Mix masters: Merriman’s Honolulu team wins 2024 Kings’ Shops Cocktail Contest

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Some of Hawai‘i’s best bartenders shook, rattled and rolled out their best libations for a thirsty crowd and judges April 28 during the second annual Kings’ Shops Cocktail Contest in Waikōloa.

From left are Maile Arban with Marriott Waikōloa, Art Deakins with Kuleana Rum Works, Merriman’s Honolulu team members Tyler Johnson and Justin Kipapa and judges Monte Kusilek with Meridian, Naehalani Breeland with Ola Brew and Jenifer Ackrill with Kaimana Beach Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Kings’ Shops)

The contest, sponsored by Kuleana Rum Works and Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, featured 13 competitors going head-to-head in a three-round team mixology mashup.

“It was great to see everyone enjoying the competition, and the extremely innovative cocktails,” said Cheryl Beckley, marketing and local leasing manager. “These bartenders were real pros and brought an amazing amount of creative energy. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.”

This year’s winning team, claiming not only bragging rights but also a check for $1,000, was Tyler Johnson and Justin Kipapa from Merriman’s Honolulu.


Johnson and Kipapa called their grand champion cocktail Hō‘ihi, which was presented in a custom wooden box surrounded by flowers in a wafting mist.

“Hō‘ihi means respect,” explained Kipapa, “We have respect for the culture, for the land and for the sugar cane that went into Kuleana Rum.”

The drink melded the flavors of Kuleana Nanea, Hawaiian agricole and Hokulei rums with Java plum sherry, banana liqueur, macadamia nut orgeat (syrup), coconut, lime, cinnamon and coffee bitters.

  • Merriman’s Honolulu team member Justin Kipapa works on a Hō‘ihi, the winning cocktail of this year’s second annual Cocktail Contest. (Photo by Maria Morrison)
  • The Hō‘ihi, the winning cocktail created by the Merriman’s Honolulu team during the second annual Cocktail Contest, was presented in a custom wooden box surrounded by flowers in a wafting mist. (Photo by Maria Morrison)

The teams started with the Speed Round, being timed as they made a standard daiquiri. Judges scored them on speed, taste, recipe, accuracy and cleanliness.

Round 2 was all about Best of the Island, with teams preparing their original Kuleana Rum creations. Judges rated each cocktail for taste, creativity and display.

For the finale, it was time for the audience to weigh in.


Those attending could sample each of the original cocktails and decide on their favorites. Then, a decibel reader measured the applause volume and awarded additional points.

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