The Story Behind The Easy Mai Tai

It is hard to picture tiki drinks as we know them today without the Mai Tai, a beloved cocktail that’s nutty, tropical, smooth, and fiery all at once. This version of the classic drink is a perfect back-pocket recipe, great for impressing friends because it tastes so much more complex than it actually is.

Most cocktail historians agree that the Mai Tai was invented by tiki icon Victor J. Bergeron, or, as most people know him, “Trader Vic” (though Don the Beachcomber also claims to have invented the drink). This concoction was so popular at his bars that it caused a depletion of a rare Jamaican rum, and Vic had to resort to making his own. As a result, many modern tiki bartenders still take a lot of pride in concocting their own rum blends. This cocktail also established orgeat — an almond syrup laced with orange flower water — as a quintessential tiki ingredient .

This recipe is a simplified version — the original Mai Tai recipe included three rare rums, and some bartenders today use up to seven types of rum for their own house blends. This rendition, ideal for home bartending, uses just two rums — light and dark — and doesn’t require making your own orgeat either. Just shake it up, add the floater, and let this drink sail you away.


  • 1 1/2 ounces light rum
  • 3/4 ounce orange Curaçao or orange liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce orgeat
  • 1/2 ounce dark rum
  • Garnish: lime wheel


  1. Add all the ingredients except for the dark rum to a shaker with ice and shake.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice.
  3. Float the dark rum on top, then garnish with a lime wheel.

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Updated: 2022-10-18

The Easy Mai Tai Recipe