Top Rated Mai Tai Recipes
This tropical drink is loaded with garnishes.
Mai Tais are the most classic of all the Tiki cocktails, and we have a real-deal, tasty version for you here. This tastes less like your grandma’s mahjong juice, and more like a proper cocktail you’re not embarrassed to try in front of your friends.
Best Mai Tai Recipes - Recipes
Of all the drinks in the Tiki canon, the Mai Tai is the most classic—and the most abused. First of all, there is no pineapple juice in a Mai Tai! Nor is it Day-Glo orange with a lake of overproof rum floating on top. Too many resort bartenders have hatched abominations of this cocktail, often resulting in a syrupy, undrinkable mess. Yet when made properly, the Mai Tai is a well-balanced masterpiece from the heart of the golden age of Tiki. In fact, it’s widely considered by many aficionados to be the consummate Tiki recipe – relatively simple (by Tiki recipe standards) yet truly timeless.
In honor of National Mai Tai Day, let’s talk about what a Mai Tai is and, almost as importantly, what it ISN’T.
How To Make A Tropical Mai Tai, According To The Experts
A delicate blend of citrus, with hints of almond and a smoky rum, Hawaii's Mai Tais are both sinfully strong and delightfully sweet. Tourists love to order them (they're charmingly garnished with a piece of pineapple or paper umbrella) and they're a go-to drink that Hawaii locals are unashamed to order (read: they're strong).
Plus, they're a deliciously Instagrammable beachside buzz.
The Royal Hawaiian's Scratch Mai Tai from their famed Mai Tai Bar in Waikiki.
Although the Mai Tai looks almost too perfect next to a Hawaiian beach, it is not native to Hawaii.
Victor J. Bergeron, owner of the famed Polynesian-themed restaurant chain Trader Vic's, claims to have invented the tropical cocktail at his northern California restaurant in 1944.
Legend has it that Bergeron shook the original ingredients together with shaved ice and handed the new cocktail to his friend who was visiting from Tahiti. She took one sip and said "Maita'i Roa Ae," which, in Tahitian means "good," or colloquially, "out of this world -- the best."
(Side note: Bergeron's friendly rival Don the Beachcomber has argued that he is the creator of the Mai Tai, though his drink varies slightly.)
Trader Vic's original Mai Tai recipe was made of golden Jamaican rum,
lime juice, orange curaçao liqueur, Rock Candy Syrup, and French orgeat,
shaken with shaved ice.
Bergeron brought the Mai Tai to Hawaii in 1955 when he crafted a special recipe for the iconic Royal Hawaiian resort in Waikiki, and the Mai Tai craze took off. With the addition of fruit juices such as pineapple and orange juice, the Mai Tai evolved into a sweeter, more drinkable cocktail (as opposed to Trader Vic's original rum and lime-centric recipe).
Most Hawaii restaurants include some version of the Mai Tai, but The Royal Hawaiian has had 60 years to master the art of the drink -- and it has an official beachside Mai Tai Bar with a delicious arsenal of cocktails to prove it.
"We didn't invent the Mai Tai," Kui Wright, head bartender for The Royal Hawaiian, told HuffPost. "Have we perfected it? Yes."
That's why we went to the resort's expert mixologist to uncover the secrets of a perfect Mai Tai. Below, 5 steps to making a deliciously tropical, Hawaii-approved Mai Tai.
To create your own Mai Tai, you'll need the basic ingredients: a citrus juice (such as lime, orange or pineapple), orgeat syrup, orange curaçao liqueur, and a dark rum (for the float).
The Royal Hawaiian mixes their drinks with fresh-squeezed pineapple and orange juices. Thick and pulpy fresh juice "has a lot of body to hold the alcohol," Wright says. "That's what makes our [Mai Tais] so good."
Pour 1 oz. white rum, 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup, 1/2 oz. orange Curaçao, 2 oz. pineapple juice and 1 oz. orange juice into a glass over ice.
It doesn't matter what order you pour these first ingredients because you'll combine them thoroughly in the next step. If you want to experiment with different flavors, this is is the best time to add them.
