Reverse Engineering: Kamehameha’s Mighty Punch

Kamehameha's Mighty Punch

I recently returned from a tour of the Hawaiian islands as part of my responsibilities as KaiserPenguin’s West Coast Correspondent. Among the most intriguing cocktails I encountered in my travels was this gem, known as King’s Mighty Punch, at Hilo’s Cafe Pesto on the big island. When I requested the recipe, the bartender supplied it only in the vaguest of terms (“mostly pineapple juice,” “a splash of limeade,” etc.), so what we have here is my own recipe, the product of reverse engineering.

Kamehameha’s Mighty Punch

  • 2oz. pineapple juice
  • 0.5oz mango puree
  • 1oz. tahitian limeade (see below)
  • 1.5oz amber rum (I used Flor de Cana 5-year)
  • cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients except pepper with ice cubes and shake. Strain into a glass with a wide mouth. Dust with cayenne pepper and garnish if you must.

There are a number of notable elements to this drink. The most obvious is the cayenne pepper, which, when dusted over the golden cocktail, hearkens to the vibrant red and yellow of Kamehameha’s ‘ahu’ula, or feather cloak. But this is no decorative garnish — the pepper’s heat suffuses the concoction, adding heat to the back of the drink, and a subtle flavor as well. But that’s not the only delicious new ingredient in this drink….

I’m even more in love with the other special ingredient here — limeade. When I asked the bartender about the recipe, the mention of “tahitian limeade” of course caught my interest, mainly because I didn’t know what it was. She indicated that it was a local brand, Hanaoka Farms, made with coconut water. I tracked the limeade down at a local health food store and checked out the ingredient list — lime juice, water, sugar, and “coconut.” In attempting to recreate the ingredient, I took the bartender’s word that the “coconut” on the label was indeed coconut water.

When I make traditional lemonade or limeade, I mix fresh juice with 3-5 parts simple syrup, as I usually have it on hand and it combines nicely. In this case I simply substituted coconut water for the regular stuff. The resulting limeade is totally delicious — the coconut flavor makes itself right at home!

I took my several tries to get the formula right (or, as I remember it). I know that the original calls for Myers (which you can also use), but in testing, I found it overpowering. Perhaps the bartender had a light hand with the rum — I recall that the drink wasn’t too potent. My version’s not that strong either — a shortcoming, perhaps. But, to quote Rick, “you can always have another.” Yes you can.

As usual, we are left with as many questions as answers:

  1. Should I have bribed the bartender to try and get a written recipe?
  2. Cayenne pepper on your drink: so good or no good?
  3. What drinks have you tried to reverse engineer?

9 Responses to “Reverse Engineering: Kamehameha’s Mighty Punch”

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9 Comments to “ Reverse Engineering: Kamehameha’s Mighty Punch”
  1. JimmyNo Gravatar says:

    1. I think it was better for you to have a general idea, and then do the footwork.
    2. Good.
    3. I don’t think I have.


    Well done. I think you’re onto something with this. It sounds really good and it is definitely an interesting drink.

  2. OuroborosNo Gravatar says:

    This looks like a really neat drink! I’m definitely playing with this next month.

    What kind of coconut water did you use, exactly? or did you drill a coconut?

  3. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    @Jimmy: Yeah, I think this drink is actually an improvement over the original — all the more reason to reverse engineer!

    @Ouroboros: I use a canned coconut water I find at the grocery store in the refrigerated section. It’s an Asian brand — I can check the next time I’m there. It’s usually available with and without pulp, though last time they only had with pulp, so I just filtered it through a mesh basket — cheesecloth would work too. I also have a “juice box” type package that I haven’t tried yet. I would definitely be drilling coconuts if they grew around here!

  4. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    Sorta late on this, but just wanna say I finally made it and it’s great. The cayenne gives a little warming tingle. Two firneds joined me, and all agreed that this is excellent. Used some health food store coconut water in a little juice box–forget what.

  5. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    Better late than never! Yeah, this one has definitely stood the test of time in our house as well. Glad you enjoyed it!

  6. So I’m going back through posts that I’ve saved in my newsreader, and the notion of the cayenne in the drink intrigued me, so I figured I’d throw something out there three two months after the original post… now don’t get me wrong, I love spicy foods, but I also a.) have kinda sensitive skin and b.) a mustache, so the thought of possibly getting little flecks of cayenne held against my skin for a while by my whiskers gives me pause. Could one possibly make a cayenne-infused vodka and use a splash of that for this drink? I think the flavor would be similar without the risk of irritation, and you’d also have a nice secret ingredient handy for bloody mary time (not that I drink ’em, but that’s only because I can’t stand tomato juice. I’ll take my lycopene with pasta, thanks.)

    Anyway, thought it was an idea.

  7. OuroborosNo Gravatar says:

    Earlier this month at A Dash of Bitters, Michael posted about the Fan Tan. It is sort-of a ginger-brandy fizz that calls for a dash of Tabasco sauce.

    I’ve always felt a little unsure about mixing with powdered ingredients – it is sometimes difficult to get them incorporated into liquid, even after a good hard shaking. Maybe hot sauce is an answer to this. In a fruity, slightly acid context like this drink, the vinegar base of Tabasco wouldn’t be noticed.

    (Well, there’s a digression from Bloodies Mary.)

  8. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    It’s been my experience that the cayenne kind of settles into the top of the drink after just a moment — you can see in the photo that some of it has started to sink a little. Also, I’m a big fan of the visual impact of the powdered spices. I usually rock some facial hair, and I’ve never experienced a problem, FWIW.

  9. […] was written a year ago and which i`ve somehow managed to miss, the Kamehameha Mighty Punch from Kaiserpenguin – using cayenne pepper! and Tahitian limeade – ingredients so interesting they catched my […]

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