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Susan and Ted Axelrod

Susan and Ted are a writer and photographer team who met while working for a magazine — Susan reviewing restaurants and writing food features, Ted photographing them. When Ted left the magazine for a freelance career, they launched their blog, Spoon & Shutter in 2010 as a way to keep doing what they love, together. After many years in Northern New Jersey, they are thrilled to be living in Maine, where Ted's clients occasionally include restaurants and food businesses. When they're not working, cooking, rehabbing their old farmhouse or hanging out with their two cool dogs – Ella and Dixie – they're having a blast exploring this spectacular state. To reach Susan, email saxelrod [at] or follow her on Twitter: @susansaxelrod To reach Ted, email ted [at] or follow him on Twitter @TedAxelRodPhoto .

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Posted: October 24, 2014

Mama’s Fish House Mai Tai

Written by: Susan and Ted Axelrod
Mama's Fish House Mai Tai

Mama’s Fish House Mai Tai Photos by Ted Axelrod

Full disclosure: This photo was taken 3 1/2 years ago, when we went to Maui to celebrate my 50th birthday. This week, we’re in the middle of a move from Portland to Yarmouth and it’s Harvest on the Harbor, so I hope you’ll indulge us.

And perhaps we could use a tropical escape in the form of a fruity cocktail, with the chilly winds of the recent nor’easter offering a not-so-subtle sign we’re now staring down the barrel of winter.

On the North shore of Maui, the legendary Mama’s Fish House, which opened in 1973, is one of the best restaurants in Hawaii. Not so much a building as a sprawling, funky beach shack, it resembles a movie set, but in the very best way, with wood carvings, Polynesian artifacts and exotic flowers everywhere. Approached at night by a lushly planted, torch-lined path from the parking lot, you expect Don Ho to come into view at any moment, strumming a ukelele. The dining rooms are both rustic and elegant (most guests are dressed up) with blue batik tablecloths, woven basket lampshades and large windows open to the night air – looking out over a serene, coconut palm-planted beach.

It sounds hokey, but I assure you Mama’s is not. The food is extraordinary — the menu lists the name of the local fisherman who caught each variety of fish — and the cocktails are delicious and potent.

As the story goes, the Mai Tai was named by Tahitians, who upon tasting it, exclaimed “Mai tai roa ae” — “Out of this world.” However, the drink was not invented in Tahiti, or even in Hawaii; it was created in 1944 by Vic Bergeron at the original Trader Vic’s in Oakland, California.

Mama’s Fish House’s Mai Tai deviates somewhat from Vic’s original, which contained just dark Jamaican rum, lime juice, orange curacao, simple syrup, orgeat (an almond syrup) and a sprig of mint for garnish. But it has become the gold standard on Maui.

Here’s a little bit of Aloha for this stormy Friday.

Mama’s Fish House Mai Tai

1 1/2 ounces light rum
1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
Splash orgeat
Splash simple syrup
2 splashes orange curacao
2 splashes grenadine
2 ounces dark rum
Lime wheel and maraschino cherry for garnish

In an ice-filled cocktail glass, pour light rum, pineapple and lime juices, orgeat, sugar syrup, 1 splash each of orange curacao and grenadine.

Carefully pour the dark rum on top; stir once.

Add 1 splash each of orange curacao and grenadine.

Garnish with a lime wheel, maraschino cherry, a paper umbrella (of course), and a tropical flower if you have one.

Recipe adapted slightly from

For more on Mama’s Fish House, see More Maui: An iconic restaurant; an island recipe

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