Mai Tai Cocktail Drink

Mai Tai

A shot of Gavin Wrigley looking to the camera in a dimly lit room
Written by Gavin Wrigley
Andrea
Tested by
Andrea Ottaiano

If you want to make a great drink, try this Mai Tai recipe. This cocktail is easy to whip up and enjoy with just a few ingredients.

Mai Tai Recipe

Enjoy a great summer with this simple Mai Tai recipe! It's the perfect drink for relaxing in the sun, made with rum, lime, and a few more ingredients.

Prep time:

1 minute

Mixing time:

1 minute

Servings:

1

Calories:

222 kl

Ingredients

  • 2 oz White Rum
  • ¾ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz orange Curaçao
  • ½ oz orgeat syrup
  • Ice cubes
  • Mint sprig and lime wheel, for garnish, optional

Equipment

  • Rocks or Tiki Glass
  • Measuring Jigger
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Strainer

Instructions

  • Prep Glass: Fill your highball or tiki glass with ice cubes and stir it for a few seconds to chill it.
  • Add Orgeat syrup: Pour ½ oz orgeat syrup into your cocktail shaker.
  • Add Lime juice: Measure and pour ¾ oz fresh lime juice.
  • Add Orange Curacao: Add ½ oz orange Curaçao to the mix.
  • Add White Rum: Complete the mixture by adding 2 oz White Rum.
  • Shake Well: Ice up the shaker and shake the mixture vigorously until well-chilled.
  • Strain: Strain the mixture into your prepared glass over fresh ice cubes.
  • Garnish: Add a mint sprig and a lime wheel for garnish.

Notes

Substitutes:

I've had to get creative with ingredients before. Here are some options:
  • White Rum: You can use dark rum or spiced rum for a deeper flavor profile for some added kick.
  • Orange Curacao: Triple sec or Cointreau work as good alternatives.
  • Orgeat Syrup: Almond syrup or a simple syrup infused with almond extract can fill in if you can't find orgeat.

Making a Pitcher of Mai Tai:

  • Scale: To make a pitcher that serves 8, multiply all the ingredients by 8. That means 16 oz of white rum, 6 oz of fresh lime juice, 4 oz of orange Curacao, and 4 oz of orgeat syrup.
  • Mix: Combine all the ingredients in a large pitcher and stir well.
  • Serve: Pour the mixture into ice-filled glasses, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • White Rum Substitute: Use a non-alcoholic rum substitute that mimics the flavor without the alcohol.
  • Proceed As Usual: Use these non-alcoholic substitutes instead of the regular ingredients and follow the original steps to enjoy a non-alcoholic version.

Making it Vegan:

  • Orgeat Syrup: Ensure your orgeat syrup doesn't contain any non-vegan additives. If making homemade orgeat, use plant-based milk.

Nutrition Facts

Calories
222
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
0.01
g
0
%
Sodium
 
4
mg
0
%
Carbohydrates
 
17
g
6
%
Fiber
 
0.1
g
0
%
Sugar
 
15
g
17
%
Potassium
 
26
mg
1
%
Protein
 
0.1
g
0
%
Vitamin A
 
11
IU
0
%
Vitamin C
 
6
mg
7
%
Calcium
 
3
mg
0
%
Iron
 
0.04
mg
0
%

 

Mai Tai Cocktail Drink

Mai Tai Recipe

Gavin Wrigley Written by Gavin Wrigley
Jump to Video
Enjoy a great summer with this simple Mai Tai recipe! It's the perfect drink for relaxing in the sun, made with rum, lime, and a few more ingredients.
Prep time: 1 minute
Mixing time: 1 minute
Servings: 1
Calories: 222

Ingredients
 

  • 2 oz White Rum
  • ¾ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz orange Curaçao
  • ½ oz orgeat syrup
  • Ice cubes
  • Mint sprig and lime wheel - for garnish, optional

Equipment

  • Rocks or Tiki Glass
  • Measuring Jigger
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Strainer

