Shift Drinks: Arlin Smith

Arlin Smith is one of the owners of Hugo's Restaurant and Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine. 

Disclosure:Hugo's Restaurant and Eventide Oyster Co.  are clients of ours, though their representation here has nothing to do with our scope of work with them. In fact, they are helping us out by lending their credibility to our project and we are grateful for that. 

Why a Mai Tai? 

I think my progression in drinking… I started with beer, which I had fun making while I was in college. While you are in the beer world whiskey eventually comes into play. Then I got into wine, so most of my first experiences with alcohol were in the lighter categories. Once I got into whiskey I fell in love with it and wanted to become a distiller. But I still did not have a full understanding of all of the spirits and I always thought of rum as this sugary thing that just gave me really bad hangovers because those experiences were usually with shitty drinks and shady rum. When I fell in love with whiskey, I had an appreciation for a strong spirit and the day I had a sip of good rum I fell in love again.

Which rum was that? 

It was an Appleton rum.

Ah, yes. Appleton changed my life.

Exactly. It felt like it had more complexity and it was more fun that your bourbons, not that there is anything wrong with that. But it allowed me to branch out in the cocktail world. I wasn't afraid to order rum drinks and try these new flavors. And everything changed when I had my first well made Tiki drink — a well made Tiki drink. It blew up in my world and then any bar that I had my hands on would offer Tiki.

I had had a Mai Tai in Hawaii on Wai Ki Ki beach, which was exactly what you want it to be with pineapples and juices and rum in a huge, tall glass. But in a true Mai Tai there is no juice outside of lime and simple ingredients.

I really fell in love Tiki with it when I met [bartender] John R. Myers. As soon as he came into my life, he was doing all of this research and make ingredients that you couldn't get your hands on otherwise. House made falerum. Orgeat, which is in this guy. And you have to make it well, which John does. He nailed the process by utilizing a lot of the technologies that we have in the kitchen.

So for my drink today I chose Tiki, not really Mai Tai specifically. It could be anything in the Tiki world and I would love it. The Walking Dead is on our menu and I love that. The cool thing about Tiki is that it can be gaudy and fun and the garnishes come into play. The bigger and more stupid they are, the better. The crazier and more fun, the better. I think it resonates with people. It takes you to another spot. You're in a bar—it doesn't matter which bar—and when you have a drink like that it takes you to another place. That's the power of a well made cocktail.

And people get drunk off of them, which is one of the best parts. They're strong. But it is that good drunk, that good high. You've got sugar going on and plenty of rum.

There is a reason why rum drinks typically lead to "WOOOOO!" 

There is a lot of that, yeah. [Laughs]

Why are you in this business? 

I love taking care of people in a way that they didn't even think was possible. I would say that fact alone is what drives me. Ultimately it is what I do every day for people. Most people see service as service, where they have a server and they get to beckon them, call them over, whatever is brought over, they pay them and they are on their way. I feel like hospitality is an anticipation of needs, it is making suggestions, it is getting guests something they wanted that they didn't even know they wanted. We ask about our guests' weekends. We take an interest in them. I want to take it further. I would rather be providing that service of hospitality rather than just service.