (vinegars) where you can explore fruits to cook them down and make your own version. Bitters such as Lavender Bitters are yet another upcoming favorite. And with Maui having its own Maui Brewing Company, we have the opportunity to create beer cocktails such as the Hopped Up Blonde that I presented during Ka‘anapali Fresh.
Hopped Up Blonde
1.5 bols Genever
0.75 oz Pomegranate Liqueur
2 oz Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, fresh squeezed
2 oz Maui Bikini Blonde
0.5 oz Agave Syrup
Foam Topping (Hop, Ginger, Lemon foam)
• Add ingredients into a shaker. Shake, then strain into a glass filled with ice.
• To make the foam, use four egg whites, 2 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 5 oz of ginger hop syrup, ¼ oz of pineapple hot sauce and 2 oz of filtered water.
• Garnish with foam topping.
1½ oz Pisco
¾ 0z St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz Blueberry White Tea Simple Syrup
1 no Kiwi Slice
2 nos Fresh Blueberries
2 nos Mint Leaves
1 no Starfruit Slice
• Add kiwi, blueberries and mint to a shaker.
• Lightly muddle the ingredients in the shaker.
• Add Pisco, lime juice, and tea syrup.
• Fill shaker with ice and shake.
• Pour all contents into serving glass .
• Garnish with starfruit slice.
Distilleries and Tasting Rooms:
4051 Omaopio Rd., Kula
Ocean vodka is an inspiring success story from the Smith family. They produce a unique organic distilled product using sugar cane that they grow in Kula and deep ocean mineral rich water sourced from Kona. The distillery, farm and tasting room opened in 2013, expanding their Kahului industrial operation quite a bit. They haven’t stopped hustling, either–Ocean Vodka has new bottle this year, and the launch of their new Deep Island Hawaiian “Wave” Rum. Tours happen 14 times daily, every half an hour from 9:30am-4pm, and The farm is open from 9:30am-5pm. Tours are $10/person for ages 12 or older. Kama‘aina discount is 10 percent. Right now they have a killer promotion benefiting Maui Food Bank: you can get 10 percent off for every non-perishable food item brought in per person. That’s up to 70 percent off (up to seven items per person), for kama‘aina and Visitors.
Maui Brewing Co.
If you’re eagerly awaiting the opening of the South Maui Production Facility, you can easily keep tabs on construction by checking in with their YouTube channel with the links on their website. The good news is that they’ve begun canning in the new facility and expect to have the tasting room open around November. Tours have already ceased in the Lahaina facility and the final run of the special release Lahaina Town Brown American Brown Ale finished last week. The next new limited release in cans will be the Lorenzini Blood Orange Double IPA, benefitting the Hawaii SharkLab. The new tasting room will have 36 faucets for beer and four for soda. You can expect to see the flagship brands of Bikini Blonde, Big Swell, Coconut Porter, Mana Wheat and much more. Tours look like they will hopefully start up at the new facility in December. Maui Brewing Company Brewpub in Kahana is open from 11am to 10pm and serves more Maui craft brews than anywhere on the planet.
14815 Piilani Hwy., Kula
They did it first! In 1977, they released their first pineapple wine, and by 1984 they released their first grape wine, the Brut Sparkling. The tasting room is still going strong, a stalwart in the tasting game on Maui. Complimentary wine tasting is served in King Kalakaua’s former guest room. I’m sure he would approve. There’s also a self-guided tour of the ranch and its gorgeous landscaping. Step back into 19th century ranch life in Ulupalakua, back when cattle had to swim to shore from boats. Maui Wines include Plantation Red, Chenin-voignier, pineapple and rose sparkling, white and a raspberry dessert wine, all of which you can purchase there (assuming they’re in stock). Open 10am-5:30pm.
Hali‘imaile Distilling Company
Another family run facility quietly expanding under construction is the Hali‘imaile Distilling Company. It’s the home of Pau Vodka, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rums and Paniolo Whiskey. Master Distiller Mark Nigbur is designing an unforgettable tasting room experience, inspired by the plantation heritage. They’ve procured the old Moondoggie brew tanks, they have a wall o’ whiskey casks and I’m even hearing about taxidermy chickens and moustaches. The Hali‘imaile tasting experience is not open yet, but it’s already kick ass. Pau Vodka had a sexy redesign of their bottle and are featured well at Mala, Honu and Mala Wailea. Paniolo Whiskey will be seen at a bar near you very soon.
The architecture is stunning. They have fabulous award winning modern design and booze. I’m in.
Da Vine Art
Like the name says, it’s divine. Their bar is all local, spirit tastings, flights and wine tasting. Mixing the best of both worlds, if you like the product, you try you can buy it in their store next door.
Cow Pig Bun
Located in Kihei, CPB should actually have another B in their name, for Bourbon, which features prominently in their bar program. But CPBB just doesn’t roll off the tongue right. Nonetheless, their swanky little meat sando bistro has a lot of verve.
Found in Waikapu, it features an historical 19th century choo choo train caboose, rustic firepits, outdoor walkways, two bars and a stage for shows. This place is intriguing to say the least, and not afraid to have fun.
Cane and Canoe has a delightful piano bar that has such a great vibe. The cocktails are superb, island-inspired and worth the trek to Kapalua.
Pi Artisan Pizza
Am I sensing some steampunk inspiration in the bar’s DIY pipe shelving at this new Lahaina pizza parlor? Either way, their local bar chef cocktails, wines and beer on tap are delish, and their Front Street al fresca sidewalk dining is Euro-chic.
This casual Mexican eatery in Kihei’s Azeka Mauka Plaza formerly held Jawz Tacos and Zuriguidun. It’s quickly earning a rep for its langoustine enchiladas and who wouldn’t like to pair that with a Coronarita?
Rock and Brews
Paia Town’s newest tenants may be rock stars but they know what’s important: lots of cold beer on tap, open-air dining and amazing bavarian pretzels.
Mama mia! Viva Ma‘alaea’s Italian cucina. Happy Hour is 4-6pm, $4 drafts and cocktails, 40 percent off wine, and $3-6 antipasti. When in Rome…
Voted Best New Bar in the MauiTime Best of Maui reader poll. Everytime I belly up for Happy Hour here I swear I’ll run into Frida Kalo and it’s going to be an amazing night of art, tequila drinking and flamenco music. Well, I actually never hook up with Kalo, but everything else works.