The Mai Tai Bar, for example, offers a Royal Mai Tai that contains Maraschino cherries puréed with vanilla extract and a ginger Mai Tai DeGeneres (made specially for Ellen DeGeneres while she was a guest of the resort) which includes Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur.
Pour the concoction, including the ice, into another cup. Pour it back and forth between the two cups until it's thoroughly mixed.
"This is an important technique," Wright says. After the pour, "you've got all these different flavors all layered up. We roll it back and forth so it really binds all the alcohol and juices together and the first sip will be one consistent flavor."
4. Top it off.
Although topping off the Mai Tai with dark rum wasn't included in Bergeron's original recipe, Hawaii's hand-crafted Mai Tais are famous for the dark rum float on top, which gives the drink its ombré appearance.
“When you think of a Mai Tai, you think of that two-tone [coloring]," Wright says. "You’re going to have that dark rum on the top and the lighter rum on the bottom. That’s when you know you’re having a Mai Tai.”
Add your float by pouring dark rum over the top of the drink. Wright suggests using Whalers Rum Original Dark because it has a smokier flavor.
5. Garnish and enjoy it.
Decorate your glass with a pineapple slice, cherry, lime wedge or mint leaf -- whatever your heart desires!
The Mai Tai can be enjoyed in a number of ways. You can mix the entire cocktail together (so the float mixes with the golden body), then taste. Or, you can pull your straw out of the glass as you sip, so the rum float enters the straw last.
Most importantly, try to enjoy the cocktail beachside -- it's the best ingredient you can add. Take it from us:
The Scratch Mai Tai, the Royal Mai Tai and the Mai Tai Degeneres at The Royal Hawaiian's Mai Tai Bar, looking over Waikiki Beach.
The Easiest Mai Tai Recipe You Will Ever Find
If you’re looking for the perfect drink for summer 2020, then look no further. Although I’m sure most of you are familiar with this delicious cocktail, I’m here to shed some light on just how easy and delicious it is when it comes to this Mai Tai recipe!
Just in case you’ve never had a Mai Tai before, or are simply just curious as to what they are, then keep reading! Putting together a little bit on the background of how this yummy drink came to be can help you become a little bit more of an expert!
What Exactly Is A Mai Tai?
A Mai Tai is a cocktail that most often consists of rum, Curacao liqueur, lime juice and orgeat syrup. However, there have been variations on the Mai Tai recipe by using ingredients such as amaretto, bitters and grenadine.
Originating in the 1940s, the first Mai Tai recipe was created by Victor J. Bergeron, the owner of the restaurant Trader Vic’s in Oakland California. It is said that the name was taken from the Tahitian word Maita’i, which means “good” or excellent!”
You might find that some people debating between who the real original mixologist of the Mai Tai really was! There are two rivals to the creation of the Mai Tai, who was Don Beach at Don the Beachcomber Restaurant in Hollywood in the 1930s and “Trader” Vic in the 1940s.
You will often find Polynesian settings serving a Mai Tai and it is often associated with “tiki” decor. The drink eventually became so popular that it was featured in movies with stars such as Elvis Presley and many tiki bars and restaurants began serving this cocktail!
How To Make A Mai Tai
It is actually not too hard to create the perfect and easy recipe for Mai Tai’s! With this Mai Tai recipe coming to you from Martin Cate, it can easily be tweaked to your liking!
This particular Mai Tai recipe uses elements such as pineapple cherry and lime juice to give it the perfect tropical fruity taste!
Your ingredients are as followed
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce orange curaçao
- 1/4 ounce orgeat
- 1/4 ounce rich demerara simple syrup (about 2:1 ratio) — use real, full-flavored sugar in this drink.
- 2 ounces aged pot still or blended rum
The instructions are super simple! In fact, there’s only one:
- Combine all ingredients with 12 ounces of crushed ice and some cubes in a shaker. Shake until chilled and pour — ice and all — into a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with a spent lime shell and mint sprig.
Some Tips For Creating The Perfect Mai Tai:
- The key to creating the perfect refreshing drink comes from the lime juice. Using fresh lime juice in your cocktail is absolutely essential for getting the best results!
