MAI TAI TWISTS – let´s have some fun!

Moving on to the topic of Mai Tai twists from the last post about how to do the original Mai Tai right…

So it´s time to play! the goal here is to stay somewhat true to the Trader Vic´s recipe with only some slight changes because i don´t wanna loose too much of the Mai Tai formula..but true Mai Tais it ain´t anymore…

The garnish is changed all the way out though, not a mint to be seen…, not that I don´t like mint and I`m a purist when it comes to the original Mai Tai but it´s refreshing to play with something else. I was going to try to find hibiscus buds but alas no hibiscus anywhere. I did find a red bromeliad flower though and some green dracaena leaves.

Mai Tai twists – I`m all for it and what is tasty or not is so personal. Some find for example the Bitter Mai Tai gross and even an abomination – i find it tasty but then again I`m a Campari geek. In fact I like it so much I even made a twist of it..


1½ oz Campari

¾ oz Smith & Cross Jamaican rum

1 oz lime juice (save the spent lime shell to go in the shaker)

¾ oz orgeat

½ oz orange Curaçao

3 dashes Mozart Chocolate bitters

Shake and strain into a double old fashioned or other glass and sink the spent lime shell into the drink. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, or something tropical.

What is done here? well, one of the rums is switched for Campari and chocolate bitters are added. Not a Mai Tai anymore, and that´s why it has “Bitter Chocolate” in the name.

A lot of what I write here is obvious for many of us, so all of you who already know these things please bear with me… there are many out there who wanna learn.

The addition of Campari for one of the rums is not my invention, the Bitter Mai Tai was created by Jeremy Oertel at Dram in Brooklyn, NYC. I only added the chocolate bitters to the party. There´s also a bitter Mai Tai variation with Cynar instead of Campari. I like it bitter – but i also like it sweet and so i`m moving on to a sweet variation in a while.

Way too many bars serves twists on the original recipe that changes the drink very much but they still call those drinks just Mai Tai – like the original Mai Tai, and that`s just WRONG.

So here´s the sweet one, using homemade hibiscus grenadine instead of orange curacao and rhum agricole blanc.


1 oz rhum agricole blanc

1 oz Smith & Cross Jamaican rum

1 oz lime juice (save the spent lime shell to go in the shaker)

¾ oz orgeat

0.5 oz hibiscus grenadine

A couple dashes hibiscus tincture (steep dried hibiscus flowers in highproof vodka for 1-2 weeks) on top of the ice. Or by all means, use peychauds.

Shake it up and strain into a tall glass or a hurricane glass (double the recipe) with crushed ice and top the ice with hibiscus tincture (or peychauds) garnish with a red hibiscus flower bud and stick a straw through it.

So by just adding hibiscus grenadine and switching the aged agricole for a blanc it turns out a different drink. Often you only need small changes to transform the drink into something entirely different.

But other times there´s bigger changes… here is another quite interesting variation called Stormy Mai Tai that uses lots of angostura bitters that I found over at Cocktail Quest. Another interesting post on the subject Mai Tai as foundation you can read over at Chemistry of the Cocktail.

Now on to another very interesting twist, this one was created by my friend Tony Harion from Mixing Bar in Brazil. He uses Brazil nut orgeat and cachaca. Since I can´t get the cachaca brand that he used since it´s not available outside of Brazil, I used another good cachaca – Abelha Gold.

UAI TAI – (pronounce it “woai tai”)

1 oz dark Jamaican rum

1 oz oak aged cachaça

0,5 oz Cointreau

0,5 – 0,75  oz lime, muddled

0,5 – 0,75  oz Orgeat do Pará or Brazil Nut Orgeat

Tony`s instructions:

Muddle lime in the base of a shaker, add other ingredients and proceed like you would in a regular Mai Tai. Garnish with a mint sprig and a lot of love.

For the Orgeat do Pará, use Rick’s (Kaiserpenguin) Orgeat recipe but sub the almonds for Brazil nuts. The orange flower water can be left out. Switching out the almonds and adding the cachaça brings a whole new character to the drink. The aromatic oils on the Brazil Nuts float to the top and transport you straight to the mountains of Minas Gerais in one snif.

