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Mai Tai: We unwrap the island mystery which combines tropical flavors with a blend of fascinating rums!

The term Tiki refers to large wood and stone anthropomorphic figures, which resembled the first man, according to the Polynesian culture. The Tiki phenomenon made its appearance around 1940-1950 with Donn The Beachcomber and Victor Jules Bergeron (also known as Trader Vic). Popular cocktails as the “Zombie” , the “Mai Tai”, the “Scorpion” and the “Fog Cutter” belong to the Tiki cocktail world. Tiki bartenders were so secretive about their recipes and the ingredients, that the Polynesian “fad” rapidly died out. Fortunately, during the last decade, the Tiki phenomenon has begun to take life again thanks to the efforts of many global bartenders.

A Tiki drink is, usually, heavily dominated by aged or spiced rums, whose impressive characteristics hardly disappear and they love being paired with bitters and fresh juices of lime, orange, pineapple and grapefruit. Quality almond syrups, tasty orange liqueurs and hints of spices like clove or vanilla, are only a few common Tiki components. Of course orange slices, maraschino cherries, mint sprigs, beautiful flowers, umbrellas and colorful straws always add extra value to the drinks’ garnish. Jef Beachbum Berry is one of the biggest Tiki adventurers and rum experts across the globe. He is the author of several Tiki books like the Grog Log, Intoxica!, Taboo Table and Sippin’ Safari. “The Mai Tai war has raged for over half a century and it ain’t over yet  […]  But the truth is that while Donn [The Beachcomber] created a Mai Tai, [Trader] Vic created the Mai Tai – independently of Donn”, Beachbum writes in his book Beachbum Berry Remixed.
I have tried many variations for the Mai Tai cocktail, during my bartending career. Some of them included grenadine or Amaretto liquer while others combined different rums and syrup ratios. But I have finally concluded that this is the recipe that makes a really interesting and complicated drink:

Mai Tai

  • 30 ml Appleton Estate Jamaican rum 12 years old
  • 30 ml Trois Rivieres (amber Martinique rhum agricole) 
  • 15 ml Gabriel Boudier Orange Fine Champagne liquer (40% abv)
  • 30 ml fresh lime juice
  • 10 ml Monin orgeat syrup
  • 10 ml simple sugar syrup (1 : 1)

Pour all the liquids into a mixing glass. Add lots of ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a Highball glass or a Tiki Mug. Garnish with a spearmint sprig.