Keeping local spirits high

Islands and rum go together like mai tais and puns (i.e., Mai Thai, Morimo-tai, Once Upon a Mai Thai). And yet, until recently, no company had taken advantage of Hawaii’s (albeit dwindling) sugar legacy to make the No. 1 staple of any tiki bar: rum.

Today, there are three rum distilleries on the Islands, and while none may replace Bacardi and Myers’s Rum at local bars, they’re worth a shot or being mixed into your next mai tai.

Local distillers also produce more unusual spirits, such as ‘okolehau and vodka distilled from pineapple. So if you’ve fallen off the eat-local bandwagon because you prefer to drink your meals, get ready to jump back on.

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Spirited Dinners

It’s hard to ignore the rise of wine dinners. On any given week, chefs, sommeliers and diners are seeking the perfect zinfandel for their a lamb chop, the perfect pinot noir for their duck. But riding in on the coattails of wine dinners are a few chefs and bartenders interested in exploring a realm beyond tannins and red fruits, oaks and florals.

They’re exploring the practically limitless possibilities of cocktail pairings.

“Cocktail pairings are much more exciting and flexible,” says Joey Gottesman, the Better Brands mixologist who creates the drink pairings for Apartment3’s and Azure’s cocktail dinners. “There a lot more opportunities to explore flavor pairings…[they] expand the options from the obvious to the creative. The obvious ‘Big Red with a Steak’ and ‘Sauvignon Blanc with Shellfish’ pairings are being replaced with…the absolute joy of the unexpected and spot-on cocktail pairing dinner.”

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Urban wineries in O‘ahu (ok, not exactly)

For the hardcore beer enthusiast/amateur chemist/do-it-yourself aficionado, there is home-brewing. People who are fanatically serious about wine can move to Napa and sell their multi-million start-up companies to finance a hillside vineyard.

For the rest of us, there are personalized, DIY-ish wineries and brewpubs. These operations hit a sweet spot appealing to people of more limited means–and more limited patience–but are nonetheless curious about how alcohol is made (and think it’s cool to say they made their own booze). They also provide fodder for people who want to be able to hold their own when conversations turn to tannins, finish, hops and malts.