Uai (pronounced jus like “why”) is a very popular slang in Minas and could mean pretty much anything. After three of these I’m sure you’ll understand what it means.

15 Replies to “MAI TAI TWISTS – let´s have some fun!”

  1. Hello Andrea, thank you! i love the negroni too, it´s one the iconic cocktails and so tasty! at the tales of the cocktail this year there was no less than 3 negroni events! one was the worlds biggest negroni…:-) i really love campari and like to mix with it a lot as well as driniking it neat with ice and some fresh lemon or lime juice, for example.

    As for rums, don´t give up! keep trying good rums! try Appleton Extra in that drink.

  2. Hello Tiare!

    I’ve been following your blog for quite a long time now, always impressed with your drinks, opinions and photos.

    Cocktail enthusiasts in Denmark are few and far between, so I feel a bit of a kinship.

    However I’m a gin drinker and so far have not been convinced of the superiority of rum. On the other hand it’s hard to dismiss a classic like Mai Tai, and tonight I tried your variation Bitter Chocolate Mai Tai as I’m a huge fan of all things Campari and count the Negroni on my top five of great cocktails.

    The Bitter Chocolate Mai Tai really impressed me – I’m going to mix it again – perhaps with a different rum, I used Angostura 7 year old – and can see my self serving this on the long, white Danish nights in July and August.

    Merry Xmas


  3. Well cheers to that!! i hope to one day be able to visit Mai Kai and a whole another bunch of great Tiki bars!

  4. @Capn Jimbo

    A lot of that has to do with how the drink is chilled. You have to get just the right amount of dilution so that the drink punches you in the face initially, warning you that you shouldn’t just suck it down, but also enough that it mellows over time into something that you can savor. Painkiller NYC (I mean, PNYC, whoops) used to have a great article about the proper ratio of ice in tiki drinks, but unfortunately the tiki research section has disappeared from their website.

    Edit: Internet Archive to the rescue!

  5. Update!

    As mentioned Tiare, my dear Sue Sea and I did in fact make it to the Mai Kai to try both their Zombie (which has been reviewed as the closest to Beach’s original) and their K.O. Cooler (their version of Beach’s Q.B. Cooler and alleged by some to be the model for Vic’s later version of the Mai Tai).

    Here’s the short version:

    1. We are not mixed drink people.

    2. The Mai Kai is breathtaking, huge, wandering, lush, dark, romantic and a simply fantastic experience.

    3. We fell in love with our shared Zombie, the strongest drink on the menu (about 5 shots), and without having a clue about what was in it, did a review and managed to pick up on most of the ingredients.

    A marvelous, well-balanced and refreshing drink that is way too subtle and easy to drink. It really doesn’t taste like there’s five shots in there. Even splitting it, we got giggly.

    4. The Mai Kai’s K.O. forerunner-to-Vic’s-Mai Tai Cooler – not so much. Three shots we were told, heavier, deeper, more in-your-face and not nearly as well balanced. We actually turned it back and it was graciously taken off our bill.

    In sum, we’ll definite go back and give both another try, particularly the K.O. And we may just try one of your recipes…

  6. Buenas Tardes Tiare e Ivan!! Mil disculpas por el error cometido. Somos nuevos en el mundo Bloggero y no sabíamos que teníamos que colocar el link directo a la página del dueño de la foto. Tiene mucho sentido y nos agrada mucho hacerlo, ya que cada quien es dueño de su trabajo.

    Muchas gracias por participar y ayudarnos a mejorar. De ahora en adelante ya tenemos el conocimiento y podemos interactuar más con las páginas y los bloggeros.

    Ya editamos el post y le dimos crédito a Helena Tiare Olsen por su Fotografía!!

    Helena, we are really sorry for the mistake. We didnt knew we should linked the photo to your page. We are new at the Blog World and we are still learning. But thank u so much for leaving us your comment and to help us improve. We always read your page. Rewards from Venezuela.

  7. Hey T!

    Awesome post once again!

    It’s a great honor to have my variation featured among these delicious drinks!

