If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Maui and haven’t taken the time to explore the many intriguing features of Maui Tropical Plantation – coffee roastery, zipline course, farm-to-table restaurant, plantation tour, souvenir shop and more – go ahead and save yourself the guilt and book a trip back. With plenty to do and see, our favorite activity at this tropical oasis is sitting – and sipping – a handcrafted cocktail with a view of the West Maui Mountains and the property’s sparkling lagoon.
This month, we’re thrilled to present our fifth Take 5 Interview with Head Bartender & Sustainability Specialist, Dane Dostert, the brilliant mixologist behind Maui Tropical Plantation’s Mill House Restaurant, its handcrafted cocktails and talented bar team.
Take 5 with: Dane Dostert of The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation
Q: What are the advantages of living in Hawaii when it comes to the craft food & beverage business?
DANE: “Hawaii provides a pretty unique opportunity anywhere in the world, as far as the bounty that is available year-round. Maui does experience seasons, which is really cool and kind of surprising to me as a relative newcomer, but those seasons – basically two seasons – provide a whole multitude of interesting produce and citrus in the winter, and then in summer you have a lot of the more classic tropical fruits.”
Q: What is your philosophy when it comes to craft cocktails?
DANE: “My philosophy, and what our restaurant and the food side of things focuses on, is supporting the farms on the island. Using the ‘whole animal’ is sort of a sustainable mindset that applies to our cocktail program as well. We not only try to utilize ingredients specifically from Maui and the other [Hawaiian] islands, but we also try to use the whole animal, so to speak… meaning we try to use the lime juice and the lime peels, and even pineapple husks, and find creative ways to utilize all of that deliciousness.”
Q: Who (or where) do you look to for inspiration?
DANE: “I look at some of my favorite bars throughout the mainland, as far as ones that I think do a Tiki sort of style, but do it well… the ones that do it kind of scaled up with real ingredients and not overly sweet. That’s one source of inspiration, because Tiki can be really fun. It has a reputation for being loaded with sugar, but that’s not the origins of it, so I definitely dig into the all the Tiki history and then look at sustainable approaches outside of cocktails – outside of food and beverage – with my background in environmental policy. There’s a couple of cool groups like Trash Tiki that also try to reuse things, but it’s got to be delicious first.”
Q: What, if any, special projects do you have planned for the coming year?
DANE: “The big focus recently has been mastering coconut. Coconut, for how abundant it is throughout the tropics worldwide, is a product, if you’re using it in food or drink, that is almost always from a can or a squeeze bottle. It has lots and lots of ingredients, lots of things added to it to stabilize it, and it’s pretty perishable, so our big challenge has been to create a fresh coconut cream. We’re really close to mastering it and are really excited about that. We’ll also hopefully get back into the Mai Tai Competition this year, and continue to push what we do best.”
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of the business?
DANE: “The most rewarding aspect of our program, to me, is our whole bar staff. We joke around and call ourselves ‘farmtenders’ because we actually do a lot of work, and are really connected to the ingredients. We split sugarcane, press sugarcane, crack coconuts, make guava jelly and work with farmers. Our whole bar staff has really bought into that mentality, and it’s cool to see how far we’ve come and where we’re headed.”
Q: Give us two cool facts about yourself. Go!
DANE: “I used to snowboard a lot and am terrible at surfing; I hope that’s cool. I also drive a front loader once or twice a week to turn all of our food waste into future mince and delicious cocktail ingredients for our compost program.”
All photos courtesy of The Mill House.
Mighty mahalos to Dane for participating! Reserve a spot on our Taste of Upcountry, Taste of Maui, Ultimate Craft Adventure or Pineapple Express Tour for a visit to The Mill House restaurant to sample Dane’s delightful craft cocktails and Chef Jeff’s farm-to-table dishes.