Aloha to the Mai Tai! I’ve been lounging around the sunny sands of Waikiki these days and there’s just no other cocktail that sums up Hawaiian spirit quite like the Mai Tai. There are tons of variations out there, but today I’m sharing a clean and simple version. This one is all about the subtle flavors: two liqueurs back-up and mellow out a punch of gold rum. A little amaretto provides this perfect nutty flavor, and Contreau lends a citrus twist. Then, the flavor really gets layered on with fresh papaya and lime. (Did you know that papaya and lime were just made for each other? They pair so well — papaya is super creamy, while lime has a bit of zip.)
Lots claim to be the inventor of the Mai Tai, but I’ve got it narrowed to two dudes with tiki bars in California around the 1930’s. Back then tiki bars were all the rage. Personally, I think they deserve a comeback! Both Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber have stakes in the Mai Tai creation, and it remains a mystery to this day as to who the originator was.
- 1/8 cup chopped papaya, plus more for garnish
- 1 shot Gold Rum
- 1 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz amaretto
- 1/2 oz Contrequ
- 1/4 oz brown sugar simple syrup
- lime for garnish
For the brown sugar simple syrup, combine equal parts brown sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir occasionally until dissolved.
If you can get your hands on some sugarcane, do it! It makes the perfect muddler for drinks that lend themselves to a little extra sweetness. I was able to find mine in Honolulu’s Chinatown. Granted, sugarcane grows wild over here, but it’s a fun adventure to hunt down this ingredient. If you can’t find it, no worries, your drink will still be delicious!
Before you start mixing the cocktail, prep the garnish. Use a toothpick or pieces of sugarcane to skewer combinations of lime and fruit squares.
At the bottom of a glass add the chopped fruit. I chose papaya because it’s absolutely amazing and pairs perfectly with lime. Get fancy with mangos, dragon fruit, or pineapple… or keep things simple with bananas and oranges. Just make sure it’s mashable.
Muddle the fruit at the bottom of a glass with the sugarcane. In a cocktail shaker full of ice add the booze, lime juice and brown sugar simple syrup. Give it a good shake and pour over the papaya, then stir it all together. Add some ice and top with garnish.
PS – More cocktails here!
Photography by Eva Burns for Jojotastic.