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Two originals, one great Mai Tai taste

Bastian Heuser

Mai tai roa ae – “Out of this world!“ was the outcry of Vic Bergeron’s friends Ham and Carrie Gould when Vic served them up the first Mai Tai in the year of 1944. A simple but very reasonable description of this delicious rum concoction.


This icon of a whole era has been heavily bastardized over the years to a point where all reason fails. Most of the times when you order a Mai Tai you will receive a tropical fruit punch with a good lacing of cheap rum of pretty much any provenance. A truly sad development.

“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 …“ so Trader Vic in 1970 said about his recipe of the Mai Tai.

The truth is that this bottle of 17 year old Jamaican rum would today be the cost equivalent of a nice mid-sized car of German descent. If you don’t have to look after the penny take the plane to Belfast and enter The Merchant Hotel. There you can still enjoy the pleasures of a Mai Tai with said rum for a wee 750 GBP. Now that is “out of this world“!

But enough of Trader Vic. There was someone else who allegedly invented a drink called a Mai Tai and it was no one else but Don the Beachcomber, the true inventor of the Tiki era. But the recipe never really caught on due to its much dryer and spicier aroma profile. A shame since it is a truly grown up version of a Mai Tai!

Wherever and whenver you will order your next Mai Tai, just make sure the bartenders know what they are doing. Do not let them get away with a rum & fruit punch, it’s the real Mai Tai that you need to be longing for, be it Trader Vic’s or Don the Beachcomber’s version!

Mai Tai, Don the Beachcomber

45 ml British Navy style rum

30 ml Golden Spanish style rum (f.e. Barcelo)

20 ml Lime juice

30 ml Pink grapefruit juice

10 ml Falernum

15 ml Triple sec

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes Absinth



Tiki Mug/Highball


Lime zest, mint


Pour all ingredients in the shaker add ice cubes and shake thoroughly. Strain over curshed ice.

(adapted recipe from Hawaii – “Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine” by Don the Beachcomber, Arnold Bitner & Phoebe Beach, 2001)


Mai Tai, Trader Vic’s

60 ml Golden Rum 

15 ml Orange Curacao

10 ml Orgeat

1 Bsp Sugar syrup

30 ml Lime juice





Mint, lime shell


Pour all ingredients in the shaker add ice cubes and shake thoroughly. Strain over curshed ice.

(Adapted from “Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log”, Jeff Berry, 1998)




‘The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc’.

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