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A MONTH OF MAI TAIS – Exploring the rums, one Mai Tai at a time

A MAI TAI A DAY…

As a part of the Mai Tai rum combo cocktail-blog coverage i have made a couple different Mai Tais, mostly from demerara rums. I know the Mai Tai had dark Jamaican rum first, and then was paired with a Martiniqan rum, but i think demerara rums makes awesome Mai Tais and the whole idea of this rum combo coverage is to, well, try different rum combos..

Rumdood alone have over 118 rums to choose from…and i don´t know how many combinations, probably to keep him busy for the rest of his life..So together we will all hopefully cover enough various rum combos to keep most thirsty Mai Tai lovers happy regardless of where you live, we hope there will be something for everyone.

The whole january and into february has been and continues to be Mai Tai month for us, we are working with various rum combinations in our search for the tastiest Mai Tais all based on Trader Vics recipe, as well as attempting to set the recipe for a real Mai Tai straight.

The original Mai Tai by Trader Vic called for the 17 year old JWray & Nephew rum which today exists only a few bottles, if even that, in the hands of a few lucky people. And from what i hear from the taste notes it must have been an exceptional rum for the Mai Tai.  Its fun to experiment and i have found that demerara rums makes excellent Mai Tai´s.They give the Mai Tai`s a deep complex flavor, by their own or for that lively flavor, paired with Clement VSOP or St James hors d`age.

For this post i have made 14 different Mai Tais, many with some unusual demeraras but not all. I know many of these rums i use here are hard to find and some very pricey, but i thought it could be interesting still to cover a few of these kind of rums as well and there has been demands for these rums to be written about too.

If i would to sub these demerara rums i have i would use Lemon Hart 151 for the high proofs like Uitvlugt and Silver Seal, and El Dorado 12 for the other heavy demeraras.

Another very good rum combo in my opinion for the original recipe is otherwise Appleton Extra and St James hors d`age, or Clement VSOP. Yet another very nice combo is Pusser`s and Zaya which i first read about in the Tiki Central.

THE ORIGINAL FORMULA

2 ounces 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum
1/2 ounce French Garnier Orgeat
1/2 ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/4 ounce Rock Candy Syrup
Juice from one fresh lime

Shake and garnish with half of the lime shell inside the drink and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.

TRADER VIC`s SANCTIONED RECIPE from Intoxica:

1 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz Martinique rum
1 oz fresh lime juice (one lime)
0.5 oz curacao
0.25 oz each of orgeat and simple syrup

Mix all ingredients and shake with ice.  Strain into a glass over crushed ice. Garnish with lime shell and a sprig of mint.

The basic recipe used for my Mai Tais here is Trader Vics formula with either 1 oz each of 2 rums or 2 oz of one rum. I use Vic´s formula because i like its simplicity and balace of flavors as well as letting the rum flavor really come through and i like it better than Don`s Mai Tai which is totally different. Which one of these were the original is an endless discussion which i won´t bother with in this post.

The orgeat i like to use nowadays is Trader Tiki´s extra thick (homemade) when i dont use my own homemade. As for orange curacao, i don´t have it right now, so i used Cointreau but as i find that Cointreau can easily be a bit overpowering, i used 1/4 oz than 0.5 oz. I have listed my Mai Tai`s with the best first (outstanding, which is a 14) and then falling to the last #1 which isn`t bad at all.

One thing i don`t want to be without when i make Mai Tai`s is the mint sprig, because  i really love the fragrance of fresh crispy mint when imbibing a Mai Tai, and without mint i think a Mai Tai is naked. But when i`m out of mint (or rather the shops are out) then i use lime for garnish.

The straws need to be short and placed near the mint so the fragrance reaches you. The crushed or shaved ice is another key ingredient, apart from good quality rums.

LET´S SET THE MAI TAI STRAIGHT

Ingredients NOT to use in my opinion, is grenadine and orange or pineapple juices, or amaretto or anything else that is not in the original Vic`s recipe. You may throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that into a Mai Tai recipe and end up with some very tasty drinks but these are not Mai Tais. Give it a new name!

