No great invention has ever come without controversy or feud. Was it William Shakespeare who authored so many brilliant works, or did he steal from Christopher Marlowe? Many believe Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, while some maintain is was Antonio Meucci. Did the Wright brothers really invent flight, or was it Gustave Whitehead or even Alberto Santos-Dumont?
Perhaps the most entertaining—some would even say delicious—feud was that of Victor Bergeron, Jr. and Donn Beach, the restaurant rivals who both claimed ownership of the Mai Tai… or at least some version of it. As fun as that story is, when it comes to this legendary Tiki cocktail, Bergeron remains the GOAT and his story is still told in bars across the world.
It was on a fateful day in 1944 that Bergeron had the urge to create a new cocktail in his Oakland restaurant, and he mixed some 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew Jamaican Rum with Orange Curaçao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy and fresh lime, shook it all together and garnished with fresh mint and lime. Some guests from Tahiti were lucky enough to be sitting nearby, so they became Bergeron’s guinea pigs and, as he famously told it, they sipped and replied, “Mai Tai-Roa Ae!” (“Out of this world!”) and gave the new cocktail its new name.
Seventy-six years later, this drink is as iconic as they come, and so Trader Vic’s Emeryville will host a socially distanced anniversary party, complete with a global toast via Zoom at noon PT on Sunday, August 30. Some people lucky enough to attend in person will receive a free limited edition Mai Tai Tapa Mason Jar, but for those of us who can’t make it to California, we are fortunate that Trader Vic’s has generously shared the classic Mai Tai recipe so we can all celebrate any time we want.
The Original Mai Tai Recipe from Trader Vic’s
- 2 oz. Trader Vic’s Royal Amber Rum (Suggested rum in the absence of 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew Jamaican Rum)
- 1/2 oz. Orange Curaçao
- 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz. Orgeat Syrup
- 1/4 oz. Simple Syrup
How to Make It:
- Shake well with crushed ice.
- Pour into a double Old-Fashioned glass.
- Garnish with a mint sprig and spent lime shell.