Mai Tai

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Original Mai Tai


An alcoholic beverage purportedly invented at the Trader Vic restaurant in Oakland, California in 1944. Trader Vic's amicable rival, Don the Beachcomber, claimed to have created it first in 1933 at his own newly opened little bar (later a famous restaurant) in Hollywood. The Beachcomber's recipe is far more complicated than that of the Trader's and tastes quite different.

"Maitai" is the Tahitian word for "good." An Internet search for references coupled with the word "rum" shows 40,600 hits for "Maitai" and 38,400 hits for "Mai Tai", so correct usage for this drink can apparently be either one word or two.

The Trader Vic story of its invention is that the Trader (Victor J. Bergeron) created it one afternoon for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. One on them tasted it and cried out: "Maitai roa!" - "Very good!" Hence the name.

These are the recipes provided by Trader Vic's to The Search for the Ultimate Mai Tai website:

The Original Formula - 1944

  • 2 ounces of 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew rum over shaved ice.
  • Add juice from one fresh lime.
  • 1/2 ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curaçao.
  • 1/4 ounce Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup.
  • 1/2 ounce French Garier Orgeat Syrup
  • Shake vigorously.
  • Add a sprig of fresh mint

"Old Way" Mai Tai Formula - 1997

  • 1 ounce Fine Jamaican rum (15 or 8 year old)
  • 1 ounce Martinique Rum (St. James)
  • 1/2 ounce Orange Curaçao
  • 1/2 ounce Orgeat Syrup
  • Juice from one fresh lime (about 3/4 ounce)

Mix and serve as in the Original Formula

Mai Tai #1

Here is a recipe very close to what Trader Vic's restaurants apparently serve:

Shake all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass over crushed ice. Garnish with fruits and serve with a straw.

Here is another version, much closer to what Don the Beachcomber served in his restaurants. It can be garnished with various fruits, as in the above recipe. Falernum, which is now difficult to obtain in the United States except from a single supplier in Seattle, is a flavored Caribbean syrup with a very different taste from the Orgeat used in the Maitai #1.

Mai Tai #2

  • 2 ounces or 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 ounce or 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh Lime juice
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons sugar syrup
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1-1/2 ounce or 3 tablespoons golden rum
  • 1/2 ounce or 1 tablespoon Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 1/4 ounce or 1/2 tablespoon Falernum syrup
  • 2 dashes or scant 1/2 teaspoon Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash or scant 1/4 teaspoon Pernod or other anisette-flavored pastis

Shake all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into a tall highball glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fruits and serve with a straw.

See also: List of cocktails