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Mai Tai (Original Formula)

Shake all ingredients over cracked ice. Pour into highball glass. Garnish with half of the spent lime shell in the drink and a sprig of mint at the edge of the glass.

Prep Time 1 minute
Servings 1
Category Tropical
Tags 1933-1969 (Tiki to Martinis), Classic, Tiki
Proof 37.1
Strength 1.6 standard drinks
Glass Collins Glass
Temp Cold

This is Trader Vic's original formula for the Mai Tai, which he invented in 1944. He used a J. Wray and Nephew 17 Year rum that soon ran out due to the popularity of the drink.

Trader Vic tells the tale...

I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year-old rum. It was J. Wray Nephew from Jamaica; surprisingly golden in color, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavor particular to the Jamaican blends. The flavor of this great rum wasn't meant to be overpowered with heavy additions of fruit juices and flavorings. I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy Syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle almond flavor. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went in for color ...

I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti, who were there that night. Carrie took one sip and said, 'Mai Tai - Roa Ae'. In Tahitian this means 'Out of This World - The Best'. Well, that was that. I named the drink 'Mai Tai'. 

I am substituting one of the finest Jamaican rums I know of (Wray and Nephew own the Appleton brand). You may step down to Appleton Extra rum if you want. I am also using a quality Orange Curacao along with a very good bottling of Orgeat Syrup. I have found the rock candy syrup to be unneccesary and so have removed it.

Ingredient Profile

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