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Hawaiian Mai Tai Recipe (A Closely Guarded Secret)

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This Hawaiian Mai Tai recipe is the ultimate in classic tiki cocktails made with rum and tropical flavors.

My search for the best Mai Tai recipe in Hawaii added a little extra fun to our vacation! I was in Kauai for a week recently and found two different near-perfect delectable libations of the Mai Tai recipe.

They are both based on the famous original Mai Tai recipe and there’s only a slight difference between the Tahiti Nui Mai Tai and the Koloa Rum Mai Tai recipes.

 

Mai Tai Recipe

The Hawaiian Mai Tai cocktail.

How can you visit Hawaii without sampling what might as well be the “National Drink of Hawaii?” (I know Hawaii is a state, but we have the “National Beer of Texas” where I live, so I’m taking artistic license!). Hawaii doesn’t have an official Hawaiian state drink, but if it did, surely it would be the Mai Tai.

The Mai Tai cocktail is a staple on every restaurant or bar menu in Hawaii along with the very popular Lava Flow drink, which is a creamy pina colada style tropical drink with added fresh strawberries and a banana. Of course, you’ll find a delicious Blue Hawaiian on the menu too!

The ingredients for a Mai Tai create a completely different style of tropical drink. You may be surprised to find out it doesn’t typically include any tropical fruit juices besides lime juice. Yet, the best Mai Tai recipe I taste-tested certainly included an added splash of juice!

And beware, the Mai Tai drink is definitely strong because it’s mostly made up of alcohol and various syrups. The ingredients include a 1/2 oz orgeat syrup and vanilla infused simple syrup (available at most liquor stores) and both really add to the distinctly Hawaiian flavors.

 

 

Mai Tai drink isolated

 

Tahiti Nui Restaurant’s Mai Tai Recipe

I sampled a few varieties of Mai Tai recipes early in the week, and while they didn’t repulse, they didn’t prompt an enthusiastic response.

On our last full day on the island, we went for a long hike at the edge of the north shore. Okay, I only hiked a mile, due to the sticky mud on the trail, but my husband made four miles successfully. After that, we were ready for a late lunch and a strong drink.

A friend from college recommended the Tahiti Nui restaurant in Hanalei town, so that’s where we wound up. I thought I’d try a Mai Tai – again – and was I ever surprised!

I quickly sought out the bartender after a couple of sips of the best Mai Tai recipe I had sampled all week.

When I asked for the recipe, she was quick to tell me that it was a closely guarded secret!

The recipe had come from Tahiti 54 years ago with the owner, Louise Marston.

Louise had married a US Marine in Tahiti and they settled on Kauai, opening what I heard might have been the first bar on the island. Louise passed away in 2003 and the bar/restaurant is now run by her granddaughter.

Mai Tai Recipe

 

Kilohana Plantation’s 1944 Mai Tai Recipe

Since we didn’t leave the island until late at night the next day, we practically had a whole extra day to enjoy the last bits of tropical fun on Kauai.

We visited the Kilohana Plantation and their bar was in the midst of their happy hour. This bar is a part of the old plantation home and full of antiques and atmosphere.

We also discovered the drinks are also works of art!

We enjoyed their “1944 Mai Tai,” which was described as being patterned after the original Mai Tai recipe, birthed by “Trader Vic” Bergeron’s recipe in 1944. The original Mai Tai created by Trader Vic used aged Jamaican rum. Here at the plantation, the Koloa Rum Mai Tai is amazing. The Koala Rum is perfect for the tropical Mai Tai recipe.

The plantation still is full of fruit trees and some patches of sugar cane, so the bar recipe contained many fresh, but unique ingredients.

Their ingredients for a Mai Tai starts with fresh lime juice, Koloa Gold rum (distilled right there on the plantation), Tahitian vanilla-infused simple syrup, fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, orgeat-almond syrup, orange Curacao, fresh mint and finished with a floater of Koloa Dark rum.

Here’s how to make the best Mai Tai we found in Kauai.

1944 Hawaiian Mai Tai Recipe

Start with the Koloa Rum Mai Tai Recipe (substitute your favorite rums, if you don’t have Koloa rum).

  • 1 oz Koloa Gold Rum
  • 1/2 oz Orange Curacao
  • 1/2 oz Orgeat-Almond Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Sugar cane juice
  • 1 oz Fresh lime juice (approx. 1/2 lime squeezed)
  • Splash of Vanilla-Infused Simple Syrup
  • Shake the mixture and pour over ice
  • Add 1 oz Kola Dark Rum for a floater
  • Garnish with a sprig of mint and pineapple slice

Tahiti Nui Mai Tai Recipe

To create a cocktail close to the Tahiti Nui Mai Tai Recipe (remember, it’s a 54 year old secret recipe, so this is my best guess):

  • Add 1 oz of Pineapple Juice and (if you have it) a splash of guava, orange and/or passion fruit juice. Their Hawaiian Mai Tai recipe certainly has the addition of fresh fruit juices that made it taste just a bit smoother and that more tropical.

Once you’ve tasted a finely crafted Hawaiian Mai Tai drink, you may be spoiled by any other version! Try this concoction that will make you say “A-LO-ha!”

Mai Tai drink isolated

Hawaiian Mai Tai Recipe (A Closely Guarded Secret)

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

We visited the Kilohana Plantation in Kawaii and discovered the drinks are a work of art!

We enjoyed their "1944 Mai Tai," which was described as bring patterned after the original Mai Tai recipe, birthed by "Trader Vic" Bergeron's recipe in 1944.

Their Mai Tai recipe started with fresh lime juice, Koloa Gold rum (distilled there on the plantation), Tahitian vanilla-infused simple syrup, fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, orgeat-almond syrup, orange Curacao and finished with a float of Koloa Dark rum.

Excellent drink, but the best we found was the Tahiti Nui Mai Tai Recipe ( it's a 54 year old secret recipe, so this is my best guess). Their Mai Tai recipe added additional fresh pineapple juice and I'm pretty sure a splash of guava juice.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Koloa Gold Rum
  • 1 oz Pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz Orange Curacao
  • 1/2 oz Orgeat-Almond Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice (approx. 1/2 lime squeezed)
  • 1/2 oz Sugar Cane juice
  • Splash of Vanilla-Infused Simple Syrup
  • Add 1 oz Kola Dark Rum for a floater
  • Garnish with a sprig of mint
  • Garnish with a slice of pineapple
  • 1 oz Pineapple juice (extra and optional)
  • Splash of Guava juice (optional - for added tropical juice flavor)

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients together except the Koala Dark Rum in a shaker.
  2. Add a small amount of ice to the shaker and shake.
  3. Fill your cocktail glass with ice and strain mixture into your glass.
  4. Add the Koala Dark Rum floater on top.
  5. Garnish with a slice of pineapple and a sprig of mint.

Notes

Tip: A splash of guava or passion fruit will add even more tropical tastes.

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