Perhaps the most iconic cocktail Trader Vic ever created, the Mai Tai has gone through several iterations according to shifting availabilities of various rums since its genesis in 1944. Vic originally called for a seventeen-year-old Jamaican rum, but the sheer popularity of the drink at his rapidly expanding empire resulted in a dwindling supply of that particular bottling. The years that followed witnessed several reformulations based on available rums, but Martin Cate notes that this hardly impacted the end result. “The fundamental nature of the Mai Tai is that it’s a showcase for great rum to shine. All the other ingredients are in small, supporting roles,” he says, adding, “the perfect rum or rum combination for the Mai Tai is the one that makes you happiest when you drink it.
2 ounces aged Jamaican rum or other full-bodied, “unapologetic” rum, preferably Appleton Estate Rare Blend, Coruba or Denizen Merchant’s Reserve
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
3/4 ounce lime juice
1/4 ounce rich Demerara syrup (see Editor’s Note)
1/4 ounce orgeat (see Editor’s Note)
Garnish: upside-down lime shell, mint sprig
Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add 1½ cups crushed ice and a few standard ice cubes.
Shake until frost appears on the shaker and pour into a double Old-Fashioned glass.
Garnish with an upside-down lime shell and mint sprig.
Orgeat: 300 grams raw almonds (about 3 1⁄2 cups/ 1⁄2 pound)
Water, as needed
Put the almonds in a bowl and add water to cover. Set aside to soak overnight. Drain the water, then weigh the almonds. Transfer them to a blender and slowly add an equal weight of fresh water while the blender is running on low for about 1 minute. Increase to high speed and blend until the mixture is opaque. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Weigh the strained milk. Transfer to a saucepan and add an equal weight of sugar. Over medium heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Rich Demerara Syrup: 2 cups Demerara sugar
1 cup water
In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar and water over medium low heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.