Mai Tai—Roa Ae!

The Mai Tai is the quintessential tiki cocktail. Although others have claimed to have invented the Mai Tai, it is generally accepted that it was invented by Trader Vic Bergeron at Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, CA in 1944. As the story goes, he was thinking about how all of the best cocktails are essentially very simple, and it was time to add to this tradition with his own rum-based cocktail (which is kind of funny because it’s far more complicated than a Manhattan, martini, or daiquiri—the cocktails from which he drew inspiration).

He reached for a bottle of 17 year Jamaican Rum, added fresh lime juice, orange curacao, French orgeat, and a dash of rock candy syrup. When his friend Carrie Guild took a sip, she said, “Mai Tai—Roa Ae!” which is Tahitian for “Out of this world—the best!”

Trader Vic claimed to have brought the cocktail to Hawaii in 1953, and its popularity spread instantly. He said that anyone who claimed he didn’t create the drink is a “dirty stinker.”

Our house recipe, although true to the original, has been adjusted slightly to appeal to contemporary tastes. It is as follows:

1.5 oz. Light Rum
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. Orange Curacao
1/2 oz. orgeat
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. Dark Rum (to be floated after shaking)

Shake all ingredients except Dark Rum and strain over ice into a double old fashioned glass

Float 1 oz. Dark Rum on top, garnish with a mint sprig.