If you’re like me, Mai Tais are a treat enjoyed only when dining at a Polynesian or Chinese restaurant. Those Mai Tais, as you would expect from the establishment where they are made, are generally laced with overpowering Mai Tai or sweet and sour mix. Great Mai Tais need no such help to make them tasty and while their ingredient list is slightly longer than the average cocktail, are easy to make at home. It seems that there are at least dozens of recipes found online for Mai Tais. The variety is staggering. As always, the Consumatorium team has worked our livers hard, consuming many Mai Tais over the past few weeks, to provide you with what we think is a great Mai Tai recipe. The original Mai Tai was the creation of Trader Vic Bergeron in 1944, although there appears to be some debate whether the same drink was created under a different name by Don the Beachcomber in 1937. Most current recipes are slightly different from either of those drinks using more rum than Trader Vic’s recipe and many fewer tastes/ingredients than Don the Beachcomber’s. Our recipe uses two types of rum. We found that combining a couple of rums made for a richer taste than any single rum. You can still make a very tasty Mai Tai with only one rum. If you do, use a Jamaican rum for it’s relatively strong rum flavor.
- 1 oz Don Zacapa Rum (Guatemalan Rum)
- 1 oz Appleton Estate (Jamaican Rum)
- 1/2 oz Curacao (definitely do not use Blue Curacao). If you don’t have Curacao, use Grand Marnier, it’s closer in taste than other Orange Liqueurs
- 1/2 oz Orgeat/Almond Syrup (I used Fee Brothers, but Torani works too)
- 1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice (use a spent half lime shell for garnish)
- 1/8 oz Simple Syrup (1:1)
- Mint leaves for garnish
Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake well. Fill a double old-fashioned glass with fresh ice (crushed if you have it, but small cubes work fine) and strain your Polynesian gold into the glass. Garnish with a couple of mint leaves by first slapping them between your hands to release their full aroma. Enjoy.
A word on Orgeat. While you probably don’t have this in your bar, it’s not that unusual an ingredient and it’s readily available. Most large liquor stores carry it and it’s available online. It’s often used by coffee shops to flavor coffee (it seems that Torani has cornered this market). A bottle will last a long time and is inexpensive. You can vary the taste a lot by adjusting the amount of lime juice you use. 1/2 oz of lime juice makes a drink more reminiscent of what you’ve experienced with you last meal of General Gau’s Chicken and Pork Fried Rice. Move that up to 1 oz, as we suggest, and the drink takes on a bit of tartness that makes it stand on its own. As an option, you can float 1 oz of Dark Rum (Myers is good for this) on top of the finished cocktail. It will add spice and vanilla flavor to the drink and give it a cool look as the dark rum settles. Keep in mind that this makes the drink boozier too.