Mai Tai Myth: Trader Vic Kept the Recipe a Secret

Leading up to Mai Tai Day (August 30), we are sharing five Mai Tai myths.

While there was a great deal of secrecy around cocktail recipes at Don the Beachcomber locations, there was a different practice with Trader Vic’s. While the original 1944 Mai Tai recipe wasn’t published until the 1972 Bartenders Guide Revised, it also wasn’t a trade secret known only to Trader Vic. He had already published many of his Trader Vic’s recipes in the 1947 Bartender’s Guide.

A customer wrote to Bergeron in 1956 requesting the recipe for the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai and Trader Vic himself signed the letter sent back to the customer. We know because letter went up for auction in 2010. This remains the earliest documented Hawaiian Mai Tai recipe and is similar to the original 1944 Mai Tai.

This recipe and others like it were published in newspaper articles and books, but Trader Vic’s didn’t sue or publicly complain about the recipes being shared. It was only when the Sun-Vac corp tried to copyright the Mai Tai for their commercial Mai Tai mix that lawyers got involved. Vic won the out of court settlement.

Want to learn more? Check our essay The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai, or view the article in Issue 15 of Exotica Modernemagazine. Or join us at Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Day event on August 28 for a special seminar on the Hawaiian Mai Tai.

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