HONOLULU (KHON) — If you’ve vacationed in Hawaii, or visited a tiki bar, it’s likely you enjoyed a Mai Tai. Though popular on the islands, it was created thousands of miles away.
Victor J. Bergeron, who also went by The Trader, lays claim to creating the drink.
He explained on his website that, while at his Oakland, California restaurant in 1944, he felt a new drink was needed. Bergeron said he made this drink for his friends that were visiting from Tahiti.
One of those friends, Carrie Guild, reportedly took one sip and said, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae,” which, in Tahitian, means “out of this world, the best.” Bergeron said that ultimately inspired the drink’s name, Mai Tai.
Bergeron’s original Mai Tai recipe was:
- 2 ounces of 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican Rum
- ½ ounce Holland De Kuyper Orange Curaçao
- ½ ounce French Garnier Orgeat
- ¼ ounce Rock Candy Syrup
- Juice from one whole lime
To top off this drink, it should be garnished with ½ of a lime shell and fresh mint.
There is, of course, debate on who actually created the drink. Donn Beach, known for opening the first-of-its-kind tiki bar in Hollywood – Don the Beachcomber – in the 1930s, claimed his Q.B. Cooler inspired Bergeron’s drink. Bergeron disagreed, once writing, “Anybody who says I didn’t create this drink is a dirty stinker.”
Mai Tai comes to Hawaii
In 1953, it is said Trader Vic brought the Mai Tai to the Hawaiian Islands after he was asked by the Matson Steamship Lines to formalize drinks for their bars at multiple hotels.
Over the years, establishments have made different versions of the famous Mai Tai drink.
Hideout at The Laylow‘s signature Mai Tai, for example, features Old Lahaina Silver and Dark Rum, dry curacao, orgeat, pineapple, lime, and lilikoi (purple passion fruit), general manager Fuchsia Yamashiro tells Nexstar’s KHON. He says it is their most popular drink.
Mai Tai spots in Oahu:
- Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman
- Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand
- Bar Leather Apron
- Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
- Duke’s at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
- Hula Grill Waikiki at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
- House Without A Key at Halekulani
- Barefoot Bar at the Hale Koa Hotel
- Tiki’s Grill & Bar at the Twin Fin Hotel
- The Beach Bar at the Moana Surfrider Hotel
Only Oakland celebrates Mai Tai Day, though, held every year on Aug. 30. You’re also probably saying Mai Tai wrong. According to Bergeron, the correct pronunciation is actually “May Tay.”