KAILUA-KONA — Last year’s winner used Big Island flavored ingredients to create the winning concoction — the aptly named Ka Mai Tai O Keawe, or the Big Island’s Mai Tai.
That sweet-tasting baby had Bacardi Gran Reserva 8 Year and root-washed Kohana Kea Hawaiian agricole rum as its base. Mixed with fresh lime juice, macadamia nut orgeat syrup, coconut vanilla syrup, Lehua Ohia blossom honey and kiawe sea salt foam, the final product earned its creator, Justin Park, $10,000.
But that was then.
Now, it’s time to do it all again.
The Royal Kona Resort’s 11th annual Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival will be held on Aug. 17, featuring the world’s top bartenders as they return to mix it up and compete for the title of World’s Best Mai Tai and the $10,000 grand prize.
But the free event at the oceanfront resort is more than just cocktails, you know.
The Mai Tai Marketplace flush with crafts and island treats from local artisans and merchants will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day. The Battle of the BBQ, serving Hawaii’s best barbecue, will dish up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the pool party, featuring Hawaiian music legend Henry Kapono, will strum from 2:30-4 p.m.
Still, make no mistake, mai tais there will be.
The main event, the Mai Tai Mix-off, will start at 4:30 p.m. Bartenders from all over the world will compete for the coveted title that comes with its 10 Gs. Second- and third-place finishers will receive $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.
The three-hour contest pays tribute to the classic rum drink and original cocktail creations are judged based on taste, creativity and name.
Park, of Bar Leather Apron in downtown Honolulu, had some serious competition last year.
Kevin Beary of Three Dots and A Dash in Chicago placed second, and Cory Star, also with Three Dots and A Dash, placed third.
Celebrity judges at this year’s event include the return of award-winning chef and TV personality, Aaron Sanchez, who is also a judge on the hit series MasterChef, a press release promoting the event touted. He is joined by Shawn Ford, resident bar expert on the popular Bar Rescue show, and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, recognized by Imbibe magazine as one of the most influential cocktail personalities of the past century.
Topping off the panel of judges are brand ambassadors Manny Hinojosa representing Tequila Cazadores and Juan Coronado for Bacardi.
Admission to the festival is free and open to the public. Scrip will be sold at the event for food and some beverage purchases. Certain drinks and food will be sold via cash and credit.