Trader Vic's World-Famous Mai Tai
By Todd Wilbur
Mai Tai creator and restaurateur Victor Bergeron well-documented his original secret formula: His recipe from 1944 is a delicious blend of 17-year-old rum, lime juice, orange curacao, simple syrup and orgeat for a subtle flavoring of almond. When Vic's Tahitian friends sipped his new creation, they said "Mai Tai Roa Ae"—Tahitian for "out of this world, the best." So Vic named his drink "Mai Tai," and the rest is cocktail history.
The recipe has changed throughout the years using younger rums and various fruit and citrus juice measurements—you can find these other versions of the Mai Tai posted around the Internet. There is even a Trader Vic's Mai Tai mixer available in some stores. But nowhere will you find a formula for the "World-Famous" $9.50 caramel-colored cocktail currently served at the 30 Trader Vic's restaurants that dot the globe. Why not? Because the secret ingredient in the current recipe is a concentrated syrup that is only available for commercial use at the restaurant chain. And that's the first formula we need to duplicate to get the exact flavors of the restaurant version into our home clone. I secured some of this "secret" concentrated mix, and figured out how to clone it using a super-sweet simple syrup solution plus orange and almond extracts. That's the first step. After that, add lime juice, lemon juice and dark rum, plus the syrup to a glass full of crushed ice; apply the proper garnishes; and you will have recreated two refreshing servings of one of the world's most famous cocktails.
This recipe is available in
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 small lime
- 2 ounces fresh lemon juice
- 4 ounces dark rum (such as Myers's)
- 2 pineapple wedges
- 2 maraschino cherries
- 2 sprigs of mint
- Do This
1. Make Mai Tai syrup by combining the sugar and hot water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange and almond extract.
2. Make each drink by filling a 12-ounce glass with crushed ice. Add the juice of 1/2 of a small lime, 1 ounce lemon juice, 2 ounces dark rum, and 1 ounce of the Mai Tai syrup. Pour the drink into a cocktail shaker, shake well, and pour it back into the glass.
3. Garnish each drink with the squeezed lime halves, plus a wedge of fresh pineapple and a maraschino cherry speared on a skewer. Stick a sprig of mint in there, add a straw to each, and serve.
Makes 2 drinks.
I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker
For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.