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Mar 27, 2008 07:21 PM

Mai Tai - how to?

This tangent was split from the Los Angeles board. If you know any good restaurant bars where L.A. hounds can get an exceptional mai tai, please respond here:
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Every bar has all those ingredients-Don't ask for a mai tai and ask for a drink made with "aged rum, lime, curacao, orgeat, and rock candy syrup."

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  1. It's got to be Meyer's dark rum, no?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ElJeffe

      That's what I'd use. Not sure what Trader Vics uses these days.
      See their recipe:

    2. Don't forget the tiny little umbrella?

      1. There's nothing more obnoxious, or insulting to a bartender than sitting there teaching him how to make you your favorite drink, especially when there are other people waiting for drinks (I suppose if you are their best customer it would be an exception to the rule). If I'm ordering a mai tai, either the place has to know how to do it right already (the mai tai should be cocktail 101), or I'm not gonna bother.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Matt Esq.

          Matt, I'd usually agree with you. For rarer cockatails like a Brandy Old Fashioned you can tell by the look in the bartenders eyes within the first milliseconds of your order if he/she is confident in making that drink. And I agree, if there is any sign of hesitancy, order something else.

          However, a Mai Tai is a drink every bartender THINKS they know how to make, so they will always look confident but you won't know if you're going to get the real thing until its in your hand, and often times disappointing.

          That's why I suggest something more subtle like asking if they use Meyer's in their Mai Tai or asking what rum they use, that way if you don't like the answer, you just order somethign else, and the bartended saves face.

          Or we could all just get on a plane to Oahu this afternoon. Meet you at LAX.

          1. re: Matt Esq.

            When I was in Maui we had dinner at Mama's Fish House. I stood there and watched the bartender make about 10 in under a minute non stop and at a price of around $12 a pop the numbers were staggering. They had it down to a science. Not the best Mai Tai around that's for sure. Big thick glass full of ice, maybe a couple ounces of rum and not high quality rum at that. Like printing money.

          2. Ah, one of my favorite subjects! I just happen to be a bartender at Trader Vic's. The original rum used was a 17-year from J. Wray and Nephew of Jamaica. We blew through the entire world supply of it in about a year. So, Vic tweaked the recipe a little and started using their 15-year rum. Several years later, we went through all of that too. At that point, we started blending our own Mai Tai Rum out of rums from Jamaica and Martinique. We still use a blend today, but it's now called Royal Amber Rum. There's a little secret to ordering a Mai Tai at Vic's... order it "The Old Way". If you just say that you want a Mai Tai, then we squeeze the lime juice, add in Mai Tai Concentrate (a bottled mix that's essentially orange and orgeat flavored syrup) and the Royal Amber Rum. Ordering it the Old Way gets you fresh squeezed lime juice, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, a little dash of rock candy syrup (our simple syrup), and gold and dark rums. Using the original component ingredients instead of the two pre-mixes makes for a more complex drink that is much, much more delicious than the regular one. Ordering one the way they make it at Vic's is almost impossible anywhere else, as very few non-tiki bars carry orgeat syrup. You can substitute amaretto or crème de noyaux, but it's just not the same.

            If you're making them at home, Myers's will do in a pinch. I prefer to use Appleton Estate Extra, the 12-year bottling from J. Wray and Nephew. If you also have Saint James Hors d'Age around (it can be tricky to find), use a 50/50 mix of both rums. Those two together bring you as close to the spirit of the original 17 year Jamaican rum as you're ever going to get. For orgeat syrup, I prefer using ones that sweeten with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, and in these parts that means I use Torani. Their orgeat syrup can be purchased at Cost Plus, but if you have a warehouse store around that caters to the restaurant trade you'll find it cheaper there.

            That said, here's how I make my Mai Tais at home:
            3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
            2 ounces Appleton Estate Extra
            3/4 ounce Torani orgeat syrup
            3/4 ounce DeKuyper orange curaçao
            1/4 ounce double-strength simple syrup (1 lb sugar, 1 c water, heated until clear, store in a bottle in the fridge)

            Shake everything very well with plenty of crushed ice, and pour into a double rocks glass. Garnish with a spent lime half and a sprig of mint.

            14 Replies
            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              JK, thanks for that info on perhaps my favorite drink -- esp. for ingredient brand recommendations. i miss the trader vic's here in dc. so much fun!

              1. re: alkapal

                The Mai Tai is not perhaps my favorite drink, it *is* my favorite drink. But only if it's made the right way, and pretty much nobody makes it the right way.

              2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                I recently saw a bottled Mai Tai mix from Trader Vic's. I know it can't possibly be as good as one made from scratch, but will it do in a pinch or is it too horrid to try?

                1. re: brandygirl

                  It's better than what tries to pass as a Mai Tai at most bars. However, the consumer mix is to the Trader Vic's bar mix as the Trader Vic's bar mix is to an Old Way mai tai. The difference in complexity between the mix and a scratch one is two bottles and a lime. The mix costs as much as a bottle of orange curaçao and you have to use four times as much, so in the long run it's much more economical to get the orange curaçao and a bottle of orgeat.

                2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                  I noticed the other night that I had all the requisite ingredients on the shelf, including the orgeat (my wife loves almond Italian sodas on a hot summer day), so I made a couple of these for pre-dinner cocktails tonight. Absolutely outstanding: many thanks!

                  After pondering the various rums on the shelf, I went with a 50/50 blend of the Gosling's Black Seal and the Mount Gay gold. Given that I don't do neat sipping, I never have particularly high-end stuff on the shelf.

                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    I keep a bottle of Appleton Estate Extra on hand exclusively for the Mai Tais. I'd LOVE to find some of Appleton's 21 year... I got to taste it at the Trader Vic's in Vegas and oh lordy is it ever delicious!

                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                      JK, what do you think about using Falernum instead of the simple syrup & orgeat?

                      1. re: 2top

                        It would turn it into a different drink. Falernum has more than just almond in there. Its primary flavors are more of lime and spice. It would likely be quite a tasty drink, but once you change something that much, it ain't a Mai Tai anymore.

                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                          You're right about the Falernum taste profile and how it changes the drink - but I'd still say it's a Mai Tai.

                          It's hard to discredit it when even the original recipe is in dispute, as well as how many times the originator(s) (Vic & Don) changed it over the years. It may not be as varied as the Zombie, but there's definitely more than one way to skin a Mai Tai.

                          There is a point when a Mai Tai stops being a Mai Tai, true... but seeing as how Falernum is not an uncommon ingredient in Mai Tai recipes (and Falernum was even part of Don's "original" Mai Tai recipe), I don't think that's it.

                          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                            I have a lot of middle eastern groceries right by me, can I use their almond syrup in place of orgeat?

                            1. re: bza

                              I haven't had any experience with almond syrup from a Middle Eastern market, so I can't say for sure. I don't see there being much difference between the two, if any.

                              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                I'm going to give it a try. Summer is coming, and it's time for rum.

                    2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                      Thanks for the recipe. I just made one and it was great. I skipped the simple syrup since I figured the almond syrup would add enough sweetness. I also floated a little dark rum on top since most of the places in Maui did this to their Mai Tais when I ordered them. This might become one of my new favorite summer drinks to make at home. Most bars seem to add juice and stuff. My wife just asked why it wasn't red!!