For no obvious reason, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect Mai Tai. I don’t know that I’m here yet, but I’ve come awfully close.
- 2 oz. aged Jamaican rum (like Appleton’s)
- ½ oz. DeKuyper’s orange curacao
- ½ oz. Torani orgeat syrup
- ½ oz. lime juice (or juice of one lime)
- ½ oz. orange juice
Mix in a cocktail shaker over ice, shake vigorously, and strain into a highball glass over crushed ice. For a bit of flourish, garnish with a pineapple chunk and a maraschino cherry on a toothpick.
This is almost the original recipe, except that the original one has “rock candy” syrup instead of orange juice. If my version isn’t sweet enough for you, shake it up with a teaspoon or so of superfine sugar—for me, the orange juice is sweet enough, particularly if it’s fresh. I think this is a little smoother and more complex than the original, without getting excessively froo-froo.
As a bit of trivia, the original doesn’t have any juice in it other than lime, and the original garnish is a mint sprig. We think of Hawaiian islands when we think of the Mai Tai, but it actually comes to us from the tropical paradise of, uh, Oakland and the original Trader Vic’s.
(Update, circa May/June, for the record: I’ve been making these with ¼ oz. simple syrup instead of orange juice, too, and they turn out just fine. Vic knew what he was doing.)