Mai Tai Recipes

Table of Contents

  • The Original 1944 Mai Tai Recipe
  • Traditional Mai Tai Garnish: Lime and Mint
  • “Juice from One Lime” = 1 Ounce
  • The Ultimate Mai Tai Recipe
  • Historical and Island Mai Tai Recipes
  • Modern Recipes and Riffs
  • Mai Tai Swizzle

The Original 1944 Mai Tai Recipe

The Original Formula by Trader Vic Bergeron, 1944
2 ounces of 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew Rum over shaved ice
½ ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
½ ounce French Garier Orgeat Syrup
¼ ounce Trader Vic’s Rock Candy Syrup
Add juice from one fresh Lime.

Simplified 1944 Mai Tai Recipe
2 oz Rum
½ oz Orange Curacao
½ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Rock Candy Syrup or Demerara Syrup
1 oz Lime juice

Some recipes omit the sugar syrup in lieu of more Orgeat, and some may use more or less Lime juice or of the Curacao. If you adjust the amounts of the ingredients you’ll find there are a lot of combinations, depending on your palate.

The rum in good Mai Tais is typically aged and heavy, but that too could be based on your preference. The original Mai Tai rum was from Jamaica, so that’s the country of origin for many Mai Tai rums you’ll find in bars and restaurants. But with so many quality rums on the market, we certainly encourage you to try different rums and styles. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to the Rum used in a Mai Tai.

Traditional Mai Tai Garnish: Lime and Mint

The traditional garnish for a Mai Tai at Trader Vic’s is one half of the spent lime shell along with a mint sprig. These are placed into the top of the drink after mixing (never before), and they look a bit like a little island and palm tree.

“Juice from One Lime” = 1 Ounce

Compare bottled vs. fresh lime juice

Since the size of limes vary, the “juice of one lime” is an inexact measurement. Small limes might give you ¾ ounce or less, while large ones will give you more than 1 ½ ounces. Juicing a large lime might make your Mai Tais too tart.

We do have documentation on what Trader Vic considered the correct amount of lime juice in a Mai Tai, though. In his 1974 book Rum Cookery & Drinkery it is noted on page 96 that “Juice of one average Lime = 1 ounce.” So, if you’re following Vic’s standard recipe 1 ounce of lime juice is the correct measurement. 

Some bartenders omit sugar syrup from the cocktail, and then bring the lime juice down to ¾ oz. 

Related: always use freshly squeezed Lime Juice. Someone told us that the organic bottled lime tasted just like fresh squeezed and we did a blind taste test. I didn’t even have to taste the fresh juice Mai Tai to know the bottled version was inferior.

Watch the video: Limes in a Mai Tai

The Ultimate Mai Tai Recipe

Ultimate Mai Tai

Ultimate Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman 
½ oz Appleton 12 Rum
½ oz Smith & Cross Rum
½ oz Plantation OFTD Rum
½ oz Plantation Xaymaca Rum
1 oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orgeat (Latitude 29)
½ oz Orange Curacao (Ferrand Dry Curacao)
¼ oz Demerara Syrup (BG Reynolds)

Garnish with Mint Sprig and spent Lime shell

This is the house Mai Tai at Ultimate Mai Tai Headquarters (previously: “Fremont Mai Tai”). First labeled as the “Ultimate Mai Tai” when it was served as a special menu addition at The Kon-Tiki in Oakland.

More info: Mai Tai Rum

Historical and Island Mai Tai Recipes

1956 Mai Tai 
1 ounce Lime Juice
¼ ounce Rock Candy Syrup
¼ ounce Curacao
¼ ounce Orgeat
1½ ounces Lightly Aged Puerto Rican Rum
½ ounce Hamilton Pot Still Black Rum
¼ ounce Coruba Dark Rum 

Mix in 16 ounce tumbler glass with shaved ice. Drop half a spent lime shell in the glass. Stir and decorate with fresh mint.

Halekulani Mai Tai

House without a Key Mai Tai, Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki
⅓ oz Orgeat
⅓ oz Orange Curacao (Cointreau)
⅓ oz Rock Candy Syrup
1 ¼ oz Lime Juice
¾ oz Bacardi Select/Black Rum
¾ oz Bacardi Gold Rum
Float ½ oz Lemon Hart 151 Rum

This looks like a typical Island Mai Tai but is closer to an original 1944 Mai Tai, and was easily our favorite in Waikiki. (Halekulani website)

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz unsweetened Pineapple Juice
½ oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Lemon Juice
¼ oz Orange Curacao
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Sugar Syrup
1 oz Demerara Rum
1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Light Rum

Garnish with a Pineapple finger, Sugar Cane stick, Orchid, and Mint Sprig.

