When you think about the Mai Tai, it’s difficult not to picture tiki torches in the tropics with the sounds of exotic birds in the background.

That was the exact intention Victor Jules Bergeron had when he created the cocktail in Oakland, California. Better known as “Trader Vic” from his successful franchise of restaurants, Vic helped launch the tiki culture craze in 1944. Tiki is considered a mix of Polynesian and Caribbean cultures and flavors. And when you walk into a tiki bar, it’s like an instant passport to paradise, even if just for an hour or two.

With the help of Don Beach, who created “Don the Beachcomber,” tiki bars boomed on the West Coast in the 1950s and 1960s. They were a complete departure from the typical stiff suits and three-Martini lunches of the time. Tropical rum drinks were the specialty, and both Don and Vic claimed to be the original creators of the infamous Mai Tai. Unfortunately for Don, most people give the credit to Trader Vic. After all, it’s tough to argue with someone who has a wooden leg.

As the story goes, Vic was entertaining Tahitian friends at his restaurant when he decided to create the ultimate island elixir. He grabbed a bottle of 17-year-old Jamaican rum, fresh lime juice, orange curaçao, rock candy sugar, and French orgeat. He garnished the drink with the shell of the lime, peel side up, next to a branch of mint to look like an island. After serving this tropical concoction to his friends, one of them excitedly said “Mai Tai-Roa Aé!,” which means “Out of this world—the best” in Tahitian. And so the Mai Tai was born. The drink eventually made it to Hawaii and is now a staple at resorts around the world. But if you want to bring a little taste of the islands to your humble abode, whip up this easy-to-make Mai Tai recipe for instant beach vibes.

Mai Tai cocktail with garnish

Mai Tai

Photo by Benjaluk Deeyai/Shutterstock

Mai Tai


  • 1 oz. Dark Jamaican Rum
  • 1 oz. White Rum
  • .75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • .5 oz. Curaçao
  • .5 oz. Orgeat
  • Pressed Lime Shell (for Garnish)
  • Mint Sprig (for Garnish)

Preparation: Add all ingredients, save for the garnishes, to a shaker tin with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pressed lime shell and mint sprig.