Category: The Mai Tai


Not since Cheers unsuccessful battles with Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern has there been a barroom brawl the likes of the Tiki Tangle pitting the Trader Vic’s famous original Mai Tai recipe against the concoction created by the relative newcomer to the Tiki scene and former sports bar The Kings X out of Oakland, California. In a Coke vs. Pepsi type challenge both versions were prepared and sampled by an expert pair of Cocktologists, and judged by an esteemed panel of Mai Tai aficionados.

In 1936 Victor J. “Trader Vic” Begeron re-imaged his Oakland based family owned pub giving the establishment a Tiki-Exotica flavor, experimented with what was to become the first Pan fusion restaurant concept, and started dabbling in drink recipes from the Pacific Rim. His restaurant that was soon to be named Trader Vic’s, quickly became the toast of “O” Town, where it was often said that the best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland, and it is Trader Vic’s. In creating the Mai Tai, his signature cocktail meaning “the very best”, Vic held fast to the blueprint he used for all his cocktails, fresh ingredients with layered flavors where each ingredient was meant to enhance the drink as a whole and not overpower the entire proceedings. The drink that includes Light Rum, Orange Curacao, and Orgeat (an almond flavored syrup) is not as sweet as other versions, and can be a potent, tropical treat if prepared with the proper passion and with the proper proportional care in combining the ingredients.

The Kings X, an Oakland institution since the early 70’s, began life as a sports bar and was one of the first bars in America to feature and endorse fantasy football leagues, some teams staying intact for 20 years or more. A recent Polynesian makeover has reinvented the bar, and placed it right in the cross hairs in the battle for Oakland Mai Tai supremacy. Their delectable concoction is a somewhat sweeter version than the original and favors passion fruit juice instead of orgeat syrup.

And the Winner Is…………………………………………….

                             The Original Trader Vic’s Recipe………Try it……You’ll like it!!

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from the artofthedrink.com

The Mai Tai is a very misunderstood cocktail. Many people think this is a tropical fruit juice cocktail, but the reality is that this is a very strong rum based drink. The confusion comes from a hotel in Hawaii that modified the original formula in the 1950’s and added pineapple juice (often called a Maui Mai Tai), then someone added guava and orange juice and eventually the drink barely resembled the first incarnation. The classic recipe uses top quality rum and curacaoplus orgeat (pronounced: or-zat) and lime. A small amount of sugar can be added to balance the lime. The grenadine is optional, and is strictly added for colour. The Mai Tai was created by Trader Vic.

The Mai Tai is recommended for people who like the flavour of rum. The cocktail should be thoroughly iced, crushed being best. The dark rum float, on the Mai Tai, can be any dark rum, such as Myers. Personally, I prefer Gosling Black Seal rum, but as with any cocktail, there is room for subtle adjustments. Using a quality orgeat is another important factor. If you can’t locate good orgeat you can find a recipe for orgeat here.

Mai Tai Recipe

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2 oz Havana Club Rum
½ oz Cointreau
1 oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Simple Syrup
Dash Grenadine
Float Dark Rum

If you are feeling adventurous or the original version is a tad too strong in the rum department, try adding 1/2 oz of Bols Vanilla Liqueur to your Mai Tai, which works beautifully with the Havana Club rum. For the weak, I would recommend a Maui Mai Tai version. To do this ad pineapple, orange and guava juices to the Mai Tai recipe. Substitute lower quality rum in this cocktail.

* The original Mai Tai cocktail recipe called for Orange Curacao but I’ve been unable to locate this in Canada, so since we use excellent rum, I would only add an excellent orange liqueur, but any decent triple sec will work. Also, the true original recipe calls for 3.5 oz of liquor which is 0.5 oz above the legal limit in Ontario for a single serving of alcohol. The days of power drinking are long gone, but the Mai Tai still has its place.

The creation of the Mai Tai happened in Oakland in 1944 by Victor Bergron, better known as Trader Vic. The name of the drink was expressed by the the guests, who were from Tahiti, when they exclaimed “Mai Tai – Roa Ae”, which means “Out of This World – The Best”. That is how the Mai Tai was born. 

The Mai Tai, along with Don the Beachcombers Zombie, are two of the key drinks that started the Polynesian,  Tiki, or exotic, drink craze of the 1940s and continued until the 1970s. After a 30 year hiatus, the Tiki revival has found a second wind.