The Mai Tai is perhaps one of the best known drinks from the era of the "Tiki" restaurant. It was originally created by Victor Bergeron in 1944. Victor was better known as Trader Vic", and was one of the vanguards of the Tiki Bar scene. His chief competitor, as well as the originator of Tiki bars themself, was Don Beach, also known as Don the Beachcomber. Some may try to attribute the Mai Tai to Don, but it is pretty clear that this drink was originally created by Trader Vic. Don does appear to have a drink "named" Mai Tai that appeared on a menu before Vic's, but it was a completely different drink. What perhaps can be said of Don's origin of the Mai Tai, is that it is believed Vic may have been trying to duplicate Don's "QB Cooler", and ended up with the Mai Tai.
- 2 ounces rum
- 3/4 ounce lime juice
- 1/2 ounce curacao
- 1/2 ounce orgeat (or almond syrup)
Shake with ice and strain into an ice filled old fashioned glass. Garnish with a cherry and piece of pineapple or lime.
The "2 ounces rum" in this recipe should typically be split between two or more different rums, which was very common for Tiki drinks. The original Mai Tai recipe relied on 17 year old Wray and Nephew rum, a rich and full bodied rum that hasn't been available for decades. It is the rum in this drink that should be the standout ingredient, which means none of the "mass market" rums are really suitable, since they are trying too hard to be vodka instead.
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, noted Tiki cocktail historian recommends a mix of Rhum Clément VSOP Martinique rum, and Appleton Estate Extra dark Jamaican rum if you can find them. If not, a good quality dark rum, along with a medium body, but flavorful rum would work well.
Here is what is supposed to be the very original recipe as set forth by Trader Vic. It should be noted that the 17 year old Wray & Nephew became unavailable not terribly long after this drink became popular, and Vic was required to update this recipe a few times in order to keep it in line. If you order a Mai Tai at a Trader Vic's today, they use a "mix" which is a combination of the almond syrup and orange curacao (but non-alcoholic), to which they just need to add rum and lime juice. If you want the drink made from scratch, using real orange curacao and orgeat, you want to order a "San Francisco Mai Tai".
Original Mai Tai (1944, by Trader Vic)
- 2 ounces of 17 year old Wray & Nephew rum
- the juice from one lime
- 1/2 ounce of Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
- 1/2 ounce of French Garnier Orgeat
- 1/4 ounce Rock Candy Syrup
Shake with ice, and strain into an ice packed old fashioned glass. Garnish with a lime and a sprig of mint.