This recipe dates to 1971 according to the entry in Beachbum Berry Remixed. Note that this Mai Tai does not have the dark rum float most typically associated with Island Mai Tais. Though, I suppose, you could hold back the Dark Jamaican rum and float it.

Island Mai Tai by Michael Thanos
1 oz Lime Juice
2 oz Pineapple Juice
½ oz Orgeat 
½ oz Orange Curacao
1½ oz  Gold or Amber Rum
½ oz Dark Rum

Combine all the ingredients, except the dark rum, in a tall glass or shaker filled with ice. Shake, then pour into a tall ice-filled glass. Add a float of dark rum. Garnish with pineapple, cherry and a paper parasol. Michael Thanos, Forbidden Island (San Jose Mercury News, March 28, 2014)

Chuck’s Original Steak House, Waikiki, Courtesy of Les Hong
1½ oz Sweet and Sour mix
1 to 1-½ oz Light Rum
¾ oz Orange Curacao
½ oz Falernum or Orgeat syrup
1 oz Dark Rum or Demerara Dark Rum

Garnishes: half of a fresh Lime, fresh Mint

Pour first 4 ingredients over crushed ice; stir. Top with the dark rum, garnish and serve. (Honolulu Star Bulletin, October 1, 1997)

Modern Recipes and Riffs

Mai Tai Planter’s Punch by Jason Alexander at Devi’s Reef, Tacoma WA
2 dashes Aromatic Bitters
1 dash Falernum
1 dash Grenadine
¾ oz Lime juice
½ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Don’s Spices No. 2
½ oz Ferrand Dry Curacao
1½ oz Plantation Xaymaca Rum
½ oz Plantation OFTD Rum

Flash blend for five seconds with a cup of pure single ice. Pour unstrained into a tall glass adding more pure single ice to fill and garnish with few springs of mint. (Instagram)

Mai Tai by Shannon Mustipher, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cockails
2 oz Aged Rum
½ oz Rhum Agricole Blanc
½ oz Orange Curacao
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Lime Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with cubed ice. Shake and dump into a double rocks glass. Garnish with a Mint Spring and the reserved Lime shell.

Recommended spirts: Hamilton 86 Demerara Rum, Pananubes Rum, Marie Brizard Orange Curacao.

The Reverend’s Tai – Matt Pietrek (Cocktail Wonk)
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
¼ oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (or perhaps Clément Créole Shrubb)
½ oz orgeat (adjust to taste, depending on sweetness)
½ oz Plantation Rum O.F.T.D. Overproof
1½ oz Plantation Rum Stiggins’s Fancy

Shake with ice. Serve over fresh crushed ice in a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with spent lime shell and other festive Tiki staples, e.g. pineapple fronds, orchids, etc. (Cocktail Wonk Blog)

Molasses Mai Tai

Molasses Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman
2 oz Aged Jamaican Rum (Appleton Reserve 8)
1 oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orange Curacao
½ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Molasses Syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and dump into double rocks glass and garnish with Mint Sprig and reserved Lime shell. Inspired by the Pampanito cocktail at Smuggler’s Cove, which also uses the same rum and molasses syrup.

Banana Mai Tai by Kevin Crossman
2 oz Ultimate Mai Tai Rum Blend
¾ oz Banana Liqueur
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Molasses Syrup
1 oz Lime juice

Blue Hawai-Tai by Kevin Crossman
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz White Overproof Jamaican Rum
½ oz Aged White Rum
½ oz Orgeat
½ oz Simple Syrup
½ oz Blue Curacao

Blue Hawai-Tai

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake and dump into a small snifter glass. Garnish with Mint and tropical fruit.

It’s like the Blue Hawaii and the Mai Tai had a baby. Featured in Issue 7 of Exotica Moderne.

Recommended spirits:

  • Any white Jamaican Overproof rum will do fine (Wray & Nephew Overproof, Rum-Bar, Rum Fire), though it is recommended to use one with 100% pot still rum.
  • For the white rum we recommend something with at least some pot-still component, such as Probitas, Denizen White, Myers’s White, or Plantation 3 Star. If you prefer something even lighter, then a rum with at least a little age such as Cruzan is recommended.

Mai Tai Swizzle

The Mai Tai Swizzle is a Don the Beachcomber cocktail that dates the 1950s according the cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Berry notes that he was told by Donn Beach’s widow that the Mai Tai Swizzle dates to 1933, but that “it was not one of his favorites.” This cocktail was not seen on Don the Beachcomber menus from later in the 1930s, during the time when Trader Vic visited Don the Beachcomber, so the earlier date is difficult to validate.

Mai Tai Swizzle by Don the Beachcomber
¾ oz Lime Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
½ oz Cointreau
¼ oz Falernum
1 ½ oz Dark Jamaican Rum
1 oz Gold Cuban Rum
6 drops Pernod
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake well with a cup of crushed ice. Garnish with 4 Mint Sprigs.