Instructions

  • Prep Glass: Fill your highball or tiki glass with ice cubes and stir it for a few seconds to chill it.
  • Add Orgeat syrup: Pour ½ oz orgeat syrup into your cocktail shaker.
  • Add Lime juice: Measure and pour ¾ oz fresh lime juice.
  • Add Orange Curacao: Add ½ oz orange Curaçao to the mix.
  • Add White Rum: Complete the mixture by adding 2 oz White Rum.
  • Shake Well: Ice up the shaker and shake the mixture vigorously until well-chilled.
  • Strain: Strain the mixture into your prepared glass over fresh ice cubes.
  • Garnish: Add a mint sprig and a lime wheel for garnish.

Notes

Substitutes:

I've had to get creative with ingredients before. Here are some options:
  • White Rum: You can use dark rum or spiced rum for a deeper flavor profile for some added kick.
  • Orange Curacao: Triple sec or Cointreau work as good alternatives.
  • Orgeat Syrup: Almond syrup or a simple syrup infused with almond extract can fill in if you can't find orgeat.

Making a Pitcher of Mai Tai:

  • Scale: To make a pitcher that serves 8, multiply all the ingredients by 8. That means 16 oz of white rum, 6 oz of fresh lime juice, 4 oz of orange Curacao, and 4 oz of orgeat syrup.
  • Mix: Combine all the ingredients in a large pitcher and stir well.
  • Serve: Pour the mixture into ice-filled glasses, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • White Rum Substitute: Use a non-alcoholic rum substitute that mimics the flavor without the alcohol.
  • Proceed As Usual: Use these non-alcoholic substitutes instead of the regular ingredients and follow the original steps to enjoy a non-alcoholic version.

Making it Vegan:

  • Orgeat Syrup: Ensure your orgeat syrup doesn't contain any non-vegan additives. If making homemade orgeat, use plant-based milk.

What is a Mai Tai cocktail?

A Mai Tai is a classic cocktail that blends rum, lime juice, orange Curacao, and orgeat syrup. It’s believed to have originated in the 1940s, making it a relatively modern addition to the cocktail scene. The name “Mai Tai” comes from the Tahitian word for “good,” a fitting descriptor for this well-balanced drink. You don’t need to be a seasoned bartender to appreciate a Mai Tai. This iconic cocktail may seem elaborate, but it’s surprisingly straightforward, and its recognition as an International Bartenders Association (IBA) official cocktail cements its status in the global cocktail repertoire.

A side shot of a Mai Tai cocktail in a rocks glass on a wooden coaster placed on a brown placemat on a white table with a cinnamon stick and a lime wheel on a side, in front of a cocktail shaker and three limes.

What are the Mai Tai ingredients?

Prepping for a Mai Tai? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • White Rum: Provides an alcoholic base and tropical flavor.
  • Lime Juice: Adds tartness to balance the sweetness.
  • Orange Curacao: Infuses the drink with citrus and subtle bitterness.
  • Orgeat Syrup: Sweetens the cocktail and adds a hint of almond flavor.
  • Ice Cubes: Chills the ingredients for a refreshing experience.
  • Mint Sprig and Lime Wheel: Serve as a garnish, adding visual appeal and a burst of aroma.

White Rum, Orange Curacao, orgeat syrup and two limes laid out on a white bar table.

How do you make a Mai Tai cocktail?

Embark on creating a Mai Tai with our structured guide:

1
<p>First, stir some ice cubes in a rocks or tiki glass to prepare your glass for the cocktail.</p>

First, stir some ice cubes in a rocks or tiki glass to prepare your glass for the cocktail.

2
<p>Grab a shaker and start by pouring orgeat syrup, adding the almond sweetness.</p>

Grab a shaker and start by pouring orgeat syrup, adding the almond sweetness.

3
<p>Pour lime juice, adding the citrus base to the cocktail.</p>

Pour lime juice, adding the citrus base to the cocktail.

4
<p>Continue with Orange Curacao, imparting a tangy flavor to the mixture.</p>

Continue with Orange Curacao, imparting a tangy flavor to the mixture.