The possibly WORST Mai Tai recipe i have ever encountered came from a cocktail book: light rum, simple syrup, limejuice, orange juice, orange curacao, coconut milk, green dyed cocktail cherries, red dyed cocktail cherries, orange slices, pineapple chunks…stating after, that all ingredients except the rum can be subbed with instant powder cocktail-mix…

COCKTAIL MIX???!!!

Why adding (and changing) all these stuff to a already perfect recipe? and then even call it a Mai Tai? Trader Vic`s Mai Tai is such a perfectly balanced drink and it deserves to be made right. Its supposed to have fresh lime..its supposed to taste rum! The rums are meant to predominate and shine through in this drink and the rest of ingredients are singing along balancing the rum flavors to perfection.

On to the rum combos! Now – i have used some unusual demeraras here that can be hard to get if you live outside of Europe since most of them are bulk demeraras aged in Scotland and bottled and sold by private importers from for example Italy, but they can be substituted with El Dorado rums.

MAI TAI #14 with Silver Seal demerara 15 yo

This one has long been my favorite. Its simply Mai Tai roa ae, and its just so full flavored and exquisite in perfect balance,  intoxicating…and nothing so far i`ve had beats it, period. Or so i thought….but that was until i tried JWray & Nephew´s old Jamaican Dagger Punch dark rum..WOW..i doesn`t really beat the Silver Seal but i found it equally good.

So now i also think i have sort of gotten an idea as to how the Mai Tais were in the old days. I dont know how old the dagger punch rum is, i would guess from between the 40-50s because there`s no evidence of their production after the 1950s. These rums were produced by Wray & Nephew in various age-increments (1 Dagger, 2 Dagger, 3 Dagger) and they were all dark Jamaican rum.

So the 2 now share 1st place, which got me to wonder how these two would combine, more on that soon.

THE SILVER SEAL 15 YEAR DEMERARA

This 110 proof Silver Seal Rum has a way to just perfectly marry the other ingredients and simply make a outstanding Mai Tai, very addictive. The flavor is hard to describe, its fullbodied, a complex mix of molasses, dark chocolate, wood, vanilla, dried fruits, punch and yum!

Another thing i love with this rum in a Mai Tai is that it bites, as its 110 proof. 2 oz Silver Seal 15 year is used. Interesting is that from what i hear from those lucky people having the 17 year old rum, the Silver Seal has a lot of common flavour notes, like an aroma of a heavy burnt caramel, with smoky finish, although the 17 yar old Wray is said to be far heavier with overwhelming woody tones – or so i´ve heard.

MAI TAI  #14 JWray & Nephew Jamaican Dagger Punch – Old Jamaican  Dark Rum

I was amazed by this one..first by the color, dark mahogany. Then the flavor, which i really cannot describe so easily, its well…vintage. It has dark tones of molasses and dried fruits, and is spicy and woody. Very balanced and complex. I imagine that JWrays 17 year old rum could probably have tasted something similar as well. This dagger is 8 years old.

When i use the Silver Seal i feel like its a bit close to this one but the two are still very different. And i cannot say either what it is that i find they have in common, one is a demerara and the other is jamaican, but there´s that funky punch – pot still.

I had such a hard time to determine which one of these two is the best Mai Tai i`ve had, it didn´t help to sip them side by side, so they will both share the 1 st place. I used 2 oz of the Jamaican dagger rum.I tried this dagger rum in this Mai Tai experiment more out of curiosity that anything else and this rum must be seen as such as its not produced anymore.

MAI TAI #14 with Silver Seal15 and JWray´s Jamaican dagger punch rum

As i found both of these each one on their own to make the best Mai Tais i`ve had so far i decided to combine them and use 1 oz of each. The two combined? sheesh..here is the exquisite, strong, demerara flavor of the Silver Seal with that rich, strong and spicy taste of the Jamaican dagger. The color is much lighter than it was when i used only the dagger punch rum. So now there´s 3 Mai Tais, based on 2 rums sharing the top position.

MAI TAI #13 with Samaroli`s Port Morant 1990, and Banks XM10.

SAMAROLI PORT MORANT 1990

This demerara rum is made by Samaroli and is bottled in 2007 in Scotland. It has no added color. The flavor is very deeply woody, a bit floral and fruity with flavors of molasses. 366 bottles were made so this is a rare find. Port Morant 1990 is 90 proof. I`m not using it in too many Mai Tais, but its hard to resist as it makes real mean Mai Tais, its almost as good as the Silver Seal. Paired with XM10 -  a very close number two.

