Skip to main content

Why there should be only one rum in a Mai Tai

The Mai Tai is a difficult drink - no let me rephrase this: bartender are often confused, when it comes to the recipe of a Mai Tai.

The main issue is the public. Unfortunately "common customers" love the name "Mai Tai". It reminds them on the tropics - and probably their past vacation there. Different when they went on vacation and drank a "not so great bottle of wine", which they though covered with their glorification of their experience (just to find out at home, that the wine hasn't been that great), the Mai Tai remains in their glorified memory - simply, because most consumers don't make cocktails at home.

So people remembered the "romanticized" name Mai Tai - but really didn't had a recollection about it - other than it tasted exotic (and let's face it - cocktails in a vacation destination aren't usually that great or authentic).

However there always has been a Mai Tai. Let's first of all turn to the rivalry between Don "the Beachcomber" and Vic "Trader Vics" Bergeron: while it seems, that Beachcombers Mai Tai is older (however there hasn't been a documented proof" of the authenticity of the claim, Trader's Vic's recipe is classic - it is the real deal!

On Punch there has been lately an article which compared several Mai Tai recipes. It is strange, that they compared only recipes with 2 rums.

The original recipe though only used one rum: Wray Nephews 17 years old. When the Mai Tai took off (and the rum was anyway discontinued) and all stocks were depleted, Vic Bergeron settled on Wray Nephews 15 years old. And when this rum has been depleted, the chain changed to an even younger Wray Nephews - but added the second rum in: a Rhum Agricole (which supposed to mimic the doubtless far more complex nature of the previous recipes).

It is easy to understand, that in the following years and decades, people further changed the recipe - and went to dark rum and often a white rum.
The real issue is, that bartender lost the original intention of a Mai Tai. The whole idea is not about having exactly the taste of the respective drink. Vic Bergeron has been clever and wise, when he created the original Mai Tai. He intended to create a classic. A cocktail, which celebrates its main ingredient (which has been incredible good quality - but also funky, due to its origin).
All ingredients are playing a role. The orange curaçao is modifying the drink and gives it a more'ish quality, the orgeat gives it uniqueness but at the same time supports the oak aged notes. The sugar syrup is obviously given sweetness, however it supports the orgeat, as adding too much orgeat would obviously overpower the drink. The lime is the counterpoint of the sweet ingredients and balances the drink out - and also gives it the classical sour character. And the rum stands tall and proud in the center of the drink and can shine.

The Mai Tai is thus not a traditional Tiki drink!

If you are a) using less quality rums (and yes dark rums are far less quality the same are white rums) you are undermining the main purpose of the Mai Tai.

The Mai Tai should be not a cheap drink. You don't buy a Ferrari with a 4 cylinder engine, only because you want to have a cheaper Ferrari! That doesn't make sense. Hence a Mai Tai should celebrate the Rum it is made with.

The rum should be Jamaican. It should be not a dark rum - but an aged rum (if you don't know what is the difference, why don't you check out this brilliant article truly written by yours - to understand a bit better....). And it should be rather old - I suggest 15 to 20 years old. And if possible it could have a higher alcohol content than 40% abv.

A long time ago, I have created an excellent Mai Tai with Cadenhead Jamaica Long Pond Estate 18 years old - but it seems, that the rum is long gone. However I have checked and there are several new versions of 17 and 18 years old Jamaica rums available: it seems that the Hampden distillery just throws their "old" rum stock around (several brands are offering their rum of this distillery). Long Pond Estate also offers still an old rum (however no more over Cadenhead it seems)...

The question though is how dark should be the rum. This is one of the (newer heard, never voiced) mysteries: while the Merchant Hotel in Belfast won an auction of several vintage bottles of Wray Nephews 17 years old, these bottles look quite dark. This seems not really surprising - however in the original Trader Vics article from 1944 (?) he mentioned, that the rum was rather golden - this is a pretty big contradiction (and no - stored spirits don't darken with time). Were there different versions of Wray & Nephews? Who knows... However several bottles of those 17 years old (...) Jamaica rums are rather golden and are bottled at a higher strength - and that happens to work in the Mai Tai rather well...


  1. Mai Tai is a perfect tropical drink. It is great for parties! Thanks for this informative article.
    Btw if you are interested in cocktail classes then we are offering them in San Francisco. Come and Join Us here


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to use citric acid - and why you might not want to use it anyway!

To be honest, I shied away of this topic, because I think, people can misinterpret this - big time. I don't want to be part of the problem - I want to be part of the solution!  But when Chris, over at A Bar Above  discussed this subject- I literally could not resist to join into "the discussion". Here is the video: I - however take a bit slower approach than Chris. What is citric acid? Chemical Compound Citric acid is a weak organic acid with the formula C6H8O7. It is a natural preservative/conservative and is also used to add an acidic or sour taste to foods and drinks. Wikipedia Formula: C6H8O7 Molar Mass: 192.124 g/mol Melting Point: 153C Density: 1.66 g/cm3 Boiling point: 175C Soluble in: Water Why is it controversial? In my "mixology world" it is controversial, as citric acid is the stuff, which makes the nightmarish sour mix [ preferably in powder form ] sour. Yeah - citric acid is the main ingredient in one of the most

"Monin Rocks!" - Really?

R ussell S anchez MONIN UAE MONIN Rocks @ HARD ROCK CAFE Dubai  — with   Rhiandro Gardiner  and Louie Aquias  at  Hard Rock Cafe . I have seen this on my Facebook timeline. And well... I wanted to write about Monin since quite a long time, but haven't. However this message was a catalyst, to speak up. It is already a couple of months ago, that I routinely checked the ingredient list of a Monin bottle. ...and was shocked.... Point is, that I have always defended Monin against my US colleagues as decent brand. At least with the products they offered here in the Middle East and in Europe; they came from their factory in France. Most of the ingredients [except lets say in Blue Curacao syrup] were natural. Long time ago, somebody from Monin explained, that this is due to the quite strict regulations in France for syrup - there it is a family culture to drink syrup sweetened water/seltzer. And off course especially for the k

What is the best cranberry juice in the bar?

A good friend of me "whatsapp'ed" me today and asked for my expertise: "What is the best cranberry juice?" I would loved to just let him know the brand - however it is not that easy. What do we understand of cranberry juice? One of the biggest [maybe the  biggest producer] of cranberry products is Ocean Spray. And: it is well regarded. Problem is: it is not a juice! Wait - what? Ocean Spray doesn't produce a juice - they produce a juice cocktail - which translates into a lot of water, a lot of sugar, some taste-balancers as citric acid [nothing against this really] and a minuscule portion of juice - usually around 3%. Yes they have something which is called 100% juice. Which is on one hand true, on the other the biggest deception ever. Because you don't get 100% cranberry - you get a mixture of juices of concentrate - most of the time apple and white grape and a bit of cranberry. There are also some other brands around, which might feature a h