Mai Tai – The Most Famous Tiki Cocktail

by Karin Mosca
mai tai

Considered one of the most popular rum drinks, the Mai Tai is a cocktail with a rather high alcohol content. Invented in the United States, it became famous – indeed, legendary – thanks to the fashionable Tiki culture that swept through the 1930s and 1960s.

History of the Mai Tai

The Mai Tai was allegedly invented in 1944 at Trader Vic’s, one of the oldest and most famous Tiki Bars in the United States, by bartender Victor J. Begeron. Begeron invented the cocktail as a tribute to some of his friends who were visiting from Tahiti. After tasting it, one of them is said to have exclaimed “Maita’i roa ae!”, meaning “very good” in Tahitian, which inspired the cocktail’s name.

Trader Vic’s main rival, Don the Beachcomber, claims they invented it back in 1933. The recipes of the two bars, however, are said to be very different.

The Mai Tai became famous in the United States as early as the 1950s, although the real boom came in the 1960s thanks to Elvis Presley. The King of Rock drinks the tiki cocktail in a scene from the famous film Blue Hawaii (1961).

The Mai Tai Recipe

The original Trader Vic’s recipe is considered by purists to be the only authentic one.But today there are many other versions. Here is the one from the International Bartenders Association (I.B.A.).



  1. Pour all the ingredients, except the dark rum, into the shaker and shake well.
  2. Strain the mixture into a glass with ice.
  3. Add the dark rum on top.
  4. Decorate with a pineapple slice, some mint leaves, a lime peel and a paper parasol!

Don’t you feel like you’re on holiday yet? 😉

Translated by Chelsea Cummings from Karin Mosca’s original Italian article: Mai Tai, il cocktail Tiki più famoso.

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