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The Mai Tai - an opinionated review.

It seems, that the Mai Tai got quite a revival these days. I seen it on quite a lot of menus - unfortunately in the most despicable recipes and ingredients lists.

Let’s first of all state, what the Mai Tai isn’t: the Mai Tai isn’t your typical tiki drink. For sure - it started in a Tiki restaurant - and it has been the creation of one of the two most iconic Tiki fathers - it was either way Don the Beachcomber or Vic “Trader Vic’s” Bergeron.

And while nobody seems to know, who really have been the first who named their cocktail “Mai Tai” - only Trader Vic provided the iconic recipe, which has been copied, simplified and abused.

Look, the Beachcomber recipe is the typical Tiki drink - which is far too strong, uses far too many ingredients - you get the point. No - this isn’t a rant about Tiki drinks...

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai is a combination of great aged funky rum, quality orange liqueur, orgeat and fresh lime - and maybe a hint of hyper concentrated sugar syrup. That’s it. It is a bit like a daisy or a fancy sour. You can taste the rum - the orange liqueur and orgeat syrup (which is a fancy almond syrup) are just supporting the rum aromas. It is an amazing concoction.

However - if you strip away the greatness - not much is left. Far too many bars are using two different rums - non of them particularly good quality products.

So how ddid the confusion with the two different rums started? Well - it started all in Trader Vic’s - the original rum: Wray Nephews 17 years old has been never intended to be a mass product - and soon the stocks were depleted. Next in line has been Wray Nephews 15 years old - which has been though also depleted with the success of the cocktail (and the Trader Vic’s bar restaurant chain).
After that, somebody seemed to have had the idea, to mix a Rhum Agricole with a dark Jamaican rum, to achieve the same aromas of the original cocktail. My experience for sure denies to believe for one second, that this worked. Further there were a lot of bars, which didn’t even had simple Rhum Agricole.
Additionally there has been (in other bars) the misconception about ingredients: a pineapple piece has been the original garnish in a Mai Tai from the humble beginning - but bartenders seemed to confuse the garnish with an additional ingredient: pineapple juice. Don’t even ask me, who had the idea to add simply stupid ingredients like grenadine...

Long story short - the best way to return the credit to the Mai Tai, is using one great rum. For the moment we are using at Noir Appleton 21 years old (as the 18 years old is no longer available). And it is a great Mai Tai - for sure not cheap, but incredible complex and classy.  

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