Best Mai Tai Recipe! The Proper Way

While in Hawaii we enjoyed many Mai Tais made with fruit juices and rum. But as we are learning, a proper Mai Tai doesn’t involve fruit juice at all. 

While doing the research on Chairman’s Reserve, we learned that their signature cocktail was a Mai Tai.

The company hosts an annual Mai Tai contest where patrons submit their favorite recipe. While in Hawaii we enjoyed many Mai Tais made with fruit juices and rum.

But as we are learning, a proper Mai Tai doesn’t involve fruit juice at all. 

What’s the History behind the Mai Tai?

The original Mai Tai dates back to the 1940s at a tiki restaurant called Trader Vic’s. Victor Jules Bergeron and Donn Beach from Donn the Beachcomber, were the first to start the tiki culture in California. The tiki culture was a place where people could escape the day-to-day grime and immerse themselves into the Polynesian and Caribbean culture while enjoying carefully crafted, tropical cocktail. 

Who created the Mai Tai?

Now, there are two sides of the story to who actually created the cocktail, Trader Vic or Donn the Beachcomber. Trader Vic claims he was inspired by the simplicity of Martinis and Manhattans and wanted to create a simplistic yet exotic rum drink. He used a nice 17-year old golden Jamaican rum with rich, pungent notes, added lime, orange curaçao, French orgeat and a dash of rock candy sugar. When Vic served this to his friends from Tahiti they said, “Mai Tai-Roa Aé,” which means “Out of this world-the best” in Tahitian. 

No matter which tale is true the Mai Tai has grown in popularity being served in bars around the world using thousands of variations. Understanding the original may leave you saying, “Hold the fruit juice,”
No matter which tale is true the Mai Tai has grown in popularity being served in bars around the world using thousands of variations. Understanding the original may leave you saying, “Hold the fruit juice,”

Of course Donn Beach disputes this story saying the drink was inspired by a punch recipe. No matter which tale is true the Mai Tai has grown in popularity being served in bars around the world using thousands of variations. Understanding the original may leave you saying, “Hold the fruit juice,”

First we made the original Trader Vic’s recipe.

1 ounce dark Jamaica rum
1 ounce Martinique rum
1 lime
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
1/4 ounce orgeat syrup
1/4 ounce rock candy syrup

Our rums choice were Myers’s Dark and Clement. The richness of the Meyers compliments the orange of the Clement and curaçao allowing the almond come through. The rum leaves a warmth from start to finish. This is a “sit on the deck and enjoy the sunset” drink.

Next we created the cocktail using the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai recipe.

1 ounce Chairman’s Reserve
1 ounce Martinique rum such as Clement
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
1/2 ounce orgeat syrup
1/4 ounce sugarcane syrup

This cocktail is very lime forward subduing the rums. Almond from the orgeat and cloves from the Chairman’s reserve round out the finish of this very citrusy drink. A refreshing poolside drink but could use a little tweaking. 

What is the Best Mai Tai Recipe?

Trader Vic was on the right track with his rum selection. The Mai Tai truly needs a darker, richer, more pungent rum to hold its own against the tropical lime and orange.

What is your favorite Mai Tai recipe? Call it out in the Comments!