Hawaii Cocktail Week packs a punch

Left: Tropical Mortician Punch; right: The Brandkiller Punch, both by Dave Power of The Feral Pig, for Hawaii Cocktail Week's Pork and Tiki. Photos courtesy of Hawaii Cocktail Week.

Now more than halfway through, Hawaii Cocktail Week has brought together bartenders, industry reps (aka booze distributors) and cocktail enthusiasts for professional development and lots of drinking.

Highlights included a bitters seminar with Kyle Reutner and Mike Prasad, founders of Hawaii Bitters Company, speaking to the overall process of bitters making, and a Pork and Tiki party with drinks from Dave Power of The Feral Pig in Kauai, featuring some classic tiki drinks, including the Donga Punch (Donn Beach's take on the daiquiri, using cinnamon syrup and rhum agricole, a type of rum distilled from fresh sugar cane juice rather than molasses) and Power's take on the coconut creme Painkiller. The Gin No. 209 party at Pint and Jigger offered a variety of gin drinks, my favorite being Danny Lucariello's (of Tiki's Grill and Bar) minty, citrusy Southside—which is somewhat like a gin mojito.

But there’s more to come. I will be hitting the catamaran cruise today, which features drinks by Reutner, and encourage you to go to Friday’s class with Brian Miller and Julie Reiner. Miller is formerly of NYC’s Death & Co., an East Village cocktail mecca and Julie Reiner, a local girl pushing New York’s cocktail scene forward with Clover Club, Flatiron Lounge and Monkey Bar. The seminar, “Modern Tiki: A Pirate’s Life for Me!” will pay homage to Donn Beach— legendary proprietor of the Don the Beachcomber restaurants and creator of the famous tiki drink, the Zombie—on Donn’s birthday!

Black Susan punch at the 39Hotel Bartender Showcase. Photo by Martha Cheng.

Punches have been among my favorite drinks this week: Erik Hakkinen of Zig Zag Seattle prepared a gin punch, and Christian Self of 39Hotel presented his Black Susan punch, with Kai Lemongrass Ginger Soju, Aperol, fresh citrus, and sparkling sake, both pleasantly light, citrusy punches.

Suzanne Long flaming a Prosperity Punch (left, photo by Paul McMillan), and her Driftwood Milk Punch, a Colonial style strained milk punch (photo by Suzanne Long).

Perhaps this foreshadows my eager anticipation for "On Punch: History, Community, Celebration and Aloha," a Saturday afternoon seminar by Suzanne Long, previously of California tiki lounge Forbidden Island. As some of the oldest types of boozy drink around, punches date back to the Colonial era. Long’s seminar will touch on the characteristics of what makes a good punch and discuss their historical context and communal qualities. I will have the fortune to assist Long, and look forward to introducing local audiences to the delight of well-made punch.

Cruzan Rum "Don't Hurry" Catamaran Cruise, today, February 21, 5 to 7 p.m., $50
Modern Tiki: A Pirate's Life for Me!, February 22, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $35
On Punch: History, Community and Aloha, February 23, 2 to 4 p.m., $35

For more information on events and to purchase tickets, visit hawaiicocktailweek.com

Randy Wong is a former bartender and beverage consultant. His cocktails have been cited in many books, including Off The Shelf, Drink & Tell, Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2010: Mixologist All-Stars, Beachbum Berry: Remixed, and at the StarChefs International Chefs Congress in NYC. He’s known for his expert knowledge on tiki music and cocktails.