Regional Differences with Trader Vic’s Ready to Drink Mai Tais

Ready to drink Mai Tais are popular in tourist locations, so there’s no surprise to see one from Trader Vic’s alongside those from Koloa, Kō Hana, Cutwater, and more. But this Trader Vic’s Mai Tai is different from the canned Mai Tai available on the mainland.

Hawai’i Mai Tai
200 ml, 9.95% ABV, “Made with rum and orange liqueur,” made by World Spirits Ltd.

Mainland Mai Tai
12 oz/355 ml, 10% ABV, “Made with aged rum, lime juice, cane sugar, and natural flavors,” made by Iguazu Company LLC.

The Hawaiian version is richer and much more syrupy, though not unpleasant. There are hints of maple syrup and fruit. The mainland version has a darker color and a significantly lighter mouthfeel, with hints of almond and rum. Neither particularly tastes like a Mai Tai, though notably neither veers off into pineapple or coconut flavors.

Quality wise, these are about the same – not as good as the more expensive craft cocktail brands such as Kō Hana, Small Hand, or Proof Cocktail Co, but way better than most canned Mai Tais especially Cutwater.

The Mai Tai in Hawaii started in an unusual way, due to territorial rights to the Trader Vic’s name. Interesting to see this regional difference still manifests itself with these two very different Trader Vic’s RTDs.

Hawaiian Airlines “Signature” Mai Tai

Looking at the menu of cocktails on our Hawaiian Airlines flight back home I could see that the Daiquiri, Aviation, and Old Fashioned were from well-known ready-to-drink cocktail suppliers. But the Mai Tai, not listed as being from either On the Rocks or from Kō Hana. You’d think the “Signature” Mai Tai would be something different, but in the back of my mind I guessed it would be from one of the brands already on the menu. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, since both On the Rocks and Kō Hana Mai Tais are pretty good RTD Mai Tais.

So, I ordered the Mai Tai and it was… On the Rocks.

Not sure why Hawaiian Airlines can’t just say this, but you could do far worse for an airplane cocktail.


We were told by a reader that Hawaiian Airlines is in the process of switching from On the Rocks to Kō Hana, which explains the ambiguity as they wind down inventory.

Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Mai Tai

This Mai Tai is part of a line of bottled cocktails from O’ahu’s Kō Hana rum distillery. We’re fans of their rum products and this cocktail line is starting to become available outside the islands. I picked mine up at Bitters and Bottles. Retail price is around $15.

In terms of overall taste, the Kō Hana Mai Tai’s most pronounced taste and bouquet is coming from the stellar Hawaiian Rum Agricole. This rum is distilled from cane juice and has a savory and sweet taste that’s different from rums distilled from molasses. There are also tangy citrus flavors and some light fruity flavors, but I’m not getting a lot of orange or almond like you’d expect from a traditional Mai Tai. But I’m also not picking up much pineapple or coconut, so in that respect this bottled Mai Tai is already a lot better than most.

Kō Hana recommends this served over ice and I found it to be noticeably better in this format. It comes in at a hefty 22% ABV, which means that 375 bottle is best for a couple people. Throw a pineapple or umbrella in the drink and take a Hawaiian vacation.

This is one of the better bottled Mai Tais. If you love rums made from cane juice, Kō Hana’s Mai Tai is truly outstanding.

Mai Tai Crafted with Myers’s Rum / Original Cocktails by Heublein

Issued at 20% ABV and sold in this great looking flask-style bottle, I so wanted to like the Mai Tai made with Myers’s Original Dark Rum from Jamaica. But there are no other ingredients listed, which should have been the key warning sign.

Does it taste anything like a Mai Tai? Not even close.

It tastes like an artificially flavored Fuzzy Navel, with a conspicuous peach-forward taste.

I barely took two sips before pouring it out and reaching into the fridge for one of the Trader Vic’s canned Mai Tais that I have stashed there. So much better.

Ready to Drink Cocktail Review: BTL SVC Scorpion

Took another shot at a ready to drink cocktail, and even made a fresh Scorpion to compare to. Ingredients are rum, brandy, orgeat, tropical gimme, fresh pineapple, orange, and lemon juice. So, this looks overall like the right list of ingredients.

Unfortunately this one had a weird and funny taste and wasn’t very good. Plenty boozy at 28% ABV.

Truth be told I do find the actual Scorpion to be too heavy on the citrus and leans too much on light rum.

Scorpion (Trader Vic’s)
2 oz Orange Juice
1½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Orgeat
2 oz Light Rum
1 oz Brandy
Flash blend with 8 oz crushed ice.

Search for the Ultimate Terrible Mai Tai

I like to keep an open mind, because some days even your spider sense lets you down and what you think is terrible is actually really great.

This is not one of those days.

I had the lowest expectations for this Tropical Rum Mai Tai from Juneshine Spirits, but honestly it was even worse than I expected. This is most certainly the worst “Mai Tai” I’ve ever tried.

I like to cut ready-to-drink cocktails a whole lot of slack, but there is nothing to recommend about this pink and bubbly cocktail with an artificial cherry aftertaste. The label says “No Sugar Added” but I think it might have helped to have some.

  • 2 Shots Rum (Malahat)
  • Sparkling Water
  • Pineapple
  • Coconut
  • Orange
  • Cherry
  • Lime

Nowhere near tickling my tiki.

Small Hand Cocktails Mai Tai

Craft cocktail syrup company Small Hand Foods is entering the bottled cocktail market as Small Hand Cocktails and I gave their Mai Tai a try. The cocktail is made with Hamilton Rum, orange liqueur and of course Small Hand’s orgeat. The bottle is 25% ABV so this compares well to a freshly made cocktail.

Regular readers know that I’m not a fan of Small Hand’s orgeat, which to me has an unusually strong taste that doesn’t taste “almond-y”. Even though I know it is very popular with others and is used at cocktail programs in many bars.

Needless to say, you’ll have a better experience with this ready to drink Mai Tai if you’re a fan of their orgeat, but even I must admit this is a great bottled Mai Tai. The rum flavors do work so well with the rest of the ingredients and the mouthfeel is the same as with a freshly prepared scratch Mai Tai. Definitely worth seeking out.

This bottled Mai Tai compares well to other premium RTD Mai Tais, such as market leader On the Rocks. You could serve this to a cocktail enthusiast and they’d hardly notice the difference. These cocktails are available at Good Eggs and some Total Wine locations, plus discerning liquor stores. The 200ml bottle is around $11 and serves two-ish cocktails.