How to Make the Perfect Mai Tai

Categories: Last Call

Mai Tai 550.JPG
JK Grence

Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.

After working for five years at the now-shuttered Trader Vic's in Scottsdale, the Mai Tai has become my very favorite drink. No other drink conveys a festive, tropical mood like it. Even those horribly sweet, neon-colored things that pass for Mai Tais in bad Chinese restaurants are still alluring for their retro charms. But, once you've had a real Mai Tai, everything else is just rum-spiked Kool-Aid.

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Goodness knows I know the history of the drink better than anyone else in Arizona. You see, one day in 1944, Vic was trying to come up with a new drink, and he wanted it to be simpler than some of the complex creations he'd done in the past. He started out with a bottle of 17-year rum from J. Wray & Nephew of Jamaica. He added some DeKuyper orange curaçao, a small dollop of French orgeat (almond syrup), the juice of a large lime, and a little rock candy syrup to balance the flavors. In went half of a lime shell to give the drink a little color.

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"It was so popular that in less than a year, Vic went through the entire world supply of the 17-year rum."That is awesome... What did he use once he ran out?


 @zachgarcia I'm glad you asked. He switched to the same company's 15-year rum. After a few years, he went through the world's supply of that, too. At that point, they started getting using a custom blend so they wouldn't have to worry about it happening again.

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