The Mai Tai

How can you take yourself too seriously when you’re drinking something festooned with umbrellas, cherries and crazy straws? Τhere is no better way to make this happen than with a classic Mai Tai, one of the most famous fun tropical drinks ever made!

I totally get those who say it tastes like gasoline, even those who say it tastes like cough syrup… I know that many consider it a kitschy, oversweetened, unnaturally colored mash-up of various “tropical” liquors and juices…

But, beware: all this negativity is maybe because you’re not drinking it right: This drink always tastes better in a thatch hut on a lagoon with coco palms lining the shore. There, you can enjoy this sweet jungle juice, this complex, layered drink that does, in fact, taste pretty alcoholic.

The roots

Mai Tai translates from Tahitian to mean “Out of this World” and it is a fitting description for this very fun rum cocktail. It’s easy to imagine this tropical cocktail originating in Hawaii, but the story behind the Mai Tai actually originates in California!

The mid-1940’s saw the beginning of the “tiki boom” in California and, with that, the birth of the Mai Tai. Tiki bars popped up all over the US, each attempting to outshine one another with lavish Polynesian decor, huge bowls of cocktails, tiny umbrellas in every drink, and grass skirts on pretty servers.

Now deciding exactly who created the first Mai Tai really depends on whose story you believe.

In the early 50`s the famous drink made its way to Hawaii, along with Elvis, and drinkers looking for a tropical flavor couldn’t seem to get enough.

Over the years the recipe has changed greatly and now, there is a whole world of Mai Tais.

The secret to making any Mai Tai is that there is as much in technique as remembering that long list of ingredients.  The 4 fundamentals are 1. Technique 2. Flavor 3. Fresh and 4. Aromatics.

That’s all you’ll need to know history-wise, except that, Mai Tai, is “The best, out of this world!”

The makin’s
1 part light rum
1 part dark rum
1/2 part lime juice
1/2 part orange curacao
1/2 part orgeat syrup*
Maraschino cherry for garnish

*Orgeat: An almond based liqueur or syrup flavored with orange flower water and lots of sugar

The drill
Pour all the ingredients except the dark rum into a shaker with ice cubes
Shake well**
Strain into an old-fashioned glass half filled with ice
Top with the dark rum
Garnish with the cherry

** The ingredients of the Mai Tai are far too thick to mix just by pouring over ice, they need to be shaken every time.  Otherwise, you’ll drink one unmixed layer after another and likely quit when you arrive at the layer of straight lime juice.  Mai Tai Technique: Always shake well and strain over fresh ice



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