Talk Kaimukī Has Coffee Drinks by Day, Cocktails at Night

OG caffeine mecca Coffee Talk recently rebranded with a cocktail bar on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.


Talk Kaimuki Crowd Pc Victoria Budiono

Photo: Victoria Budiono


O‘ahu’s newest cocktail bar isn’t where you might expect. At the corner of Wai‘alae and 12th avenues, next to Surfing Pig and across from Cowcow’s Tea, OG caffeine hangout Coffee Talk is now Talk Kaimukī. It’s still a coffee shop by day, and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, it morphs into a cocktail bar.


Liz Schwartz opened Coffee Talk in 1995. The coffee shop format lost some of its appeal and sustainability during the pandemic, Schwartz says. Since the 3,600-square-foot space closed and sat empty after 4 p.m., she decided to open a bar in the evening.


Talk has always been my favorite café for study dates with friends. Made with Sumatran beans, the coffee drinks are rich, bold and smooth. The shop is famous for its pastries (my favorites include the butter mochi and almond croissant) and while it’s big enough to allow for different noise levels, it never gets rowdy.


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For years the decor consisted mostly of brightly colored canvases and tabletops, but Schwartz’s revamp has given it a more cohesive and tranquil feel. The walls have been painted a brassy clay color, the old vault now holds the liquor stock, and combined with the dark-hued furniture and dim lighting, the place gives off an Old World ambiance. Although the vibe may have changed, Talk still has that welcoming energy that, whether you’re sipping on cocktails or coffee, makes you want to stay for hours.


Talk Kaimuki Brittany Cheatham Pc Victoria Budiono

Photo: Victoria Budiono


Brittany Cheatham is Talk’s bar manager and the mastermind behind the new cocktail menu. Sitting at the bar, you can see her constantly shaking up something. Cheatham moved to Hawai‘i 12 years ago and tended bar at the Hilton Waikīkī Beach Hotel before opening Basalt Waikīkī and creating its first two menus. Later, at Stripsteak Waikīkī, she was the bar lead. While she’s created multiple original menus and drinks over the years, it was her variation of an iced cold brew and whiskey-based cocktail that caught Schwartz’s attention.


Now, at Talk, Cheatham has seven non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu, including the nitro coffee ($7) that’s available during the day as well. What I love about these mocktails is that each has its own personality.


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The charcoal-colored Konnichiwa, Vincenzo ($10) drink is my favorite. It’s a creation of house-made black sesame soda and yuzu with a cap of hand-whipped yuzu kosho sweet cream. There’s just the right amount of black sesame flavor with a pinch of sweet and sour and a tiny hint of spice. The sweet cream is the best part: It’s as soft as a cloud and goes down just as smoothly.


The creation I find most interesting is the Curry Lemonade ($8), which tastes exactly how it sounds. The freshly juiced lemonade with house-made curry syrup has enough curry spices to make it the second most-ordered mocktail on the menu. The first sip is going to be a little odd, but only because the taste is so novel. Before you know it, the drink is all gone.


two citrus drinks on a bar counter

Photo: Victoria Budiono


Yeah, Nah ($9), named after the common Australian slang for “no,” is a mocktail made with golden kiwi, basil, simple lime and tajin. The 21-and-over version is called Nah, Yeah ($15), which means “yes” and adds your choice of vodka, gin or tequila.


Cheatham says Talk will begin serving omakase-style cocktail tasting menus this month. In the meantime, HONOLULU Magazine intern Julie Stanley, a veteran bartender and mixologist, checked out the cocktails. Here’s her review:


With 12 original craft cocktails on the first page alone, the menu may seem daunting at first. To guide patrons, helpful comparisons to classic cocktails are included. My tasting companion and I are drawn to the Spill the Tea (similar to an agricole mojito), and the Ode to Oaxaca (similar to a Spicy Mezcal Boulevardier).


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Spill the Tea ($19) uses Earl Grey-infused Kōhana Kea Agricole Rum combined with mint, chamomile and citrus to create a truly unique and refreshing twist on a mojito. The grassy, slightly vegetal taste of the agricole comes through first, followed by the Earl Grey and chamomile, with a light hint of citrus and mint to finish it off. This cocktail is an easy sipper, but packs a punch.


The Ode to Oaxaca ($17), on the other hand, is a spirit-forward cocktail in which almost every ingredient has alcohol content. Cheatham says this is the one creation that has followed her to each bar program in one form or another. Like most balanced spirit-forward cocktails, this drink is meant to be a strong and slow sipper but each ingredient works together to create a complex flavor profile. The smokiness of the Illegal Mezcal is complemented by a hint of chocolate and spice, which is rounded off by orange bitters and an expressed orange peel on top.


photo of person photographing drinks on a bar

Moshi Moshi, left, and Heated Words. Photo: Julie Stanley


The next two creations we imbibe are the Moshi Moshi, and Heated Words (similar to a spicy margarita). The Moshi Moshi ($17) uses Suntory Toki—a delicately light and slightly sweeter Japanese whisky—with shiso, bitters and yuzu kosho to create a bright and spicy twist on the classic highball. The yuzu kosho, made with yuzu rind and Japanese spicy chile paste, creates a citrus-forward hint of spice on the tail end of the cocktail.


The Heated Words ($16) uses Teremana Reposado tequila as the base with Ancho Reyes Verde—a Mexican chile liquor, and one of my personal favorites—to create a delightfully robust cocktail. The jalapeño salt and ancho reyes hit the tongue first, followed by black grape and honey.


no talkie before coffee drink and amaro

No Talkie Before Coffee. Photo: Julie Stanley


As we prepare to leave, bartender Rei Mooney offers us a nightcap. The No Talkie Before Coffee ($16) is a collaborative drink—Cheatham created the specialty whip on top, and Mooney created the drink itself. It uses Borghetti Caffè, an Italian coffee liqueur, combined with dark rum, amaro and cacao bitters for a chocolatey smooth, dessert-like libation. The drink is topped off with toasted black sesame whip, and the velvety sweet cocktail is the perfect way to finish off the night.


After a night at Talk, it’s easy to tell, and taste, the care put into each cocktail. Not only do they make many of their own unique ingredients, they also have a wide variety of spirits, bitters, liqueurs and even amaros that help make this new cocktail oasis one of a kind.


Café open daily from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., bar open Thursday to Saturday 6 p.m. to midnight. 3601 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 737-7444,, @talkkaimuki