Tiki fans, you're in for a tropical treat. If you haven't been to the hidden tiki bar, False Idol, located inside Craft & Commerce in Little Italy, you're definitely missing out. This tropical paradise offers some strong tiki-inspired cocktails such as the Mai Tai. Eric Long, bar manager of False Idol, shares the recipe for the Mai Tai on the latest edition of 'Behind the Stick.'
.75 oz hand squeezed lime juice
.25 oz house Orgeat
.25 oz Mai Tai Rich Simple
2 oz Denizen Merchants Reserve Rum
Garnish with lime half and mint sprig
What's makes a good Mai Tai?
Quality ingredients and attention to the measurements. Too much orgeat will throw off the balance of this cocktail. When everything is done right, it’s pure rum bliss.
Describe the taste.
Sharp, refreshing and 100% delicious.
What's the key component of this drink?
The rum! Besides the obvious, it has to be our orgeat. It’s labor intensive, we start from scratch and make our own almond milk, but compare it to any other orgeat and you will find yourself choosing this one every time.
When choosing a rum, why did you go with the Denizen Merchants Reserve Rum?
It’s a blend of pot still Jamaican rums and a Martinique rums. Historically, Trader Vic used Aged Wray & Nephew, but with the growing popularity of the Mai Tai, well, the supply of those rums depleted. So, he went to Martinique rums and Denizen embodies the history of the Mai Tai in a single pour!
What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
To be honest, they are usually surprised because most ‘Mai Tais’ are pumped full of grenadine or have a ton of dark rum floating on top of their drink. Describing our Mai Tai as a refreshing cocktail is usually a tough pill for them to swallow, until they take a sip and are relieved by the deliciousness!
Watch as bar manager Eric Long shows us how to make this refreshing Mai Tai from False Idol.
What kind of experience can guests get at False Idol?
An escape! It's a complete transformation from the outside world. It’s like walking into Disneyland, but instead of thousands of screaming kids, we have rum and funny mugs.
About Eric Long
Are you from San Diego?
Born and raised. I'm a North County kid!
What has your journey been like leading up to your current position at False Idol?
Rocky and eventful, to say the least. I’ve had a ton of personal growth in the last year and I can honestly say it’s been the hardest I’ve worked in my entire life. I’m grateful every single day for where I am and for getting to work in such a rad bar.
What's your favorite thing about bartending?
I think I've stated it before, the people. It’s crazy how creative the drinking culture is when it comes to spirits. I’ve never really had a medium to be expressive in that way and now I get a platform to do so every single night I’m behind the stick. Hospitality is such a rewarding experience for both myself and the person I’m helping, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?
Besides the Mai Tai?! Victory on the Red Sea. It took me a while to warm up to it, but it’s definitely the most interesting drink we have on the menu in my opinion. Ginger, fernet, allspice, falernum and overproof Jamaican rum. It’s oddly delicious.
What's your favorite spirit?
My first love was scotch and it’s still a really important spirit for me. However, working at False Idol has opened my eyes to the beauty and historic relevance of rum. We have even found rums that are aged and bottled in Scotland, so now I can have both!
Define the perfect cocktail.
The best cocktails are ones made with intention. I feel like so many drinks are made carelessly. My biggest advice to bartenders is to make something you know and believe in, something you would drink, and serve it with the intention that it will be the best drink anyone has ever had. I want to drink a cocktail and identify with it beyond a flavor profile.
What's one thing you want people to know about creating tiki cocktails?
We don’t batch anything. Have fun.
If you're going out for a cocktail, what are some spots you like to go in San Diego?
My local spot is Turf Club, I live down the street. You can also find me at Hamilton’s playing shuffle board.
What do you love about the cocktail scene in San Diego and is it still evolving?
The folks involved with it. I’ve made too many friends to count who share my passion and it’s really inspiring. The culture is booming here and we are witnessing this city do amazing things when it comes to creative concepts and drinking trends.
What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?
Climbing things and disc golf. You can catch me banging chains on any given day, and bring some beers too. Anthony Schmidt, Beverage Director of CH Projects, tells people I’m a yoga master because I, well, do yoga.
What's next for you?
More tiki! I can barely plan something a month ahead but ask me again in 6 months and we will have another Mai Tai and discuss.