5
<p>Finish with Light Rum, giving the cocktail its alcoholic soul.</p>

Finish with Light Rum, giving the cocktail its alcoholic soul.

6
<p>Fill your cocktail shaker with ice cubes.</p>

Fill your cocktail shaker with ice cubes.

7
<p>Shake the mixture vigorously until you feel it’s well-chilled.</p>

Shake the mixture vigorously until you feel it’s well-chilled.

8
<p>Remove the ice cubes from your chilled rock glass.</p>

Remove the ice cubes from your chilled rock glass.

9
<p>Refill your empty and chilled rock glass with fresh ice cubes.</p>

Refill your empty and chilled rock glass with fresh ice cubes.

10
<p>Strain the chilled liquid from the shaker into your prepared glass, ensuring it flows over the ice.</p>

Strain the chilled liquid from the shaker into your prepared glass, ensuring it flows over the ice.

11
<p>Finish off by adding a mint sprig and a lime wheel as garnish for visual appeal and a burst of aroma.</p>

Finish off by adding a mint sprig and a lime wheel as garnish for visual appeal and a burst of aroma.

12
<p>Enjoy your Mai Tai cocktail!</p>

Enjoy your Mai Tai cocktail!

Best Rum for a Mai Tai

When making a stellar Mai Tai, the choice of rum is crucial. You’re looking for something rich, full-bodied, and complex. Many recipes call for a mix of light and dark rum, but you can also go for a single, quality rum that delivers on all fronts. Brands like Appleton Estate, Mount Gay, and Plantation offer rums that fit the bill. Appleton Estate’s Signature Blend brings warmth and depth that complements the orgeat and lime juice. Mount Gay offers a subtle spice that adds complexity. Plantation’s 5-Year rum delivers a smooth, well-rounded flavor that’s hard to beat. If I suggest just one, I’d steer you towards Plantation 5-Year. Its balanced profile offers just the right mix of sweetness and richness to elevate your Mai Tai.

Orgeat syrup

Orgeat syrup is the unsung hero in a Mai Tai. It’s an almond-flavored syrup with a subtle hint of orange flower water, giving the drink its unique, slightly nutty kick. While you might be tempted to skip it or go for a quick substitute, using actual orgeat makes all the difference. Popular brands like Small Hand Foods and BG Reynolds offer quality orgeat that’s well-balanced and not overly sweet. If you’re a DIY person, you can make your own, but store-bought options are super convenient. If I had to pick one, I’d go with Small Hand Foods. Their orgeat is crafted with care, made from real almonds, and adds just the right touch of complexity to your drink.

A Mai Tai cocktail, shot from above, in a rocks glass on a wooden coaster placed on a brown placemat with a cinnamon stick and a lime wheel on a side.

What is the difference between Mai Tai and Bahama Mama?

The Mai Tai and Bahama Mama are popular rum-based cocktails, but they differ in several ways. First, a Mai Tai primarily features white rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and orange Curacao. It offers a balanced blend of sweet and tart flavors, punctuated by a hint of almond from the orgeat syrup. On the other hand, a Bahama Mama incorporates both dark and white rum, including coconut liqueur, pineapple juice, and sometimes even a splash of coffee liqueur. The Bahama Mama tends to be sweeter and has a tropical, fruity profile that contrasts the more balanced, citrusy notes of a Mai Tai. Additionally, the Bahama Mama often includes a garnish of a cherry or pineapple slice, whereas a Mai Tai traditionally opts for a sprig of mint and a lime wheel. Finally, the Mai Tai is considered a tiki cocktail, deeply rooted in Polynesian-inspired American tiki culture, while the Bahama Mama has Caribbean influences. Both drinks are refreshing and well-suited for summer but offer distinct flavor profiles and origins.

