The Best Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

By Timo Torner / Last updated on May 9, 2023

The Mai Tai is a true tropical cocktail legend and a member of the so-called Holy Trinity of Tiki drinks. It's a gorgeous blend of white and dark rum, citrus flavors from fresh lime juice, and orgeat that can blow your socks off.
Mai Tai Cocktail on table garnished with pineapple

When you think of Tiki cocktails, there's no way not to talk about the Mai Tai cocktail. It's one of the most famous Tiki drinks and a favorite of many.

However, despite this status, the Mai Tai had its issues in the past and still has some today. In an effort to be creative, the fruity rum cocktail often is made with cheap ingredients that ruin its initial objective, which was to highlight the rum. 

Quick Facts Mai Tai Cocktail

  • Method: shaken
  • Flavor profile: fruity, slightly boozy
  • How to serve it: straight up
  • Best glassware: Martini glass
  • Alcohol content: ~ 22% ABV, 26.5 grams of alcohol per serving

So let's see how you can make an original Mai Tai that showcases the rum and be as fruity as it is delicious.

Mai Tai Cocktail on table garnished with pineapple

Mai Tai Recipe

A delicious tiki cocktail.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Rum Cocktail
Servings: 1
Calories: 182kcal
Cost: $2.40


  • 1.5 oz White Rum
  • 0.75 oz Orange Curacao
  • 0.75 oz Lime juice
  • 0.5 oz Orgeat syrup
  • 0.5 oz Dark, aged Rum


  • Add all ingredients except the aged rum into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice.
    1.5 oz White Rum, 0.75 oz Orange Curacao, 0.75 oz Lime juice, 0.5 oz Orgeat syrup
  • Shake it gently for 2-5 seconds.
  • Pour your entire shaker content into a double old fashioned glass and add more crushed ice on top.
  • Float the dark rum on top and add your garnish. -Your Mai Tai is ready to be served.
    0.5 oz Dark, aged Rum


Serving: 4.25ozCalories: 182kcalCarbohydrates: 16.1gSodium: 3.5mgPotassium: 30.75mgSugar: 15.88gVitamin C: 22.5mgCalcium: 10.5mgIron: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Ingredients of a Mai Tai

For the iconic Mai Tai recipe, you need the following:

  • Light Rum - The original recipe by Trader Vic asked for Jamaican rum. To be precise, J. Wray & Nephew, but other brands work, too, of course.
  • Dark Rum - Combining white and dark rum in this cocktail recipe is common practice when mixing a Mai Tai. We recommend using Appleton 12 Rare Casks or Plantation OFTD in this recipe. 
  • Orange Curacao - Curaçao is a liqueur flavored with peels of premature oranges. It's key in various tropical cocktail creations - mainly known for flashy blue drinks like the Blue Lagoon or the Swimming Pool. The main difference between Orange and Blue Curaçao, though, is the color. Sometimes the orange version is slightly drier.
  • Orgeat syrup - Instead of regular simple syrup, the drink is sweetened with orgeat. That's an almond-flavored syrup and a crucial ingredient in this and many other Tiki Cocktails. Besides almonds, it also contains rose water and orange flower water.
  • Fresh lime juice - It needs to be freshly squeezed! Store-bought lime juice is an effective way to ruin your drink - and that is not only true for the Mai Tai recipe but for cocktails in general.

How to Make It Perfect

A proper Mai Tai comes on crushed ice. You also shake it with crushed ice for a short time and then dirt-dumped (cocktail & ice) into your glass. So, you don't need a cocktail strainer for this legendary concoction.

For this, add all ingredients, except for dark rum, into your cocktail shaker with crushed ice and shake for 2-5 seconds only. When shaking with large cubes, you usually shake for about 15 seconds, but with crushed ice, this would leave you with a watery rum puddle.

Dirty-dumping means you pour the entire content of your shaker - with the ice - into a Double-Old Fashioned glass and then you add more crushed ice on top.

Only then should you float the dark rum on top to get the perfect Mai Tai with the lightly layered look.

Mai Tai recipe with dark rum float and pineapple garnish


Mai Tai recipes are among the most tweaked cocktail recipes for many reasons. Number one is the search for the perfect rum base in the tropical cocktail.

The important part is that there is not only one feasible solution. You can create a beautiful Mai Tai cocktail in many ways. So, blended, non-blended, aged, or unaged light rum, all options have great-Mai Tai potential.

Orange Curacao is also an often substituted ingredient. Many recipes use a triple sec like Cointreau or another orange liqueur like Grand Marnier as a substitute.

To make the drink more tropical, bartenders often add more fruity ingredients like fresh orange juice or pineapple juice. I'm not a fan, but adding 1 ounce of pineapple juice to the recipe adds a sweet note and won't ruin your Mai Tai.

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, a tiki cocktail legend also created a popular riff on the recipe called the Mai Tai Swizzle. This variation is from the 1950s and adds Falernum, grapefruit juice, and Pernod to the drink.

One of our favorite riffs is our Black 'N Bloody Mai Tai. A spooky Halloween version that's sure to impress your guests - visually and taste-wise.

History of the Mai Tai

The most told and one of the more credible stories about the origin of the Mai Tai is that the tropical drink is a creation of Tiki legend Victor Bergeron alias Trader Vic.

Allegedly, he invented the cocktail in the 1940s in his Bar Trader Vic in San Francisco. However, as with other famous drinks, many people claim the invention of the Mai Tai recipe for themselves.

-Now, even if the first appearance has been at Trader Vis's, Tiki legend Donn Beach probably created the base for this cocktail.

Donn Beach is another icon of Western Tiki culture and Trader Vic's biggest contender. Apparently, he once served a similar drink during the 1930s in his Beachcomber bar in Hollywood.

Together with the Zombie and the Grog, the classic Mai Tai is known today as the so-called Holy Trinity of Tiki.

More Tiki Cocktails

Here's an excellent selection of Tiki cocktails to make at home:

  • Rum Runner - a fruity mix of banana, blackberry, pineapple, lime, pomegranate, and rum.
  • Planter's Punch - a refreshing tropical punch recipe.
  • Hurricane - Do you like a mix of passion fruit, orange, and pineapple? Then the Hurricane is a great option.
  • Bahama Mama - Coconut, pineapple, and coffee flavors mixed in one delicious tropical drink.
  • Jungle Bird - A tropical drink with Campari.
  • Cobra's Fang - a lesser-known member of the Tiki drinks

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