How to Make a Perfect Mai Tai

Take a temporary trip to tiki culture and tropical vibes with a Mai Tai, the quintessential rum cocktail.

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Picture this: Hawaii in the 1950s. You tell the hip-and-now bartender to whip you up a drink—his choice. He serves a frosty mug garnished with pineapple, mint, and lime peel. You take one sip, and you’re in heaven.

The legend of the Mai Tai isn’t too far off. Most sources say a swashbuckling bar owner named Victor Bergeron invented the Mai Tai in the 1940s in Oakland, California. The drink made its way to Hawaii a decade later when Vic crafted a cocktail menu for a few Hawaiian hotels. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin called it a “top tourist tantalizer”—and with good reason. The mixture of dark and light rum, lime juice, and orange liqueur is like putting the beach in a bottle (or glass). There’s a reason the drink is called Mai Tai—it hails from a Tahitian word for “excellence.”

For the full beach experience, turn up the tiki music and serve Mai Tais along with other tropical drinks like the Rum Runner, a Piña Colada or a Miami Vice.

Why You Will Love This Cocktail Recipe

Some might dismiss the Mai Tai as tiki kitsch, but I just call those folks haters who don’t know what they’re missing. The drink offers a complex flavor, helped by an ingredient called orgeat syrup, an exotic concoction made from almonds, sugar, and rose water or orange flower water. Every sip is as delicious as the first, inviting you to relax and, at least for a bit, enjoy some island time.

How to Make the Perfect Mai Tai ingredients

Equipment

  • A cocktail shaker
  • A jigger or measuring tool
  • A strainer
  • An Old Fashioned glass or a Tiki Mug
  • A stirrer

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. blend of light and dark rum
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz. orgeat syrup an exotic concoction made from almonds, sugar, and rose water/orange flower water
  • 0.5 oz. orange curaçao
  • A splash of simple syrup
  • A slice of lime and/or a sprig of mint to add that final flourish

Instructions

  • Mix all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker: the rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, orange curaçao, and a touch of simple syrup.
  • Add some ice and give it a good shake for about ten seconds.
  • Pour out the mixture into a glass filled with ice, using a strainer.
  • For a grand finale, garnish your stylish concoction with a slice of lime and/or a sprig of mint

Tips & Tricks For a Perfect Mai Tai

  • Take the time to prepare freshly squeezed lime juice and homemade orgeat syrup. These fresh ingredients will give the cocktail a purer, bolder flavor.
  • A blend of high-quality dark and light rum will elevate the Mai Tai to restaurant-quality.
  • Don’t skip out on the garnish. Add a slice of lime, a sprig of mint, or a spear of pineapple (or all three!).
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FAQs

What’s the best way to enjoy a Mai Tai?

This boozy drink invites a leisurely, island pace. It’s often served with a straw in a cool tiki glass with some garnishes (and even a little umbrella).

What is orgeat syrup and where can I get it?

You can buy orgeat syrup at most liquor stores or search for a good recipe online. If you don’t have all the ingredients, you can whip up a good substitute with equal parts almond extract and simple syrup.

Can I make a Mai Tai minus the alcohol?

Sure! Replace the rum with pineapple juice or coconut water and skip the curaçao.

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Mai Tai Variations Worth Trying

  • Guava Mai Tai: Substitute the fresh lime juice with guava juice.
  • Skinny Mai Tai: Use natural sweeteners like stevia or erythritol and a low-carb rum.
  • Pineapple Mai Tai: Akin to the Pineapple Mojito, you can introduce a tropical twist with a liberal pour of pineapple juice.

How to Store

Whip up a batch of this cocktail before the party. Mix the rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and orange curaçao and store it in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, give the drink a good shake and add a dash of simple syrup.

Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for a day or so. Just take out the ice so it doesn’t dilute the cocktail. When you’re ready for another day at the beach, shake the drink like a Polaroid picture and add some fresh garnish.

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