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Thursday, July 09, 2009

The perfect Mai Tai

Last week I said my wife and I are on a mission this summer to break out of our cocktail rut. This week's drink (our July 4th project) is the Mai Tai. When I worked in a bar in St. Louis back in the 70s, we mixed a Mai Tai which we thought was pretty good. It had rum, of course, some grenadine, some Collins mix, and whipped cream. Whipped cream? Collins mix? Yuck! I can't believe we passed that off as a Mai Tai. It probably worked because none of the customers knew what a Mai Tai should be.

Here's the secret: A Mai Tai is made of two kinds of rum, light rum and dark rum, in equal parts. The older the rum, the better. Eight years old is good, 12 is better, 15 or 17 is best, but those are quite expensive. The other ingredients are Orange Curacao, orgeat syrup and lime juice.

Here are the combinations:
1 ounce dark Rum
1 ounce light Rum
1/2 ounce Orange Curacao
1/2 ounce Orgeat Syrup
Juice from one fresh lime (about 3/4 ounce)

Orgeat syrup is hard to find but easy to make. Mix two tablespoons water, two tablespoons sugar in a sauce pan. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract.

Note: Grenadine does not belong in a Mai Tai.

The Mai Tai was invented in San Francisco in 1944 by Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron. It soon became popular at Trader Vic's restaurants and was later adopted at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, which named one of its bars after the drink. Read a history of the Mai Tai here

It's a great tasting drink, but so potent that you can't have many. Mary Fran and I began our experiment with Mai Tais late in the afternoon on July 4th. After three drinks, we were blotto. (Okay, they were doubles)

Here is a contest: The first person who reports back with the origin and meaning of the name, Mai Tai, will receive a copy of Pilikia Is My Business. Put your answer in the comments section and send your address to


  1. Kevin R. Tipple said...

    A lengendary story about two drunks in a bar. A cute woman walked by that the one drunk had been with awhile back. So, he pointed her out to his fellow drunken buddy and said "my tail."

    But, because he was drunk, he slurred it and it came out as "Mai Tai."

    Being of Thai descent, she was not ammused. She came back and slapped both drunks. The bartender had known her father back in the war and had always felt protective of her. To restore her honor he created the drink.

  2. Mark Troy said...

    Very clever, kevin.

  3. Book Bird Dog said...

    Can I beat Kevin's version?

    From Wikipedia:

    "The Mai Tai is a well-known alcoholic cocktail purportedly invented at the Trader Vic's "Polynesian-style" restaurant in Oakland, California in 1944. Trader Vic's amicable rival, Don the Beachcomber, claimed to have created it first in 1933 at his own newly opened little bar (later a famous restaurant) in Hollywood. The Beachcomber's recipe is far more complicated than that of the Trader's and tastes quite different.[1]

    "Maita'i" is the Tahitian word for "good." The spelling of the drink, however, is two words.[2][3][4]

    The Trader Vic story of its invention is that the Trader (Victor J. Bergeron) created it one afternoon for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. One of them tasted it and cried out: "Maita'i roa!" (Literally "good very!", figuratively "Out of this world!") — hence the name."

    Wiki also gives recipes, as you did!

  4. Mark Troy said...

    Book Bird Dog,

    Yours is correct. You get the book.

  5. Kevin R. Tipple said...

    Like a lot of things on Wikipedia, I made it up. Though I did it without help. lol

  6. Helen Ginger said...

    Okay, I have saved your recipe. I need a big Mai Tai glass though. Maybe I can use one of our half-gallon tumblers. That's probably about equal to one drink. I'd better limit myself to three drinks, though.

    Straight From Hel

  7. Mark Troy said...

    Pace yourself. Unless you've trained for it, you might want a nap between half-gallons.

  8. Book Bird Dog said...

    Thanks, Mark. I'm looking forward to reading your Hawaiian mystery! Now if only Trader Vic would send me (and Kevin) an invitation for free Mai Tai's.