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Trader Vic vs. Don the Beachcomber: Who Really Invented the Mai Tai?

The Mai Tai is a favorite cocktail all over the world, and it is one of the most treasured drinks served at House of Genji. Who is responsible for creating this classic cocktail? The answer depends on who you ask. There are two different restaurateurs who claim that claim that they invented the Mai Tai, and their flavors are very different from each other. For today’s cocktail lounge guests, the history is less important than the classic flavor of this potent rum-based drink. Here’s a closer look at the history of the Mai Tai.

Don the Beachcomber

Don Beach was the owner of a once-popular chain of tiki-inspired restaurants in California called Don the Beachcomber. He claims to have in invented the Mai Tai in 1933 and says that Mai Tai recipes that debuted later were ripped off from his idea. The Mai Tai served by Don the Beachcomber is different from the standard Mai Tai recipe used today, and incorporated Pernod, grapefruit juice, and falernum. Because the recipe is different from today’s standard, many people dismiss Don the Beachcomber’s story today.

Trader Vic

Trader Vic is the person who usually gets credit for the modern Mai Tai. Trader Vic—also known as Victor J. Bergeron—is the owner of a California restaurant chain named Trade Vic’s. He claims to have created the Mai Tai when he had friends visiting from Tahiti. One friend is said to have explained, “Maita’i roa ae,” upon tasting the drink, which means “out of this world,” in Tahitian—and thus the name of the cocktail was decided. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai contains Oregeat, a mixture of dark and light rums, and orange Curacao.

Visit the cocktail lounge at House of Genji to sip on one of our famous Mai Tai cocktails as you muse the history of the drink. You’ll also love our Japanese steakhouse menu and teppanyaki grill. Reserve your table by calling our Japanese restaurant in San Jose by calling (408) 453-8120.

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