There isn’t anything that says Hawaii quite like a Mai Tai. This tropical delight, with pineapple and citrus juice is the perfect refreshment after a day playing in the sun. While there are many, many versions out there, I have crafted the Perfect Mai Tai recipe.
A Little Mai Tai History
Don the Beachcomber claims to have created this tasty libation in 1933. While Victor Bergeron, of Trader Vic’s, claims to have come up with it in 1944. Either way, you have a drink that beautifully mixes the flavors of Rum and Citrus.
The Mai Tai’s that I’ve enjoyed have a mix of light and dark rums, with the juices of pineapple and orange. There are hundreds of versions of this refreshing combination. Consequently, I went through many combinations crafting my recipe.
The Making of a Perfect Mai Tai
First, for the perfect drink, you should use the purest, freshest ingredients you can get. Many Mai Tai recipes use Orange Curaçao to bring in the flavors of citrus. This may bring in a decent taste, but it is artificially colored and therefore not the best ingredient. I prefer to use the actual fruit juices for flavor.
The fruit juices I use are Orange, Pineapple and Lime. If you are ambitious you can juice your own fruit, which would give you the freshest and best flavor. No worries if you’re not that ambitious, just use 100% juice of the best quality you can afford. Watch the lime juice ingredients, especially for gums and other binders used to keep it reconstituted.
Other recipes call for Orgeat (pronounced Or-za), which is basically a simple syrup into which almonds have been soaked. I have made my own Orgeat, but have recently found the same product made by Monin. The only addition is some citric acid, presumably to keep it fresh. If you would like to try your hand at making your own Orgeat, SeriousEats.com has a good recipe.
Another common ingredient is Grenadine syrup. I was shocked and appalled upon reading the ingredients on the bottle in the store. It contained high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and artificial flavors. Definitely NOT a pure and fresh ingredient! Grenadine is a syrup made from pomegranate juice. I make my own, using this recipe from thekitchn.com. It takes just a few minutes, and stores in the fridge for several weeks.
Finally, we have the star of the show: Rum. Most of the Mai Tai’s that I have enjoyed contain both a light and a dark rum. There are recipe’s out there that use three or four rums, but let’s keep things simple. Papa C, the Mai Tai Tester, prefers Bacardi Rum. There are more expensive rums out there, however Bacardi is easy to get everywhere.