Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

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Mai Tai Nutrition Facts






Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 7, 2024


The Mai Tai is a classic Polynesian-style cocktail that was created in 1944 by Victor J. Bergeron, the founder of Trader Vic's. It is said that he wanted to create a drink that showcased the flavors of the Caribbean, and the Mai Tai was born. The name 'Mai Tai' comes from the Tahitian word 'Maita'i', which means 'good' or 'excellent'. This cocktail quickly gained popularity and became a staple in tiki bars around the world.

  • The original recipe called for 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew Rum, which is no longer available.
  • The Mai Tai has been adapted and modified over the years, with many variations now existing.
  • This cocktail is often associated with tropical vacations and tiki culture.

How Mai Tai Tastes?

The Mai Tai has a balanced, sweet, and tangy taste with a hint of almond from the orgeat syrup. The combination of light and dark rums gives it a rich and complex flavor, while the lime juice adds a refreshing citrus note.

Interesting facts about Mai Tai

  • The Mai Tai is considered one of the quintessential tiki cocktails.
  • The original Mai Tai did not include any fruit juices, as many modern versions do.
  • The cocktail has been featured in numerous films and television shows, including the 1961 film 'Blue Hawaii' starring Elvis Presley.


Light Rum (1 oz)

This is the beach-in-a-glass soul of the Mai Tai. It contributes to the smoothness and tropical foundation. Too much, and you're steering the ship towards boozy oblivion; too little, and the drink lacks backbone. No light rum? Try white agricole rum for an earthy twist!

Mary Mitkina

Dark Rum (1 oz)

Dark rum gives the Mai Tai its molasses-like depth and complexity. Skip this, and you'll miss out on the sunset hues and the rich, caramel notes—like a beach without the warm sand. Feeling adventurous? Spiced rum can add a kick of vanilla and spice!

Emma Rose

Lime Juice (0.75 oz)

This zesty character adds freshness and balance to prevent the sweet ingredients from overwhelming the palate. Less juice makes the sweetness cloying; more juice, and you're puckering more than kissing. Think of it as the squeeze of lime your seafood taco desperately wants.

Alex Green

Orange Curaçao (0.5 oz)

A sweet, subtly bitter orange liqueur, this adds the citrusy sophistication. Without it, the drink is like a vacation without sun - something's definitely missing. Triple sec can hop in as a sub, but expect a lighter orangey touch.

Mary Mitkina

Orgeat Syrup (0.25 oz)

Oh, orgeat, the almond charmer! This nutty syrup is essential for that almondy caress in the Mai Tai. Without it, you're just waving at the tropics from afar. Too much, and it's like eating marzipan on the beach in a storm.

Emma Rose

Simple Syrup (0.25 oz)

The subtle sugary friend that makes sure the orgeat doesn't get too bossy. Without this little bit of sweetness, the drink could come off a bit sharp, like a gentleman without his bow tie.

Alex Green

Mint Sprig

So much more than a green hat! This fragrant garnish is your nose's first impression, lush and inviting. With each sip, it reminds you - you're on vacation, buddy, even if it's just in your backyard.

Mary Mitkina

Garnish: Lime Wheel and Cherry

The cocktail's jewelry. The lime wheel says, 'I'm still zesty', and the cherry, that sweet flirt, winks, 'And I've got the fun.' They're not just a pretty face; they contribute to the whole tropical escapade.

Emma Rose

Recipe. How to make Mai Tai Drink

  1. Fill a shaker with ice.
  2. Add the light rum, dark rum, lime juice, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, and simple syrup to the shaker.
  3. Shake well until chilled and combined.
  4. Strain the mixture into a glass filled with crushed ice.
  5. Garnish with a mint sprig, lime wheel, and cherry.

Pro Tips

  • Use fresh lime juice for the best flavor.
  • Shake the cocktail well to ensure all the ingredients are well combined.
  • Crushed ice is preferred as it dilutes the drink less.

Perfect Pairings


  • Especially good with grilled shrimp or ceviche due to the citrus notes in the cocktail that complement seafood flavors.

Asian Cuisine

  • The sweetness of the Mai Tai pairs pleasantly with spicy dishes from Thai or Vietnamese cuisine. Think spicy mango salad or lemongrass chicken. The cocktail's sweet and sour profile cuts through the heat.

Hawaiian Plates

  • A match made in tropical paradise with kalua pork and poke bowls. The cocktail's nutty flavor from the orgeat syrup goes hand in hand with these dishes.


  • BBQ ribs or pulled pork sandwiches balance with the Mai Tai's sweetness and acidity, making for a refreshing contrast.

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What you could change in Mai Tai

  • Light rum: Can be replaced with any other white rum.
  • Dark rum: Can be replaced with any other dark rum.
  • Orange curaçao: Can be replaced with triple sec or another orange liqueur.
  • Orgeat syrup: Can be replaced with almond syrup.

Explore all drinks starting with M here

And of course - twists🍹

Passion Fruit Mai Tai

  • Substitute traditional syrups with 0.5 oz of passion fruit syrup for an exotic, tangy twist. The result is a Mai Tai that takes your taste buds on a Polynesian voyage.

Spiced Mai Tai

  • Use spiced rum instead of dark rum and add a cinnamon stick garnish. This is for the adventurer who likes a treasure chest of flavors in their sip—the nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon from the spiced rum will make the flavors dance.

Mango Mai Tai

  • Add 1 oz of mango nectar to amplify the tropical vibes. Mango's rich sweetness will blend harmoniously with the orgeat and make your Mai Tai sunset even more picturesque.

In case you forgot basics how to make Mai Tai

The basic composition of simple syrup is relatively straightforward – a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. This mixture is heated until the sugar dissolves, resulting in a clear, sweet syrup.

Learn everything about simple syrup

Add your ingredients to the shaker first, then ice. Fill it up to ¾ of its capacity to ensure enough space for shaking. Hold the shaker with both hands (one on the top and one on the bottom) and shake vigorously. The shake should come from your shoulders, not your wrists.

Learn everything on how to shake

Place your chosen strainer on top of the shaker or mixing glass, ensuring a secure fit. Pour the cocktail into a glass through the strainer, which will catch solid ingredients and ice. If double straining, hold the fine mesh strainer between the shaker and the glass.

Learn everything on how to strain

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

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Frequently Asked Questions on Mai Tai

What does 'Tiki culture' refer to?

Tiki culture or 'Tiki pop' is a style that began in the United States in the mid-20th century. It is inspired by the romanticized perception of tropical cultures, particularly Polynesian.

Is there a non-alcoholic version of the Mai Tai?

Yes, there are non-alcoholic versions known as 'mocktails'. Typically these will use tropical juices to replicate the sweet and tangy flavors of the original Mai Tai.

What kind of glass is best to serve a Mai Tai in?

The Mai Tai is traditionally served in a 'double old-fashioned' glass, but can also be served in a highball glass or a novelty 'Tiki' mug.

What is the meaning of 'curaçao'?

Curaçao refers to a type of liqueur made from the dried peel of the Laraha citrus fruit, native to the island of Curaçao in the Caribbean.

Why is the cherry often used as a garnish?

The cherry provides a pop of color contrast against the cocktail, and adds a layer of sweetness when eaten towards the end of the drink.

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