Behind the Bar: Mai Tai Roa Ae!

In my first post about mixing my own exotic cocktails I figure there is no better place to start than with the most famous tiki drink ever… The Mai Tai!

There are verying stories about the creation of the Mai Tai but the most widely accepted one is from the Original Trader, Trader Vic…

“I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year old Jamacian J. Wray Nephew rum, added fresh lime, some Orange Curaçao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy syrup and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle flavor. A generous amount of shaved ice and a vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after. Half a lime shell went in for color, I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Taihiti, who were there that night. Carrie took a sip and said, ‘Mai Tai – Roa Ae’. In Tahitian this means ‘Out of this World – The Best’. Well that was that. I named the drink ‘Mai Tai’.”

Unfortunately the popularity of the Mai Tai created a run on the 17-year Wray and it is no longer in existence. Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove believes that to create a taste similar to Vic’s original you should use a “blended, aged” rum (meaning of blend of the pot and column distilling methods and aged between 4 and 14 years). I experimented with a few different rums but found my favorite to be Appleton Estate Reserve Blend from Jamacia.

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Tiki Drummer guarding the Appleton Estate Reserve Rum closely!

Prior to this journey I’m not sure I would have said this but Fresh Fruit Juice makes a HUGE difference! So I now only use fresh squeezed lime in my Mai Tai. I also make my own Simple Syrup to keep as many ingredients homemade as possible. (I have not tackled my own Orgeat yet, but maybe in the future.)

My Homemade Mai Tai simple syrup (demerara suger, water and a dash of vanilla extract) and Fresh Lime.

Below is my adaption of Vic’s Original Mai Tai using guidance from Smuggler’s Cove… Give it a go and let me know what you think or put your own adaptation in the comments.

  • 3/4 oz FRESH lime juice
  • 1/4 oz Mai Tai simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz orgeat
  • 1/2 oz Orange Curaçao
  • 2 oz Appleton Estate Reserve Rum

Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice, pour over crushed ice and garnish with mint and/or lime.

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Finished product in the HippopotoMai-Tai tiki mug from Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

Looks like Mai Tai Roe Ae to me! (Tastes like it too!)

Mahalo, Trader Vic

E Komo Mai

Welcome to my Tiki Blog!

A little over a year ago I embarked on my Tiki Journey.  It was really two events that got me started and one additional event that really lit a Pele’s fire under me…

The first two happened very close to each other… one being the opening of and my first visit to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and the other was the purchase of a new house.

I’ll write an entire post on Trader Sam’s soon, but our new home had a bonus room that needed a theme and Sam provided the inspiration.

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Trader Jay’s post-renovation, obviously during moving time. My boys already bringing the relaxing vibe in.

With a blank slate sometimes it is hard to know where to start, but a bamboo bar as a housewarming present from my parents is never a bad place!

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The first piece of Trader Jay’s… showcasing some early tiki mugs and rums.

With the bar in place, the tiki theme was solidified!  And the Tiki Journey started.

As anyone knows, building tiki is never a fast process and in future posts I will definitely highlight the decor that has been added as Trader Jay’s grows and evolves, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco.

A visit to Smuggler’s Cove earlier this year opened my eyes even wider to the world of tiki, especially as it comes to creating exotic drinks and mixology.  Entering into the bar is an amazing experience and reading through the menu can be overwhelming but it is a MUST for any tiki enthusiast. The atmosphere is spot on and the drinks are AMAZING.

The experience immediately prompted me to purchase the new Smuggler’s Cove book. Martin Cate’s philosophy on tiki is spot on, in my opinion, and the book has become my “Tiki Bible”.

So, that’s where I’ll stop for my first post. In the coming weeks I hope to showcase the bar build and evolution, share my thoughts about the amazing tiki bars I’ve had the opportunity to experience and highlight my exotic drink mixology.  Until then, a hui hou (until we meet again).

Mahalo