BANKS XM10

XM Royal Gold 10 Year Old (80 proof) is a superb aged demerara rum with a very round and full flavor profile with fruits, molasses and toffee flavors. One of my favorites. If you can get this one, (and its soon to be sold in US as well), and El Dorado rums plus Lemon Hart 151, then you`re fine as far as demeraras go.

I used 1.5 oz Banks XM10 and 0.5 oz Samaroli Port Morant. I took less of the Port Morant as it has such a strong woody flavor. In these proportions i find it complements the toffee flavors of XM very well.

MAI TAI #12 with Banks XM10

As the XM10 is so yummy, its almost like drinking liquid toffee, i wanted to use only this rum ( 2 oz)  in the drink. I`m not dissapointed, the sweetness and roundness of the body in this rum makes an excellent and very smooth Mai Tai which goes down way too easily.

XM Royal Gold 10 Year Old is a superb aged demerara rum crafted by the Aguiar Industries master blenders. This rum is hands down wonderful. Its a creamy full bodied masterwork, very round, with warm round toffee-like flavors. I`m happy for those in the US who soon will be able to buy this fine rum.

MAI TAI #11 Coruba12 and Banks XM10

If we shall talk about yumminess..here it is! Coruba12 has a lot of complexity and some sweetness, dried fruits and molasses-toffeelike flavors and paired with XM10 which  is a step ahead with the toffeeness but with the typical demerara flavor, you`re in for a very tasty Mai Tai.

MAI TAI #10 Banks XM10 and JM Reserve Special

My first thought when tasting this one was “wow this is tasty! very very tasty..” Its like the rums just melt together into a real elixir of pleasure. I`m not even sure it shall have no 10. Now JM isnt a cheap rhum agricole…i wish it was. Its really a very good sipping rum, but as we know, the better ingredients, the better cocktails. And in this research any rum that is good could be used i think.

MAI TAI #9 Banks XM10 and Clemént XO

This one is just WOW, so tasty! the punch of the XM10 with its toffeeness paired with Clemént XO which is a outstanding aged rhum agricole, tasty.

MAI TAI #8  El Dorado12 and Clemènt VSOP

This is a very pleasant and tasty Mai Tai. El Dorado 12 is just punchy enough to blend well with Clemènt and combined they are great. I`m unfortunately out of El Dorado 15 but on the other hand, that´s such a strongly punchy rum that it takes over the other flavors a bit. But that`s just my taste. Otherwise its my fav rum together with Silver Seal 15.

MAI TAI #7 Zaya (Guatemala) and Pusser`s 15

This is just so tasty. I first read about it on Tiki Central, long ago and i think it was Pusser´s blue label that was used. Well, this one is tasty too! The punchiness of the navy rum with the sweetness of Zaya – nice!

MAI TAI #6 Lemon Hart Jamaican and El Dorado 12

Here we have a Mai Tai with 2 very good rums and the taste is good but for some reason i expected more, maybe i expect too much? this one tastes good but i guess that with some of these other demeraras its easy to get a bit spoilt. Did i have only these 2 rums to use, i would have loved this Mai Tai. Well, i do, i love all good Mai Tais!

MAI TAI #5  Silver Seal 15 and Clemént VSOP

I expected much of this one, probably because of Silver Seal, but its not as good as i thought but still very tasty i shall not deny that and it became even tastier while it mellowed in the glass. But its a huge difference to use 2 oz of just Silver Seal or to pair it with Clemént VSOP.

MAI TAI #4  Port Royal and St James 12 with Uitvlugt Port Morant 1990 float

Port Royal is a beautiful little demerara rarity which is aged 14 years and is a bit on the sweet side, yet very woody, its 92 proof. I was figuring it would be interesting to pair it with St James 12 year which is a rum i all of a sudden discovered being on limited offer in our spirit shop. I hadn´t seen it before anywhere, neither did i find any information on it but i bought it and yes, its a very smooth agricole rum. Probably its a special edition or something, nobody has been able to tell me anything.