Pre-mixed Ready-to-Drink Mai Tai

Going for a pre-mixed option is a good idea if you’re looking to skip the hassle of mixing your Mai Tai. Brands like Cutwater Spirits and Trader Vic’s offer some solid choices. Cutwater’s canned Mai Tai comes ready to drink with natural flavors and cane sugar. It captures a good balance of rum, lime, and orgeat, making it a close cousin to the homemade thing. Trader Vic’s, a name synonymous with the Mai Tai, offers a pre-mixed bottle you pour over ice. It brings that nostalgic touch of the classic drink, complete with the orange Curacao and orgeat. However, I’d lean towards Cutwater if I had to pick a favorite. Their version is convenient, well-balanced, and hits all the right flavor notes without tasting artificial.

A side shot of a Mai Tai cocktail in a rocks glass on a wooden coaster placed on a brown placemat on a white table with a cinnamon stick and a lime wheel on a side.

Mai tai mocktail

Going alcohol-free doesn’t mean missing out on the Mai Tai experience. Seedlip offers a non-alcoholic spirit that mimics the complexity of rum. Pair it with lime juice, a splash of almond syrup, and some non-alcoholic orange Curacao; you’ve got a mocktail that’s true to the original. It’s an easy swap that keeps the essence of the Mai Tai intact while letting everyone join in on the fun. So whether you’re the designated driver or just taking a break from booze, this non-alcoholic version has got you covered.

Orgeat syrup

Orgeat syrup is the unsung hero in a Mai Tai. It’s an almond-flavored syrup with a subtle hint of orange flower water, giving the drink its unique, slightly nutty kick. While you might be tempted to skip it or go for a quick substitute, using actual orgeat makes all the difference. Popular brands like Small Hand Foods and BG Reynolds offer quality orgeat that’s well-balanced and not overly sweet. If you’re a DIY person, you can make your own, but store-bought options are super convenient. If I had to pick one, I’d go with Small Hand Foods. Their orgeat is crafted with care, made from real almonds, and adds just the right touch of complexity to your cocktail.

Adding pineapple juice

Adding pineapple juice to a Mai Tai isn’t traditional, but it’s a twist some people swear by. If you’re in the mood to experiment, a splash of pineapple juice can give the drink a more tropical vibe. It adds a natural sweetness and fruitiness layer that pairs well with the rum and lime. While purists might raise an eyebrow, this variation can be a hit at parties or gatherings where you’ve got a mix of tastes to cater to. Just be cautious with the quantity; a little goes a long way. If you’re adding pineapple juice, consider reducing the amount of other sweet components, like simple syrup or orgeat, to keep the drink from becoming overly sweet.

A side shot of a Mai Tai cocktail in a rocks glass on a wooden coaster placed on a brown placemat with a cinnamon stick and a lime wheel on a side, in front of a plate with three limes and a light blue wall.

Variations

On the lookout for more unusual variations? Here are a few we especially love:

