The Making of a Mai Tai


Looking for a good drink? Order up a mai tai – the original form of the word (Maita’i) is the Tahitian word for “good”. While this fruity, rich cocktail is synonymous with Hawaii, it actually originated in California – though two parties have always vied for the title of creator of the mai tai.

Victor Bergen, owner of Trader Vic’s, is said to have created the mai tai in 1944. Rival Tahitian-themed restaurant and bar Don the Beachcomber claims to have created the first iteration of the drink a decade earlier, in 1933, though its recipe is slightly different from Trader Vic’s style.

Whoever created the mai tai, we say cheers. The traditional recipe consists of rum, Curacao liquor, orgeat syrup, and lime juice. In the spirit of creativity, we’ve rounded up some modern takes on the classic beach-side drink.

The Feeling Bitter Mai Tai

Need a pick me up? This bitter take on the mai tai from Punch Drink adds a splash of Campari.

1 1/2 oz Campari
3/4 oz rum
1/2 oz orange curacao
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz orgeat
mint garnish

The Aggressive Mai Tai

For when you need a bold drink – this mai tai from Tattooed Martha adds a dash of grenadine for a bright cocktail.

2 oz Sailor Jerry Rum
1 oz orange curacao
1 oz pineapple juice
juice from one lime
1 oz grenadine
maraschino cherry garnish

The Upscale Mai Tai

Wow guests with this fancy version of a mai tai from Oh So Beautiful Paper.

2 oz aged rum
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 orgeat syrup
1/2 oz falernum
2 dashes angostura bitters

The Herbal Mai Tai

With Food and Love brings a touch of fresh herbal flavor to the mai tai. This recipe makes 4 cocktails, so invite some friends over.

1 tbsp loose hibiscus tea
1/2 cup hot water
5-10 sprigs fresh-picked thyme
1 tbsp honey
6 oz light rum
juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice

Steep the thyme and hibiscus in hot water for 5 minutes, filter out the tea and thyme, add your honey, chill in the refrigerator, and proceed with mixing your drinks.


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For more on food travel, read at ATR:

Top 5 Asian Food Destinations

Authentic Hawaiian Food You Need to Try

Eat Your Way Through Italy: Your Food Guide

The Best Foods in Spain and Where to Find Them

Seven Oktoberfest Foods You Have to Try


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