If we were to tell you that in Tahiti, the word ‘maita’i’ means ‘good’ and that the drink itself contains tropical goodness in the form of rum, fresh lime and syrup, you may think that the cocktail was the invention of some thirsty, enterprising South Pacific barman. You’d be wrong.
It is an American concoction that first poured from the shaker of San Francisco’s famous Trader Vic’s in 1944. Feeling the need for a new rum cocktail, Vic Bergeron grabbed some 17 year-old Jamaican rum, lime, sugar syrup, a splash of orange curacao and French orgeat (an almond-flavoured syrup) and presented it to patrons Ham and Carrie Guild who were visiting from Tahiti.
“It’s maita’i roa ae!” said Carrie—in other words “out of this world, the best”.
In the 50s and 60s the Mai Tai became immensely popular, especially in the burgeoning US Tiki scene—Polynesian-themed clubs and eateries. The Mai Tai co-starred with Elvis Presley in the 1961 musical flick Blue Hawaii.
This recipe purports to be the original Trader Vic’s concoction.
6oml 17 year old Jamaican rum
15ml orgeat (almond syrup)
15ml orange curacao
Juice of one fresh lime
8ml rock candy syrup or simple syrup
Combine rum, orgeat, curacao, lime juice and syrup and shake. Pour into a highball glass over ice. Garnish with lime slice and mint sprig.