Updated: May 5
This drink is just all over the place, almost with as much misconception as the daiquiri has. So the Mai Tai is a classic tiki drink invented by the dude that invented the “tiki culture” all together. That guy’s name is Trader Vic. He owned a restaurant of the same name back in the 40’s in Oakland California of all places.
The recipe is below and bolded if you don’t want to read the rest of this and just make the stinking drink already.
So what is tiki culture?
Tiki culture is the dramatization of eastern polynesian island culture. So think of like Hawaiian luau. Its lots of grass huts, spiritual face masks, coconuts, and rum. Everything has an umbrella in it, there’s sand on the floor in a restaurant that’s landlocked, and all the glassware is bright and colorful, oh and the whole staff is wearing short sleeve button ups with prints of birds and palm trees on it. This is what we call tiki culture. It’s the feeling you get when you think about an island getaway.
Ok back to the Mai Tai, Vic one day in his bar, made a drink for some of his friends that were visiting form Tahiti when he served them this drink, that was meant to showcase the 17year old rum he had used for the base spirit, his guest blurt out "Maita’i roa a’e," which translates to "out of this world! The best!" Vic christened his new cocktail "Mai Tai," as in "the best." And that’s how the legend was started.
Now most people think of a Mai Tai as this large punch like bowl with orange and pineapple juice. that prink came from the Royal Hawaiian hotel. Legend has it that the hotel liked Vic’s drink so much they wanted a Mai Tai of their own, and Vick created one just for them, and he tried to make it as different as possible. Obviously having a better presentation to the average person and the hotel probably having a better reach, along with probably some laziness from the staff dropping the “royal” off the mai tai name, and there you have it 2 cocktails with the same name, clear as mud.
The "Royal Mai Tai" is listed below on the bottom of this blog if you'd like to give that a stab as well.
Anyways back on track here. We want to focus on the Trader Vic’s original drink
1.5 oz. aged rum (Jamaican)
.5 oz. dark rum (Gosling’s
.5 oz. orange liqueur (dry curacao)
1 oz. lime juice
.75 oz. House Made Orgeat Syrup
1 dash angostura
Combine ingredients into shaker
Strain into tiki mug
Garnish with mint and lime
Now you don't have to put this drink in a tiki mug, this is what it'll look like, but if you do put it in a tiki mug it will instantly taste better. Don't believe me? try it on your friends, make 2 of the exact same drink, one in a regular cup and one in a bad ass mug and see which one people like better.
see doesn't that just look way better?
This OG Trader Vic's Mai Tai is a wonderful example of letting the rum take center stage, so make sure you use a rum that is bad ass and funky, (Jamaican preferably) by changing out the rums you’ll end up with a very different drink. This drink is also the reason we made that syrup (orgeat) because it’s pretty hard to find on the market and usually cost a thousand dollars, (probably cuz it’s such a pain to make)
Orgeat is an almond based hyper sweet syrup.
Anyways try making a Mai Tai and let me know how it goes!
The royal mai tai
1 oz. Silver rum (Bacardi) 1 tsp. maraschino cherry and vanilla bean puree (see recipe below) 1/2 oz. amaretto 1/2 oz. orange liqueur (Cointreau) 1 oz. orange juice 2 oz. pineapple juice Dark Rum float
MARASCHINO CHERRY AND VANILLA BEAN PURÉE 1 36 oz. jar of pitted and stemless maraschino cherries 2 tbs. vanilla extract 4 vanilla beans (scrape contents from the husks, save husks to place back into puree) 1 cup cranberry juice
Place contents into a blender and blend until smooth. Place scraped husks back into the puree and refrigerate. At 35 degrees F, this puree will keep for at least a month.