David Dodd 10:32 a.m., May 25
Over the years, one thing has instigated my trips to Bali Hai—mai tais. Umbrella drinks may harken to a bleaker period of culinary history, but there’s a reason they’ve stuck around as the American culinary scene has evolved around them. They’re pretty damn good and, unlike other alcoholic libations, palatable enough to appeal to just about anybody except discerning alcoholics who prefer they’re liquor straight up, and their intoxication biting and lightning-quick.
Sweet tropical fruit juice is what makes all the rum in this classic cocktail go down so smooth and easy. As such, the majority of bartenders tend to overdo it in their efforts to mask the booze. It’s tradition, after all. Nowadays, consumers want to taste their liquor—especially the finer varieties—but mai tais originate from a time in the drinking culture where the point was to get ripped on standard issue hooch while having to endure the taste of the firewater as little as possible.
One thing I really appreciate about the mai tais a Bali Hai is that when you take the first hit off one, you know the punch you’re downing is anything but virgin. It’s the kind of potent adults-only concoction where you at first think you must have tapped into some pool of bottom-settling alcohol, but find after working your way to the end the drink, it has that high grade octane all the way through.
Call me crazy, but the point of drinking cocktails is to get lit…or at least buzzed well beyond normalcy. Nobody orders Martinis and mules in hopes of maintaining an everyday level of control over their behavioral faculties. This one gets the job done while still providing a myriad of tasty island flavors.
On my last trip to Bali Hai, a mai tai left me in a state where I needed to wait things out before hitting the road for the mainland. I opted for dessert to help pass the time. This turned out to be a splendid move for soon I was digging into a quartet of ice cream sandwiches representing a contemporary take on good ol’ PB&J.
They come with dessert forks, but the best method for downing these petite Chambord ice cream and peanut butter cookie delights is to pick them up and go to town. Since raspberry liqueur makes up the ice cream base, it doesn’t taste quite like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but the flavor combo works and who doesn’t love the interplay of textures presented by an ice cream sandwich?
Like those mai tais, this dessert is another specialty of the house worth jaunting to Shelter Island for. Bali Hai is located at 2230 Shelter Island Drive.