Mai Tai Recipe - How to Make This Delicious Tiki Cocktail

It’s Tiki time! Let’s take a look at one of the most popular tropical cocktails, a classic that has been tantalizing taste buds for decades – the Mai Tai.

Purportedly invented in the 1940s by either Trader Vic or Don the Beachcomber - both bartending legends in their own right - this is a unique drink with a vibrant blend of flavors. As someone who is partial to a good Rum cocktail, I find the Mai Tai to be a refreshingly fruity addition to the long list of rum based beverages I can’t seem to stop myself reaching for.

Mai Tai Ingredients

Like many of its rum cocktail cousins the classic Mai Tai recipe has three main components: rum, lime and syrup. It’s the cheeky addition of two more flavors: orange and almond that really enhance its flavor complexity, though.

A traditional Mai Tai includes the following:

  • 2 oz Dark Rum

The star of the show. A good quality aged rum adds depth to your drink.

  • 1 oz Lime Juice

Freshly squeezed for that essential zesty kick.

  • 1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup

This sweet almond syrup with a hint of orange flower water is crucial for that distinctive Mai Tai flavor.

  • 1/2 Orange Liqueur

Curaçao, Cointreau or Grand Marnier all work well.

  • 1/4 oz Simple Syrup (optional)

For an additional touch of sweetness.


Colorful mai tai cocktail on a table, with a cocktail shaker and stainer next to it

 How to Make a Mai Tai

Now, let's get to the fun part – making the Mai Tai. Follow these steps to craft this delightful concoction:

  • Mix the Ingredients: In a shaker, combine the 2 oz of rum, 1 oz of fresh lime juice, 1/2 oz of orgeat syrup, 1/2 oz of orange liqueur, and 1/4 oz of simple syrup (optional).
  • Shake It Up: Add ice and shake thoroughly.
  • Strain and Serve: Strain the mix into a glass filled with crushed ice.
  • Garnish: Add a lime wheel or a sprig of mint for an extra pop of color and aroma.

Variations of Mai Tai

The Mai Tai is a cocktail that deserves to be celebrated, and what better way than changing things up and making different versions of it?

As they say, “variety is the spice of life”, so here are a few variations for you to try:

  • Spiced Mai Tai: Add a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg for a warm spicy twist.
  • Extra Fruity Mai Tai: Blend in some pineapple or mango juice for a tropical flair.

Remember, you’re in charge and you can always “wing it” and experiment with new flavors. Thought of an ingredient that might go well in this classic Mai Tai recipe? Try it out! Who knows - you might just invent the “next big drink.”

Bar Tools Needed to Craft Your Mai Tai

If you want to make a great Mai Tai you’ll need the correct tools to get the job done.

This includes:

Cocktail Shaker

A cocktail shaker is indispensable for mixing your Mai Tai. It helps to blend the rum, lime and curaçao flavors together thoroughly and chills the drink to the perfect temperature. I prefer a Boston shaker for this drink but you can use a cobbler shaker if you’re new to cocktail making.


 Precision is everything. A jigger ensures you measure the Mai Tai ingredients accurately. Make sure you go for a double jigger with 1 oz / 2 oz measurements for a more convenient pour.

Citrus Juicer

Freshly squeezed lime juice is a crucial component of this cocktail. A hand-held citrus juicer or a reamer will help you extract every drop of juice without the seeds or too much pulp. You can use bottled lime juice in a pinch but trust me, it just isn’t the same.


If you're using a Boston shaker, you'll need a strainer to hold back ice and any fruit bits when pouring your drink. Cobbler shakers have a built in strainer but I’d still recommend taking the lid off and using a Hawthorne strainer because the holes in the cobbler shaker’s strainer are much larger and can let through ice and other bits.

Bar Spoon

A bar spoon is useful for stirring the ingredients together. It's also handy for layering drinks if you're experimenting with different Mai Tai variations.

Ice Maker and / or Ice Bucket

You can’t make a Mai Tai without ice. Well, you could but it wouldn’t be a very good one. Whether you use an ice maker or an ice bucket with tongs, ensure that you have plenty of ice to shake and serve with your cocktail.


You’ve gone to all that effort crafting your cocktail so you can’t just throw it in any old glass. Typically, a Mai Tai is served in a double old-fashioned glass or a Tiki mug. Having the right glassware not only enhances the presentation but also makes your drink taste better (yes, really).

mai tai cocktail in a stylish glass, with ice cubes and a pineapple garnish, set against a black background

 Other Cocktails Similar to a Mai Tai

 If you're a fan of Mai Tais, you might also enjoy these similar cocktails:

  • Zombie: Another rum-based favorite, this one packs a punch with its blend of juices and liqueurs. It’s not for the faint of heart, though, with its potent combination of white, dark, and overproof rums.
  • Pina Colada: Creamy and fruity, it’s a tropical delight. I see this as part dessert, part cocktail.
  • Daiquiri: Simple yet refreshing, it’s a classic that never disappoints.

These cocktails share that irresistible combination of rum and tropical flavors that makes a Mai Tai oh so delicious.


The humble Mai Tai has become something of a cultural icon over the years. It’s a symbol of a relaxed, tropical lifestyle and is enjoyed by millions every year on vacation at beach resorts. It’s my hope that by mastering this Mai Tai recipe you - the reader - can capture some of this “tiki spirit”. Whether you stick with the traditional recipe or go down a mixology rabbit hole, experimenting with all types of crazy variations, enjoy the experience of mixing up this tropical drink.

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