Well-made cocktails are more popular than ever. Whether you call it a perfect storm created by the collision of digital media and the reverberating effects of pandemic restrictions or an inevitable change of culture and taste, cocktails are taking center stage in drinking trends. Thirty-four percent of American consumers are interested in global cocktails, and the number is even higher in the Gen Z and Millennial age groups.
There are a few factors driving this trend. In a world narrated by social media, cocktails create crave-inducing images that are consumed by the eyes even before they meet your tastebuds. Furthermore, during lockdown, alcohol consumption at home was paired with experimentation (and of course, sharing). This desire for expanded options followed consumers onto the post-pandemic bar scene and shows no signs of stopping.
When you’re looking for a tropical cocktail, there’s none quite as iconic as the Mai Tai. The complex mixture is designed to highlight the taste of high-quality rum and the recipe has seen many changes in its time. Whether you want to create Instagram-worthy photos or impress your friends with your bartending prowess, perfecting your own Mai Tai cocktail recipe is a great place to start.
The Original Mai Tai
Along with the resurging interest in cocktails, a desire to create authentic drinks that hearken back to original recipes is common. An interest in history and superior ingredients inspire bartenders to seek out original cocktail recipes. Before crafting your own Mai Tai recipe, it’s essential to know the ingredients and preparation that goes into the original.
The original Mai Tai, created in 1944, was not the mixture of sweet juices with the addition of rum that many might imagine. Instead, it was a dry cocktail with a crisp citrus flavor and hints of nuttiness that bring out the taste of high-quality rum.
An authentic Mai Tai that follows the original recipe includes a blend of light and dark Caribbean rums, orange curacao, 100% real lime juice, and almond orgeat. The mixture is prepared in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice and served in a rocks glass with a spent half-lime shell and a sprig of mint for garnish.
Common Mai Tai Variations
Those familiar with the history of the Mai Tai are aware of the multitude of variations of the cocktail that have emerged over the years. Variations of the classic recipe add juices for sweetness, bitters for a different flavor profile, or substitute liquors. Here are some examples of common Mai Tai variations that can help you get your creative juices flowing if you are thinking about making your own Mai Tai cocktails.
If you imagine a Mai Tai as a sunny yellow cocktail with a layer of dark rum floating on top, you may be surprised to learn this is a variation of the original recipe. The 1944 recipe requires all of the ingredients to be shaken together.
However, you can create a dark float that uses all the traditional ingredients with a simple change to the preparation process. Place all ingredients into the cocktail shaker except the dark rum. After shaking, pour the prepared mixture into a rocks glass and float the dark rum over a spoon to disperse evenly without disturbing the prepared drink.
Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai
This recipe is probably more widely recognized than the original. The 1972 Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai includes the addition of orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and sugar syrup along with traditional ingredients. Instead of a lime shell and mint sprig, this sweeter Mai Tai cocktail is garnished with a pineapple finger, sugar cane stick, orchid, and mint sprig.
Cranberry Mai Tai
If you’re a fan of the pink Mai Tai, this recipe will help you produce one without the overly sweet addition of fruit punch. The cranberry Mai Tai achieves a lighter color and sweeter taste with some simple substitutions and additions. Begin by skipping dark rum and using only white. Substitute Cointreau for orange curacao, and add cranberry syrup to the mixture before shaking. Garnish with an edible flower and a sprig of mint.
Bitter Mai Tai
Adding bitters to the Mai Tai creates a bolder flavor profile and pairs nicely with the nuttiness of the orgeat. This recipe is close to the original, with the simple addition of Campari along with one type of Jamaican rum. While the traditional lime juice is included in the mixture, the garnish is typically only a simple mint sprig.
Perfecting Your Own Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe
With its tropical flavors and refreshing taste, the Mai Tai is a classic favorite that deserves your attention. Creating your own recipe can be a fun experience for parties, or simply to develop a unique cocktail that uses your favorite flavors. To maintain the elements of a Mai Tai, stick with quality ingredients and avoid straying too far off the beaten path.
Choose Quality Ingredients
The authentic Mai Tai is a complex cocktail that celebrates the features of great rum. Begin by choosing high-quality rum and other ingredients that will compliment its flavor, not overwhelm it.
At its core, the Mai Tai is a citrusy tropical mixture with a strong flavor profile that sets it apart from similar drinks. Orgeat and Orange Curacao are the ingredients that really make the Mai Tai stand apart from other popular rum drinks like the Daiquiri and Planter’s Punch. While some choose substitutions for these ingredients, you may want to consider making other subtle changes or additions first.
When crafting your recipe, use these tips to ensure quality results:
- Choose only high-quality liquor.
- Use 100% lime juice.
- Use almond orgeat for the correct flavor and texture.
- Learn how substitutions for orange curacao will change the flavor profile before using them.
When crafting your own Mai Tai cocktail, consider your goal. Perhaps you want a Mai Tai that’s not quite as strong as the original, or one that’s sweeter. Some prefer a stronger cocktail and enjoy the extra kick added by incorporating bitters, like in the example above. Here are a few ideas for further substitutions and additions:
- Use one type of rum instead of both dark and white.
- Add juices for a sweeter recipe or one that serves a crowd.
- Substitute coconut rum for one of the other rum types.
- Create a subtly sweeter flavor by replacing the orange curacao with another orange liquor.
Make Your Mark with the Ideal Garnish
Your garnish adds artistic flair and should reflect the flavor and style of your cocktail. The Mai Tai typically features a mint sprig for garnish, but your options for other additions are practically endless. Here are some ideas:
- To stay true to the original recipe, you can replace the humble lime shell with a lime wheel or wedge.
- Garnish a fruity Mai Tai with colorful fruit. Add a pineapple chunk and maraschino cherry to the traditional garnish.
- Replace the lime with an orange wheel as a nod to the orange flavor in the cocktail.
- Garnish a fruity cocktail or pink Mai Tai with an orange wedge, cherry, and pineapple leaves.
When You Want a Mai Tai without the Fuss, Find the Right Canned Cocktail
Perfecting your own Mai Tai cocktail recipe is a fun experience of balancing flavors and refining your technique. It can be an enjoyable activity for a gathering or an experiment to craft a special flavor profile. But how often do you have a fully stocked bar cart at your disposal? And what about when you crave the perfection of a Mai Tai without the fuss?
Tropical cocktails are perfect for sipping at the beach or by the pool. They’re a great choice for outdoor events and gatherings. Yet, none of these locations are ideal for mixing cocktails. Even when you’re having a quiet evening at home or entertaining friends in a fully stocked kitchen, you may not want to put the time and effort into mixing your own drinks.
When you want to be in the moment, quality canned cocktails will come to the rescue. Ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails are premixed cocktails you can open and enjoy anytime, anywhere. They’re not all created equally—the highest quality canned cocktails use the same ingredients as those served in bars. True craft cocktails are made with only authentic ingredients like 100% lime juice and premium liquors. They’re carefully measured with perfect proportions.
When you want a quality canned Mai Tai without the fuss, try a Post Meridiem 1944 Mai Tai. Made with a blend of Caribbean rums, 100% real lime juice, orange curacao, and almond orgeat, it is a faithful reproduction of the original version. Post Meridiem cocktails are award-winning full-proof cocktails with real ingredients that taste just like the ones made by your favorite bartender. Find a local retailer or purchase your favorite cocktails online today.