Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Hula Hula Cocktail

Hula Hula Cocktail in cocktail glass with pineapple slice and maraschino cherry garnish

A brunch-friendly Tiki drink  

Tiki drinks live large.  They tend to be high-volume cocktails perfect for slow sippin’ by the pool, or as party fuel on a summer evening.  But their outsize presence means they don’t work well as brunch beverages or pre-dinner aperitifs. 

Except for the Hula Hula.  This drink is modestly sized (tiny, in fact, by Tiki standards).  It also doesn’t have the high booze quotient of the Zombie or even the Mai Tai, so it’s morning-appropriate, with a juicy flavor that complements brunch fare. If you elect to have it as a pre-dinner drink, the Hula Hula will leave your palate in shape to appreciate the meal. And unlike many Tiki drinks, it doesn’t call for multiple liquors or exotic, hard-to-source ingredients.

Almost everyone likes the Hula Hula. Its citrus component makes it perfect for brunch, but it satisfies those who want something stronger than orange juice. Just think of it as OJ’s evil twin.


Hula Hula Cocktail in cocktail glass with pineapple slice and maraschino cherry garnish

Recipe:  The Hula Hula Cocktail

Popular Tiki drinks like the Scorpion and the Volcano Bowl are often served in large quantities — sometimes in big bowls meant for communal sharing. Not a good match for bacon and eggs. And many well-known Tiki drinks also require a long list of ingredients, including several not commonly found in the home kitchen.

But this (little) drink requires only three ingredients in equal measure: gin, orange curaçao, and orange juice. Bartending doesn’t get much easier than that.

The Hula Hula was invented by legendary barman Ray Buhen (more on Buhen below). I first learned about this cocktail from Robert Hess, who also describes it as a perfect brunch drink. He in turn learned about the Hula Hula from Jeff Berry, a/k/a Beachbum Berry, master of all things Tiki.

This drink takes a few minutes to prepare, and serves one.

Ingredients
  • 1 ounce dry gin
  • 1 ounce orange curaçao (see Notes for an alternative to Grand Marnier)
  • 1 ounce orange juice (freshly squeezed is best, but refrigerated not-from-concentrate works in a pinch)
  • pineapple wedge and/or maraschino cherry for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Place all ingredients (except for garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice.  Shake hard until the contents are well chilled (the shaker will be nicely frosted — this will take 10 to 20 seconds, depending on how hard you shake).
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled.  Garnish if you wish with a pineapple wedge and/or maraschino cherry, and serve.

Notes
  • When a cocktail recipe specifies gin, it’s usually understood to mean London dry gin — which is also the type most commonly found in liquor stores.  Any good name-brand dry gin will work well in this drink.
  • In addition to London dry, you might see Dutch or Belgian gin (sometimes called jenever or genever), which is made from malt rather than grain.  There’s also Old Tom Gin, which has a sweeter taste.  Both of these varieties are harder to find than London dry. 
  • When a drink requires orange curaçao, I generally use Grand Marnier — the best-tasting there is, IMO.  But for this cocktail, a less expensive option actually works better.  Marie Brizard makes an excellent orange curaçao that (although not cheap) costs much less than Grand Marnier.  I recommend it for the Hula Hula.
  • Citrus juice always tastes best when freshly squeezed.  But for this cocktail, you can probably get away with using store-bought refrigerated OJ (not from concentrate).  The flavor of the juice won’t be as bright and fresh, however. 
  • It’s a good idea to pour freshly squeezed juice through a strainer before adding it to this drink, to reduce the amount of pulp.
Hula Hula Cocktail in cocktail glass with pineapple slice and maraschino cherry garnish

Buhen Behind the Bar

The Hula Hula was one of the first drinks created by Ray Buhen, who got his start making Tiki drinks in the 1930s at the original Don the Beachcomber’s.  This Hollywood restaurant was popular with stars and moguls of the day, including the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Joan Crawford.  It was also the first Tiki-themed restaurant (Trader Vic would open his rival operation in northern California a few years later).

Buhen was an innovative mixologist who may also have helped create several other famous Tiki tipples — though the restaurant’s owner, Donn Beach, liked to claim credit for them. Over the years, Buhen worked in numerous bars throughout southern California, perfecting his craft and gaining thirsty fans. So when he opened his own place in Los Angeles, the Tiki-Ti, in 1961, he had an immediate clientele. Beachbum Berry has put together a nice tribute to Buhen, which you can read on the Tiki-Ti website.

