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Tropical Travel

By Cheryl Forberg, RD

The prospect of travel is on the horizon again and I, like millions of others, cannot wait. After a year of international travel bans on and off, here and there, it is hard to believe that planning a trip is just around the corner. How many people, I wonder, dream of relaxing on a gorgeous beach somewhere, melting their cares away in an ocean breeze, warm waves lapping at their feet and an icy cold drink in hand? For each of us, a dream trip conjures up different images, but for a former Minnesotan like me, the dream is a warm tropical vacation, and a tiki vibe comes to mind.

Tiki culture emerged in California after World War II, as “a motif of exotically decorated bars and restaurants catering to an escapist longing for travel to tropical regions of the South Pacific. Featuring mock tiki carvings and complex, alluringly named alcoholic drinks,[1] it eventually influenced residential recreation.”

While I love champagne, and many consider it the iconic Valentine’s Day libation, this year, I am going with a Tiki vibe, and choose to celebrate with a classic Tiki cocktail, the Mai Tai. Contrary to popular belief, the Mai Tai is not a sweet syrupy drink composed of rum and lots of pineapple juice. In fact, there is no pineapple juice at all. A Mai Tai features rum, an orange liqueur, fresh lime juice and a nut syrup typically using almonds. This month, my two-part recipe features first, the recipe for, Orgeat (nut) Syrup (that you can buy commercially). I chose to make my own Orgeat Syrup to follow my philosophy that “the quality of any recipe is a function of the quality of the ingredients you use. I think you will really like this cocktail. If you can’t spend February in the South Pacific, bring the South Pacific home with this tasty libation! Happy Valentine’s Day and safe travels in 2021!

Macadamia Mai Tai

Ingredients for Macadamia Nut Mai Tai


¼ cup (2 ounces) dark rum
1 tablespoon (½ ounce) Orange Curacao (or Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier)
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) Macadamia Orgeat Syrup (recipe below)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) fresh Key Lime juice (regular lime juice is ok)


Fresh Melissa’s Key Lime, wedges and Melissa’s Mint, leaves


Combine all ingredients in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Stir well and pour over ice. Makes 1 large or 2 small Mai Tais. Garnish with lime wedge and fresh mint. Serve with toasted macadamia nuts and extra lime wedges.

Macadamia Orgeat Syrup

Traditionally made with almonds, orgeat syrup is pronounced ôr-zhä’(t), as in Zsa Zsa. The t is silent. This creamy syrup is a mandatory Mai Tai ingredient. I thought using macadamia nuts instead of almonds would transform this classic tropical libation to something even more Polynesian – you be the judge! Of course, you can still use almonds if you prefer, but I really love the flavor the macadamia nuts impart. Typically, vodka or brandy is added to the finished syrup both for flavor and as a preservative. I decided to add (white) rum instead, since I am only using this to make rum-based Mai Tais (and the white rum will not add additional color to the drinks.


1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
2 cups finely chopped Melissa’s macadamia nuts (approximately 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon orange flower water (traditional but optional)
1 tablespoon white rum (or vodka or brandy. You can omit this, but the shelf life will be shorter)


In a one-quart saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.

Remove from heat and stir in the nuts. Cover and allow to steep for at least 4 hours or overnight. Strain through cheesecloth lined colander. There will be about 1¾ cups. Add remaining ingredients and transfer to a bottle or jar. Refrigerate for one to two weeks.
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