Learning about local traditions and culture is high on our to-do list when we visit a destination. When food and libations are involved, all the better!

Whenever we can, we like to like to get hands-on, roll up our sleeves and take a class. And at the Grand Wailea on Maui, we did just that, with a class in mixology and another class in making poke.

Grand Wailea poke class

Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish that means “cut piece” or “small piece.” It also happens to be one of our favorite dishes. Class began about an hour before sunset, with a spectacular view of the beautifully manicured Grand Wailea grounds and the Pacific Ocean. As he talked us through what goes into the making of this, our chef instructor had a variety of fresh, colorful ingredients in bowls before us. Though we were a tad intimidated, he assured us that we could not make mistakes; the beauty of poke is that you can tailor it to your personal taste.

The star of a great Poke is good quality, fresh fish. We chose ahi tuna as the leading lady in our poke. The supporting players were a bounty of local ingredients, including spice blends, chili peppers, Maui onion, oil, garlic, ginger, seaweed, avocado, and soy sauce. The leading man to our star was a finishing touch of black Hawaiian sea salt. It was, if we say so ourselves, an Academy Award-winning poke.

On Maui we learned that when something is so tasty you want to eat it all at once, you say that it “broke da mout.” Well, broke da mout our poke did.


Making poke is easy, fun, and memorable

Grand Wailea mixology class

In our mixology class at the Grand Wailea, we learned to make a drink called the Melting Pot Mule. It is a variation of a Moscow Mule but with Maui twist. The Melting Pot part of the name comes from Hawaii’s reputation as a melting pot of cultures. Just as cultural groups from all over the world live, work, and play in a sense of harmony that makes Hawaii special, the varied ingredients of the Melting Pot Mule complement each other and work together to make a cocktail that is heavenly to drink.

First we muddled strawberries with lime juice, basil, and a Hawaiian chili pepper syrup. Then we added vodka and the juice of calamansi halves. After adding ice and Bundaberg ginger beer, we shook the concoction in our best imitation of Tom Cruise in the movie, Cocktail. We finished up by garnishing our creation with a lime, strawberry, chili pepper, and some Thai basil with pretty green leafs and purple flowers.

The Melting Pot Mule

To be honest, we weren’t sure what it would taste like. Some of the ingredients just didn’t seem that they would go together. But after tasting it, we found our new favorite cocktail. What we loved about the Melting Pot Mule was that it was light and refreshing and not overly sweet or overpowering as so many cocktails tend to be. Fortunately since we’ve never seen it on a menu anywhere else in the world, we learned to make if ourselves. It’s a part of Maui that we’ll always have with us.

What sorts of classes do you like to take on vacation?