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Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Kaitlin Wayne

The mai tai cocktail is arguably the most well-known tiki drink out there (though the zombie is justifiably infamous), and it remains popular despite the many issues of tiki itself. Credit for the concoction is usually given to Vic Bergeron, who first put it on the menu at his Oakland, California, tiki establishment, Trader Vic’s, in 1944. His mai tai recipe was a simple affair, combining fresh lime juice and simple syrup with almond-scented orgeat, orange curaçao, and aged pot-still rum, which were shaken together and served in a tall glass with crushed ice.

This rendition of the classic cocktail combines aged and dark rums for body and complexity, and calls for freshly squeezed orange juice to be added in with the lime. We also swap in Cointreau (an orange liqueur that's considered a triple sec) for the curaçao, and add a dash of ruby-hued grenadine along with the orgeat (Small Hands Foods makes both) and sugar. Shaken and served on the rocks with an orange slice for garnish, it’s a fruity but balanced take on the original.

Editor’s note: This recipe was originally published in the May 2003 issue of ‘Gourmet’ and first appeared on Epicurious in October 2004.


Makes 1 drink

1 oz (2 tablespoons) dark rum
1 oz (2 tablespoons) aged rum
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
½ oz (1 tablespoon) Cointreau or triple sec
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon orgeat syrup or 1 drop pure almond extract
1 teaspoon superfine granulated sugar
Dash of grenadine
Garnish: an orange slice

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 1 cup ice cubes, then strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice cubes.

How would you rate Mai Tai?

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  • This may be a fine cocktail but it's not a Mai Tai. You should really be up-front in your recipe about this being a variation on the Mai Tai.

    • Anonymous

    • Davis, CA

    • 2/1/2022

  • Delicious! Excellent cocktail recipe.

    • mrkevin

    • Gurnee, IL

    • 4/28/2020

  • Wow! Excellent drink!

    • renaglenn

    • LasLas

    • 4/4/2019

  • This recipe created the perfect mai tai. Listening to Bud Powell and sipping it slowly while looking out on the Pacific. Excellent work, Epicurious... we all want you to know your gifted writers are definitely being read and listened to! Thank you for a lovely, restrained, not oversweet, very balanced mai tai for us cocktail folks out there. Midcentury modernists unite! (Over this cocktail) :)

    • HepburnGirl

    • Los Angeles, CA

    • 12/10/2018

  • Our new favorite drink

    • JacklynH

    • Minneapolis, MN

    • 8/6/2017

  • Excellent Mai Tai recipe. I made 16 servings and added 4 cups of ice to the pitcher. When my guest arrived it was so easy to put ice in their glass and pour the Mai Tai in. Cheers!!!

    • Anonymous

    • Valencia, CA

    • 4/22/2016

  • This is a nice enough mix, however it is a a variation of the original Mai Tai and not in fact a true Mai Tai. A search for Vic Bergeron's (Trader Vic) 1944 Mai Tai will lead you to the original. Having said that, I substitute agave syrup for the sugar and ameretto liquor when I cannot find true orgeat and get rave reviews. Don't forget to garnish with a sprig of spanked mint!

    • Anonymous

    • Alberta

    • 2/20/2013

  • I concur with the other reviewers, it's the perfect Mai Tai recipe. Best ever. If you like tropical drinks, this is it! By the way, I found orgeat syrup at an Italian grocery... they are into almond things, take a look at the one near you.

    • nodrog8

    • 4/21/2010

  • This was the drink du jour at a party we had last summer - i don't know how i'll top it this year! we went through about 12 quarts of it - scary. everyone is still talking about it. Whatever you do, don't even contemplate making your own orgeat syrup - i don't know what i was thinking on that front - next time i'll use Monin almond syrup . . .

    • dtimberld

    • princeton, nj

    • 6/27/2008

  • This is simply a delicious drink. It's great for parties - next time, I'll make mai tais by the pitcher!

    • Anonymous

    • Sacramento, CA

    • 5/21/2007

  • I have been looking for the perfect Mai Tai recipe. This is it!

    • Anonymous

    • Huntsville, AL

    • 4/15/2007

  • Fantastic! One, if not the best I've ever had!

    • EBotine

    • San Diego, CA.

    • 8/5/2005

  • This recepie tastes exactly like the best Mai Tais we drank in Hawaii. My husband and I loved it!

    • elizalin

    • Chicago,IL

    • 1/28/2005

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