Blue Hawaii



Pack your favorite bikini and call off work the rest of the week, we’re flying to Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii for this week’s Drink of the Week, the Blue Hawaii. 

This vodka/rum based drink exudes tropical tiki vibes; making us all wish we were at a beach and not in front of our computers… However, you gotta be a little careful! If you make it right, this drink nearly hits the 80 proof mark. Have one too many, and you’ll be too hungover to work anyway. 

There are many ways to change up this drink, but if you are asking yourself why we excluded the Creme of Coconut that a lot of recipes online call for, we did it on purpose. That is because the addition of the Creme  of Coconut makes it a similar drink with a similar name; Blue Hawaiian cocktail, but they have very different backgrounds. 

A Blue Hawaii is typically served on the rocks, but like many other tropical drinks it can be blended. If that’s your jam, throw all the ingredients in the blender and hit frappe! 

Just a little extra tip... For best results, we suggest you don't use bottled Sweet and Sour mix, but rather make your own at home with fresh citrus juice and simple syrup. This advice applies to any drink that calls for Sweet and Sour. Trust us, you'll thank us.

A Brief History:

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Once upon a time, 1961 to be exact, on the island of Oahu in Honolulu, Hawaii, the beachfront neighborhood of Waikiki was the setting for an Elvis Presley movie, “Blue Hawaii”. The movie included a hit single by Leo Robin, also titled Blue Hawaii, which was written for another film, Bing Crosby's 1937 “Waikiki Wedding.”

All of those things were inspired by one man, Harry Yee. Harry Yee has been a pioneer in bartender history, faux-Hawaiian culture, and all things tiki. He started bartending at the age of 34 in 1952. This was before the advent of jet airliners and seven years before Hawaiian became a U.S. state. 

After quickly showing his talent for mixing up cocktails, Harry joined Henry Kaiser's Hawaiian Village Hotel (which is now the Hilton Hawaiian Village), where he served as head bartender for more than thirty years. It was apparently during these thirty years when he and two other men helped bring the craze of tourism to Hawaii and everything tiki related.  

In an interview posted online by Rick Caroll, Henry recalls the early days at the bar where imagination was lacking in the presence of bar drinks, "'Those days when tourists came in,' they said, 'Give me a Hawaiian drink,' he said. 'We didn't have any Hawaiian drinks. There were no such things as exotic drinks. Or tropical drinks from Hawaii. We had Planter's Punch, Singapore Slings, Zombies, Grasshoppers and Pink Ladies, that was it.'"

He does credit the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with serving rum or gin and pineapple juice cocktails in the 1920s, which they called The Kama'aina and The Princess Kaiulani.

Jason Genegabus

Jason Genegabus

"'They weren't exotic enough,' Yee said, 'and never became a hit.'" When you think about it, he is right… We don't know anyone who has heard of those drinks.

So, it’s 1957, Yee has been head bartender for only 5 years when his biggest opportunity walked up to the bar. A salesman from the Dutch distillery, Bols (Lucas Bols), asked Yee to make him something with this new blue Curaçao liqueur the company had just rolled out. After several variations and attempts he found the right mix of ingredients and named it the Blue Hawaii. 

It happened that way for many of Yee’s cocktail ideas. He is also the mind behind the Tropical Itch cocktail. When he began bartending, Hawaii only hosted approximately 100,000 visitors per year. Most of them went to Oahu and therefore Waikiki given that the other islands weren’t yet as developed. This gave him ample opportunities to come up with some new ideas. To put it in perspective for you- by the time Yee retired from bartending in Hawaii he would have seen over a couple million visitors. 

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Random Fact:

Harry Yee was also the first person to use an orchid as a cocktail garnish.

Not entirely sure when Happy Hour City will make it to Hawaii. So for now, we will settle for making this drink at home and watching episodes of Hawaii 5.0. Let us know how it turns out if you try the DIY recipe above, and how/if you change it. Thanks for reading and as always…

Cheers from,

Happy Hour City.