Mai Tai (Trader Vic's) Cocktail Recipe

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Mai Tai (Trader Vic's) 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 created by Victor J. Bergeron, also known as Trader Vic, in 1944. It is said that he created the drink for some friends visiting from Tahiti, who upon tasting it, exclaimed 'Maita'i roa a'e!', which translates to 'very good!' in Tahitian. The Mai Tai became a popular cocktail in tiki bars and tropical-themed restaurants around the world.

  • Origin: Oakland, California
  • Creator: Victor J. Bergeron (Trader Vic)
  • Popularized in tiki bars and tropical-themed restaurants

How Mai Tai (Trader Vic's) Tastes?

The Mai Tai has a well-balanced, sweet, and tangy flavor profile with a hint of almond from the orgeat syrup. The combination of light and dark rums gives it a smooth, rich taste with a subtle hint of oakiness.

Interesting facts about Mai Tai (Trader Vic's)

  • The Mai Tai is often considered the quintessential tiki cocktail
  • The original recipe called for a specific type of rum, Wray & Nephew 17-year-old, which is no longer available
  • The name 'Mai Tai' comes from the Tahitian word for 'good'


Light Rum

Light rum adds a subtle, sweet cane sugar flavor while carrying the other tropical ingredients nicely. If you skimp on it, the drink could become overpoweringly tart.

Mary Mitkina

Dark Rum

Dark rum brings depth with its rich caramel and molasses notes. Too much can make the drink too heavy or boozy, while too little leaves it unbalanced.

Alex Green

Lime Juice

Lime juice is key for that refreshing zing; without it, the cocktail would lose its bright acidity. Balance is crucial to avoid it becoming too sour or too sweet.

Emma Rose

Orange Curacao

This citrus liqueur adds a slight orange kick. Substitute it with triple sec, and you’ll get a similar profile but with a lighter, less complex orange flavor.

Mary Mitkina

Orgeat Syrup

Orgeat contributes a sweet almond element that’s pretty unique, and skipping it would leave the Mai Tai lacking its signature flavor. Overdo it, and it could become too sweet.

Alex Green

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is there for extra sweetness to ensure balance against the tartness from the lime. Not using enough could result in a too-sharp drink, whereas too much would make it syrupy.

Emma Rose

Mint Sprig & Lime Shell

The mint sprig is more than a garnish; its fragrance enhances every sip, and the lime shell harks back to tropical origins. Without them, it’s like a beach without the ocean breeze.

Mary Mitkina

Recipe. How to make Mai Tai (Trader Vic's) Drink

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

Pro Tips

  • Shake the cocktail well to ensure all the ingredients are well mixed.
  • Use fresh lime juice for a better taste.
  • Chill the glass before serving for a refreshing experience.

Perfect Pairings

Food Pairings

  • Seafood: The citrus notes of the Mai Tai complement fresh dishes like sushi or ceviche.
  • Poultry: Try the Mai Tai with grilled chicken or turkey wraps for a satisfying combination.
  • Spicy Foods: The sweetness from the orgeat and curaçao can help offset the fiery spice of Thai or Caribbean cuisine.

Drink Pairings

  • Sparkling Water: To cleanse the palate between sips.
  • Chilled Green Tea: Its earthy flavor provides a nice contrast to the Mai Tai's sweetness.
  • Ginger Beer: For those who want a non-alcoholic beverage with a similar tropical vibe.

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What you could change in Mai Tai (Trader Vic's)

  • Light Rum: Can be replaced with any other white rum.
  • Dark Rum: Can be replaced with any other dark rum.
  • Orange Curacao: Can be replaced with Triple Sec.
  • Orgeat Syrup: Can be replaced with almond syrup.
  • Simple Syrup: Can be replaced with sugar syrup.

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And of course - twists🍹

Spiced Mai Tai

  • Replace light rum with a spiced rum for an extra kick
  • Add a cinnamon stick as garnish Spiced rum will add a warm, wintery twist to this tropical classic. The cinnamon stick not only works as a garnish but also infuses the drink with a subtle aromatic spice.

Passion Fruit Mai Tai

  • Add 0.5 oz of passion fruit puree
  • Replace orange curaçao with a passion fruit liqueur Integrating passion fruit brings a tangy, exotic twist. It’s for those who like a Mai Tai with a bit more punch and vibrancy.

Virgin Mai Tai

  • Use non-alcoholic rum alternatives
  • Increase lime juice to 1 oz and use a splash of almond extract in place of orgeat syrup Perfect for teetotalers, this non-alcoholic version retains the flavors without the buzz. Expect it to be more citrus-forward and nutty.

In case you forgot basics how to make Mai Tai (Trader Vic's)

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 (Trader Vic's)

What is the best way to enjoy a Mai Tai?

This drink is best enjoyed chilled, in a relaxed environment. It's perfect for summer parties, barbecues, or a quiet night in.

What kind of rum should I use for making the Mai Tai?

While the original recipe calls for a specific type of rum, modern versions of the Mai Tai cocktails are often made with a combination of light and dark rums, or even spiced rums.

Can the Mai Tai be served in a different glass?

Traditionally, the Mai Tai is served in a double old-fashioned glass. While a different glass could be used, it may alter the experience.

What is the importance of shaking the cocktail before serving?

Shaking a cocktail helps mix the ingredients together efficiently, providing a consistent flavor throughout the drink. It also helps to cool the drink, particularly if the shaker is filled with ice.

Are there any non-alcoholic versions of the Mai Tai?

Yes, a Virgin Mai Tai, also known as a No Tai Mai Tai, replaces the rum with pineapple juice and orange juice. The cocktail will maintain the same tropical flavors without the alcohol.

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