The Classic Mai Tai: Made Two Ways

Though perhaps not as often requested as the martini or the old-fashioned, the mai tai holds a special place in the cocktail canon. And as far as rum drinks go, it's hard to think of a better representation of the spirit. Created by tiki legend Trader Vic in California in the 1940s, the mai tai had an original base of Jamaican and Agricole rums (both sugarcane-based), which is often disputed. But one thing that isn't up for debate is that this drink should not be made in the sweet, frozen fashion that most beach bars can barely cobble together.

Taking this rum-driven fixture to new heights, Maison Premiere's head bartender, Will Elliott, puts the bar's extensive rum selection to good use with no less than four rums in their popular variation on the mai tai. While the Agricole is by far the most pronounced, it's the full-barreled, black strap molasses aroma that makes this mai tai unique. The other key element is the bar's house-made spiced orgeat almond syrup, which according to Elliott and his fellow barman, Thomas Waugh, is so crucial to the flavor of the mai tai that they often think of this drink not as a rum drink but as an almond drink.

Many classify the mai tai as sweet and fruity, perhaps due to its many garnish frills and years of bastardization. But Maison Premiere's far-from-cloying homage brings high acidity and a complex array of flavors, and it's spirit-forward enough to satisfy even those martini drinkers. This cocktail takes a simpler approach than many tiki favorites, though with its Tahitian name translating to "out of this world," it's clear that when made by the right hands, it's a winning formula.

Mai Tai (Original)

Serving: 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Wray & Nephew Rum

1/2 ounce orgeat (see directions below)

3/4 ounce Curaçao liqueur

3/4 ounce lime juice


1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and whip (or shake briefly with a small amount of ice) to mix.

2. Strain into a double rocks glass and top with crushed ice.

3. Add a float of Dark Rhum Agricole (or Gosling's) and garnish with a mint sprig and straw.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Difficulty: moderate

Mai Tai (Maison Premiere)

Serving: 1 cocktail

1 ounce La Favorite Blanc Rhum Agricole

1/2 ounce Diplomatico Reserva Rum

1/4 ounce Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum

1/4 ounce Cruzan Black Strap Rum

1 ounce lime juice

3/4 ounce orgeat syrup

1/2 ounce Curaçao liqueur


1. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and whip (or shake briefly with a small amount of ice) to mix.

2. Strain into a boca grande glass and top with crushed ice.

3. Garnish with an edible flower (orchid), umbrella, bundle of mint, Angostura bitters (dashed on the mint), and a speared cherry-orange wedge.

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