One of the most famous and well-liked tropical cocktails around, the Mai Tai is a refreshing rum cocktail that represents a perfect example of ‘Tiki Culture.’ Although, there is some debate to the cocktail’s origin, it is widely believed to have been first conceived in Oakland, California in 1944 by restaurateur Victor J. Bergeron, Jr.
Bergeron, a San Francisco native, opened up a small restaurant in 1934 called ‘Hinky Dink’s.’ The name was quickly changed to ‘Trader Vic’s’, and over the next ten years expanded to become a blossoming chain of Polynesian themed restaurants. By 1944, the Mai Tai was featured in Trader Vic’s restaurants using the recipe of rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup (pronounced or-ZHAT) and orange curacao – the classic ingredients for the original Mai Tai cocktail. Over the years and decades, however, variations of the cocktail began to include different types of tropical juices and grenadine, turning the cocktail into a sweeter concoction than the original created by Bergeron.
The Mai Tai supposedly got its name when Bergeron made the cocktail for several of his friends visiting from Tahiti. After tasting the cocktail for the first time, one his friends shouted out "Maita'i roa ae!" which is Tahitian for ‘very good’ or ‘excellence.’ This Tahitian phrase began to be stylized as a two word hyphenation, Mai-Tai. The name has stuck ever since.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 oz White Rum
- 1 oz Dark Rum
- ½ oz Orange Curacao
- ½ oz Orgeat Syrup
- ¾ oz Lime Juice
- 2 teaspoon sugar
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a cherry, pineapple slice and mint sprig.