Though the exact recipe may not be known, it does seem clear that the Mai Tai’s rise to fame in Hawaii started at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach. In 1953, Trader Vic Bergeron contracted with Matson to provide menus for their passenger ships and their hotel properties that included the Royal Hawaiian. The Mai Tai became a big hit with tourists in Hawaii and by the end of the decade had supplanted the Zombie as the most famous tropical cocktail in the world.
Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Classic Recipe)
½ oz Lime Juice
¼ oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz unsweetened Pineapple Juice
¼ oz Sugar Syrup
¼ oz Orgeat
¼ oz Orange Curacao
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 (page 72).
Note that the recipe for 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.
Today, the Royal Hawaiian provides the “secret recipe” for their “Original” Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai, and it differs considerably from the older recipe provided by Beachbum Berry. Purists will note the use of Amaretto rather than Orgeat, and a mere 1½ ounces of rum.
The photo above is the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai sampled in 2019.
Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai (Modern Recipe)
Build in shaker with ice:
1 oz Bacardi Rum
1 tsp Cherry Vanilla Puree
½ oz Amaretto di Saronno
½ oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh Govinda Orange Juice
2 oz Fresh Govinda Pineapple Juice
½ oz Whaler’s Dark Rum Float
Roll the shaker, pour in a large “bucket” glass. Float with Whaler’s Dark Rum, garnish with a parasol with cherry, pineapple and lime wedge.
Compare to the 1956 Mai Tai
Note that both recipes differ considerably from the 1956 Mai Tai recipe that Trader Vic provided to a patron of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. That recipe is much closer to a traditional 1944 Mai Tai, though it is possible that in 1956 that the Mai Tais in Hawaii were still made without Pineapple and Orange juices.