Today is Mai Tai Day, celebrating the birth of the Mai Tai in 1944. It was the day selected when Oakland recognized the cocktail and declared Mai Tai Day in 2009.
To celebrate, here’s the series of Mai Tai Myths articles that ran last year. They provide historical perspective on the cocktail and sadly we continue to see misinformation being spread.
Mai Tai Myth: Hawaiian Mai Tais have Always had Pineapple Juice
First up is the myth that when Trader Vic introduced the Mai Tai to Hawaii in 1953 that it was created with pineapple juice. Pineapple juice is certainly the ingredient that changes a 1944 style Mai Tai to an “Island Mai Tai” and these are common in Hawaii and other tourist destinations. But pineapple juice wasn’t commonly used in Hawaiian Mai Tais until the 1960s.
Mai Tai Myth: Nobody knew the Mai Tai Ingredients Until 1970
Trader Vic Bergeron issued a press release in 1970 describing how he original developed the Mai Tai and he also included the original recipe. We’ve seen speculation that this means that body knew what was actually in a Mai Tai. There are numerous 1950s-1960s published recipes in newspapers and books that provided Mai Tai recipes featuring the original ingredients: lime, rock candy syrup, orgeat, orange curaçao, and rum. This isn’t like the Zombie where nobody knew about Don’s Mix or even what was in it.
Mai Tai Myth: Trader Vic Kept the Recipe a Secret
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. 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.
Mai Tai Myth: The Mai Tai Created a Worldwide Rum Shortage
Trader Vic Bergeron stated “The success of the Mai Tai and its acceptance soon caused the 17-year-old rum to become unavailable, so it was substituted with the same fine rum with 15 years aging.” This is where the myth originates, with people doing a shorthand to say that “rum” had a shortage due to the Mai Tai.
Mai Tai Myth: a 1944 Mai Tai Must be Made with Jamaican Rum
In this case we’re using the term “1944 Mai Tai” to mean a recipe along the lines or the original and to differentiate from an Island Mai Tai. Trader Vic’s themselves have recently had a 1944 Mai Tai on their menu using non-Jamaican rums. If using rums made outside of Jamaica is good enough for Trader Vic’s, it should be good enough for you. The Mai Tai does not have a geographical origin, like the Ti Punch or Daiquiri, so use whatever rum is your favorite.