how to make a mai tai

How to Make a Mai Tai: Transport Your Guests to Paradise with this Tropical Cocktail

Mai Tai: Transport Your Guests to Paradise with this Tropical Cocktail

how to make a mai tai


Everything You Need to Know About How to Make a Mai Tai

Imagine yourself on a balmy Hawaiian beach, the rhythmic crash of waves against the shore providing a soothing soundtrack to your evening. A vibrantly colored cocktail rests in your hand, its refreshing sweetness and hint of rum warmth transporting you to a state of pure relaxation. This, my friend, is the magic of the Mai Tai, a timeless Tiki drink that's surprisingly easy to recreate at home.

So ditch the overpriced Mai Tais at fancy bars and impress your family and friends with your newfound bartending skills! Not only will you save money (according to a 2023 Statista survey [], the average price of a cocktail at a full-service restaurant in the US is a whopping $10.69!), but you'll also gain the satisfaction of creating a restaurant-quality beverage in your own kitchen.

What's a Mai Tai?

The Mai Tai, literally translating to "the best" in Tahitian, is a rum-based cocktail that originated in the 1940s. While its exact origins are debated, with both Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber restaurants vying for credit, there's no denying its enduring popularity. This iconic Tiki drink is a complex balance of sweet, tart, and nutty flavors, perfect for poolside lounging or a tropical-themed dinner party.

Mai Tai Ingredients

how to make a mai tai

Crafting the perfect Mai Tai starts with understanding the key ingredients:

  • Aged Rum: The base spirit of the cocktail, aged rum adds depth and complexity. Look for amber or golden rums with notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak.
  • Dark Rum: A small amount of dark rum is floated on top of the drink for a touch of richness and molasses sweetness.
  • Orange Liqueur: Orange liqueur adds a citrusy brightness. Curaçao, with its vibrant orange color, is the traditional choice, while Cointreau or Grand Marnier offer slightly different flavor profiles (we'll delve deeper into these options in a moment).
  • Lime Juice: Freshly squeezed lime juice is essential for that perfect balance of tartness. Avoid bottled lime juice for the most authentic flavor.
  • Orgeat Syrup: This almond-flavored syrup adds a touch of nuttiness and creamy texture. You can find orgeat syrup at most liquor stores or specialty grocery stores (we'll explain more about orgeat syrup in a dedicated section).
  • Simple Syrup (Optional): A touch of simple syrup can be added to adjust the sweetness level to your preference.

Mai Tai Recipe

how to make a mai tai

Now that you're familiar with the essential ingredients, let's get mixing! Here's what you'll need to create a classic Mai Tai:

    • 1.5 oz Aged Rum
    • ¾ oz Orange Liqueur (Curaçao, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier)
    • ¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice
    • ½ oz Orgeat Syrup
    • ¼ oz Simple Syrup (Optional)
    • Dark Rum (for floating)
    • Lime Wedge (for garnish)
    • Mint Sprig (for garnish)


Ready to create your own Mai Tai masterpiece? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Gather your ingredients: Measure out all your ingredients according to the recipe (which we'll provide in a moment).
  2. Chill your glass: Fill a coupe glass or rocks glass with ice and let it sit for a few minutes. Discard the ice water before adding your cocktail.
  3. Shake it up: Combine aged rum, orange liqueur, lime juice, and orgeat syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  4. Strain and serve: Strain the mixture into your chilled glass.
  5. Float the dark rum: Using a bar spoon, slowly pour the dark rum over the back of the spoon so it forms a layer on top of the cocktail.
  6. Garnish: Add a lime wedge and a mint sprig for a classic touch.

What is Orgeat Syrup?

how to make a mai tai

Orgeat syrup, also known as almond syrup, is a key ingredient that adds a unique depth of flavor to the Mai Tai. Traditionally made from almonds, orgeat syrup can also be made with apricot kernels or peach pits. It has a sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of marzipan. You can find orgeat syrup at most liquor stores or specialty grocery stores, but if you're feeling adventurous, you can even try making your own!

Orange Liqueur: Grand Marnier vs Curaçao

The choice of orange liqueur can subtly alter the flavor profile of your Mai Tai. Here's a breakdown of the two most popular options:

  • Curaçao: This vibrant blue liqueur is the traditional choice for Mai Tais. It has a sweeter orange flavor with a hint of bitterness.
  • Grand Marnier: This French liqueur is a blend of cognac and orange liqueur. It offers a more complex flavor profile with notes of orange, vanilla, and brandy, resulting in a slightly richer Mai Tai.

Ultimately, the best choice comes down to personal

Two Types of Rum Make the Best Flavor

The magic of the Mai Tai lies in the interplay of two different rums. Here's why using both is key:

    • Aged Rum: As mentioned earlier, aged rum provides the backbone of the drink. Its deeper, richer flavors add complexity and balance the sweetness of other ingredients.
    • Dark Rum: A small amount of dark rum floated on top adds a touch of molasses sweetness and depth. It creates a visual contrast and introduces a subtle smoky note that elevates the overall flavor profile.

While there's no single "perfect" rum for a Mai Tai, opting for aged rums from Jamaica or Barbados with notes of vanilla, caramel, and baking spices is a good starting point. When it comes to dark rum, Jamaican or Barbados dark rums with a hint of smoke will complement the aged rum nicely. Don't be afraid to experiment with different brands to find your ideal flavor combination.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Keep in mind that cocktails are not typically health foods, but here's a rough estimate of the nutritional information for a Mai Tai, based on a standard recipe using 2 ounces total rum:

    • Calories: 240-280 (depending on the rum used)
    • Carbohydrates: 20-25 grams (mostly from sugar)
    • Fat: 0 grams
    • Protein: 0 grams

Please note: This is just an estimate and the actual nutritional content can vary depending on the specific ingredients and brands used.

Beyond the Classics: Fruity Mai Tai Variations

While the classic Mai Tai is a crowd-pleaser, there's room for exploration! Here are some ideas for fruity variations:

    • Pineapple Mai Tai: Add a splash of pineapple juice for a tropical twist.
    • Pama Mai Tai: Substitute half of the orgeat syrup with Pama (a liqueur made with pomegranate) for a tart and fruity take.
    • Strawberry Mai Tai: Muddle a few fresh strawberries in the shaker before adding the other ingredients for a vibrant pink cocktail.

Remember, these are just starting points. Feel free to experiment with different fruits and flavors to create your own signature Mai Tai!


The Mai Tai is more than just a cocktail; it's an experience that transports you to a tropical paradise. By using fresh, high-quality ingredients and following these simple steps, you can create restaurant-worthy Mai Tais at home, saving money and impressing your guests. So, gather your friends, crank up some tropical tunes, and let the Mai Tais take you on a delicious adventure.

how to make a mai tai

Now, for those who want to take their home bartending skills to the next level, Barprints offers a comprehensive online bartending course called "Mixology Mastery." This course dives deep into the history, techniques, and recipes of classic and contemporary cocktails, empowering you to create an impressive repertoire of drinks to suit any occasion. Whether you dream of mastering the Mai Tai or exploring other cocktail frontiers, Barprints can equip you with the knowledge and confidence to become a home bartending extraordinaire.

So, are you ready to unleash your inner mixologist and create applause-worthy cocktails for your next gathering?

how to make a mai tai