by Peter Barradine October 13, 2021 3 min read

  Your Mai Tai or my Mai Tai?

For some reason, recently, I have encountered many people asking about the cocktail Mai Tai. Although a delightful tipple, its popularity has seen a dip somewhat of late with people turning towards drinks such as the Pornstar Martini. 

With the cocktail very much on my mind I thought in this week’s blog I would embark on some research of its controversial history and give you some classic recipes using the fantastic rums we have in-store.

The Mai Tai is a sort of take on a daiquiri, blending elements of aged rum, orange liqueur, lime juice and orgeat syrup. But history hasn’t been kind and from the 80s onward the recipe has been adapted somewhat. With Senior & Co. stating “Go to a bar and order a Mai Tai and 8 out of 10 times you will get a blend of juices shaken with some rum and served in a glass with an umbrella. It will be nothing that resembles the actual Mai Tai”.

But where did it all start? In 1944, Victor Jules Bergeron, otherwise known as Trader Vic who owned and ran a Polynesian restaurant specialising in tiki cocktails. He wanted to create a cocktail that showcased the deep flavours of a 17 year old Jamaican rum. Not wanting to obscure the taste, he blended it with fresh lime, orange curaçao, a dash of rock candy sugar, and a bit of French orgeat syrup. He then tried this cocktail out on two of his friends, with one of them proclaiming “Mai Tai-Roa Aé,” meaning “Out of this world-the best” in Tahitian.

The other bartender claiming he created it is Donn Beach, the owner of the bar Don the Beachcomber. It is stated that he produced a punch in 1933 that bore some resemblance to a Mai Tai and Trader Vic was a big fan. Although some of the ingredients were similar it wasn’t a true Mai Tai but it influenced Vic in the creation of the cocktail.

With the growing success of the Mai Tai in Trader Vic’s bars he created and bottled a pre-mixed cocktail. Beach also followed suit creating his own pre-mix stating on the label he was the creator of the cocktail, this led to Vic suing the rival. 

The case went to court where Vic had to give evidence about its creation as well as the original recipe. He went on to win the case and the claim to the Mai Tai. He wrote in Trader Vic's Bartender’s Guide, "anyone who says I didn’t create this drink is a dirty stinker." Don shouldn’t feel too upset though as he also created other world famous cocktails including the Zombie!

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai

This simple, delicious cocktail is basically a daiquiri with a few extras.

  • 50ml Old Salt Rum
  • 12.5ml Orange curacao or Cointreau
  • 25ml Lime juice 
  • 10ml Orgeat Syrup
  • 5ml Sugar Syrup

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and fine strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with half a lime shell turned upside down and a sprig of mint to resemble an island.

Citrus and Ginger Mai Tai

For this recipe I have utilised the rich flavours of Two Swallows Orange and Ginger Rum to pair with the almond flavoured orgeat syrup.

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and fine strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.

If you need any advice or help when it comes to making cocktails please don’t hesitate to contact us or ask in store. 

Happy shaking!


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