Many believe that this drink was first mixed by Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron in 1944. Indeed at that time, Vic mixed Jamaican rum, juice from a fresh lime, a few dashes of orange curaco syrup, some french orgeat, and rock candy syrup for some very lucky friends from Tahiti who promptly proclaimed “Mai Tai, Roa Ae!”. In Tahitian, this translates to “Out of this world, the best!”.

Vic became quite frustrated by all of the various lounges that also claimed to be the birthplace of the Mai Tai. Driven by his frustration, he contacted the friends he originally made his concoction for and had them sign an affidavit attesting to it origins.

Then there’s the other side of the story. The one that holds Donn Beach as the Mai Tai originator. Beach was the true innovator who really helped start Tiki Pop Culture more than anyone. Although he was never as successful as Vic, Vic would not have existed if not for Beach’s innovation and trendsetting as people marveled at his true life tropical adventures. In fact, Beach often referred to Vic Bergeron as his greatest imitator.

Through years of controversy, Vic eventually had to admit that the Mai Tai was indeed originally created by someone else. During a dinner conversation with columnist Jim Bishop and Donn Beach, Vic Bergeron finally admitted the truth about the Mai Tai. Jim Bishop later wrote in the Honolulu Advertiser:

“In probably 1970 or ‘71 Donn and I were with Vic at Vic’s in San Francisco.

In the “Friend-foe” relationship Don and Vic had, Vic said in effect that night, “Blankety blank, Don, I wish you’d never come up with the blankety blank thing. It’s caused me a lot of arguing with people.”

Then Vic looked at me and said, “Jim, this blankety….blank did do it. I didn’t.”

So Vic gave the Mai Tai its famous name, but the concoction was Beach’s. This certainly should not be a fact that takes away from Vic’s great influence on Tiki Culture, but it should certainly add to Donn Beach’s. Ultimately, it’s just a fittingly great tale about two men who brought us the tropics and helped us escape without having to go too far.

Ingredients: 1 ounce dark rum (such as Meyer’s)

1 ounce lite rum (we recommend Havana Club Rum)

1/2 ounce orange Curacao (actually we prefer Grande Marinier)

1/2 ounce Orgeat or Creme de Almond

1/2 ounce simple syrup

3 mint leaves

Juice from 1 whole lime

Preparation: Squeeze juice from whole lime into cocktail shaker. Throw in 3 mint leaves and use a muddle to release mint oil. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake and serve in a tall cocktail glass.


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