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Who doesn’t love a good Mai Tai?  I’m talking about an authentic fruity drink, not too sweet and certainly not made with a pre-mixed power (ugh!)  And I love interesting Tiki mugs.  Think fruit garnishes, umbrellas, straws, and fancy cherries!  You can find all sorts of fun Tiki mugs on Ebay. This drink is festive and boozy so be careful. It reminds me of Polynesian restaurants and Pu pu platters.  One is enough on a Saturday night when you’re celebrating being at home. Note that I added a splash of orange juice but the Trader Vic recipe says that’s a no-no.  Let your conscience be your guide and ENJOY.

The following Mai Thai recipe and MT 411 is on the site.  It was part of an article written by

Martin Cate’s Tips for a Perfect Mai Tai

Who better to get Mai Tai tips from than San Francisco barman and rum aficionado Martin Cate? Not only did he just release a new book, Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, but his seven-year-old bar of the same name won Tales of the Cocktail’s 2016 Spirited Award for “Best American Cocktail Bar.”

courtesy of Martin Cate

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce orange curaçao (Pierre Ferrand preferred)
1/4 ounce orgeat
1/4 ounce rich demerara simple syrup (with a 2:1 ratio of water to sugar) — use real, full-flavored sugar in this drink
2 ounces aged pot still or blended rum

Combine all ingredients with 12 ounces of crushed ice and some cubes in a shaker. Shake until chilled and pour — ice and all — into a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with a spent lime shell and mint sprig. Some notes:

1) Fresh lime juice is critical. When squeezing, don’t press too hard — extract the juice, not the bitter pith.

2) The Mai Tai does not have pineapple juice in it. Or orange juice. Or any other juice besides lime. There is a recipe. It was handed down to us by Trader Vic. It’s not something “tropical” that you just toss together.

3) Historically, there is no “dark rum” float. It’s not in the original recipe. At the San Francisco Trader Vic’s in the 1970s, there was an old regular who liked his with a float of a 151 Demerara rum. The staff called it “Old Way,” not because it was an old recipe, but literally because the patron was old!

4) Trader Vic’s does not use umbrellas. The Trader didn’t like them, and they were never in his Mai Tais.

5) The Mai Tai is simply garnished with half of a spent lime shell and a fresh mint sprig, designed to look like a small island and palm tree on the surface of your drink: fragrant, attractive, and simple. Vic’s today also uses a pineapple and cherry pick, but it’s not traditional.

6) This cocktail was born with 100-percent pot-still Jamaican rum that was aged a minimum of 17 years. Rich in both body and oak flavors, there’s no exact substitute today, but look for either 100-percent pot-still or blended pot and column molasses-based rums. Much as the margarita is the perfect delivery vehicle for a wide range of tequilas, the Mai Tai is an elegantly simple delivery vehicle designed to accent and showcase great rum. Whether you blend rums, or even use rhum agricole in your mix, what counts is flavor and body. Just make it with bold, unapologetic rum(s). Suggested brands: Appleton Estate Reserve Blend, Denizen Merchant’s Reserve.

7) The drink is not blended. It’s shaken until it’s fresh and frosty, then served with the same ice you shook with. That’s tradition in exotic cocktails, and you should embrace it. Do not shake with the lime half in the shaker — it extracts too many oils and bitterness into the drink, and the peel should not be sunk. It’s meant to be rested on top.

8) Crushed, freshly made ice is key. Not puffy pellet ice. Crushing good, cold, hard cubes just prior to service creates the mouthfeel, correct dilution, and chilling that the Trader desired.

9) Serve in a wide mouth double rocks to really enjoy the bright fresh aromas. Feel that frosty glass in your hands. Drink in deeply and let the relaxation of the islands at twilight wash over you.


Mai Thai

Simple syrup


    Make the simple syrup. Melt sugar and water in a saucepan, and then cool.

    Step 1

    Mix the juices in a cocktail shaker. Add the simple syrup. Pour in the rum. Add two or three scoops of ice and shake, shake, shake. Pour into a tiki mug or cocktail glass. Garnish with cherries and fruit.

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      • Cindy Williams

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