Buhen died in 1999, but the Tiki-Ti lives on, run by his children. It’s a small bar — 12 stools and a few tables — and is open only Wednesday through Saturday. The place also closes for several weeks every few months, so the hours aren’t exactly convenient. Despite that, the bar is packed whenever it’s open, with patrons happily sucking down Tiki drinks (including Ray’s Mistake, a cocktail that Buhen created by accident when he mixed an order incorrectly; it’s now one of the more popular drinks on the menu).

A word of warning, though: Because the Tiki-Ti is owner-operated (with no employees), smoking is allowed despite California’s strict no-smoking rules. I’ve never been there, but I understand that a lot of smoking takes place. Not my preferred environment, alas.

Wonder if they do takeout?

You may also enjoy reading about:
The Zombie
Mai Tai
Fog Cutter Cocktail
Scorpion Cocktail
Volcano Bowl Cocktail
Planter's Punch
Singapore Sling Cocktail
Classic Daiquiri
Bermuda Rum Swizzle
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

100 comments:

  1. Good morning John,

    Not even I could resist a drink with a name like Hula Hula even if it does contain OJ!

    I can see this drink as a brunch drink especially for those who don't always favor a Bloody Mary.

    I'm not willing to cross it off my "to try" list because after all, tastes change you know:) (something I always said to my kids when they said they didn't think they would like something I cooked:)

    Thanks for sharing, John...love the sip of history:)

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    1. Hi Louise, tastes do change! Good cocktail, but you really do taste the OJ in this one. It's worth a sip, though, just to see if OJ in cocktails in back on your approved list! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Looks so tasty...love the name! I've never had orange curacoa before...only blue!

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    1. Hi Ashley, I'll be use blue curaçao in a drink next week. ;-) I like the name of this, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. These drinks always make me feel like taking a tropical vacation!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, these drinks are perfect for a stayification - you can sip, close your eyes, and pretend. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Hula Hula, what a name! I've driven by Trader Vics when I visit family in Northern Cali but I didn't realize it's prestige. Tropical drinks are always a crowd pleaser!

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    1. Hi Laura, Trader Vic's is a fun place. A bit over-the-top, but fun. As are tropical drinks! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. When I saw the words hula hula, i thought there would be pineapple juice on the drink. But makes me sway and dance the hula if I get to sip this Tiki drink. Lovely post as always. I love all your stories behind the drink/dish.
    Have a happy day!
    Malou

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    1. Hi Malou, just pineapple in the garnish. ;-) But it's a dancing-inducing drink alright! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. What a fun looking cocktail! Love the name, hula hula!

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    1. Hi veganmiam, isn't the name great? And the cocktail is total fun. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Cute name and lovely cocktail. I am not a gin fan but the citrus in this would make me drink a few of these for sure :)

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    1. Hi Natalie, this has a really nice flavor. You do taste gin in the background, but orange really dominates. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Haha the name of this cocktail rocks my socks - yum much? :D

    Cheers
    CCU

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    1. Hi Uru, isn't this a fun sounding drink? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Hi John , I was thinking of a 9PM brunch for 2 after the kids are in bed ... boy a couple of hula hulas would be so relaxing {giggling] thanks for sharing :).

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    1. Hi Nee, certainly sounds like a plan! And a pair of these certainly would hit the spot. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. This cocktail is gorgeous and I love the name! Summery, festive and totally appropriate for this sweet sip. Great recipe, John!

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    1. Hi Georgia, it tastes even better than it looks! Thanks for the comment.

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  11. This is a great drink. I love the hula hula name because when my kids were little tykes they used to run through the house singing "Hula, hulah!' Have no idea where this came from as I'm sure they weren't drinking at such a young age, but it is happy memory. And I would like one right now-in their honor, of course!

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    1. Hi Abbe, you should have one right now in their honor. And take a picture and email to them - just to let them know that they're missing good times. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Stunning images and a cocktail I never say no to. Looks perfect.

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    1. Hi Asha, it's really a great cocktail - so tasty. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  13. John, I didn't realise there was so much to Tiki time! It's been wonderful learning all these new cocktails and food items also. So much fun. This is beautiful, I love the photos. Unfortunately, this will be one I won't make because if you take away the booze, there's only orange juice!! Oh well. I live vicariously through you ;)

    Nazneen

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    1. Hi Nazneen, we've just scratched the surface of Tiki! You're right that this is one drink that you couldn't make a nonalcoholic version of, alas. But as you say, you do get to live vicariously! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Beautiful color! Plus, I love how it's not quite so tipsy as some other cocktails.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, it's certainly got some booze in it, but compared to most of the Tiki drinks, much less. Thanks for the comment.

