My Mai Tai Recipe – It’s A Good Time

Mai TaiIf you’re looking for a sweet drink and you’re in the mood for a little Polynesian style beverage, a Mai Tai is a great start. It is rumored to have been invented in Oakland California back in 1944 at a Polynesian restaurant and another inventory believes they claimed it in 1933, but who cares right? It tastes good.

So, you want to know how I make it? There are probably a half-dozen ways to do it, I’ve noticed some are lighter yellowish orange while others are dark red. This probably has to do with the amount of Grenadine used or substituting ingredients for orange juice.

2 oz. Light Rum
1 oz. Triple Sec or Cointreau (any orange liquor basically)
1/2 oz. Grenadine
1 oz. Lime Juice
1 Table Spoon of Orgeat (almond) Syrup

Pour it all into a shaker, do some dancing, dump it over some crushed ice and sip. The Orgeat Syrup is pretty much sugar water, adds great sweetness to the drink. The Grenadine and Lime juice help to dull any chance you’ll notice you’re drinking 2 shots of rum and the Triple Sec just adds a bit of flare to the mix.

Two of these and you’ll feel like your at a Chinese Karaoke Bar within a half hours time.


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  • Reply
    May 25, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Thank you for a great shortcut recipe. Yes, the Trader Vic version is more complex, and the Don the Beachcomber version is WAY more complex and not even the same kind of drink. But your version would be the one most likely to be made, at least by people who have more respect than simply dumping rum into a glass of fruit juice. My only suggestions are about presentation…

    (1) Cointreau is a lot more flavorful than ordinary triple sec, but expensive. Orange curacao has that stronger flavor AND adds a nice richness to the drink’s color. It also leaves a bit more of that nice green color in your wallet.

    (2) I’d lose the grenadine and swap it for amaretto (same 1/2 oz).

    (3) Float just a little very dark rum on top to make it look really exotic. That’s what they did in the closer glass in the photo. If you can get dark 151-proof rum (Gosling’s Black Seal comes in a 151 version, for example) that’s even better. The idea is that, drinking through a straw, you don’t really get to the floating high-proof until last, by which time the melting ice has diluted it. So the last sip doesn’t taste watered down.

    (4) A big sprig of fresh mint is a whole lot faster and easier to do than all that fruit’n’parasol stuff, and looks every bit as impressive and “tropical”. That way, your mai-tai can work for both Polynesian Tiki and Caribbean Jimmy Buffet, too.

    Anyway, thanks again for a great — and respectful — shortcut to making this wonderful cocktail.

  • Reply
    Derrick Schommer
    May 25, 2008 at 10:24 am

    If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to Cointreau but will have a slightly different taste, you may try Gran Gala, it’s like a cheap Grand Marnier and is very tasty on other drinks (like Margaritas).

    As for Amaretto, that’s not a bad idea. I tend to like the sweeter cherry flavor over Amaretto, but Amaretto will also help add a bit more “kick” to it.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    What is the recipe for the original 1944 version. I know buffets offers 3 types of mai tais–their version is almost pure rum–1 of these makes you feel good. the 2nd type is a pick your fruit kind and the 1944 version from tradre vics?–i don’t know–help me out here parrotheads

  • Reply
    September 12, 2009 at 12:42 am

    According to spirits writer Tom Chapman, (Trader) Vic Bergeron’s version was this:

    * Juice from one fresh lime.

    * RUM:
    2 oz 17-year-old Wray & Newphew Jamaican rum (Appleton Estates)

    1/2 oz Garnier Orgeat (you can buy orgeat syrup, or almond syrup, but I believe this was a bitter-almond liqueur)
    1/4 oz Rock candy syrup (i.e., additional simple syrup, which is why I think “orgeat” refers to the liquer)

    1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curaçao. This was NOT the same then as DeKuyper (Beam Brands) today.
    Use Senior brand for authenticity, or Bols from Holland will do.

    Donn Beach’s version ( Don the Beachcomber):

    * 3/4 oz Fresh lime juice

    * RUM:
    1 1/2 oz Dark Jamaican rum (Myers is mentioned; Appleton Estate 12-year-old would do just as well)
    1 oz Cuban rum (substitute Puerto Rican or any other white rum)

    Note that this is 25% more rum than the Trader Vic version. It may be that Vic used higher-proof rum. Wray & Nephew is mostly noted for their 130-proof White Overproof rum which is not aged at all, but it’s possible that the 17-year-old version might have been higher proof than the standard 80. Also, the Cuban rum referred to in Donn’s recipe might have been overproof itself.

    1/4 oz Falernum (like orgeat, this can be found as a syrup; but the original product — a wonderful liqueur from Barbados — is also available). Falernum (or at least Velvet Falernum, the liquer I’m familiar with) is quite sweet; perhaps that’s why Donn only used 1/4 oz while Vic used 3 times that much orgeat and rock candy syrup.

    1 dash Pernod (now that real absinth is available that would be my own choice).
    Okay, the Pernod would add some additional sweetness, but not much in just one dash.

    1/2 oz Cointreau triple sec
    This is interesting; triple sec is also an orange liquer, but different from curaçao.
    Maybe that adds to the sweetness.

    2 dashes Angostura bitters
    Oh well, so much for that.

    As you can see, neither of these contains any fruit juice at all, save a small amount of lime. They are both true cocktails in that respect and not simply fancy rum punches.

    My own preference (for either style) is to (1) use liquers, not syrups, and (2) mix and pour the drink over ice, WITHOUT the dark rum, then float the dark rum on top along with a fresh mint garnish. Serve with a straw cut short enough that the drinker’s nose is in the mint leaves (the same way mint julips are served). This makes a refreshing and fruity thirst-quencher for the first part of the drink, and by the time the rum has descended to straw-intake-level it is ice cold and reduced in proof. Ordering another Mai-Tai is easy at that point, as the rum won’t kick in for a few more minutes :-))

  • Reply
    Derrick Schommer
    September 12, 2009 at 12:47 am

    We re-did it with this much later in our video show: http://everydaydrinkers.tv/recipe/trader-vics-mai-tai

  • Reply
    September 14, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Nice Video! It’s an almost dead-on illustration of what I just posted, except of course that it was there for several weeks before. It’s also a BIG improvement over the first version. I like your new setup. I still think, though, that floating the dark rum on top is really key to presenting this cocktail. And you need a straw for that (otherwise you’ll be drinking pure dark rum until that layer’s gone, and nothing left but sweet stuff afterward). 151 proof works real good for this, too, since it will be diluted by the time the drinker gets to it.

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