My My My, Here’s the Real History of the Mai Tai

Get Ready for National Mai Tai Day!
Mai Tai cocktail surrounded by tropical fruits. Rum pineapple orange juice garnished with slice of oranges and lime. Most popular cocktails series.

June 30, 2015 is NATIONAL MAI TAI DAY!

Like most everyone who loves to sip concoctions that come with little umbrellas and maybe a plastic monkey or two, we always thought our favorite rum-based tropical delight was first made in Hawaii. Turns out it originated in Oakland. Go figure, right?

Restaurateur Victor Bergeron, founder of the legendary Trader Vic’s, took full credit for the tasty beverage. On there’s this post, written by the late Bergeron to tell the world the real story: “Let’s get the record straight…I originated the Mai Tai. In 1944, after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year old Jamaican J. Wray Nephew rum, added fresh lime, some Orange Curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle flavor. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after.”

He goes on, “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.’”

Here’s Victor’s original recipe. Enjoy!

Mai Tai 


2 oz aged rum

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice, juiced lime half reserved

1/2 oz orange curacao

1/4 oz Rich Simple Syrup, also known as rock candy syrup

1/4 oz Orgeat

1 c crushed ice

1 mint sprig, for garnish


Combine all ingredients except the mint sprig in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, and pour the entire contents into a double Old Fashioned glass.

Garnish with the juiced lime half and a mint sprig.


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