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The classic Mai Tai drink recipe is a strong cocktail with a refreshing citrus and rum flavor that isn’t overly sweet.

front view of best mai tai cocktail recipe

The Mai Tai is a classic tiki cocktail that conjures up images of an exotic, tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific.

Whip up this bevvy, relax in a lounge chair outside, and close your eyes. You’ll have no trouble imagining the feel of an ocean breeze and the sound of waves crashing on shore.

Mai Tai Origin

Despite popular misconception, the Mai Thai is not from Thailand!

According to Wikipedia, Victor J. Bergeron claimed to invent this cocktail at his restaurant, Trader Vic’s, in Oakland, California in 1944.

The Original Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

If you’ve never made this drink at home, you’ll see just how easy it is!

Mai Tai Ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

mai tai ingredients
  • Light rum
  • Orange curacao
  • Orgeat
  • Lime juice
  • Crushed ice
  • Dark rum – to float on top
  • Maraschino cherry – optional garnish
  • Lime wheel – classic garnish
  • Mint sprig – classic garnish

How to Make a Mai Tai From Scratch

how to make a mai tai cocktail
  1. Add the light rum to a rocks glass or a shaker glass.
  2. Pour in the orange curacao.
  3. Measure in the orgeat syrup.
  4. Add the fresh lime juice.
  5. Now add the crushed ice and give it a stir. If you’re using a shaker glass, put the lid on and give it a shake!
  6. Slowly pour the dark rum on top to float it. If you’re using a shaker glass, pour the cocktail into a rocks glass with crushed ice and then slowly pour the dark rum on top.

Don’t forget your favorite garnishes. I like a mint sprig, lime wheel, and maraschino cherry. Cheers!

original mai tai recipe with rum floating on top

Equipment

Let me start by saying that you don’t need any fancy equipment to make this cocktail recipe! You can just add all the ingredients to a glass, and if you want, you can leave the layers without stirring and sip it. And definitely don’t stir after you float the rum on top!

However, if you feel like you want to take your cocktails to the next level in general, a shaker set is an easy way to do it. And bonus, you can find a decent set that’s relatively inexpensive!

What Type of Glass is a Mai Tai Served In?

A Mai Tai cocktail is served in any of the following kinds of glasses:

overhead view of mai tai drink with cherry and lime garnishes

Variations

Different variations of this cocktail add orange juice or pineapple juice, amaretto, falernum, or grenadine.

fresh squeezed lime juice
It’s always best to use freshly-squeezed citrus juice!

Tips

  • Use fresh-squeezed lime juice for the most intense bright citrus flavor.
  • If you can’t find orgeat syrup, for this recipe you can substitute 2 tablespoons simple syrup + 1 drop almond extract + 1 drop orange extract (or if you don’t have orange extract, you can use 1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water).
  • The classic version of this cocktail is slightly tart in a refreshing way. However, if you prefer your cocktails on the sweeter side, feel free to add a splash of pineapple juice.
mai tai tiki drink with fresh mint garnish

Mai Tai Drink Recipe FAQs

What is Orgeat Syrup?


Orgeat syrup is a sweet syrup with a slight bit of creaminess, a strong almond flavor, and a hint of floral orange blossom water.

Tip: If you don’t have orgeat syrup, you can substitute with simple syrup and a couple drops of almond extract and orange extract or orange blossom water.

How Do You Garnish a Mai Tai?

A lime wheel and mint sprig are classic garnishes for this tiki cocktail. I also like to add a maraschino cherry for the little pop of color and sweetness. If you really want an elaborate, fun presentation, you can add a pineapple wedge!

How Do I Float Rum on a Drink?


Even though I’ve heard that floating dark rum on top isn’t part of the original Mai Thai recipe, I think it’s a fun and pretty addition! You can choose if you want to do it or not.

To float the dark rum on top, gently pour the rum onto the top of the ice. It will float!

Tip: To help the rum pour gently and slowly, you can hold a spoon upside down over the ice and pour the rum onto the spoon, letting it flow into the glass on the ice.how to float rum on top of a cocktail drink

More Cocktails to Try

traditional mai thai

Let’s Connect

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Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Servings: 1 serving
The classic Mai Tai drink recipe is a strong cocktail with a refreshing citrus and rum flavor that isn’t overly sweet.

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Ingredients
 

  • 1 1/2 ounces light rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces orange curacao
  • 1 ounce orgeat syrup
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1/2 ounce dark rum
  • 1 maraschino cherry for garnish
  • 1 lime wheel for garnish
  • 1 fresh mint sprig

Instructions
 

  • Stir together the light rum, orange curacao, orgeat syrup, and lime juice in a rocks glass.
  • Add the crushed ice and float the dark rum on top.
    hand pouring rum on top of crushed ice to float it on top
  • Garnish with a cherry, lime wheel, and mint sprig.
  • Serve immediately.

Notes

  • How to Float Rum: To float the dark rum on top, gently pour the rum onto the top of the ice. To help the rum gently and slowly pour, you can hold a spoon upside down over the ice and pour the rum onto the spoon, letting it flow into the glass on the ice.
  • Substitute for Orgeat: If you can’t find orgeat syrup, for this recipe you can substitute 2 tablespoons simple syrup + 1 drop almond extract + 1 drop orange extract (or if you don’t have orange extract, you can use 1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water).

Nutrition

Calories: 342kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 27mg | Potassium: 48mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 7IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Best Mai Tai Recipe, Mai Tai, Mai Tai Cocktail, Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe, Mai Tai Drink, Mai Tai Drink Recipe, Mai Tai Recipe, Original Mai Tai Recipe

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Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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