It turned out to be a very very tasty Mai Tai, the smooth St James 12 perfectly blends with the woody Port Royal, so i give it no#5.

The original recipe do not call for any float but i like floats and so here is one with a float of the overproof Port Morant 1990 for an extra kick. I`m totally sure that Banks XM10 and St James12 or hors d`age would be a very nice combo as well. I used 1 oz of each.

MAI TAI #3  Appleton Extra and Havana Club 7 year

This is also a pleasant rum combo and I suspect this will be used by one or more of my fellow blogger friends .This mellow and rich flavored rum combo makes  for very tasty Mai Tais. These rums are premium, both are versatile and luckily also moderately priced, good for the “everyday Mai Tai”.. I used 1 oz of each.

MAI TAI #2  Appleton extra and Old Vatted (O.V.D)

With Appleton extra as base i didn`t need to worry about good taste, the addition of 0.5 oz Old Vatted demerara just added a touch of deep woodiness. I had a problem in deciding which one of  either this one or the Appleton Extra and Havana Club 7 year, should be #3. But Havana Club7 wins with its overall yumminess.

Here i used 1.5 oz Appleton Extra and 0.5 oz OVD

MAI TAI #1 Banks XM10 and Uitvlugt 1990 fullproof

A kick of the fullproof Uitvlugt to punch up the round sweet and toffeelike XM isn`t bad at all, but i think you got to love demeraras to fully appreciate this combo as the Uitvlugt is a li`l bit on the almost harsh side with the high proof and woodiness.

I used 1.5 oz of XM to 0.5 oz of Uitvlugt. As Uitvlugt highproof (132 proof) is a very strong demerara and i used just a little bit extra simple syrup in this. This rum combo is for those demerara geeks who loves deep woodiness. This is the last one and even though the least on my scale it isnt bad at all.

Overall, the best Mai Tai rum combo suggestions with rums available today, based on my experince with these i`ve tried here, except for the dagger rum which is supposed to be seen as a curiosity, are in no specific order:

Appleton Extra with St James hors d`age or Clemént VSOP

2 oz Silver Seal 15 demerara

(or 1.5 oz El Dorado 12 with a 0.5 oz Lemon Hart 151, alternatively 0.5 oz El D12, 1 oz XM10 and 0.5 oz LH 151, it won`t be the same thing but its the best subs i can think of for the moment)

Banks XM10 demerara

El Dorado 12 and Clemént VSOP

Zaya and Pusser´s

There`s other rums apart from El Dorado 15 that i haven`t used because as i`m out of it and that`s Coruba dark, Appleton Reserve and VX and Lemon Hart 151. I`m sure they would be good in Mai Tai`s as well and mixed with say Banks XM…got to try that one some day! To read more about demerara rums, see my other demerara rum posts.

One thing that fascinates me is that how one rum can be really outstanding paired with another and then when paired with yet a different rum all of a sudden isn´t that outstanding as it was with the first rum. So it isnt so easy to find the ultimate pairing, i`m not even sure if i have and luckily its probably a never ending research. The world of flavors is really fascinating!

So finally here is my advice for those of you looking for perfectly yummy Mai Tais, if you can get it, get Silver Seal15 and Banks XM10, and get Appleton Extra, Clemènt VSOP, Zaya and Pusser`s. Use Trader Vics recipe and don`t add pineapple and orange juices, amaretto or grenadine.

I was asking some fellow bloggers in the mixoloseum chat room about why they think its so hard for people to stick to the real Mai Tai recipe as it is a very simple recipe and it seems like the biggest problem in many places is how to find orgeat. Here i can find it sometimes but i make my own which isnt very hard. As its a bit boring -  but not difficult, to get the blanched almonds out of their shell, i don`t make that large batches, i make about 1L at a time. I keep my orgeat in the fridge.

Here´s a link to the orgeat i make:  http://fxcuisine.com/Default.asp?Display=26

Here´s another link to orgeat: http://www.artofdrink.com/2006/02/orgeat-syrup.php

The demerara rums i`ve used can be purchased at R2M shopSpeciality Drinks, TheWhiskey Exchange or the German and Italy EBay.

