Talk about cultural serendipity. Just as Hawaii gets a piece of New York with the highly anticipated opening of Ian Schrager and Bill Marriott’s Waikiki Edition Hotel, New York is getting a slice of paradise with the official launch of Lani Kai, a modern Hawaiian-themed cocktail haunt.
Over the past few years, there’s been a real surge in surf culture’s popularity in the style setting city with the rise of beachwear stores, island-themed hotels and even SUP’ing (aka stand-up paddle boarding) in the Hudson River! There’s no one better to capture the essence of modern-day Hawaii, the respective cuisine and tropical cocktails than former local girl and globally renowned cocktail evangelist, Julie Reiner.
“Julie Reiner has livened the pulse of the SoHo scene with Lani Kai. Her new joint on Broome Street perfectly presents the hot concept of culinary cocktails and small plates in this case with a sophisticated tropical flavor,” says the “King of the Cocktail” himself Dale Degroff.
It is true that Lani Kai isn’t tiki at all, but a contemporary reflection of the Aloha State as it is today. In fact, Reiner’s latest venture defies rummy, umbrella-laden drinks in favor of Spice & Tropical Teas, Liquid Luau libations meant for sharing, Old School classics and the Ohana cocktails co-created by fellow mixologists, friends and family. The Boozy and Stirred drinks are literally a perfect blend of paradise (dark rum, macadamia nut orgeat) with a city kick. For example, take The Tree House, a concoction made from dark rum, macadamia nut orgeat, rye whiskey and mole bitters.
In an heartfelt sentiment printed right on the menu, Reiner describes her vision for the new venture: “I love New York and the exhilarating energy of the city, but I grew up in Hawaii and am an island girl at heart. My favorite drinks are the Manhattan and the Mai Tai, and I have always wanted to create a destination that blends the two places I call home. Lani Kai pairs the tropical beauty and flavors of the Pacific with the pulse and edge of Gotham.” The menu is also strewn with imagery of Reiner’s favorite Oahu-based beach, Lanikai along with the infamous and picturesque Mokuleia islands.
Speaking of faves, Reiner’s go-to Lani Kai libations are the Isle of Islay Swizzle, a mix of blended scotch, coconut liqueur, house falernum, passion fruit and lemon juice and the 8 Day’s a Week that’s made with Jamacian, Haitian, Guyanan Rums, toasted coconut milk, demerara, vanilla syrup, and Donn’s spices.
In addition to refreshing island cocktails, the eats are spot-on Hawaiiana. Between bread fans have their pick of the Pork Bun (five spiced pork belly confit), Ahi, BBQ Short Rib, Lobster Roll, and Grass Fed Beef Sliders. Small plates consist of Crab Wontons, Grilled Chili Squid, and Char Su Baby Back Ribs. The Luau Platters are ideal for sharing. And, for sweet tooth-friendly foodies, end with the poi doughnuts served with warm caramel and rum dipping sauce.
Local girl done good. Reiner has certainly paid a flattering homage to her original home of Hawaii by transporting the idealic image of the islands to her trend-setting abode away from the aloha state. Lani Kai is paradise perfection.