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Ode on a Mai Tai

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A Classic Mai Tai is a fun and tasty tropical cocktail that everyone loves! The sweet but strong flavors of this drink go perfectly with spicy food!  Nothing makes you feel like you’re on an island or beach vacation like a tropical cocktail! 

The Mai Tai is one of the most famous Tiki drinks in the world and goes well with Chinese food.  Composed of rum, orange curaçao, fresh lime juice, and orgeat (a nuanced almond syrup), it’s held sway over cocktail enthusiasts and Tiki fans for decades. 


Mai Tai recipeBeware, the Mai Tai drink is definitely strong because it’s mostly made up of liquor and various syrups. The ingredients include a 1/2 oz orgeat syrup and vanilla-infused simple syrup (available at most liquor stores) and both really add to the distinctly Hawaiian flavors.

But, was the drink created in Hawaii?  Let’s pause for a history lesson.  Contrary to popular belief, the Mai Tai was not invented in Hawaii.


Class is now in session!

Origination of Mai Tai’s

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 Beachcomber born (Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt), 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.

Mai Tai Tiki CocktailDonn’s recipe is more complex than Vic’s and some believe it tastes quite different.  Others believe that, despite the difference in ingredients, the Q.B. Cooler tastes quite similar.

Donn the Beachcomber’s claim to the recipe doesn’t come with an explanation for the name, which Vic’s has.  Trader Vic was visiting with his Tahitian friends and decided to shake up a few of his signature cocktails for them to try. After serving a round of drinks, one of his friends shouted, “Maita’I roa a’e!” In English, that means “Out of this world! The best!” And so, the Mai Tai (The Best) was officially born. (“Maita‘i roa ae!” allegedly cried the Tahitians: “Very good!”). 


The Mai Tai was introduced in Hawaii in 1953 when Bergeron created a cocktail menu for the Matson Company hotels the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Moana Hotel. The cocktail became a hit and was called the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959.


Donn Beachcomber’s original restaurant used to have Chinese cuisine with tiki cocktails.  And now you know the rest of the story.

Degree Scroll

Oh Mai Tai, why do I love thee?

Top Five Reasons:

#5:  Mai Tai’s pair perfectly with Asian Cuisine. They go hand-in-hand.  In my left hand a Mai Tai; In my right chopsticks.

#4:  The paper umbrella has stood the test of time, a work of art and craftsmanship.  The design hasn’t changed in the decades since this drink was introduced.  It takes exceptional skill, years of study, and twice as many serving as an apprentice paper umbrella maker before becoming a journeyman.  There are no known colleges or universities that offer courses in this craft because the subject matter is considered well beyond the ken and capabilities, with far too many prerequisites to list. of even the most gifted students.  Instead, the craft is passed down from generation to generation.  It is not a coincidence that all paper umbrellas are made in China.Hawaiian Mai Tai

#3: Once upon a time, it got its start as a connoisseur’s craft cocktail intended for an elite audience—and a Polynesian one at that.  Wouldn’t you too like to be a member of that audience?

#2:  Mai Tai’s make you happy.  Have you ever seen an unhappy person after a Mai Tai or two?  Or heck, after a few more you have Tai’d Won On.

#1:  Don’t we all want to be the best?  Have a few if you want to know, and you too will stand up and shout, “Maita‘i roa ae!”  It’s simply the best.  Better than all the rest.

Why you won’t find Mai Tai’s in authentic Chinese restaurants?  Three words:  Paper umbrella shortage.


Humbly submitted for your consumption,

Mee Magnum  (“Chop!  Chop!”)

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