Mai Tai

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

The refreshing ”Tiki” cocktail made easy!

Prep time: less than 5 minutes

Yields 1 Cocktail

Mai Tai is the cocktail most associated with themed Tiki bars and restaurants in the United States, specially in California and Hawaii. It is another favorite here at home. It is very easy to make and it is a crowd pleaser. Perfect for social gatherings, parties, or when on holiday!

This particular recipe is my own interpretation of a Mai Tai yet close to the original recipe: smooth, semi-sweet, bitter tones, and loaded with a good amount of alcohol.

What is the flavor profile?

Not too Sweet, nutty, and fruity with bitter and tart notes.

What Ingredients will I need to make this cocktail?

White and dark rums, Amaretto, Orange Curaçao, grenadine, lime juice, fresh mint, crushed ice, maraschino cherries.

What else will I need to make this?

A cutting board, a knife, a shaker, a measuring cup, and an Old Fashion Glass or a short cocktail glass.

Can I make substitutions?

Yes. You can use Orgeat instead of Amaretto.

Origins of Mai Tai

Victor J. Bergeron claimed to have invented the Mai Tai in 1944 at his restaurant, Trader Vic's, in Oakland, California. Trader Vic's forerunner, Donn Beach, claimed to have instead first created it in 1933, although a longtime colleague said that Beach was actually just alleging that the Mai Tai was based on his Q.B. Cooler cocktail. Don the Beachcomber's recipe is more complex than that of Vic's and some believe tastes quite different. Others believe that despite the difference in ingredients that they taste quite similar.

Most current recipes for Mai Tais based on Trader Vic's 1944 recipe include rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and orange liqueur (typically orange curaçao). Variants may include the addition of amaretto, falernum, bitters, grenadine, orange and grapefruit juices, and so on. Various books from Victor Bergeron described using rum from Jamaica as well as from Martinique, which in modern usage is a Rhum Agricole. As noted in Smuggler's Coveby Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate, the Martinique rums used by Bergeron in the 1950s were most certainly not agricole rums. Overproof rums are sometimes added to make stronger versions, but Cate says references to such use as being from "the old way" was only because a 151 proof (75%) demerara float was the preferred variation of a frequent elderly customer.

What does Mai Tai mean?

The name was allegedly taken from maita'i, the Tahitian word for "good" or "excellence", although the drink is usually spelled as two words, sometimes hyphenated or capitalized.

Why is Mai Tai so popular?

The Mai Tai became such a popular cocktail in the 1950s–60s that many restaurants, particularly tiki-themed restaurants or bars, served them. The Mai Tai was also prominently featured in the Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii.

The Mai Tai is the usual drink of the character Frannie Halcyon in the Armistead Maupin book series, "Tales of the City".

As of 2008, Trader Vic's Restaurant chain began to open small establishments called Mai Tai Bars that primarily serve cocktails and pupus (appetizers).

What is Amaretto?

Amaretto (Italian for "a little bitter") is a sweet Italian liqueur that originated in Saronno, Italy. While originally flavoured from bitter almonds, various modern commercial brands are prepared from a base of apricot stones, peach stones, or almonds, all of which are natural sources of the benzaldehyde that provides the principal almond-like flavor of the liqueur.

When served as a beverage, amaretto can be drunk by itself, used as an ingredient to create several popular mixed drinks, or added to coffee. Amaretto is also commonly used in culinary applications.

What is Orange Curaçao?

Curaçao liqueur is traditionally made with the dried peels of the laraha. Laraha is a bitter orange native to Curaçao. Spanish explorers brought the bitter Seville orange to the island in 1527, the progenitor of the laraha. Although the bitter flesh of the laraha is unpalatable, the peels are pleasantly aromatic.

What is Grenadine?

Grenadine is a commonly used, non-alcoholic bar syrup, characterized by a flavor that is both tart and sweet, and by a deep red color. It is popular as an ingredient in cocktails, both for its flavor and to give a reddish or pink tint to mixed drinks and is traditionally made from pomegranate.

Let's Make It!


  • 1 oz of white rum

  • 1 oz of dark rum

  • 3/4 oz orange curaçao

  • 2 oz of Amaretto

  • 3/4 oz of lime juice

  • dash of grenadine

  • 1 lime for garnish

  • fresh mint for garnish

  • maraschino cherries for garnish

  • crushed ice


  1. In a shaker add the orange curaçao, Amaretto di Amore, white rum, and lime juice. Shake for 5 seconds.

  2. Pour onto an Old Fashion glass or a short glass with crushed ice.

  3. Slowly add the grenadine followed by the dark rum, making sure the rum remains on top.

  4. Garnish with a slice of lime, a maraschino cherry, and fresh mint.


Printable PDF Recipe File Below:

Mai Tai
Download PDF • 12.08MB

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