Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe – History, and Fun Facts

Today, the Mai Tai cocktail recipe is often found on the Signature Drinks menu at a tiki bar, because of this we wanted it to be available on our bar hire and also on our cocktail menu, mixed with syrups and juices, and served with a tiny paper umbrella. However, this rum-based cocktail wasn’t always presented this way. As the years have passed, the Mai Tai cocktail has evolved from a sophisticated beverage designed to highlight the intricate flavours of Jamaican rum to a sugary drink that is seemingly open to interpretation.

In order to really understand the Mai Thai cocktail, we have to go back to the year 1944.

Mai Tai Cocktail
Homemade Mai Tai Cocktail with Pineapple Cherry and Rum

Mai Tai Cocktail History

The first Mai Tai cocktail was made in 1944 by Victor J. Bergeron – affectionally known as Trader Vic. He concocted a simple beverage with 17-year J. Wray and Nephew Jamaican rum, orgeat (almond syrup), orange curacao, simple syrup, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

They story behind the cocktail’s name goes a little something like this:

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.

After the cocktail became popular, Donn “Don the Beachcomber” Beach stated that Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipe was inspired by his own recipe for the Q.B. Cooler, which he invented in 1933. A Q.B. Cooler has all the same ingredients as a Mai Thai plus ginger syrup, honey mix, club soda, and orange juice.

However, in Trader Vic’s book, Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, he says, “Anyone who says I didn’t create this drink is a dirty stinker.”

But how did the Mai Tai evolve to the drink that we know today?

Americans became infatuated with Polynesian culture after the Great Depression and Trader Vic opened a chain of Polynesian-themed restaurants. This sparked a nationwide tiki trend that had bartenders everywhere shaking up Mai Thais for their thirsty guests. So many, in fact, that the 17-year J. Wray and Nephew Jamaican rum used to make it sold out worldwide.

When the Mai Tai hit Hawaii in 1953, Trader Vic took a trip to the islands to help the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider Hotels create cocktail menus for their bars. Trader Vic decided that pineapple and orange juice made the Mai Tai more “tourist-friendly.”

This sweeter recipe (named the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai) eventually replaced the original recipe and became a staple on cocktail menus throughout the United States and many other countries around the globe.


Mai Tai Cocktail, Facts

Here are some fast facts about the Mai Tai cocktail that might surprise you:

  • The Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai became symbolic of tropical paradise vacations
  • The Mai Thai was featured in Elvis Presley’s movie, Blue Hawaii
  • President Richard Nixon loved that Mai Thai so much that it was named the official cocktail of his presidency

Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

  • 20ml  fresh lime juice
  • 12.5ml ounce orange curaçao
  • 12.5ml orgeat
  • 1/4 ounce a simple syrup
  • 50ml Pineapple Juice
  • 35ml  White Rum
  • 12.5 Dark Rum
  • Garnish with a lime wedge and fresh mint, Cocktail Cherry, Pineapple Flag


  • Pour all ingredients in the Cocktail shaker
  • Add ice in the cocktail shaker and shake strong for 10-15 seconds
  • Strain the Cocktail in a Tiki Glass or Tumbler Glass fulfilled with ice
  • Pour the Dark Rum on top
  • Garnish and make it Fancy

Bar Brothers Events, reminds you to always enjoy responsibly!



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