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How to make a Mai Tai

Rum, curacao, lime, orgeat and sugar.

Sweet and complex

Mai tai - roa ae! Tahitian for ‘out of this world - the best!' try one and see

The Mai Tai is served around the world but often, sadly, it’s a sickly sweet abomination of what should be a balanced rum-rich cocktail.

This drink was the subject of fierce debate between two tiki obsessed bartenders, both now deceased, and possibly still is between their ardent followers. One was Don The Beachcomber and the other was Trader Vic.

Don’s recipe was called a Mai Tai Swizzle which popped up around 1933 and disappeared from his restaurant’s menu by 1937.

Victor J. Bergeron, or Trader Vic, as he became known, had a restaurant in Oakland. While standing behind his bar there, in 1944, he felt the world needed a new drink, something to make merry with. And he wasn’t wrong, with war raging across Europe and the Pacific.

Beginning with a 17-year-old Jamaican rum her added fresh lime, orange curaçao from Holland, a dash of rock candy syrup, and a dollop of French orgeat, for its subtle almond flavor. After shaking it up he gave two of these new drinks to visiting friends from Tahiti, one who took a sip and said, “Mai tai -- roa ae!”

Vic always claimed he had no knowledge of Don’s earlier cocktail, but there’s pretty decent evidence to support both sides of the argument. Whatever you believe, Vic’s cocktail is certainly the better of the two recipes and it is the one which bartenders around the world know of today.

Make it at home:

Prep Time: 5 minutes   |   Serves: 1   |   Skill:  Easy

60ml rum (old and dark)   |   15ml orange curacao   |   30ml fresh lime juice   |   15ml orgeat syrup   |   7.5ml sugar syrup   |   Cubed ice to shake   |   Cubed ice to serve   |   1 lime wedge   |   1 mint sprig

Cocktail shaker   |   Hawthorne strainer   |   Rocks glass

1. Pour the rum, orange curacao, lime juice, orgeat and sugar into one half of your cocktail shaker
2. Fill this with ice
3. Cover and shake well until thoroughly chilled
4. Fill a rocks glass with cubed ice
5. Strain your shaker into the rocks glass over the ice
6. Garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig