Mai Tai (revisited).
It’s almost five years since I started this blog and one of the first drinks I ever wrote about was the Mai Tai. Recently a reader (groetjes Andries!) was commenting on how much he loved the Mai Tai and it made me realise that it might be time to revisit this fabulous drink. If you didn’t yet read my original article I suggest you do that now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
…Over the last five or so years things have improved for the poor old Mai Tai. Yes, those dreadful MTINOs (Mai Tai in name only) with all sorts of non-original fruity and sweet ingredients have been largely exterminated and a “real” Mai Tai more easily found – and confidently ordered. Yet there has also been much discussion in the online cocktail community as to how one should make one’s “proper” Mai Tai and that is what I wish to address with the update. First is the discussion as to which rum to use. The original “1944” Trader Vic Mai Tai called for Wray & Nephew 17 year old rum and given that approximately one bottle of that remains in existence substitutes must be made. Much discussion has ensued about this subject largely revolving around Trader Vic’s own replacement: Martinique rum. I think it’s folly to get too deep into the subject and best to just leave that to the uber-geeks*. To me the joy of the Mai Tai is seeing how it responds to different rum combinations, and indeed, that simplifies matters for the average home bartender. That is not to say the Mai Tai can be made with just any rum as it is a drink which rewards a touch of quality in the rum selection. I’m not going to give you a definitive rum combo but suggest – as a starting point – a decent gold Barbados or Jamaican rum as the “base” and a good aged rum to lift it yet higher. Experiment until you find a favourite or if, like me, you have an extensive rum collection just enjoy the journey to Mai Tai perfection. Furthermore it has come to my attention that many otherwise good intentioned folks are reducing the lime content of their Mai Tai to three-quarters of an ounce. No, no and thrice no! The Mai Tai must be a balanced drink and reducing the sour content from Trader V’s “juice of one large lime”, vague as it is, must be interpreted as one full ounce in order to maintain the sweet/sour balance. Which brings me tidily to the next topic and this time it’s a modern twist that I am actually fully behind. In my previous article I suggested making a Mai Tai mix of all the sweet components in a 2:1:1 ratio of curaçao, orgeat and 2:1 syrup to be used an ounce per drink. Many modern Tiki-heads are now upping the orgeat to a half ounce per drink and (mostly) dropping the sugar syrup entirely. I feel this is justified in a few different ways: The profile of the drink is better with the orgeat coming more to the fore. I believe 1944 orgeat may well have been more assertive and that this balance of orgeat and curaçao is what The Trader was really after. But better still it much simplifies the making of the drink and renders the making of a Mai Tai mix unnecessary. Just half and ounce each of a good curaçao and orgeat and you’re good to go. Speaking of those, these days I have settled on Monin orgeat (there may be better orgeats including home-made but Monin is perfectly decent) and Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao (to me the most versatile and balanced of the many orange liqueurs).
So equipped we once again mix ourselves one of the greatest cocktails ever created:
Mai Tai (Proof preferred version).
1oz / 30ml dry gold rum (see text).
1oz / 30ml quality aged rum.
1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.
0.5oz / 15ml Pierre Ferrand (or another) dry curaçao.
0.5oz / 15ml Monin (or another) orgeat.
Shake with crushed ice and pour (unstrained) into a tumbler.
Garnish with half a lime shell and a sprig of mint (intention being to look like a little tropical island).
Toast my loyal moose Remco (pictured above) who loves a Mai Tai.
*In which case I concur with Martin Cate’s view that a Martinique rhum traditionnel was the likely substitution yet still enjoy my Mai Tai with some rhum agricole in it now and then.