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  15. I feel like I go to cocktail college when I visit your blog! Amazing pictures and delicious sounding drink!

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    1. Hi Chris, there's so much to learn about cocktails,isn't there? It's so interesting! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. This drink kinda makes me want to get on the table and wiggle a bit.

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    1. Hi Maureen, LOL! The name is so interesting, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Hi KR,

    It is nearly weekend and also our end of down-under winter soon... I reckon that I need a Hula Hula to celebrate!!!

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, this is a great drink for anticipating spring! Just the ticket. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Hmmm...morning appropriate? What would you pair with this for brunch? Sweet 'n Sour?

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    1. Hi Debra, this basically has the flavor of a less sweet OJ - not the same flavor as a Mimosa, but it approaches that sort of dryness (which is sweet, just less so than pure OJ). So Sweet 'n Sour would certainly work, but really anything you'd pair OJ with would work too. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. This is such a tempting, gorgeous looking drink!
    Love the background story and the beautiful, purist pictures.

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    1. Hi Daniela, it's one that's really worth having - quite good. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  20. This is one great series, John, and any drink called the Hula Hula is sure to belong. Too bad it's a gin cocktail or I'd be on my way to the liquor store for supplies. I really have enjoyed the series, my feelings for gin notwithstanding, and the photography that accompanies each of the posts is quite beautiful. As I said, it's a great series. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

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    1. Hi John, there are some gin drinks I think you'd like, but I have my doubts about this one. I haven't tried it, but it'd probably be pretty good with rum instead of gin. Thanks so much for the kind words, and comment.

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  21. Are you going through each state and conjuring up drinks that might come from them and stuck on H? Or desperate for a vacay and that state that starts with H is your preferred destination?

    You have amazed me with your Tiki fascination; now I'm yearning for something with pineapple. And rum. Maybe coconut. :) I would NEVER have thought gin but I have it all...the Bombay Sapphire, the OJ and the Grand Marnier; will have to try this one John!

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    1. Hi Barb, I have another H for you next week! That one has rum as an option, and load of pineapple. ;-) And Tiki drinks are wonderful in the summer! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. gorgeous cocktail and stunning snaps,we are so happy to learn a number of new cocktails from your blog,thanks for sharing...refreshingly zingy sip :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, this is indeed a refreshingly zingy sip! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  23. Love the name of this one! Looks quite easy to make and anything with orange flavor liquor sounds good to me. Interesting story about the Tiki-Ti bar. Not a place for me either. I love the non-smoking laws!

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    1. Hi MJ, I'm with you on nonsmoking laws. This is a fun drink - well worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Amazing how they're able to get an exemption from non-smoking. I love the name of this cocktail and love how you described it as OJ's evil twin! Your final image is just stunning xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, isn't it? I don't know the rules in California, but I suspect the fact that it was a business that already existed when the rules were enacted may have had something to do with it. Sounds like a great place, despite the smoke. And yeah, this is OJ's evil twin! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Neat history on this cocktail, and the cherry & pineapple wedge sound like a great pair, yummy!

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    1. Hi Kristianne, it's a fun cocktail - and it's always fun to add nice fruit garnishes to cocktails! Thanks for the comment.

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  26. This tropical sip looks irresistible!! And I love the cute name :D

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    1. Hi Kiran, tropical drinks are so much fun, don't you think? Love the flavor of them. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Hi John, this hula hula cocktail is so refreshing. Love the colour, so elegant. Drink this cocktail must listen to 'Aloha Oe' or 'Pearly Shells' and do the hula hula dance. :))

    Have a great day.

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    1. Hi Amelia, one absolutely must do the dance while drinking this cocktail! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Thanks for the tips will be serving my guest this week.

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    1. Hi cquek, hope everyone enjoys it! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. What an interesting history of the drink and the inventor! Like you, I prefer non-smoking establishments, but it sounds like the regulars don't mind at all.

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    1. Hi Beth, this really is a swell drink! And the history of Buhen is fascinating. Thanks for the comment.

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  30. I love the story behind the cocktail, what a fantastic drink with a great history it.

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    1. Hi Nik, isn't cocktail history interesting? Always something new to learn. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Ok, that's it. I'm either heading to Hawaii or the liquor store. Well, maybe the liquor store is more in my budget at present, but you have me inspired to at least live like I'm wearing a grass skirt. What a fun series of drinks.

