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Pau hana: 5 cocktails not to miss while in Hawai'i

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Much of the working world holds the concept of "happy hour" inviolate. In Hawai'i, it's called pau hana (literally, "work finished" in Hawaiian) and whether the hana is the everyday grind of local residents, a leisurely vacation spent sunbathing and shopping, or world-class competitive sports in the ocean and on the land, the perfect cocktail well ends any day in these islands of Aloha. The bars, lounges, and restaurants on each island are as diverse as in any great city, and even the venerable mai tai can have hundreds of different recipes (many establishments even specialize in more than one). Whether you're in Hawai'i, planning a trip soon, or merely dreaming of her breathtaking beauty, there are five standout cocktails we've encountered that make a fine master class of island imbibing.

Do you have a favorite cocktail in Hawai'i? Comment on your find below!

Scratch Mai Tai - Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki
Scratch Mai Tai - Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Author

Scratch Mai Tai - Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki

The eponymous cocktail at the Waikiki-front Mai Tai Bar at the historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel is one of the best on the island. Although the original Mai Tai was nearly all booze (fruit juice found its way into the recipe sometime later), the new standard calls for both orange and pineapple juices, orgeat, orange curacao and a float of dark rum. The Scratch Mai Tai is awfully potent, and the $12 price tag is a steal considering the picture postcard views. For an even more sumptuous potion, try the Royal Mai Tai for $14.

Li Hing Mui Margarita - Roy's Original Hawai'i Kai
Li Hing Mui Margarita - Roy's Original Hawai'i Kai Author

Li Hing Mui Margarita - Roy's Original Hawai'i Kai

There are several other Roy's locations on O'ahu and throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but the original location in Hawai'i Kai has a laid back, suburban feel without the touristic madness of the other island locations. Happy Hours at both the beginning and end of the dinner hour mean extended hours for diners to enjoy pau hana, and at Roy's that means $5 margaritas, including this one with Li Hing Mui (a salty sweet dried plum powder ubiquitous in Hawai'i) both flavoring the drink and generously crusting the rim. It's an acquired taste for many, but the local regulars at the late happy hour are more than acquainted.

Bora Mary - St. Regis Princeville
Bora Mary - St. Regis Princeville Author

Bora Mary - St. Regis Princeville

Although each St. Regis property has their own incarnation of the Bloody Mary (legend has it the original was invented at the St. Regis New York) and the St. Regis Princeville on Kaua'i does a spectacular version with the homegrown Aloha Mary, the Bora Mary served in the Lobby Bar courtesy of the St. Regis Bora Bora is one of the most unique Bloodys we've ever encountered. The secret is fresh watermelon juice in addition to the famous Bloody Mary Mix, which adds freshness without overwhelming sweet. It's $14 of genius, down to the last drop. Want to try it yourself? The St. Regis Bloody Marys are the chains worst-kept trade secret; the recipes are available right on their website.

Rum Fire Signature Mai Tai - Sheraton Waikiki
Rum Fire Signature Mai Tai - Sheraton Waikiki Author

Rum Fire Signature Mai Tai - Sheraton Waikiki

The Rum Fire Signature Mai Tai may be a shade cheaper ($9.50) than its brethren next door at the Royal Hawaiian, but the addition of a dash of passionfruit to the mix makes RumFire's version even more, well, intoxicating. Views of Waikiki, the Pacific, and the hotel's new infinity edge pool abound, and the sunsets here are as luscious as anywhere on O'ahu.

Koloa Rum Punch
Koloa Rum Punch Author

Koloa Rum Punch

One doesn't necessarily need a professional bartender to enjoy pau hana - all that's really required is a sunset, and a bottle. DIY fans can pick up a bottle of Koloa Rum's new ready-to-drink (i.e. the booze is already mixed in) Rum Punch for about $15 at most island retailers or the Koloa Rum Tasting Room and Company Store on Kaua'i. Hawaiian Airlines does their own version of pau hana on select Transpacific flights with complimentary drams of this heavenly concoction of Koloa Rum, Passionfruit, and Guava.

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