Cocktail Recipes

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai (Original)

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Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, the quintessential “Tiki” cocktail, is a Polynesian favorite. It is also the original Mai Tai recipe. Invented in 1944 at the Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California, this shaved ice sweet and sour concoction evokes images of white sand Tahitian beaches and Hawaiian sunsets. Although not a trendy drink with the younger crowd, the Mai Tai’s popularity as a vacation libation has secured it’s place in the cocktail Hall of Fame.

The Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipe has evolved 3 times over the past 70 years to meet the needs of a demanding and ever-changing market, progressing from the Original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, to the two Hawaiian variants, and finally transforming into Present Day Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. Whereas the first two Mai Tai iterations displayed only slight differences based upon Vic’s flavor preferences, the third recipe was necessitated by the lack of affordable 15-year old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican Rum (now over $50,000/bottle). The final, and current, Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipe, was born from the need for speed due to the intoxicating beverage’s immense popularity … simply combining the 3rd variant’s ingredients into two bottles for ease of use in a fast-paced bar environment (also, as an attempt to keep the popular formula secret). We have provided all 4 recipes below for your review. However, to make a great Mai Tai, a few requirements have remained consistent through out the years … use quality rum, use quality Almond Orgeat syrup, use quality Orange Curacao, use fresh lime juice, and SHAKE THE DRINK VIGOROUSLY. Stick to these basics, and you’ll be feeling Aloha in no time ;-)

*MAI TAI SECRET: Want to save the time and trouble mixing your Trader Vic’s Mai Tai from scratch? Grab a bottle of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Mix from Amazon and transport yourself to the sandy shores of the South Pacific … just add fresh lime juice and dark rum. It won’t taste the same as making one the way Trader Vic used to, but it will do in a pinch. Shhhhhhhhh … we won’t tell ;-)

*Order Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Mix from Trader Vic's Mai Tai Mix

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Recipes (4 Variants)


5 from 5 votes
Trader Vic's Mai Tai (Original)
Trader Vic's Mai Tai Recipe (Original)
Prep Time
2 mins
Total Time
2 mins
 
Trader Vic's Mai Tai, the quintessential "Tiki" cocktail, is a polynesian favorite. This recipe will show you how to make one.
Course: Drinks
Servings: 1
Author: Zuzu Gates
Ingredients
  • 2 oz 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew Rum (now $50,000/bottle)
  • 1/4 oz French Garnier Orgeat Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curaçao
  • 1/4 oz Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup
  • Juice from one fresh lime
  • 1 cup cubed ice
  • 1 cup shaved ice
Instructions
  1. Combine rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, rock candy syrup, lime juice, and cubed ice into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (and we mean VIGOROUSLY, it truly makes the difference between a good Mai Tai and a great Mai Tai). Strain into an old fashioned glass over shaved ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.


5 from 5 votes
Trader Vic's Mai Tai (Original)
Trader Vic's Mai Tai Recipe (1st Hawaiian version)
Prep Time
2 mins
Total Time
2 mins
 

Trader Vic took his Oakland-created Mai Tai to Hawaii in 1953 while creating drinks for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  As his supply of 17 and 15-year old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum was dwindling, he altered his recipe to substitute 1 ounce of a cheaper Jamaican rum.  This recipe reflects that change.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1
Author: Zuzu Gates
Ingredients
  • 1 oz 15-year old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican Rum
  • 1 oz Red Heart or Coruba Jamaican Rum
  • 1/4 oz Trader Vic's Orgeat Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curaçao
  • 1/4 oz Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup
  • Juice from one fresh lime
  • 1 cup cubed ice
  • 1 cup shaved ice
Instructions
  1. Combine rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, rock candy syrup, lime juice, and cubed ice into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (and we mean VIGOROUSLY, it truly makes the difference between a good Mai Tai and a great Mai Tai). Strain into an old fashioned glass over shaved ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.


5 from 5 votes
Trader Vic's Mai Tai (Original)
Trader Vic's Mai Tai Recipe (2nd Hawaiian version)
Prep Time
2 mins
Total Time
2 mins
 

Toward the end of the 1950s, the dependable supply of 15-year old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum had been interrupted, requiring Trader Vic to make private arrangements to provide rum of a similar quality under his own label.  Vic's new rum did not match the nutty flavor of the original J. Wray, leading him to substitute in 1 oz of nutty Martinique rum.  Also, to streamline production of the popular cocktail, each individual bar was ordered to pre-mix the Curacao, Orgeat, and Rock Candy Syrup.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1
Author: Zuzu Gates
Ingredients
  • 1 oz Trader Vic's Jamaican Rum (15 or 8 year-old)
  • 1 oz Martinique Rum
  • 1 oz Premixed Curacao, Orgeat, Rock Candy Syrup
  • Juice from one fresh lime
  • 1 cup cubed ice
  • 1 cup shaved ice
Instructions
  1. Combine rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, rock candy syrup, lime juice, and cubed ice into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (and we mean VIGOROUSLY, it truly makes the difference between a good Mai Tai and a great Mai Tai). Strain into an old fashioned glass over shaved ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.


5 from 5 votes
Trader Vic's Mai Tai (Original)
Trader Vic's Mai Tai Recipe (Present Day)
Prep Time
2 mins
Total Time
2 mins
 

By the early 1960s, the Mai Tai had emerged as one of the world's most popular alcoholic beverages.  Capitalizing on this success, Trade Vic's son, Victor Bergeron, III, decided to commercialize production of his father's rum-based libation by producing the brand's own Trader Vic's Jamaican Rum and Trader Vic's Mai Tai Mix, which are still in use in the iconic tiki restaurant today.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1
Author: Zuzu Gates
Ingredients
  • 2 oz Trader Vic's Mai Tai Rum
  • 4 oz Trader Vic's Mai Tai Mix
  • Juice from one fresh lime
  • 1 cup cubed ice
  • 1 cup shaved ice
Instructions
  1. Combine Mai Tai Rum, Mai Tai Mix, lime juice, and cubed ice into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (and we mean VIGOROUSLY, it truly makes the difference between a good Mai Tai and a great Mai Tai). Strain into an old fashioned glass over shaved ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.


Additional Mai Tai Recipes

→ If you liked these Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipes, try more of our favorites on our Mai Tai Recipes page.

5 Comments

  1. Jill Binoche

    March 14, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Absolutely awesome tiki drink!

  2. Colin Layner

    September 7, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    The mai tai cocktail always makes me think of Hawaii.

  3. Zuzu Gates

    February 14, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve been to the Trader Vic’s in Hawaii. It was delicious! I guess I should have tried one of their Mai Tais.

  4. Elle Kenwood

    January 4, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Just soooo yummy. The problem is, it is really easy to drink a bunch of these and then start hula dancing ;-)

  5. Olivia Norvang

    March 14, 2018 at 11:14 am

    I’ll take two please … just leave the whole pineapple.

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