Classics Exhibition: Mai Tai


Welcome back to Classics, the series where we learn to make classic cocktails from the pros. This is our second of four drink explorations from San Francisco’s rum haven, Smuggler’s Cove. If you missed it last week, we began with the Zombie Cocktail. Today is a continuation of the tiki, with perhaps the most famous of them all, the Mai Tai.

The Mai Tai was popularized at Oakland’s, Trader Vic’s restaurant in the 1940’s. There was/is some predictable discrepancies around the Mai Tai’s origin story, most notably from the tiki genre OG, Don the Beachcomber. It’s hard to argue with the Don, so we’ll leave that part alone. For the purpose of this article, the following is a classic recipe as presented by Trader Vic Bergeron in Oakland, California circa 1944.

2 oz. aged rum
1/2 oz. Orange Curacao
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. Orgeat
*1/4 oz. 2-1 simple syrup
* (aka rich simple syrup – 2pt sugar:1pt water)

Orange Curaçao, the orange liqueur named after the island from which it is grown on, is the one of a handful or ingredients that start the Mai Tai. Once the ingredients are in the pint glass, top with ice. Garnish with a mint and lime and you’re in business.

As Steven says, “this is a great cocktail to show off the versatility of rum. Pick a medium to heavy style of rum, or better yet, blend rums to create your favorite flavor profile!” Well, there you have it.

Photography: Andrew Dinh
Special Thanks: Steven Liles, Bartender