I myself have only had a real Mai Tai at a bar only in one place and that was atTikiRoom here in Stockholm, with the rum combos Appleton VX-Havana Cub7 and Appleton Extra-El Dorado dark, what about you? where have you been served at real Mai Tai?

21 comments to A MONTH OF MAI TAIS – Exploring the rums, one Mai Tai at a time

  • [...] I’ll have to look at that…. Look at it?!? Tiare, who never gave up on me, has posted a Month of Mai Tai’s too! Let me [...]

  • Rum Runner

    A veritable Mai Tai Orgy! My head is spinning…In a good way.

  • cocktailspirit

    I don’t even know how to comment on this post! So many beautiful pictures and rum combos.I’m glad you liked the Zaya and Pusser’s combo… that was one I enjoyed as well. Cheers T!

  • Rob

    You tiki perverts have junior on a Mai Tai frenzy, at the same time he’s collecting zombie recipes from every famous mixologist that ever reared his head.

    Here’s one rum combo that works for us: Diplomatico Reserva with Diplomatico Rum Blanco and Santa Teresa Orange Rum.
    The Martinique Mai Tai: Clement VSOP, Premiere Canne and Creole Shrubb.

    I love RumDood’s Clement XO and Appleton 21. I think Mount Gay XO would play nice also.

    Left field combo: Prichard’s Fine Rum, Coruba, Creole Shrubb.

  • Pete

    Interesting that you use Old Vatted, its one of those demerara rums i always have on my shelf. I haven`t tried the Silver Seal yet but i`m going to get myself a bottle soon.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Tiare

    Rumrunner, i hope you will read the other 3 bloggers mai tai posts too..you will really get a lot of rum combos to choose from.

    Cocktailspirit..I hope that with the other rum combos, we will be able to have rum combos for everyone to pick. I know my demerara rums are not available everywhere but the rest of good rums will be covered too.

    Rob, nice rum combos you have there! especially the one with Diplomatico rums which i haven´t tried yet but heard nothing but good about.

    Pete, you will love the SS.

  • Geoff

    If you have any Mount Gay Sugar Cane Brandy be sure to try that out as well.

  • Shirow66

    I loved this post, amazing stuff.
    Kaiserpenguin and Tradertiki never posted their stuff on this?

  • stevideter

    *sigh* I can’t get most of these rums!

  • Tiare

    Shirow, i think they are working on it..and you can also look forward to more on the mai tai from rumdood.com who will keep posting..

    Next mai tai for me to write about will be Don the Beachcombers which is totally different from Vic´s.

    Stevi, will try bring some over the next time!

    T

  • scomorokh

    Really is great post!
    Mai Tai is my favorite cocktail and I explore it from time to time. I discovered single-rum Mai Tais with El Dorado 12, 15, 21 y.o., Angostura 1919, Havana Club 7 y.o. etc.

    I was inspirated by your post for investigation of 2-rums Mai Tai… And possibly for 3-rums too

  • scomorokh

    By the way. In my Mai Tai I use self-made “rock candy syrup” – great stuff!

  • Scomorokh, i like “rock candy syrup” it´s just that it´s too much work…i rather make a 2:1 rich demerara syrup or something..

  • And that´s interesting too, why not make a three sugar syrup for a change? mix together a golden and a medium dark muscovado and a demerara sugar?

  • ThomasJ

    I appreciate this post, what a fantastic Mai Tai experiment! epic!

  • ThomasJ

    Forgot to say, i did make a 2:1 rich syrup using demerara sugar and a muscovado sugar. These sugars sure adds another dimension to the usual simple syrup.

  • Thanks for your comment!

    I agree, it`s interesting to mix various sugars to make a flavorful syrup and it really adds to the flavor of the drink when in place – but one must also remember though that the more you want the ingredients in the drink like the base spirit for example to keep their character and shine the less flavor you want from the syrup used.

