Mai Tai

October 1, 2010 (Day 244) — Mai Tai

Today is the first of October, and I spent this brisk fall evening at a high school football game. Conversely, I’m also working on cleaning up the house so we can bust out the Halloween decorations this weekend. So, as one last farewell to summer, let’s make a “polynesian” cocktail that my good friend Mikey has been pressuring me to make ever since I started this blog.

This is Mikey’s signature drink if you will, what he was always known to sip on after a hard day in the newsroom while manning his little charcoal grill. And it’s a classic that’s been remade countless times.

The Mai Tai.

That was the first photo when I did a Google Image search for Mai Tai.

It has become synonymous with Tiki bartending, a type of bar that I’m pretty damn fond of actually (think if tiki torches, tiki idols, etc.) And, as mentioned earlier, there are countless iterations of the tiki classic. However, in my keeping with my desire to bring you guys the history behind the drinks, I tracked down what is considered the original Mai Tai — via the original Trader Vic’s back in the 1940s.

According to Trader Vic’s Website:

One day, eight years after opening his doors as Trader Vic’s, Victor Bergeron was entertaining the bar. He pulled down a bottle of seventeen-year-old J. Wray Nephew Rum from Jamaica, squeezed a lime, added a dash of sugar syrup and for a hint of the tropics, a splash of orange curacao and some French orgeat. He then poured the concoction over ice and slid it across the bar to his friends, Ham and Carrie Guild, who were visiting from Tahiti. Carrie instantly exclaimed: “It’s Mai Tai Roa Ae!” Tahitian for “out of this world — the best!” And the Mai Tai was born.

Or, you can ascribe to the simpler version, according to George Carlin:

The Mai Tai got its name when two Polynesian alcoholics got into a fight over some neckwear.

The current version of the Mai Tai served at the Trader Vic’s across the world aren’t truly the originals either, according to the research I’ve done. But, for sake of historical accuracy, I went ahead and tracked down the original. You’ll notice my picture doesn’t resemble the one posted above. That’s because what you’ll see below is a REAL Mai Tai, not the pre-mixed concoctions of crap you’ll find around the country these days.

Mai Tai (1944 Trader Vic’s)

2 ounces white rum

1/2 ounce orange curacao

Add juice from one fresh lime

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 ounce orgeat syrup

Shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass filled with shaved ice. Add a sprig of fresh mint.

Sweet, but not offensively so. This is so much better than the saccharine crap you’ll find using pre-mixes, pineapple juice or any other kind of juice besides lime.  Perfectly balanced between sweet, but not too much so. A perfect drink to toast the rapidly fading warmth (although if you live in Dodge City, KS and you’re looking forward to some 90-degree days next week, it can’t come soon enough).

NOTE FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR ORGEAT SYRUP: Orgeat syrup — and almond-flavored mixer — is tough to track down under the best of conditions. You can get it online at However, good news if you live in the Dodge City area! Comanche Beverage Outlet is the only liquor store (to my knowledge) in southwest Kansas that actually carries the syrup. It’s in their mix shop, so you’ll have to ask for it. Trust me though, it’s worth it!

This one’s for you, Mikey!


— Mark

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