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Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

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Mai Tai cocktails take the night from ordinary to extraordinary real, real quick. That’s half due to the fruity, tropical taste and probably more than half due to the booziness of the drink.

Interestingly enough, the drink is so popular that it has a place in the IBA’s List of Official Cocktails. That means that a Mai Tai drink at your local establishment of consumption should taste the same as one across the country, in theory. But bartenders around the globe are known to shake things up a bit, pun extremely pardoned.

Our thoughts are that rum cocktails tend to be harder to mess up. You throw some light rum, triple sec and tropical fruit flavors into a cocktail shaker, mix it up, pour it into a rocks glass, toss an umbrella in the rocks glass and serve. And voila, tasty beverage that you could drink on a beach if you wanted to.

But a Mai Tai takes a little bit of care when preparing. It’s not something you can do mindlessly, like when you’re making homemade margaritas (tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice).

You need to source less traditional ingredients such as aged rum and orgeat syrup.

History of the Mai Tai cocktail

Trader Vic Bergeron claims to have invented the Mai Tai. He had this to say about it.

"In 1944, after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I thought about all the really successful drinks; martinis, manhattans, daiquiris .... All basically simple drinks.

I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year-old rum. It was J. Wray Nephew from Jamaica; surprisingly golden in color, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavor particular to the Jamaican blends. The flavor of this great rum wasn't meant to be overpowered with heavy additions of fruit juices and flavorings. I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy Syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle almond flavor. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went in for color ... I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti, who were there that night. Carrie took one sip and said, "Mai Tai - Roa Ae". In Tahitian this means "Out of This World - The Best". Well, that was that. I named the drink "Mai Tai".”

That’s a strong statement to make. Hopefully Mr. Bergeron did in fact create the now classic cocktail. It’s a great origin story if so.

Trader Vic’s Original Mai Tai Recipe

According to Trader Vic himself, the original Mai Tai recipe is as follows. He then went through two reincarnations of the cocktail. Trader Vic’s adjusted formulas seemed to be a power grab as he replaced the J. Wray Nephew rum with his own Trader Vic’s rum, and also replaced the orgeat and the rock candy syrup with his own blend, Trader Vic’s Mai Tai mix. Seems like the type of thing a businessman would do.

Classic Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

A Classic Mai Tai is what you’re ordering when you visit any Asian / Polynesian restaurant in the United States. Some bars and restaurants use orange juice in this classic cocktail instead of Grand Marnier/Cointreau. Some use simple syrup instead of almond syrup.

Listen, we’re not here to judge. But, there’s a right way to make a Mai Tai, and that involves using the right ingredients. If you need your Vitamin C, get it with a glass of OJ for breakfast. Or a screwdriver.

The Best Mai Tai Recipe

We think that the Classic Mai Tai can be improved upon with pineapple juice, freshly squeezed. Also, no need to add a fresh mint sprig as a garnish either.

If you need to know why, it’s because pineapple makes everything more tropical. Pineapple makes us feel like we’re drinking at a Tiki Hut bar even when it’s 17 degrees outside and the Winter wind is whipping against the storm door. Pineapple makes us feel like we’re gently swaying on a lazy hammock on a Hawaiian island.

So be cool and add the pineapple to your Mai Tai and bring Hawaii to you. Here’s our take on how to make the best Mai Tai cocktail.

Substitute Mai Tai Ingredients

Substituting ingredients will change the total amount of carbohydrates (kcal) and the overall nutritional information of the drink. But it’s all negligible when you’re pouring DIY drinks and skipping the calorie-dense, commercial, pre-made just add booze mixes like Zing-Zang and Mr. & Mrs. T’s Mai Tai Island Margarita.

Mai Tai FAQs

What is a Kentucky Mai Tai?

A Kentucky Mai Tai is a completely different imagining of the classic Mai Tai cocktail. It features bourbon, Amaro Angelino, Avocado Orgeat, Lime & Lemon juice, and Angostura Bitters. If you're interested in learning how to make one, check out The Educated Barfly's Kentucky Mai Tai recipe.

We love the ingenuity, even if we have no intention of ever trying it.

How do you pronounce Mai Tai?

You pronounce Mai Tai the same way you'd pronounce "My Tie". For example, "My tie matches my suit".

The spelling is a big counterintuitive for English. We've seen the drink spelled as Mytie, Mai Ti, Mythai, Mi Tie and a whole host of other things.

When was the Mai Tai invented?

If you believe Trader Vic's accounting of the story, the Mai Tai was invented in 1944.

How many calories are in a Mai Tai?

If we follow the classic Mai Tai recipe, there are approximately 250 calories in one serving of a Mai Tai, if we round it out evenly.

A 4 pack of Cutwater Spirits Tiki Rum Mai Tax
Kind of delicious for a canned cocktail

Who makes a canned Mai Tai cocktail?

Cutwater Spirits makes a fun and tasty Mai Tai canned cocktail. You can buy them at Total Wine or just about any other liquor store.

What type of glass do you serve a Mai Tai in?

You serve a Mai Tai in a double rocks glass or a highball glass, according to the IBA.

Can I make a pitcher of Mai Tais?

The question isn't so much can you, but should you make a pitcher of Mai Tais. And the answer is yes, you can. Just work out the details between the recipe to match the size of the pitcher itself.

How do I make 1 to 2 gallons of Mai Tai mix?

Wow, you're ambitious. Ok, so we base most measurements off our Best Mai Tai recipe and not the classic cocktail mix. That recipe is approximately 4 ounces of liquid with no ice in the mix. A gallon contains 128 fluid ounces.

So, a gallon of Mai Tais would be 32 servings. Two gallons would be 64 servings. In order to make one or two gallons, you're going to need 32x or 64x the ingredients.

1 Gallon of Ingredients for Mai Tai Cocktails

Here is what you need to make 1 gallon of Mai Tai cocktails our way (you know, with the freshly squeezed pineapple juice). Double this to make two gallons.

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