The Mai Tai is one of the most famous Tiki drinks in the world. Composed of rum, orange curaçao, fresh lime juice and orgeat (a nuanced almond syrup), it’s held sway over cocktail enthusiasts and Tiki aficionados for decades. It even enjoyed a star turn in the Elvis film “Blue Hawaii.”
Here’s how to make the original Mai Tai recipe! Gather the ingredients for this tropical rum drink that’s as complex as it is fruity.
What’s a Mai Tai?
Full disclosure: we weren’t fans of what we thought was a mai tai…until we tasted the classic version! The Mai Taic cocktail in its original form makes sense. It’s tropical, nutty, boozy and zingy: and it’s nothing like the adult fruit juice you might be expecting. (I ordered a Mai tai at a bar recently and it tasted like a Hawaiian punch juice box. No thank you!)
Of course, there are multiple personalities who try to take claim for this classic cocktail. The most widely accepted story is that it was invented in 1944 at Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California. It became very popular in the 1950’s and 60’s, especially at tiki restaurants.
Two types of rum for the best flavor
Many Mai Tai recipes use two types of rum mixed into the drink. Our version takes it a step further and floats the dark rum on top! It makes for a showy presentation and it’s become a tradition that some people like in their version of this drink. Here’s a bit more about the two types of rum you’ll need:
- Aged rum: This type of rum is also referred to as golden rum, amber rum, or añejo rum (meaning “aged”). Aging gives it a complex flavor, more like a Cognac. It has undertones of vanilla, coconut, almond, citrus, or caramel. The aged rum that we used here was Brugal Añejo Rum.
- Dark rum: Also known as black rum, dark rum has a dark color and a rich flavor that’s smoky and sweet.
How to make a Mai Tai
So you’ve got your orgeat syrup, stocked up on golden and dark rum, and figured our your orange liqueur. Now it’s time to make a Mai Tai cocktail! This is the easy part: shake it up, then garnish. That’s all there is too it!
- Shake in a cocktail shaker. Place all ingredients except the dark rum in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. (Don’t have one? Use a mason jar!)
- Float the dark rum. Pour the dark rum on top of the drink, and it will settle on in a single layer.
- Strain into a glass and garnish. Strain the drink into a lowball glass. The traditional garnish is fresh mint and a lime wedge. Many Mai Tai drinks also have pineapple and cocktail cherries as a garnish, so we added that here too: just for kicks!
Original Mai Tai Cocktail !!
- 1 oz (2 tablespoons) dark rum
- 1 oz (2 tablespoons) amber rum
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- ½ oz (1 tablespoon) Cointreau or triple sec or Grand Marnier
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon orgeat syrup* or 1 drop pure almond extract
- 1 teaspoon superfine granulated sugar
- Dash of grenadine
- Garnish: an orange slice or pineapple slice
- Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 1 cup ice cubes, then strain into a glass filled with ice cubes.