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Classic Mai Tai Cocktail (Best Recipe)

Bring the vacation to your humble home with a classic Mai Tai.

Rum connoisseur or enthusiast, this classic cocktail is a must for your bartending repertoire. It’s the perfect libation for happy hour, summer shindigs, and more.

Classic Mai Tai Cocktail (Best Recipe) featuring Two Glasses of Refreshing Mai Tai Cocktail with a Pineapple, Cherry, and Leaf Garnish
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Forget those sugary Fruit Punch-tasting mockeries. This, my friends, is the real Mai Tai. It’s crisp, dynamic, and boozy.

Every sip is a masterpiece, from the dark rum floater to the complex notes.

So, put all your chores and errands on pause. Instead, get a brief reprieve with a refreshing Mai Tai. You earned it.

What Is a Mai Tai?

Why is the rum always gone? You can blame the Mai Tai.

This potent, enchanting elixir features white rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, and lime. Resting on top is none other than a dark rum floater.

Some rum cocktails are supposed to be super sweet. But not this one. It’s a refined sipper with complexity.

The Mai Tai is a quintessential tiki drink. But this OG wasn’t born on a tropical island. Instead, it’s a California classic.

Who invented it, however, is a bit of a debate.

Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron often gets the credit. It’s common belief he introduced it at the Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland in 1944.

But rewind to 1930s Hollywood, and you may find its inspiration. Many claim Donn Beach of Don the Beachcomber paved the way with his rum creations.

Despite who created it, the Mai Tai is one legendary drink!

Three Glasses of Mai Tai Cocktail with Cherry and Pineapple Garnish on a Wooden Table with a Wooden Cutting Board in the Background with Cut Pineapple Slices


There are many versions of this cocktail out there. But a classic Mai Tai should contain five ingredients plus garnish and ice.

Here’s what you need to make a Mai Tai:

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  • White Rum- Choose a quality brand. It doesn’t have to be top-shelf but avoid the cheap bottles.
  • Lime- Use freshly squeezed ripe limes. The bottled stuff doesn’t offer the same quality flavor.
  • Orange Curaçao- Triple sec works too.
  • Orgeat Syrup- The nutty flavor adds complexity.
  • Ice- Thick cocktail ice cubes are nice. They don’t melt as readily as crushed, so they won’t water down the drink.
  • Dark Rum- Use a shot for the signature rum floater.
  • Garnishes- Pick from a lime wheel, mint sprig, cherry, or pineapple slice.
Mai Tai Cocktail Garnished With Pineapple Slices and Cherries on a Wooden Table

How to Make a Mai Tai

The Mai Tai cocktail may look complicated, but there’s nothing to it. With the right ingredients, any beginner can make this drink.

Here’s how to make a Mai Tai:

1. Shake. Fill a cocktail shaker with white rum, lime juice, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, and ice. Shake vigorously.

2. Strain. Strain into a Rocks glass with ice.

3. Float. Pour the dark rum shot on top using the back of a spoon. You want it to float.

4. Garnish and serve. Add your garnish of choice and enjoy.

Can I Make This For a Crowd?

Yes! You can turn a Mai Tai into a cocktail fit for a party.

Just multiply the servings by the number of drinks you need.

Measure the white rum, lime juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat syrup. Add everything to a pitcher, stir, and chill.

When it’s time for serving, pour the cocktail into a glass with ice. Top it off with the rum floater, and don’t forget the garnish.

Boozy and Refreshing Mai Tai Cocktail with Pineapple and Cherry Garnish in the Drink

Recipe Variations

The beloved Mai Tai is a well-loved drink. So it’s not surprising that countless variations exist.

Looking to mix things up? Try one of these different takes.

  • Use only dark rum. Using aged rum instead of white rum adds more rich, caramel, and oaky notes.
  • Turn it into a punch. Hosting a party? Bust out the punch bowl and turn this classic into punch. Use all the standard ingredients plus pineapple juice.
  • Substitute Orgeat for amaretto. This almond liqueur adds a nuttiness that works in a pinch.
  • Have fun with garnishes. From tropical flowers to fruit slices, experiment with the garnishes. You can make it as minimal or lavish as you like.
  • Tailor the sweetness and tartness to taste. Adjust the orgeat and lime juice to your liking.
  • Make it a Tiki-themed Mai Tai! Pour it into a tiki mug and garnish with pineapple.
  • Try a Smuggler’s Cove Mai Tai. This version comes from Trader Vic’s former bartender, Martin Cate. It features aged rum, orange curaçao, orgeat, lime juice, and rock candy syrup.

Two Types of Rum Make the Best Flavor

Why use two types of rum? Because it tastes better! The rum floater on top also creates an alluring presentation.

Here’s what you need to know about the two rums:

  • White Rum- The Mai Tai is a rum-based drink. So naturally, you need rum in the drink. White rum is standard for the base.
  • Dark Rum- For the floater, you need dark rum. It adds a cascading effect and warmer flavor. It’s rich, caramel-like, smoky, and more complex than unaged rum.

Classic Mai Tai Cocktail (Best Recipe)



Prep time


Cooking time



Sit back and relax with a classic Mai Tai. Every tasty, fruity, rum-filled sip will transport you to paradise. Best part? It’s quick and easy to make!


  • 1 1/2 ounces white rum

  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao (or triple sec)

  • 1/2 ounce orgeat syrup (almond syrup)

  • Ice

  • 3/4 ounce dark rum

  • Lime wheel, mint sprig, cherry, or pineapple slice (for garnish)


  • Combine white rum, lime juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat syrup with ice in a shaker. Shake well until chilled.
  • Strain the drink into a rocks glass filled with ice.
  • Pour the dark rum on top so it “floats.” You can do this over the back of a spoon to help distribute it more evenly.
  • Garnish with a lime wheel, mint sprig, cherry, or pineapple slice.
  • Serve and enjoy!
Mai Tai Cocktail

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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