A classic (very strong!) 60s cocktail, the Mai Tai is a combination of Curaçao, three rums, and Orgeat. This is our favourite, adapted from Death & Co.
The Mai Tai is a classic 60s cocktail invented in California, and it was first made famous when it was featured in the Elvis Presley movie Blue Hawaii. Smooth rums, tart lime juice, homemade orgeat syrup, and Curaçao come together in a tropical, balanced, not-too-sweet drink.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Lime juice: use fresh for the best flavour.
- Curaçao: if you don't have orange curaçao you can substitute Cointreau, or even Triple Sec in a pinch.
- Orgeat: don't feel like making homemade orgeat syrup? Pre-made bottled orgeat can be found in most specialty, Mediterranean, and Mid-Eastern grocery stores.
- Bitters: skip the angostura bitters garnish if you want and instead float ½-ounce of blackstrap rum on top!
Step 1: squeeze the lime juice into a shaker filled with ice.
Step 2: add the remaining cocktail ingredients to the shaker.
Step 3: shake everything together vigorously until well chilled, about 20 to 30 seconds. You'll know it's ready when the shaker is freezing cold to the touch and a bit frosty on the outside.
Step 4: strain the Mai Tai into a glass filled with crushed ice. Top it with a dash more of bitters and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and a lime slice.
Crushed ice isn't required but it is more traditional in a Mai Tai. An easy way to crush ice is to place ice cubes in a large plastic zip top bag and gently smash the cubes inside the bag with a rolling pin.
You can use any combination of rum you like, but these are our recommendations:
- Jamaican rum: we like Appleton Select.
- Demerara rum: El Dorado 15 year or Lemon Heart is our preference.
- Overproof rum: Wray & Nephew is a good choice.
Is a Mai Tai a strong drink?
Mai tais are pretty strong drinks, and a classic one will contain quite a lot of alcohol. Some less traditional versions contain more fruit juice.
What is the difference between Mai Tai and Bahama Mama?
While both are rum-based drinks, a mai tai is made with orgeat and lime juice, while a Bahama mama includes pineapple, orange, and lime juice, and grenadine syrup.
Is Mai Tai served with ice?
Mai tais should ideally be served with crushed ice, but regular ice cubes can be used in a pinch.
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Mai Tai With Homemade Orgeat Syrup
- Ounce measure or digital kitchen scale
- 1 oz Lime Juice
- 1 oz Jamaican Rum
- 1 oz Demerara Rum
- ¼ oz Overproof Rum
- ¾ oz Orgeat
- ½ oz Curaçao
- Dash of Angostura bitters plus more for garnish
- Fresh mint leaves
- Lime slice for garnish
- Add lime juice, rums, orgeat, Curaçao, and a dash of bitters to a shaker along with ice. Shake until well chilled.1 oz Lime Juice, 1 oz Jamaican Rum, 1 oz Demerara Rum, ¼ oz Overproof Rum, ¾ oz Orgeat, ½ oz Curaçao, Dash of Angostura bitters
- Fill a glass with crushed ice. Strain the Mai Tai into the glass. Top with a dash more of bitters, mint leaves, and a lime slice.Fresh mint leaves, Lime slice for garnish