Saturday, July 11, 2009

Busting bar myths: The Mai Tai did not come from Hawaii or Tahiti

The Mai Tai was not invented in either Hawaii or Tahiti. The drink was originated in Oakland, California. Drink recipe creator, Victor Jules “Trader Vic” Bergeron came up with the original recipe for a Mai Tai in 1944 while working as a bartender in the service bar of his Oakland restaurant, Trader Vic’s.

Victor pulled a 17-year-old rum (J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum) off the shelf and decided to use it because of its golden color, medium body and rich pungent flavor. With the rum, Victor added fresh lime juice, orange curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy Syrup and a dallop of French Orgeat (to give the drink a subtle almond flavor). He then added a generous amount of shaved ice and shook the whole drink vigorously by hand. The drink was then served in a 15-oz glass, garnished with half of the lime and a branch of fresh mint.

At the time in which the drink was created, Victor had a couple of friends visiting from Tahiti who happened to be sitting at the bar. Ham and Carrie Guild were the chosen guinea pigs for Victor’s new rum drink concoction. Apparently, Carrie loved the drink so much that she exclaimed in Tahitian, “Mai Tai-Roe Ae!!” which when translated into English means “Out of this world-The Best!” It was at that moment that the “Mai Tai had not only been born, but named.

In 1953, Victor brought his wildly acclaimed Mai Tai to the Hawaiian Islands when he was asked by the Matson Steamship Lines to design their cocktail menu for the bars at their Royal Hawaiian, Moana and Surfrider Hotels. In 1954, the Mai Tai was one of the many new drinks to be included in the bar service for the American President Lines. It is estimated that there are several thousand Mai Tais served daily in Honolulu alone. Trader Vic’s restaurants easily sell more Mai Tais than that, daily, in all 18 of their restaurants, worldwide!

The Original Mai Tai Drink Recipe:

•  2 oz. 17-tear-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum 

•  ½ oz. French Garnier Orgeat 

•  ½ oz. Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao 

•  ¼ oz. Rock Candy Syrup 

•  Juice from one fresh lime

Shake in cocktail shaker.  Garnish with half of the lime shell inside drink. float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.

Here is a "Trader Vic's Mai Tai" instructional video presented by

For more information on the Mai Tai, its history and about the Trader Vic’s Restaurants worldwide, go to the Trader Vic’s website.

July is Rum Month at To check out all of the Examiner coverage on all things rum throughout the month of July, be sure to visit the Latest Rum Month News page.

Interested in learning about other bars and the current nightlife in Oakland? Oakland Bars Examiner, Ron Lee writes all about the up and coming bar scene in Oakland.

[trader vic] [mai tai] [tiki history]