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Hawaii: Competition will determine who's the mai tai master

August 09, 2013|By Jay Jones
  • The Royal Kona Resort on Kailua Bay will play host to a Mai Tai mixing contest this month.
The Royal Kona Resort on Kailua Bay will play host to a Mai Tai mixing contest… (Hawaiian Hotels & Resorts )

Cocktail connoisseurs will converge on the Big Island on Aug. 17 in search of the best mai tai at a Big Island festival devoted to the drink.

The mai tai – a rum-based, coconut and pineapple-flavored drink – is an island favorite. About 20 mixologists from around the world will be blending their recipes at the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival as they seek the top prize of $10,000.

The mix-off will be from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m at the Royal Kona Resort. The panel of celebrity judges includes Philip “Ippy” Alona, a local restaurateur and competitor on Food Network’s “Chopped”; hockey player T.J. Gorence of the Philadelphia Flyers; and Mark Nigbur, master distiller for Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, which is produced on Maui.

Although mai tais will take center stage, the day’s activities will also include a “Battle of the BBQ” contest. Award-winning musician Henry Kapono will perform during a free pool party.

Don the Beachcomber is one of two restaurant chains that lays claim to having created the mai tai. According to’s research, the mai tai originated at Don’s or Trader Vic’s during the 1940s. The website says the drink originated in California, not Hawaii.

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