The mai tai cocktail gained popularity in the 50s and 60s as with the raise of tiki-themed restaurants (“maita’i” is the Tahitian word for “good”), but the true origin of the mai tai is a little hazy, since two bartenders claim to be the inventor. Victor J. Bergeron claims to have made it in 1944 at his restaurant Trader Vic’s, while Ernest Beaumont-Gantt, a.k.a “Don the Beachcomber,” claims to have created it in 1933 at his bar named after himself, albeit a version more complex. While there is some overlap between the two recipes (rum, curaçao, lime juice), they taste distinctly different.
And because one of my favorite things is to take a tried-and-true, century-old cocktail and give it a modern Maine update, I’ve done just that with this spin on the mai tai. For this recipe, I use the older and complex Don the Beachcomber version as my jumping-off point. I didn’t want to rely heavily on the curaçao, as both mai tai creators make such a big deal about the importance of where the curaçao comes from and what oranges are used—and both landed on conflicting conclusions. Screw it, I found some deliciousness with Toasted Coconut Cordial, a liqueur by Mossy Ledge Spirits, a new distillery out of Etna. This gives the mai tai some added sweetness without overwhelming it. I also decided to mix in some Spider Island Rum, a dark rum put out by Sebago Lake Distillery. There were a lot to choose from when it came to Maine-made white and dark rums. To keep the mai tai complicated, I kept the Angostura bitters, like Don would have liked.
1 ounce dark rum (I recommend Sebago Lake Distillery’s Spider Island Rum)
1 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce curaçao
1/2 ounce Mossy Ledge Toasted Coconut Cordial from Mossy Ledge Spirits
3/4 ounce lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill a rocks glass or a tiki vessel with ice. In a shaker, fill with ice, dark rum, white rum, curaçao, coconut cordial, lime juice and angostura bitters. Shake and strain into glass. Garnish with pineapple, cherries, a lime, basically any fruit you got, just put it on there because you should eat more fruit.
Jessie resides at the heart of downtown Portland with her border collie puppy Josie, making cocktails and trouble.