The Classic Mai Tai

May 15, 2013

My first bartending job was at a popular Spanish tapas restaurant in Berkeley, CA. We took pride in our cocktails. Our bar manager put together a great list, always going above and beyond to assure we had the freshest ingredients on hand. I can confidently say that we had, at the time, some of the best margaritas, mojitos, and caipirinhas in town. We did not, however, make very many mai tais. In fact, the first time a ticket came through for this classic rum-based cocktail, I frantically searched through the several recipe books we kept behind the bar. Each book had a different recipe, all calling for some combination of rum, grenadine, and tropical juices. None of which, unfortunately, were the least bit accurate.

The Classic Mai Tai // HonestlyYUM

Sadly, this trend still continues today. The mai tai is misinterpreted more than most. My intent is to share this classic version that I’ve enjoyed  over the years. This iconic tiki drink is meant to highlight the rum, rather than syrups and juices. If you can’t find Jamaican rum and/or rhum agricole, substitute a premium aged rum of choice. Needless to say, I still feel bad for the diner that ended up with my unenthusiastic pineapple umbrella medley.

The Classic Mai Tai // HonestlyYUM

The Classic Mai Tai // HonestlyYUM

The Classic Mai Tai // HonestlyYUM

The Classic Mai Tai

The classic version of the iconic tiki cocktail
Servings: 1 cocktail



  1. Add all the ingredients to a shaker full of crushed ice and shake for 10 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is frosted.
  2. Pour the entire contents of the shaker (don't strain) into a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and enjoy!

(images by HonestlyYUM)


Looks wonderful. I just love using fresh mint in the drinks I make, like Mojitos.

This is exciting to make & taste.
I just need Jamaican rum, And i am done to try this.
Check you back.

– Jasica
Puff & Pie Co., Ltd

Thanks for sharing this delicious refreshing drink

This looks so refreshing! I’ve had both versions of the Mai tai before and have got to say this type is far superior to the fruity fake type. Glad to have a simple go-to recipe for the real deal.

YES! I love this. Mai Tai’s are delicious but, as you said, misinterpreted. There are so many versions out there, making it almost impossible to have any idea what the original would be like. Thanks for sharing this with the world! I will certainly be trying this out on a warm spring night very soon!

I remember sitting at the bar at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville, Ca, sipping a mai tai and thinking, what’s all the fuss about this drink, other than the little paper umbrella and pineapple slice on the side of the glass (which made it very hard to drink by the way). But your rendition is so elegant and simple that were I not working, I’d consider scrounging up the ingredients and making myself one…and I’m not even a fan of rum! Thanks again Todd for another amazing cocktail post!

This looks delicious! Love your drinks series Todd.
I like any drink that has mint in it. I’ve actually never heard of a Mai Tai.
Gorgeous photos as always.
xo Quinn

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