Native Hawaiians use ti plants for more than scaring away evil spirits. They also make a potent spirit of their own, a distillation of ti root called ‘Okolehao (prn OH-koh-lay-how). Haleakala Distillers, located Upcountry Maui, starting brewing their own 80-proof version in December 2009. The formula calls for a mash of roughly 25 percent ti root, 20 percent rice and 55 percent cane sugar, all grown in Hawai’i, according the the company’s website. The flavor has been described as a cross between rum and sipping tequila, with a hint of coconut and florals unique to the islands.
There’s been a lot of coverage in the news about this local liquor (see links below), but the real proof is in the drinking. Here’s a recipe for an ‘okolehau cocktail perfect for a hot summer afternoon that I’ve adapted from another regional liquor, pisco:
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
2 shots ‘Okolehao
Shake over ice and serve with a dollop of whipped egg white and a sprinkling of li hin mui powder
Makes 2-4 drinks, depending how strong you like it
Roundup of news coverage of ‘Okolehao liquor: