Maita'i is the Tahitian word for "good". It is also the name of a popular drink (though spelled as two words). It was invented by Victor J. Bergeron, Jr. from San Francisco. In 1934, he opened a small restaurant in Oakland, California, named Hinky Dink's. Its name was soon changed to Trader Vic's and became a very popular Polynesian-themed restaurant chain.
The Mai Tai was created in his restaurant in 1944 and introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1953. The story how the Mai Tai got its name goes like this: One day Victor created the cocktail for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. One of them tasted it and cried out: "Maita'i roa ae!" (meaning "very good!" or "the very best!"), hence the name. The following recipe is the original, and though today there are many variations, this will remain "the very best".
- 1oz Jamaican rum (17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew rum if you have it)
- Juice from one fresh lime
- 1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curaçao
- 1/4 oz Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup
- 1/2 oz French Garnier Orgeat Syrup
- Sprig of fresh mint
Put ice in a shaker. Combine all ingredients and as with any cocktail, always add your non-alcoholics first as to not water down the beverage. Shake 5-6 times and pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with a mint sprig (or one pineapple spear and a cocktail cherry).
Now as mentioned before there are many ways to make a Mai Tai, however, just to clear up several misconceptions...There is no float of dark rum, nor grenadine or 5 different tropical fruit juices. No umbrella, unless you are on a cruise ship and it is raining. And the original recipe did not call for sour mix.
If you're curious, here is also the recipe for today's Trader Vic Mai Tai.
1/4 Lime squeeze (drop in glass as garnish)
1/2 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz Trader Vic's Mai Tai mix
2 oz Royal Amber Rum
Garnish: cocktail cherry, pineapple, mint sprig