The Mai Tai at the Halekulani is easily one of the most legendary cocktails in Honolulu. Lesser known, however equally mythic, is the same five-star hotel’s Bloody Mary. While not listed on the menu, those who know about it can order it at the House Without a Key, the hotel's historic outside patio with famous views of iconic Diamond Head and, around sunset, a live Hawaiian band and hula dancer.
It has been said that the Halekulani’s Bloody Mary is so good that there is only one guy at the hotel who knows how to create the mix. He makes it in batches for bartenders to simply add the spirit before serving, so that even the bartenders don’t know how to make the drink. This guards the recipe from inquiring minds. I imagined an old, leathered local man alone in the bowels of the hotel, huddled over a large tub, carefully making his brew. (My other image, curiously, was a Don Ho with big 70s hair and large sunglasses making the mix in the open, but no one knowing exactly what he was doing.)
Sadly, upon a little investigation, it turns out that the myth isn’t exactly true. Many bartenders at the Halekulani know how to make the mix ahead of time, and they collaborate on it. (On the bright side, this did assuage my anxieties around losing the recipe with the old man. Also, good bye, Don Ho.)
But just because the myth isn’t true doesn’t mean the drink isn’t quite simply delicious and, in fact, the recipe still has a twist. According to the staff, the Bloody Mary makes use of the most classic ingredients: tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, tobasco, celery salt, and—adding one more special touch—au jus. It’s a great idea in concept. Mixing in the rich savory juices from beef gives deep complexity to the spicy drink. What’s alluring in practice is that the Halekulani also happens to be home to La Mer, the most elegant French restaurant on the island. The food there is exquisite and expertly crafted, enjoyed by patrons in the quiet dining room with pristine views of the Pacific. Au jus from potentially La Mer in my Bloody Mary? Yes, please!
The result is a satisfyingly sweet, briny, savory, and slightly spicy Bloody Mary served with a generous celery stick and a lime wedge. Guests can choose from vodka or gin. Unlike many other Bloody Marys which easily veer too spicy, too acidic, or too rich, the Halekulani’s well-balanced rendition is easy to enjoy to the last drop and is a ready companion to the sweet, round tunes of a Hawaiian band and the winter’s swollen sunsets, all found at House Without a Key.
Inspired by my interest in the Bloody Mary recipe, one of the friendly waiters did offer his friend’s favorite mix for making the drink at home: V8, A1, and tobasco sauce. Yet another concoction that I will perhaps have to try some day.
House Without a KeyHalekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815