Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mai Tai

Mai Tai

There are a few ingredients that pop up frequently enough in different cocktail recipes that they sound familiar, but not frequently enough that I even know what they are. Orgeat syrup is one such ingredient. But when I saw it at a liquor store for less than $20, I decided to try it out. I love when a small investment can greatly increase your cocktail repertoire.

As it turns out, orgeat syrup is made from almonds, sugar, and rose water or orange flower water. It is very sweet and a little almondy, which I absolutely love. There are several different brands out there; I bought this bottle by Fee Brothers.

The most well-known cocktail containing orgeat is the Mai Tai. Like many fruity, rum-based cocktails, this drink has been corrupted by many touristy bars into something that barely resembles the original recipe. The only fruit juice in a real Mai Tai is lime. The rest of its fruity flavor comes from orange curacao, and orgeat gives it its sweetness. It's quite simply delicious. Still tropical enough to be fit for the beach, but not so ridiculously tiki-themed that you don't feel like you can mix one up at home.

History: The Mai Tai falls under the category of "tiki drinks," fruity, usually rum-based cocktails that became popular in the 50's when Polynesian-themed tiki bars and restaurants were all the rage. The two fathers of tiki cocktails are Vic Bergeron ("Trader Vic") and Don the Beachcomber, who ran competing restaurants in Hollywood. Both take credit for the invention of the Mai Tai, but Vic's claim seems most valid. His 1947 bartender's guide tells the story of how it got its name: he served the first one to a Tahitian friend who exclaimed, "Maita'i roa ai!" ("Very good!").

You want to use an aged rum in this cocktail. In fact, Trader Vic was spurred to create it to complement a particularly flavorful bottle of 17-year-old Jamaican rum.

Mai Tai

2 oz. aged rum
3/4 oz. orange curacao
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. orgeat syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a mint leaf and a slice of lime (or edible orchids if you're lucky enough to have them).

Recipe from Vintage Cocktails.

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