Tiki Bar classics – the Mai Tai

Tiki culture in the United States goes back to the 1930s – inspired by Polynesian culture, its influence could be found in cuisine, cocktails (especially exotic rum-based drinks) and even home decor and architecture.

The leading lights in the bar & restaurant side of Tiki culture were; Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, who sailed around the South Pacific and later legally changed his name to Donn Beach, famed for opening Don the Beachcomber, and Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, whose first restaurant in Oakland let to a worldwide chain of themed establishments.


The cocktails served in Tiki bars will vary, but are mostly based around different rums, served with fresh fruit juices and liqueurs. Many are colourful, including ingredients such as Blue Curacao, and the drinks are usually adorned with umbrellas, fresh fruit and other kitsch accompaniments. Drinks can often be served in Tiki mugs, coconut shells, scorpion bowls and similar vessels, making the whole experience fun and light hearted.

Tiki Mug

There are far too many fabulous drinks, as well as great bars, to talk about in one post, so today I will focus on just one of the classics – the Mai Tai. A mainstay of Tiki bars, the recipe can vary between establishments, but the fundamentals of good rum and orgeat (an almond syrup) hold true. As this is a strong little number, many places add pineapple juice to their versions – technically this makes the drink a Maui Mai Tai, but they are both pretty darned good.

Mai Tai (serves two)

  • 60ml Havana Club Rum
  • 40ml Lambs Dark Rum
  • 30ml Monin Orgeat Syrup
  • 60ml Lime Juice
  • 30ml Grenadine

Mai Tai use

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into rocks glasses filled with ice. If you want a more dramatic look, you can leave the dark rum out of the shaker and then float it on the top afterwards.

Warning – these drinks are deceptively strong – to make a longer and fruitier Maui Mai Tai just serve in a hurricane glass instead of a rocks glass and fill up with pineapple juice.

In future posts we will look at other classics, such as the delicious and fruity Bahama Mama as well as the infamous and genuinely dangerous Zombie!

Have a fun and sunny weekend, and, as always, enjoy (responsibly)! x

4 responses to “Tiki Bar classics – the Mai Tai

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