Mai Tai

Mai Tai cocktail in a Nick & Nora glass

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel or a sprig of mint and a boat load of fruit if you want to go totally Tiki.

The Mai-Tai was created by Trader Vic in 1944 in Emeryville, California. Apparently he had just acquired an entire distillery's worth of aged Jamaican rum and needed to come up with a really nice drink to put it to good use.

He succeeded!

In the 1950s he took the drink to Hawaii where they seem to have totally misunderstood the recipe. If you order one there it will come with pineapple juice and grenadine which is just not right. Accept no substitute for the recipe above.

While the Mai Tai is hailed as the king of Tiki drinks it is really just a simple rum Sour with the sugar syrup replaced by orange curaçao liqueur and orgeat (almond) syrup. While Trader Vic originally used aged Jamaican rum we found gold rum to work fine (though further investigation may be required. Indeed, there's a report that lacking Trader Vic's special rum in Hawaii they used añejo rum with a float of overproof rum.) Also, Trader Vic served his Mai Tais over shaved ice but I like mine served straight up and Kathy likes hers on the rocks.

We did notice a big difference when we used high quality orange curaçao. We recommend Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao which claims to be based on an original 19th century recipe. The taste of bitter orange really comes through with this liqueur. Regarding the type of lime to use, in a recent test of two Mai Tais side-by-side, one made with fresh Persian lime juice and one with fresh Key lime juice, we were unable to taste the difference.

For the longest time the Mai Tai was the gold standard against which we compared other drinks. However, after some recent discoveries, it now has to share this place with at least the Bennett Cocktail and the Lumière.