Mai Tai

June 13, 2021
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Serves 1
Author Notes

One of the most essential Tiki cocktails to know and love is the Mai Tai. The original was created by Victor J. Bergeron (better known as Tiki cocktail master Trader Vic) to shine a spotlight on a coveted bottle of 17-year-old J. Wray and Nephew Jamaican rum. The drink was a not-too-sweet mix of two rums (light and dark), orgeat (almond syrup), lime juice, simple syrup, and orange curaçao. Vic’s Tahitian friends loved the drink, proclaiming it "maita’i roa a’e," or, "out of this world! The best!" The drink was named Mai Tai, for being “the best.”

Let’s go back to orgeat for a moment: Specifically, what is it and is it really something you should have in your home bar? Absolutely. Orgeat is made from almonds, sugar, and orange blossom extract, and lends a sweet, floral richness to cocktails it’s added to. It doesn’t just enhance Tiki drinks like Mai Tais and Scorpions, however—try a dash of orgeat in cognac with freshly squeezed lime juice and a drop or two of Angostura bitters for an uncommon gem known as the Japanese Cocktail.

Bartenders nowadays add all kinds of ingredients to Mai Tais, from canned pineapple juice to elaborate fruit garnishes, but the only element you need to enjoy the full effect of this beloved tipple is highest-quality rum. It’s been long debated which rum (or rums) belong in a proper mai tai, but you can’t go wrong with a blend of light and dark, or in the case of this Mai Tai recipe, Jamaican rum and rhum agricole—distilled from sugarcane juice instead of molasses. If you don’t have both rums, one will absolutely suffice.

Shake up this delicious classic drink, and keep quality Jamaican rum on-hand to recreate it for guests.
Erik Lombardo

What You'll Need
  • 1 ounce amber rhum agricole
  • 1 ounce Jamaican rum
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, reserving 1/2 spent lime shell for garnish
  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao
  • 1/4 ounce orgeat
  • 1/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup (or an additional 1/4 ounce of orgeat)
  • mint, edible flowers, or umbrella for garnish
  1. Add all ingredients except lime shell to a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.
  2. Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds.
  3. Pour, unstrained, into a double old fashioned glass. Top with ice until the glass is full.
  4. Garnish liberally with the spent lime shell and mint, flowers, an umbrella, or the flourish of your choice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Brian S
    Brian S
  • Erik Lombardo
    Erik Lombardo
  • Kyle

3 Reviews

Kyle August 25, 2014
Great recipe. I added a little Pineapple Juice for sweetness and a splash of seltzer for a little zing.
Brian S. July 19, 2014
Made this tonight, after a trip to a local fancy-pants liquor store for the ingredients. Too acidic, I found. Will add some simple syrup next time I make.
Erik L. July 26, 2014
Brian, depending on the sweetness of your orgeat and your curacao and the tartness of your limes, you'r definitely going to get a little variation in the recipe. Absolutely feel free to add more gomme syrup to make it your own, just be sure to add only a little at a time (taste it while it's still in the shaker), because this drink especially can be cloying if too sweet. Cheers!