Blue Hawaii. Photograph courtesy of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.

In the late 1950s, a representative from Dutch distiller Bols Liqueur asked Harry Yee, a bartender at the storied Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, to create a drink using its latest liqueur, blue Curaçao.

Yee mixed the liqueur, which is made using the dried peel of the Laraha citrus fruit grown on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, with rum, vodka and a sweet and sour mix. He topped his creation with a pineapple slice, a cherry and one of his signature cocktail umbrellas.

Now 63 years old, the Blue Hawaii has earned a place in popular culture, including a link—in name only—to the 1961 Elvis Presley film. The cocktail was rumoured to have been named after the film’s title song, but Yee denied that claim. He named it the Blue Hawaii because of its vibrant, bright-blue colour.

Lora Gallagher, regional director of marketing at Hilton Hawaii, says the drink is still frequently ordered by guests at the Waikiki resort and at bars throughout the Hawaiian Islands. “They love it because it’s famous,” she says. “It’s something you have to order when you’re in Hawaii. It’s the only really well-known drink with the word Hawaii in it.”

Recipe: The Classic Blue Hawaii


  • 3/4 oz. light rum
  • 3/4 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 oz. blue Curaçao
  • 3 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. sweet and sour mix


Combine all ingredients and mix well. If using ice, mix the ingredients in a blender. Serve in a tall glass garnished with a pineapple slice and cherry.

—Courtesy of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.

Other Hawaiian Cocktails to Sip

1944 Mai Tai

Don’s Mai Tai Bar on the Big Island serves a classic version of the Mai Tai with two kinds of rum, fresh lime, orgeat syrup and dry Curaçao.

Tropical Itch

Also invented by Yee, this drink at Duke’s Waikiki Barefoot Bar mixes vodka, rum and passion fruit juice, and is served with a backscratcher (for the “itch”).

Lava Flow

Pair this with a slice of Hula Pie at Kimo’s in Lahaina. This twist on a pina colada (pineapple juice and rum) has smashed strawberries on the bottom.

[This story appears in the March 2020 edition of WestJet Magazine.]