- Although it was not originally added to the Mai Tai recipe, you can make your drink fun and picture-perfect by adding cocktail umbrellas – something that is seen in many tiki-themed restaurants that serve this drink!
- It is worth mentioning that this drink is not meant to be blended. It is recommended that you stick to using a
Delicious! Excellent cocktail recipe.
This recipe created the perfect mai tai. Listening to Bud Powell and sipping it slowly while looking out on the Pacific. Excellent work, Epicurious. we all want you to know your gifted writers are definitely being read and listened to! Thank you for a lovely, restrained, not oversweet, very balanced mai tai for us cocktail folks out there. Midcentury modernists unite! (Over this cocktail) :)
Excellent Mai Tai recipe. I made 16 servings and added 4 cups of ice to the pitcher. When my guest arrived it was so easy to put ice in their glass and pour the Mai Tai in. Cheers.
This is a nice enough mix, however it is a a variation of the original Mai Tai and not in fact a true Mai Tai. A search for Vic Bergeron's (Trader Vic) 1944 Mai Tai will lead you to the original. Having said that, I substitute agave syrup for the sugar and ameretto liquor when I cannot find true orgeat and get rave reviews. Don't forget to garnish with a sprig of spanked mint!
I concur with the other reviewers, it's the perfect Mai Tai recipe. Best ever. If you like tropical drinks, this is it! By the way, I found orgeat syrup at an Italian grocery. they are into almond things, take a look at the one near you.
This was the drink du jour at a party we had last summer - i don't know how i'll top it this year! we went through about 12 quarts of it - scary. everyone is still talking about it. Whatever you do, don't even contemplate making your own orgeat syrup - i don't know what i was thinking on that front - next time i'll use Monin almond syrup . . .
This is simply a delicious drink. It's great for parties - next time, I'll make mai tais by the pitcher!
I have been looking for the perfect Mai Tai recipe. This is it!
Fantastic! One, if not the best I've ever had!
This recepie tastes exactly like the best Mai Tais we drank in Hawaii. My husband and I loved it!
Mai Tai Ingredients
- Aged Pot Still Rum (or Blended Rum)
- Fresh Lime Juice
- Cointreau (or Orange Curacao)
- Rich Simple Syrup (2:1 sugar to water ratio)
- Garnishes: Mint, Lime, Pineapple, Maraschino Cherries
There is also a fun Mexican version of this recipe with slightly different ingredients. It is very similar, made with tequila, so it adds a Mexican flair to the cocktail.
- Reposado Tequila
- Fresh Lime Juice
- Orange Curacao (I like to use Cointreau Noir)
- Citrus Salt
Mai Tai Swizzle
The Mai Tai Swizzle is a Don the Beachcomber cocktail that dates the 1950s according the cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Berry notes that he was told by Donn Beach’s widow that the Mai Tai Swizzle dates to 1933, but that “it was not one of his favorites.” This cocktail was not seen on Don the Beachcomber menus from later in the 1930s (during the time when Trader Vic visited Don the Beachcomber) so the earlier date is difficult to validate and comes from a biased source.
The Mai Tai Swizzle by Don the Beachcomber
Mai Tai Swizzle by Don the Beachcomber
¾ oz Lime Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Cointreau
¼ oz Falernum
1 ½ oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Gold Cuban Rum
6 drops Pernod
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake well with a cup of crushed ice. Garnish with 4 Mint Sprigs.
Research and Development
It took two weeks of testing to get the recipe right. Every night I made another version – we couldn’t have more than one without getting crazy drunk all over again – and finally I got it right. We confirmed with a small group of friends, most of whom hadn’t had a mai tai in years because when you live on Maui, you don’t want to spend $20 for a good drink, and you don’t want to spend $2 for pineapple juice. The verdict was unanimous: “Best mai tai I ever had.”
If you google recipes for Mai Tais, you’ll find that everyone has an opinion on what a “real mai tai” contains. The first recipe was basically lime juice and rum, and there are some who say that is the only one (Trader Vic went to court to defend the recipe).
But our perfect mai tai – which we’re calling Molly’s Maui Mai Tai – has a perfectly balanced fruit:rum ratio that we love.
