Thirsty? This series will provide delicious drink recipes for you to try at home. So call your friends for a virtual sip session and traverse the globe, even if it's only in your glass. 

Today's cocktail hails from Polynesia and California – Mai Tai. 

What is it?

Fruity and rum-heavy, a Mai Tai is like a vacation in a glass. Jetsetters sip them in Bora Bora, but anyone can enjoy one and dream of the tropics. 


In 1944, Vic “The Trader” Bergaron mixed a drink for his Tahitian friends at his legendary Bay Area bar, Trader Vic’s. “Maita’i roa ae!” they exclaimed when they tasted it (which means “very good!” in Tahitian), and thus, the quintessential tiki drink and the unofficial cocktail of the South Pacific was born. In time, bartenders added ingredients like pineapple or passion fruit juices and switched Orange Curacao for Triple Sec; the drink continues to evolve. 

You’ll need (serves 1) 

1 cup crushed ice 
2fl oz (60ml) rum (preferably 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew or Denizen’s Merchant Reserve) 
½fl oz (15ml) French orgeat syrup 
½fl oz (15ml) orange curacao 
⅓fl oz (8ml) rock candy or simple syrup 
juice of one lime 
1 cup ice cubes 
1 sprig fresh mint 
fruit garnish, optional 

Mai tai at Duke’s Barefoot Bar at Kalapaki Beach
The Mai Tai is the quintessential tiki drink © Tec Petaja / Lonely Planet


Step 1: Fill a highball glass with the crushed ice and place in the freezer. 
Step 2: Combine all liquid ingredients with the cup of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled. 
Step 3: Remove the highball glass from the freezer. 
Step 4: Strain the cocktail from the ice cubes into the highball glass and crushed ice. 
Step 5: Garnish with the mint sprig and optional fruit. 
Step 6: Serve with a straw. 

Tasting notes

Sipping a Mai Tai is as close as you can get to drinking a South Seas sunset. Hints of flower-scented air come from the sweetness of the syrups; the tartness of ocean spray is added via lime juice; a splash of tropical color is blended in with Orange Curacao and a warm sense of tranquility flows with the boozy aged rum. If you can’t dip your feet in sparkling sands and blue waters, the next best thing is to enjoy a Mai Tai.

For additional cocktail recipes, check out our Destination Drinks page 

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter

This article was originally published in April 2020 and updated in February 2021.

This article was first published April 2020 and updated January 2021

Explore related stories