A Look at the Traditional Mai Tai

Mai Tai is a popular cocktail—it was even President Richard Nixon’s go-to drink. The definition of what makes a Mai Tai has loosened over the years, but you can still get a traditional drink at a Japanese cocktail lounge. If you’d like to know where the drink came from, how to make it, and what people do with it today, read on for a look at the traditional Mai Tai.

Where It Came From

Today’s variations of the Mai Tai tend to be far off from the traditional recipe, and this is due in part to its explosive popularity. The phrase “Mai Tai” actually means “the best”, and the name is said to stem from one of the first reactions upon tasting the drink. The rum-based cocktail was introduced in 1944, although its roots may trace back to 1933.

Mai Tai Evolution

Vic Bergeron, also known as Trader Vic, is said to be the founder of Mai Tai and was the one to introduce the drink in 1944. He exclusively used 17-year-old rum, in the mix, and when that ran out, he switched to a 15-year Wray and Nephew. Then that ran out as well, at which point he started blending different types of rum to create the same flavor. Mai Tai sprang up in Hawaii in the 1950s, and it was then that pineapple and orange juices were used to make the drink more accessible to tourists, and the fruity flavors stuck.

Modern Variations

The true original Mai Tai is no more, but there are modern variations that pay homage to the original flavors. You can make a modern sparkling Mai Tai with aged rum, blended overproof rum, dry curacao, sparkling wine, orgeat, lime juice, and a lime twist.

Remember to order a Mai Tai when you find yourself in a Japanese cocktail lounge in San Jose. You can try a traditional Mai Tai when you stop by House of Genji, and you can also try out our delicious dishes. If you’re interested in Japanese dining, call us at (408) 453-8120 or visit our website to learn more.

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