When it comes to tiki cocktails, nothing can beat the classic Mai Tai. The combination of tangy lime with almond liqueur and really good rums…yes two rums, makes this drink one of a kind!
The Best Classic Mai Tai Recipe
It’s tropical night in our house and we are making Japanese style shrimp and fried rice bowls with Mai Tai to wash it all down. When it comes to classic tiki cocktails, the Mai Tai is one of my absolute favorites to drink. Beware however! These are strong cocktails with not much in the way of mixers, but also incredibly tasty.
This is the best version of a classic Mai Tai and the recipe we love to make at home. Mai Tais are perfect for serving with Sticky Glazed Chicken and pineapple fried rice for a tropical dinner.
The History of the Mai Tai
The Mai Tai was first created in 1944 by Victor J. Bergeron at his restaurant Trader Vic’s to highlight the flavors of really good quality aged rum. It wasn’t fruity or overly sweet, just a combination of two varieties of rum, French Orgeat which is an almond syrup, lime juice, and orange liqueur.
The Best Rums to Use in a Mai Tai
I am far from being a rum connoisseur but you can find good aged rums that cost between $20-$30 at most grocery or liqueur stores. You will need both a white rum for the base of the drink and a dark rum for the floater on top. We use Bacardi Superior this time around because it’s a good mixing rum and light in flavor.
For the dark rum floater we used Meyers but if you are looking for a really good dark rum, Appleton or Mount Gay make delicious varieties.
How to Make a Mai Tai
This drink might look fancy but it really couldn’t be more simple to make! Here’s how to do it….
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice combine all of the liquors aside from the dark rum, that will be floated on top later, and shake just for a few seconds to combine.
- Strain into an ice filled tumbler and float the dark rum on top.
- Garnish with a slice of lime. Traditionally Mai Tais are garnished with lime and mint however, I garnish with lime and cherry.
How to Float Liquor on top of a Cocktail
The final step in creating that signature Mai Tai look is to float 1/2 ouch of dark rum right over the mixed drink. The easiest way to do this is to lay a spoon over the top of the cocktail, almost touching the ice, and slowly drizzle the rum over the spoon. This helps it float and not sink in the drink. Isn’t that pretty?!
Possible Substitutions in a Mai Tai
A CLASSIC Mai Tai calls for a few ingredients that can be tough to find unless you shop at a specialty store such as BevMo, such as orgeat and orange curaçao. Below are the original ingredients of a Mai Tai and what I like to use as substitutes.
- White & Dark Rums – there is no substitute for these ingredients as they make up the majority of the drink and the flavor.
- Orange Curaçao – this is an orange liqueur and while the flavor profile is a bit different, you can use Cointreau as a substitute. Do not use blue curaçao however!
- Orgeat – this is an almond flavored syrup that is classically used in Tiki Drinks. If you can’t find this you can use Trader Vics Amaretto although you will be adding more alcohol by substituting Amaretto.
- Lime Juice – gotta use fresh squeezed for this! You will need about 1 1/2 – 2 limes per drink.
More Tropical Cocktail Recipes to Love!
If you make this Mai Tai Recipe, or any of my cocktail recipes, I’d love to know! Please leave a comment and rating on this post and feel free to share on Instagram and tag me @freutcake so that I can give you a virtual cheers. Happy tiki cocktail making!
- 1 1/2 ounces white rum
- 3/4 ounce orange curaçao *see substitution notes below
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce orgeat *see substitution notes below
- 1/2 ounce dark rum
- Garnish: lime wheel and cherry or fresh mint
- Fill a cocktail tumbler with ice and set aside.
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine white rum, orange curaçao, lime juice, and orgeat. Shake for just a few seconds to combine.
- Strain into ice filled glass.
- Top with a floater of dark rum *see blog post for tips on floating rum.
- Garnish and enjoy!
- Orange Curaçao - this is an orange liqueur and while the flavor profile is a bit different, you can use Cointreau as a substitute. Do not use blue curaçao however!
- Orgeat - this is an almond flavored syrup that is classically used in Tiki Drinks. If you can't find this you can use Trader Vics Amaretto although you will be adding more alcohol by substituting Amaretto.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 175Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 6mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 1g