portrait of a cocktail // mai tai

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.

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiIngredients for one:

  • 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
  • sugarcane
  • 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!

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiBefore 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.

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiMuddle 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.

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiCin cin!


PS – More cocktails here!

Photography by Eva Burns for Jojotastic.

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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Leave a Comment


  1. 9.6.14
    Bourbon & Goose said:

    Now I know what to do with that bottle of Cointreau sitting on my bar. Just need to find the sugar cane. Thank you! Have to do this for #happyhourclub. <3

  2. 9.1.14
    Kate Ramos said:

    Cocktails on the beach?! Sign me up!!

  3. 8.27.14
    Kate Koeppel said:

    EVA! I like whats happening here!

    • 9.1.14
      joanna said:

      that eva, she really knows what’s up ;)