    The Uai Tai is a drink I truly enjoy and am very glad you liked it too!

    I think the earthiness of the cachaça blends very well with the Brazil nuts.

    I like to leave out a bit of room on the recipe so people can adjust it to the cachaça they can find and the type/size of limes they get. Having fun is the whole point, right?

    Muddling the limes here has some of the effect of shaking with the spent lime shell, but since it’s a Brazilian twist I think the muddling works with the theme.

    I hope others will enjoy it as much as I do!


  8. Thanks for the Mai Tai variation recipes! The bitter chocolate version especially sounds intrigung.

    Bastardization? No way, Fun? Yes…

    Aren’t all good cocktails based on a classic form in some way?

    And certainly the proper Mai Tai qualifies as classic.



  9. Kay Thompson – that sounds aweosme!

    Jimbo – Enjoy your “form of the Zombie”!:-)

    Jordan – nice one! i wish i had seen it earlier, i would´ve added a link in my post but i`ll do that now. It´s interesting with other spirits and the Mai Tai formula.

  10. I feel like it’s closer to the Mai-Tai Theory of Relativity. With W&N 17 Year being basically impossible to find, you’re always pushing two rum combos towards an unattainable state of perfection. And the closer you get, the harder you have to work to make it much better.

    I’ve made some non-rum drinks in the mai-tai style that were pretty good, but at that point you’re better off calling them something other than a mai-tai:

  11. Ooops….

    The above should have read:

    “We walk into a bar, order a Mai Tai, and – here’s the key – without knowing what went into it, whether we think we got a good one depends on how it corresponds to the “form of a Mai Tai” as we have come to know and appreciate a “good one”.”

    Fortunately, as The Compleat Idiot of Rum, I am affectionately forgiven such idiotic transgressions, lol. BTW, Sue Sea and I are heading over to experience the “form of the Zombie” at the world famous Mai Kai, who has the reputation for a Zombie that would please even Plato!

  12. Milan Kundera in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”:

    “Men who pursue a multitude of women fit neatly into two categories. Some seek their own subjective and unchanging dream of a woman in all women. Others are prompted by desire to possess the endless variety of the objective female world.”

    And so it is with classic drinks like the Mai Tai or the Manhattan. Regarding the latter, Hans Allhoff (in the book “Whisky & Philosophy) identifies two subsets of mixed drink afficianados – one whose ideal Mai Tai is subjective, ala the womanizer. The other Mai Tai lover he’d identify, is objective, a cocktail purist who insist that a classic is a classic, damn it and seek this one, perfect, classic ideal.

    Now bear with me on this.

    Allhoff relates all this to Plato’s Theory of Forms. This theory would state that there is a “real” Mai Tai – representing reality at its highest”. But Plato’s Mai Tai, in its “highest form”, is not “real” in the sense that we all use the word. Let me paraphrase Allhoff and relate this to our reality. We walk into a bar, order a Mai Tai, and – here’s the key – without knowing what went into it, whether we think we got a good one depends on how it corresponds to the “form of a Mai Tai” as we have come to know and appreciate a “good one”.

    A “good one” is our idea (or form) of one. Altshoff ends all this by describing what he calls the “epic drinker”, who like the womanizer, wants endless variety. But unlike the womanizer for whom almost any woman will do, the epic drinker won’t drink just anything, but won’t drink just any Mai Tai, but appreciates only those that best conform to his/her Platonic ideal idea, notion or “form”.

    In short Tiara, in answer to your question “where is the thin line? when does it become a bastardization?”, the simple answer is – you’ll know. And so will all the other Mai Tai lovers…

  13. I was told that given the first stages of production of both Jamaican Rum and Genever both have a 5 day maturation (the last couple on the lees) even though Genever is a very different drink to rum you can substitute it for Jamaican rum in a recipe and it works. So I made a “dutch tai” with 2 shots Bols Genever, 3/4 shot fresh lime, 1l2 shot curacao, 1/4 shot Orgeat and 1/4 shot simple syrup. Shook it with the lime casing. I didn’t garnish it with anything other than a lime wedge to be gonest as it was just for me at home but it was fantastic

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