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    1. Hi Karen, the liquor store is definitely cheaper, plus you can start drinking one of these sooner if you don't have to fly to Hawaii. ;-) Glad you're enjoying the series - I'm having an awfully good time with it too! Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I'm not much of a coktail maker or drinker for the matter...but this looks so beautiful. Its my first time here at Kitchen Riffs and I'm loving it :-)

    Cheers,
    Manju

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    1. Hi Manju, welcome! This is really a nice drink - hope you have a chance to enjoy one. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Oh it does look delicious, perfect for Friday lunch :) ... don't you think ;)

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    1. Hi Gourmet Getaways, I think you should definitely do this for Friday lunch! Thanks for the comment.

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  34. What a cute name! These would be a lovely alternative to the mimosas I always seem to serve when a morning cocktail is needed :)

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    1. Hi Liz, this is a nice alternative to the mimosa, though a bit stronger. Great flavor, though! Thanks for the comment.

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  35. John, I can imagine you right now with Mrs. Riff's both in your grass skirts dancing around in the kitchen while you make this fun hula hula drink. Have you ever heard this old song? I am sorry I don't remember who sings it. "When you watching the hula girl dance, be careful for the chance of romance. When the grass goes a swishing don't be a wishing that you could mow the lawn. If you're too young to date, or over 98, keep your eyes on the hands."
    Have a super day! BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, I do remember that song! And you're right that Mrs K R and I could well be dancing around the kitchen singing that while preparing this cocktail. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Oh...this Hula Hula Cocktail is lovely. Seems like you've taken me to Hawaii without a plane ticket! :) Can't wait to sip this at the poolside and just hang out!

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    1. Hi Amy, happy to transport you there with this fun drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  37. I've love a Hula Hula for breakfast:D It looks so refreshing!!

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    1. Hi Smidge, breakfast of champions! ;-) It really is refreshing. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. I love orange flavored liquors! They have the most incredible flavor!

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    1. Hi Laura, aren't all of the orange liqueurs wonderful? Such great flavor, and so nice in this cocktail. Thanks for the comment.

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  39. All I need is the curaçao to make my husband a happy camper. He's a big fan of anything gin!

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    1. Hi Kristi, since your husband likes gin, he'd definitely like this! Fun drink. thanks for the comment.

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  40. I am a fan of Tiki drinks in general it's good to know there is one for breakfast even! GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, one can never have too many breakfast cocktails! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Asmita, it is, it is! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. I'd love a tiki cocktail for brunch! And, this is a such a pretty one. Love the way it's garnished.

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    1. Hi Lisa, I like a tiki cocktail for brunch too! Garnishing tiki cocktails is part of the fun, IMO. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. I'm not familiar with this one, John, but know I would love it. I enjoyed reading the background on the Hula Hula and Ray Buhen, too. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Hannah, this one is pretty obscure - you don't see it that much these days. Good cocktail, though. Glad you enjoyed reading about it, and thanks for the comment.

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  44. Replies
    1. Hi Raymund, it's a drink with loads of flavor, and looks great, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. I love the photos, especially the ones on the black background.

    The orange'ness' of it appeals to me, even though I'd rather 'eat' my alcohol than drink it :-).

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    1. Hi Kitchen Butterfly, isn't that a nice orange? And the black background really makes colors pop. Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

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  46. Gonna try it tomorrow, perfect summer drink!

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    1. Hi Rak'in'Fish, enjoy! And thanks for the comment.

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  47. This drinks sounds delicious. I love the name.

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    1. Hi Dawn, it's really good - so worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  48. What a great name for a cocktail. And such delicious ingredients.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, isn't this a fun name? Tasty, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Next time I go to the beach I ll ask my husband to make me your hula hula cocktail and I ll take it with me. I like to nibble on a sweet drink that isn't too overwhelming and strong. The sun tends to turn me into a raisin otherwise. ^.^

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    1. Hi Helene, although this drink is normally served up, for the beach I'd serve it on the rocks - that way it'll stay chilled for a long beach stay if you'll just be sipping on it from time to time. I envy you with your great beaches! Thanks for the comment.

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  50. I'm going to remember this one. While this is morning-friendly drink for everyone, I'll be drunk at the bar with this drink (I'm very light weight at drinking alcohol). :D If it's close to juice, I can "finish" drinking. See, it sounds like this is perfect for me? :)

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    1. Hi Nami, you might be better off with a Mimosa in the morning - a lot more juice than in this one, although there's a fair amount of bubbly too. But this is awfully tasty. Thanks for the comment.

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