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Mai Tai

Cotswold Cocktail School - Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

ABV 24.5% / 3.5 alcoholic units

Primary spirit: Rum

A Brief History of the Mai Tai

The Mai Tai's origin is traced to the legendary Trader Vic's, a tiki bar in Oakland, California, where in the 1940s, Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron claimed to have created the cocktail. It quickly gained popularity and became synonymous with the tiki culture of the mid-20th century. The name "Mai Tai" is believed to mean "out of this world" or "the best" in Tahitian, a fitting description for a cocktail that transports you to an exotic realm.

Taste and Flavour Profile

The Mai Tai is a harmonious blend of tropical sweetness and citrus zing:

  • Rum: Premium aged rum, often a blend of light and dark rums, provides the cocktail with a rich, smooth, and slightly caramelised flavour.
  • Citrus: Fresh lime juice adds a zesty and tangy character that balances the sweetness of the other ingredients.
  • Orgeat Syrup: This almond-flavoured syrup contributes sweetness and a subtle nuttiness to the cocktail.
  • Orange Liqueur: Orange liqueurs, such as triple sec or orange curaçao, enhance the citrus notes and provide a layer of complexity.
  • Garnishes: A sprig of fresh mint and a slice of lime are traditional garnishes that add freshness and aroma. But given it's tropical appeal you can experiment with pineapple leaves, a pineapple slice and maraschino cherry, lifting the theatrics of a Mai Tai.

The result is a cocktail that's as vibrant as a tropical sunset—a taste of paradise that's both refreshing and indulgent.

Food Pairings

To complement the tropical allure of the Mai Tai, consider these delectable food pairings:

  • Tropical Fruit Salad: A refreshing blend of fresh pineapple, mango, papaya, and kiwi complements the cocktail's exotic flavours.
  • Spicy Asian Cuisine: Thai or Vietnamese dishes with a touch of spice, such as pad Thai or lemongrass chicken, harmonise with the cocktail's zesty and sweet notes.
  • Tiki-Inspired Appetisers: Serve tiki-style appetisers like coconut shrimp, crab rangoon, or pineapple chicken skewers for a complete tiki experience.
  • Grilled Seafood: Grilled shrimp, scallops, or mahi-mahi with a tropical fruit salsa make for an ideal pairing with the Mai Tai.

Bar Equipment:

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Jigger
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Rocks glass


  • 45ml white rum
  • 25ml orange curaçao
  • 25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 15ml Orgeat syrup
  • 15ml dark rum
  • Garnish: lime wheel and mint sprig


  • Add the white rum, curaçao, lime juice and orgeat into a shaker with ice and lightly shake for 3-5 seconds
  • Pour into a rocks glass filled with ice
  • Float the dark rum on top
  • Garnish with the lime wheel and mint sprig

What are the best rums for a Mai Tai?

The best rums for a Mai Tai cocktail typically involve a combination of light and dark rums. This blend creates a well-balanced flavor profile with both the richness of the dark rum and the crispness of the light rum. Here are some popular choices for each type:

Light Rum:

  • Bacardi Superior: A classic light rum with a clean and mild profile that allows the other ingredients to shine.
  • Appleton Estate Signature Blend: A Jamaican light rum that adds a touch of tropical fruitiness to the Mai Tai.
  • Plantation 3 Stars: A white rum blend with a complex flavour profile, featuring notes of banana, coconut, and citrus.

Dark Rum:

  • Appleton Estate Reserve Blend: A Jamaican dark rum with rich and complex flavours, including hints of vanilla and spice.
  • Myers's Original Dark Rum: A Jamaican dark rum known for its deep, molasses-like sweetness and robust character.
  • Ron del Barrilito 3-Star: A Puerto Rican dark rum that combines elements of light and dark rums, offering a balanced sweetness and complexity.

For a Mai Tai, you can use a 75/25 blend of light and dark rums to achieve a well-rounded and flavourful base. However, the exact proportions and brands you choose can be adjusted to suit your personal taste preferences. Experimenting with different rum combinations can also add depth and complexity to your Mai Tai, allowing you to tailor it to your liking.

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