  • ThomasJ

    That is really true! and i have noticed that the darker the sugars the more flavor of it´s own the syrup gets and really those kinds of syrups is best with dark eum drinks!:-)

  • rich

    Thanks for posting. I have been experimenting with Mai Tai’s for about two months now and made over 100 Mai Tai’s. What I have noticed is I do not like too much lime or it too sweet or too sharp. I have tried different Orgeat’s, different Orange Liquors and Curacao’s and of course around 17 different rums. Using the original recipe. To my taste I leave out the simple syrup. Here is my recipe:
    2 OZ to 2 1/2 OZ of Rum or Rums
    1/2 OZ fresh lime juice (this is the max I like)
    1/2 OZ Orgeat
    1/3 to 1/2 OZ Curacao or Orange Liquor
    1 OZ Water (If drink is too sharp, sweet of limey add 1/2 OZ to 1 OZ more)
    Shaken over ice for 20 seconds
    Poured over 3/4 full of crushed ice in pint glass
    Sprig of mint on top.
    To me it is the extra water or dilution that is key so it is not too sharp, sweet or limey and brings out the rums.
    It does not matter so much as to what rums you use they will all taste good with this recipe.
    If you want and like some funk to your drink add 1/2 OZ to 1 OZ of barbancourt 8 yr or Pusser’s or Smith & Cross. (going in order mild to wild on funk)
    If you want dryness to your drink like a whisky use 1/2 OZ to 1 OZ of Clement VSOP.
    For just nice richness use a Abuelo 12 yr or El Dorado 15 or any tasty smooth balanced rich aged rum of 12 or more years.
    I have tried so many different ones I can not say which is best or my favorite but here is one that my girl friend calls the Milkshake!
    Same recipe as above but use these RUMS:
    1/2 to 1 OZ Dictator 12 (for rich bloom depth and flavor)
    3/4 OZ Barbancourt 8yr (for some funk and complexity)
    3/4 of Plantation 3 star white (Could use Mount Gay or any other of your favorite rums amber or white)

    Rich

    Now I am still experimenting. I am going to try more Orange Curacao’s and Orange Liquors and Rums. So far the best Orgeat has been Small Hands it is milky, smooth, natural and tasty on its own and very smooth and subtle in the drink.

    Experiment away but only have one or two.

  • Thanks for the recipe and comment! that was interesting, i have never heard of anyone adding water to a Mai Tai before, doesn`t the crushed ice add enough dilution? i need to try that to see what happens, but i really like the Mai Tai per Trader Vic`s formula so i doubt i want more dilution but i think it`d be interesting to try still.

    Not sure i agree with that it doesn´t matter what rums you use because i think the rums plays a key role in this drink and when using very good rums the drink also is taken to the next level.

    Then what good rums you prefer is of course a question of personal taste, i like demerara rums the best in this drink :-) but i have also came upon other and sometimes unexpected rum combos that have made very tasty drinks, one such example is Appleton white with a float of Cruzan Blackstrap.

    With over a 100 Mai Tais in 2 months….sounds like you`ve had a Mai Tai a day…:-D

    btw Barbancourt is a very good rum, especially the 15 year.

  • rich

    Yes the extra water makes a difference to my taste. The normal dilution is not enough in my opinion. What matters is what you make taste great and is so good you want another.

    I have made Mai Tai on the light, refreshing, complex to the milkshake and some funky ones and to good ones in between. I have a log and rate them. I have tried one rum and up to 4 rums. Each good but different and deciding what is best is hard because I like variety and experimenting.

    For my funky tasty mai tai I use 1/2 OZ smith and cross, 1/2 OZ Clement VSOP, 1/2 OZ El Dorado 8 and 1/2 OZ El Dorado 15. This is about as much funk I want from the smith and cross. Also using Pussers has some good funk to. So experimenting with the smith and cross, pussers funk and others and how much funk is good or too much. And do you want funk or maybe not? I also use my girlfriend as a taster. And she loves Dictator 12 in any mai tai.

    But the rums I have tried so far have been:
    R.L. Seal 10, Appleton Reserve, Clement VSOP, Smith & Cross, Pussers Blue Navy, Zaya 12, Abuelo 12, El Dorado 8, El Dorado 15, Dictator 12, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Mount Gay Eclipse Amber, Mount Gay Extra Old, Gosling Black Seal, Plantation 3 star, Cruzan Black Strap, Barbancourt 5 start, and a couple others. I live in a town in AZ that I can get what I can get between the local stores so it is hard to find many. I have some more to go for sure. But was able to get some things online.

    Rich

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