The mai tai is a classic tiki cocktail that originated in Oakland, California at Trader Vic’s tiki bar in 1944. If you’re scratching your head in shock that the cocktail doesn’t have a more exotic or tropical history you’re not alone.
The problem with the mai tai is it’s yet another cocktail that’s been cheapened and butchered over the years. Most people think of the mai tai and have flashes of a hangover looming sugar bomb made with sweeteners, juices, and even grenadine (thank U, next). The truth is the cocktail is a much simpler and more sophisticated.
Don’t be fooled by the drink’s pink counterpart on the internet that’s layered with orange juice.
Real Mai Tai Ingredients
Trader Vic’s original mai tai is made with Jamaican dark rum, gold rum, orgeat (almond-flavored simple syrup), fresh lime juice, orange liqueur or curacao, and fresh mint leaves. It’s a refreshing tropical cocktail that’s smooth and just sweet enough to please any tiki cocktail lover without the headache the next morning.
Orgeat syrup is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar, and either rose water or orange flower water. It’s probably the most important ingredient in the cocktail, however, you can substitute with simple syrup in a pinch. It won’t be your iconic mai tai but it still makes for a good cocktail.
You should be able to find orgeat with the other cocktail mixers and simple syrups in the grocery or liquor store. You can make your own orgeat by mixing a DROP of almond extract in 1 ounce of simple syrup.
How to Make a Mai Tai
Combine all ingredients (including the mint) in aand shake vigorously. I like to STRAIN the cocktail over fresh crushed or cubed ice and garnish with a lime wedge and fresh mint sprig. If you don’t have access to crushed ice, a lewis bag and wooden mallet is an awesome and easy way to instantly whip up crushed ice on demand.
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A true mai tai made with dark rum, gold rum, orgeat (almond-flavored simple syrup), lime juice, orange liqueur, and fresh mint leaves.
- 1 ounce dark rum
- 1 ounce gold rum
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce curacao or orange liqueur
- 1/2 ounce orgeat (almond simple syrup)
- 2–3 fresh mint leaves plus more for garnish
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake vigorously and strain over fresh crushed or cubed ice. Garnish with a lime wedge and fresh mint.
In a pinch, you can use simple syrup in place of orgeat. it’s not quite the same but still a good cocktail.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 209
- Sugar: 10.1g
- Sodium: 1mg
- Fat: 0g
- Saturated Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 12.5g
- Fiber: 0.1g
- Protein: 0.1g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: mai tai recipe, how to make a mai tai, tiki cocktails