Use the best rum and ingredients you can – I’ve even gone so far as to make my own rock candy syrup (and want to make orgeat for our next big party).
I’m very specific about the order, and the mixings, because I spent years looking and weeks testing, and this is the best way to make it.
- 1 oz. Light Rum
- 1 oz. Dark Rum
- 1/2 oz. Triple Sec
- 1/2 oz. Amaretto
- 2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
Directions: Serve in Hurricane glass. Add all ingredients to shaker. Shake and strain over ice. Garnish with Cherry and pineapple. Raise glass and toast.
You can see some of the common elements like light and dark rum, lime juice, and pineapple juice that all of the recipes use. Which one do you try, I have no idea. I say mix one of each and have a Mai Tai taste testing party! Come on, I’ve had worse ideas.
Pin It For Later!
Want more Caribbean rum drink recipes?
Click here to see our list of 52 rum drinks and how to make them. Invite some friends over and impress them with your rum skills, because each one tastes like paradise in a glass.
Every good mixologist needs some good cocktail making gear. I recommend this cocktail mixing set, it has everything you need and it’s what I use at home.
If you have a different Mai Tai cocktail recipe we would love to know about it. Send us a direct message on Instagram at @CaribbeanCastaways and tell us about your recipe. We might just feature you on the site!
If you’re planning a trip to the islands, make sure you grab a Caribbean Preferred Discount Card. It’s the largest collection of Caribbean discounts on the internet and it will save you hundreds. It can even get you free drinks at some pretty awesome bars and restaurants throughout the islands! You’ll love it.
P.S. – Leaving soon? These recommended links below will help you save money and book your trip:
- Grab a Caribbean Preferred Discount Card. It will save you a ton of money. It gives you access to the largest collection of island discounts & promotions. Click here to learn more.
- See our recommended Travel Credit Cards. This is how we travel for free!
- Get your flight with Skyscanner (you’ll never miss a cheap flight)
- Get your accommodation with Booking.com – They have great deals
- Love Pets and a Free Place To Stay? Definitely tryGrab a Guide Book
- Need anything on Amazon, use this link, thank you!
- Get your travel insurance with World Nomads or here
- Need something else? Check out our list of favorite companies on our resources page
We use all the companies listed here or on the resource page. By booking through these links, the small commission we earn helps us bring you more Caribbean content so that you can save money and have a better island vacation. Crystal and I greatly appreciate any support!
Story behind Mai Tai
The Mai Tai was created in 1944 by Victor Bergeron, or so he said. Also known as “Trader Vic”, he was a famous bartender in San Francisco. In the original recipe used the 17 years old Jamaican rum brand Wray & Nephew. There were also no fruit juices in it.
Since the original rum is no longer available today, people try to achieve the same result with a mix of Jamaica and Martinique rums.
There was a legal dispute over the name Mai Tai because a man named “Don the Beachcomber” (the real original father of the Tiki cocktail movement) had a very similar drink called Mai Tai Swizzle. His recipe also contained Falernum liquor and grapefruit juice.
(12 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)
- Author: Sonja Overhiser
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 drink 1 x
- Diet: Vegan
Here’s how to make the original Mai Tai recipe! Gather the ingredients for this tropical rum drink that’s as complex as it is fruity.
- 1 1/2 ounces ( 3 tablespoons ) aged rum
- 1/2 ounce ( 1 tablespoon ) orange liqueur: Curaçao, Cointreau or Grand Marnier
- 3/4 ounce ( 1 1/2 tablespoons ) lime juice
- 1 ounce ( 2 tablespoons ) orgeat syrup
- 1/2 ounce ( 1 tablespoon ) dark rum
- For the garnish: Fresh mint, cocktail cherry, pineapple slice, lime wedge
- Place the aged rum, orange liqueur, lime juice, and orgeat syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until cold.
- Strain the drink into an ice-filled glass. Top with the dark rum. Garnish with fresh mint, a lime wedge, cocktail cherry and pineapple slice.
Keywords: Mai Tai, Mai Tai Recipe, Mai Tai Ingredients, Mai Tai Drink, Mai Tai Cocktail
Watch the video: How to Make a Mai Tai Cocktail Home. Pro. Expert (December 2021).