History of the Mai Tai Cocktail

If the hot summer weather has got you feeling in the mood for something tiki-tiki, the tropical Mai Tai cocktail might be just what you need. Similar to a daiquiri, thanks to its base of white rum and lime juice, this beautiful cocktail also incorporates dark rum, orange curacao and orgeat syrup for a deliciously fruity finish.

Who Invented the Mai Tai?

It is thought that the Mai Tai was created in 1944, by a bartender known as Trader Vic, or Victor Jules Bergeron, in Oakland, San Francisco. Having been in the bar/restaurant business since 1934, he had become known for his eclectic blend of foods cooked in a wood-fired oven, as well as his ability to create irresistible rum-based cocktails.

When guests visited from Hawaii, they were lucky enough to be treated to one of Vic’s new cocktail creations. Upon tasting, they exclaimed, “mai-tai roa ae”, which means “out of this world”. Trader Vic loved the phrase, and so the name was born.

The drink became popular throughout California, but when Trader Vic opened his bar in Seattle in 1948, word about the drink spread. It had already been informally introduced to Hawaii by his first Mai Tai customers and when it was included in a bar service for American President Lines, it became an international hit.


A similar drink was created in 1933 by Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, called the Q.B.Cooler. Beaumont-Gantt claimed that Trader Vic had stolen the idea for the Mai Tai from him, as well as many other elements of his bar, Don The Beachcomber’s. While Vic admitted to copying many elements of Don’s, he has always refuted the claims that he stole the idea for the Mai Tai, to the point where he took it to court. He won his case and it is now generally accepted that he created the cocktail.

Mai Tai Variations

Today’s Mai Tai is actually a variation of the original recipe, since the rum used by Trader Vic is no longer in circulation. It also included rock candy syrup. Other variations include the Mango Mai Tai, made with mango puree; the Murderous Mai Tai, made with spiced rum and grenadine for a blood-colour finish; and the Sunset Mai Tai, which uses typical Mai Tai ingredients to create a sunset-inspired look. There are many other fruity combinations too, so be sure to take your time and try them all in order to find your favourite.

Cocktails mentioned in this post

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Mai Tai
Added About 12 years ago
6 ingredients  
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well for 10-15 seconds or until the outside of the shaker becomes frosted. Strain into a lowball glass. Garnish with a pineapple spear, mint leaves and a lime peel, and serve. ...
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well for 10-15 seconds ...
Rating: 4.62 / 5
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Sunset Mai Tai
Added About 4 years ago
8 ingredients  
Line the bottom of a cocktail glass with grenadine and bitters and fill it with crushed ice. Add the other ingredients to a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice, shake well and carefully strain into the glass. Garnish with mint and enjoy the sunset-inspired finish. ...
Line the bottom of a cocktail glass with grenadine and bitters and fill it with ...
Rating: 1.59 / 5

This post was written by ....

Suzanna H
Hi, I am Suzanna. I would describe myself as a bit of a foodie with a side-interest in fancy cocktails. Anything sweet and alcoholic and I'm in! I am also an avid writer, proofreader and editor and work freelance through the website People per Hour.


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