Mai Tai – The Ultimate Guide to This Classic Tiki Cocktail

Mai Tai is a classic tiki cocktail that transports you to a tropical paradise. Originating at Trader Vic’s in 1944, this legendary drink combines white and dark rum, orange curaçao, lime juice, and orgeat syrup. Its vibrant flavor profile and exotic presentation make it a staple for cocktail enthusiasts.

Creating the perfect Mai Tai is an art. You need quality ingredients and the right technique to balance sweet, sour, and nutty notes. Whether you’re hosting a summer party or looking to enjoy a moment of relaxation, a well-made Mai Tai can elevate your experience. Here’s how to make this cocktail recipe.


To make a Mai Tai, you’ll need a few key tools. Start with a shaker to blend ingredients smoothly. A jigger will help you measure exact quantities. Use a strainer to pour the drink without ice chunks. An old-fashioned glass or a tall glass works well for serving. Ensure you have a bar spoon for precise stirring. This setup ensures your Mai Tai is mixed and served perfectly.


A classic Mai Tai requires specific ingredients.

  • Light Rum: 2 oz for a smooth, base flavor.
  • Dark Rum: 2 oz for a rich, layered depth.
  • Fresh Lime Juice: 1/2 oz for a zesty kick.
  • Orange Curaçao: 1/2 oz for subtle citrus sweetness.
  • Orgeat Syrup: 1/2 oz for a nutty, almond flavor.

Optional Ingredients:

  • Pineapple Juice: 1 oz for a unique tropical twist.
  • Grenadine: A splash for added sweetness and color.


  • Lime Wheel
  • Mint Sprig
  • Cherry


To make a Mai Tai, add light rum, lime juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat syrup to a shaker with crushed ice.

Shake lightly for about 3 seconds, then pour the mixture into a double rocks glass.

Float the dark rum over the top using a bar spoon, and garnish with a lime wheel and mint sprig.

For a sweeter note, add a dash of grenadine.

Tasting Notes

A Mai Tai offers a complex palate. The first sip reveals a balance of sweet and sour. The light rum and dark rum create depth, while the orange curaçao adds citrus brightness. The orgeat gives a subtle almond undertone. Each ingredient complements the other, and the garnish adds a refreshing touch.

Similar Cocktails

If you enjoy the Mai Tai, try similar tropical cocktails. The Daiquiri offers a simpler rum and lime profile. The Zombie is another tiki favorite, known for its potent rum mix. A Piña Colada provides a creamy coconut experience, while the Blue Hawaii uses blue curaçao for a stunning appearance. Each offers a unique twist on the tropical theme.


The Mai Tai is believed to have originated at Trader Vic’s in Oakland, California, in 1944. It’s a staple of tiki culture. The name “Mai Tai” means “good” or “out of this world” in Tahitian. Its creation aimed to highlight the quality of Jamaican rum, and the drink gained popularity in Hawaiian and Polynesian-themed bars worldwide.

Quick Pro Tips

Always use fresh lime juice for the best flavor. For a smoother drink, shake the ingredients lightly. Ensure the garnish is fresh to enhance the aroma, and experiment with different rums for unique taste profiles. Keeping the orgeat syrup chilled can extend its shelf life, and use quality curaçao for a balanced sweetness.

When to Serve

Serve a Mai Tai at summer parties or beach gatherings. It’s also perfect for a tropical-themed event. Enjoy it as a refreshing after-dinner drink. Its vibrant flavors make it suitable for both daytime and evening occasions. It’s an excellent choice for any festive or casual celebration requiring a touch of the tropics.

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