  • Mango Mai Tai: Introduces a sunny splash of mango juice, brightening the classic with fruity sweetness. The mango juice pairs wonderfully with the tartness of lime, creating a harmony of flavors. I love how the mango adds a tropical vibrancy; it feels like a burst of sunshine in every sip, making it irresistibly refreshing.
  • Pineapple Mai Tai: Offers a tropical twist with the addition of pineapple juice, enhancing the original’s flavors. The pineapple juice blends seamlessly, adding a sweet, tangy edge that elevates the whole experience. This combination transports me to a beach with every taste, making it a personal favorite for its ability to meld sweetness with the iconic tart background.
  • Dark Rum Mai Tai: Takes on a richer, caramel-like essence by swapping white rum for dark rum. This depth of flavor adds a robust character, contrasting with the lighter notes of lime and orange Curacao. The dark rum’s complexity brings a warmth that’s both comforting and sophisticated, inviting sippers into a deeper exploration of taste.
  • Coconut Mai Tai: Transforms the texture into something creamy, incorporating coconut cream for a lush, velvety feel. This addition infuses the drink with a delightful coconut essence, enriching the flavor profile without overpowering the original blend. The coconut cream’s smoothness against the tangy citrus notes makes every sip a luxurious indulgence.
  • Tequila Mai Tai: Introduces an agave kick by substituting tequila for rum, changing the entire character. The tequila adds a distinctive sharpness that complements the sweet and tart elements, offering a unique twist on the traditional. This change creates an intriguing blend, appealing to those who appreciate a bold, spirited flavor.
  • Lychee Mai Tai: Brings an exotic, sweet twist by incorporating lychee juice, blending harmoniously with lime and rum. The lychee juice adds a unique, fragrant sweetness, setting this apart from the rest. Its subtle, yet distinct flavor profile adds an exotic touch, making each sip a delightful exploration of taste.
  • Spiced Mai Tai: Introduces warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg by featuring spiced rum. These spices add a cozy, aromatic depth, transforming the drink into a more complex, inviting experience. The warmth of the spices makes this perfect for cooler evenings, offering a comforting embrace with every taste.
  • Blue Curacao Mai Tai: Adds a vivid blue color and similar citrus notes by replacing the standard orange Curacao with Blue Curacao. This not only changes the visual appeal but also adds a slight twist to the flavor profile, maintaining the citrusy essence while introducing a visual spectacle that’s as delightful to look at as it is to drink.
  • Hibiscus Mai Tai: Replaces the orgeat with hibiscus syrup, adding floral undertones and a deep red color. The hibiscus syrup lends a tart, refreshing edge, infusing the drink with a floral complexity that’s both beautiful and flavorful. This addition transforms the drink into a visually striking and tastefully unique experience, perfect for those seeking something out of the ordinary.

A Mai Tai cocktail on a white marmol table with a white rum bottle, a orange curacao bottle, a orgeat syrup bottle and two limes around.

History and Origin

The Mai Tai cocktail is rooted in the United States, specifically in Oakland, California. Victor J. “Trader Vic” Bergeron, a prominent figure in the tiki bar movement, claimed to have invented the drink in 1944. According to Trader Vic, he created the cocktail for some Tahitian friends who exclaimed “Maita’i roa a’e”, meaning “very good”, after tasting it. This positive reaction led him to name the cocktail “Mai Tai”.

However, the story has a rival claimant in Donn Beach, also known as Don the Beachcomber, another iconic figure in the world of tiki bars. Donn Beach argued that he was the true creator of the drink, and that his version came into being in the 1930s in Hollywood. Both men were pioneers in popularizing Polynesian-themed bars and cocktails in America.

Despite the ongoing debate over its true inventor, the Mai Tai gained significant popularity in the post-war era, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Tiki culture boomed, and the Mai Tai became a staple in tiki bars nationwide. The cocktail even made its way to Hawaii, gaining a following among tourists and locals alike.

 

See More

Did you make this recipe?

We’d love to see how you crafted our recipes!
Tag us on Instagram at @_drinksworld

FAQ

How many calories are in a Mai Tai?
Typically it has around 300-350 calories, depending on the ingredients used.
How strong is a Mai Tai in terms of ABV and proof?
The alcohol by volume (ABV) can vary but usually hovers around 35-40%. In terms of proof, you're looking at 70-80 proof.
What type of alcohol is used in a Mai Tai?
White rum serves as the primary alcohol.
In what type of glass is a Mai Tai usually served?
It's commonly served in a highball or tiki glass.
What does a Mai Tai taste like?
The cocktail offers a balanced blend of sweet and tart flavors, underscored by tropical and citrus notes.
What is the ratio of ingredients in a Mai Tai?
A standard version has equal parts of rum, lime juice, and orange Curacao, usually 1 oz each, and a dash of orgeat syrup.
How is a Mai Tai served in terms of ice and presentation?
The drink is usually served over ice, often with a mint sprig and a lime wheel as garnish.

Categories

Flavours

Spirits

Share
Pin
Post
Share
Send
Email

Rate this recipe

I don’t like it

It’s not bad

I like it

I really like it!

I love it!

Comments

Leave a Reply

Language

Recipe Overview

Explore our recipes by the categories below.

By spirit

By type

By flavour

Spirits Overview

Explore our spirits by the categories below.

Types