Saturday, September 6, 2008

House Without a Key

Nothing at House Without a Key can live up to the view from its patio area. There you have it. If paradise is anything like that, I may find Jesus yet. I think I can put a photo or two up to show you what I’m talking about.

Ah, there we go. See what I mean? The place is gorgeous. The music is surprisingly pleasant, although I admit I have a sick, sick love of nice background music. The performers complimented the surroundings perfectly, and that’s about the best thing I can say.

So, when you go to House Without a Key, be ready to enjoy the view. The cocktails...well, that’s another matter. I had my doubts going in, to say the least. Perhaps my favorite memory from this place is either the horrific bug bites Noelle suffered (providing endless opportunities to poke fun at her, as well as a fun day of hospital visits) or a saucy, old white woman trying to explain to the barely English-speaking waiter what a Rickey was (juice of half a lime, or more if it’s a dry one, 2-3 oz of gin, or, if you prefer/have no taste buds/hate flavor, vodka). Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much in the cocktail department.

And then I ordered the Mai Tai.

It wasn’t until the next week that I found out that House Without a Key and Lewer’s Lounge shares bartenders and recipes, the only difference is the volume of people (hence Lewer’s Lounge’s quiet atmosphere and incredible service). I also found out that the Mai Tai is the strongest drink on either menu. Judging by how hard that beast hit me, I should have guessed. Hawaiian establishments generally guard their Mai Tai recipes pretty carefully, but I found out that this one had two types of dark rums and lime juice as its base. From what I understand, there isn’t much lime juice. Some simple syrup to balance flavors, and a generous layer of Bacardi 151 floating on top. Come to think of it, that may explain why I so readily sang at the pianist later that night at Lewer’s....

But a strong drink does not necessarily make a good drink! This one sure did, though. The Mai Tai at House Without a Key is exceptionally tasty, and shockingly drinkable for how much hard alcohol there is in it. In cocktail lingo: The drink was perfectly balanced. The presentation, as you saw, was a bit frilly, to say the least. But hell, it’s Hawaii. When in Rome, you know. The sugar cane is a nice touch, because you can chew it afterwards, releasing delicious sugar and a bit of rum that’s soaked in.

What shocked me most about the Mai Tai at House Without a Key was its depth of flavor. As the ice melted and I got further down, the drink became more complex, picking up some spicy elements, in addition to a bit more sweetness. The same drink at Lewer’s, though quite good, lacked this quality.

The drinkability is a bit of a problem, though, because of how strong the drink is. The bartender’s at Lewer’s told me, laughingly but seriously, that no one could do three of those drinks and walk out happily. I half wanted to challenge them, but then I came to my senses.

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