Mai Tai

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Mai Tai

Victor Bergeron – Trader Vic – created this drink back in the 40s, and is quoted in the 1947 edition of his Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide as saying, “Anyone who says that I didn’t create this drink is a dirty stinker.”

When I visited Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills, I watched their skilled mixologists closely to try to learn the secrets of this drink (shaved ice is key here, kids) but I recently found the recipe online here (note that this link has since been taken down)

When made properly, the Mai Tai is a smooth, slightly sweet, and potent concoction – and well worthy of your sophisticated palate. It’s a rum sour, and one of the best rum sours ever made.

There are so many little tricks to making a great Mai Tai. Picking out great rum is one of the tricks: you can’t find the original rum used by Vic, so you’ve got to get a little loose and creative with it. Using crushed ice is another trick – cubes just don’t do the drink justice. Dropping in that little lime hull (see photo above) is another trick, as is picking out the perfect mint bouquet for garnish.

But the real trick to the Mai Tai is the glass. The Libbey 816 CD 15 Ounce Double Old Fashioned glass is the unsung hero of the Mai Tai. It shouldn’t be served tall, it shouldn’t be served in a ceramic Tiki mug, it should be served in this glass, decorated or undecorated, and this glass only. There are few other glasses than can contain this monster of a drink, so pick up a case of these if you want to get serious about your Mai Tai.

Mai Tai Print Me

  • 1½ oz/45 ml Appleton Sigtnature Blend (formerly Appleton V/X) rum
  • ½ oz/15 ml Smith and Cross rum
  • 1¼ oz/37.5 ml fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz/15 ml orange curaçao (I use Grand Marnier)
  • ½ oz/15 ml orgeat (almond syrup)
  • ¼ oz/7.5 ml 2:1 simple syrup
  1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Reserve one half lime hull for garnish.
  3. Shake ingredient with ice cubes until cold.
  4. Strain into a double old fashioned glass
  5. Fill with crushed ice.
  6. Drop in lime hull and garnish with mint bouquet.

Recipe printed courtesy of

11 Replies to “Mai Tai”

  • Christopher Carroll says:

    Hi Jeffrey, I love this recipe, and I also love to make the Margaritas by-the-gallon. How would you do a gallon of Mai Tais?

    They are both in the sour family with similar ingredients and it seems like this would be a compatible crossover recipe.



    • Chris – The total volume of the Mai Tai is 4.5 ounces. There are 128 ounces in a gallon. 128 divided by 4.5 tells us that there are 28.4 Mai Tais in one gallon. Therefore you should multiply each ingredient by 28.4 in order to make a gallon of Mai Tais. Hope this helps.

  • Dr. Coruba says:

    Agata, though it is related to Orange Curacao, Triple Sec is one of the weaker substitutes for what Orange Curacao imparts to a good Mai Tai. If you just can’t find it anywhere, the better substitutes are Cointreau or Grand Mariner – both are much more expensive than Orange Curacao, but at least you’ll be raising the bar on your Mai Tai quality not lowering it.

    Jeffrey, as always, is spot on about shaved/crushed ice for the Mai Tai. A proper shake with the right ice gives it just the right dilution and rapidly chills the drink so that the remaining ice melts very slowly.

  • Agata says:

    Can I substitute triple sec for orange curacao? Shall I add an extra dash of simple syrup than?

  • rob says:

    I spent a year making the mai tais and tried 30 plus rums, 5 orange liquors and 4 different orgeats.

    Using close to the original recipe with ingredients I could get on-line or in stores in AZ:

    What I have learned: Ratios:

    2 OZ Rum Total (A Golden Base Rum and a Dark Rum and Interest Rum)
    1/2 to 3/4 OZ Fresh Lime
    1/2 to 3/4 OZ Curacao (Orange Liquor)
    1/2 to 3/4 OZ Orgeat
    Sometimes a dash of water (1/4 to 1/2 OZ)
    Shaken with ice and poured all into pint glass.
    Garnish with Fresh Mint & Straw

    RUM Combos:
    Golden Base Rums Aged 3 to 12 years: use one of these rums in 1 OZ to 1- 1/2 OZ amounts (15.00 to 30.00)
    Dimplematico Anjeo
    Mount Gay Eclipse or Extra Old
    Caruzan Single Barrel
    R.L. Seal 10 yr
    Many Others.

    Dark Rum Aged 12 to 21 year: use one of these rums in 1 OZ to 1/2 OZ (30.00 plus)
    El Dorado 15
    El Dorado 21
    Diplematico 12
    Appleton 12
    Gosling Black Seal
    Myers Dark
    Many More to Try.

    Interest Rums: To add Hugo or interest add or substitute in some of these in 1/2 OZ amounts.

    Pussers Blue (add interest and Hugo)
    Lemon Hart 151 (adds richness and flavor good as a floater)
    Clement VSOP (to add a dryer taste)

    Curacao to use:
    Bols Orange Curacao
    Senior Curacao Orange
    Clement Orange Shrub

    Orgeats to use:
    B.G Reynolds
    Small Hands

    Many people say you must use a 1 OZ Jamacian Rum and a 1 OZ Martinique Rum. So that would be Clement VSOP and Appleton 12 as the standard. These are good and a good start.

    Experiment of your own. If you can find a great dark rum try it.

  • Ryan Patrick says:

    Thanks for this great recipe. I expanded it to make almost 2 gallons of mai tais and they were a hit at the Hawaiian Christmas Party this year!

  • Nate – I have the same problem from time to time, but at the very least it provides an opportunity to engage with your guest, maybe even offer up the history of the Mai Tai while they sip.

  • Nate Rushton says:

    The problem I have with serving this drink…and I have served a lot of these from a ever-so-slightly-different-but-nearly- exact recipe…is that people complain that it’s “not a real” Mai Tai. I think that most people have had a Mai Tai where they serve it with pineapple/orange juice, perhaps Hawaiian style, and is more drinkable for the uninitiated. It’s frustrating for a bartender to follow a recipe exactly and give homage and honor to the original only to have a guest be dissatisfied and question the bartender’s ability or knowledge. I cringe when people order this and it’s been a frustration with my staff to provide a delicious and enjoyable cocktail, yet still be true to what people order.

  • Tan says:

    making the orgeat is a breeze. it add such flavor and mouth feel and it really is hard to do wrong

  • The Concierge says:

    What kind of Orgeat do you use? The Monin Almond syrup doesn’t seem to be true orgeat. Sonoma Syrup has a Vanilla Almond made with flower water but I heard it has a very strong vanilla flavor. I have been looking for commercially available version rather than making my own because between the blanching of the almonds and inclusion or rose and/or orange flower water- its seems as those the taste can get royally messed up.

    Also, btw, have you used the gum arabic and/or orange peel from Tenzing Momo, and, if so, any comments?

    Thanks for your contributions that you make through your blog. If I am ever in Portland, your place will definitely be the top of my list.

  • Anonymous says:

    Shouldn’t the dark rum should be “J. Wrays Nephew” a favorite of Trader Vic? And the triple sec be the orginal orange cuarcao, no longer sold off the island?

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