What does a Night Stand, A US President, and the Guinness Book of World Records have in common?
One iconic and deeply debated cocktail recipe.
A simple tiki cocktail made with rum... and...
What the hell is in this cocktail?
And where can you get a proper one?
Everybody has heard of the Mai Tai. It's been a staple on the menu of tiki bars for at least 75 years. But in that time, the recipe has grown, changed, and been lost to time.

No two bartenders make it alike... or even similar. Does it have orange juice? Pineapple juice? Garnish?

Just about the only thing everyone agrees upon is that it has rum in it.
Who Created It?
And where did it originate?
Donn Beach
Donn Beach, the founding father of tiki culture and the first official tiki bar claimed he originated the Mai Tai recipe as early as 1933 at his Hollywood bar, Don's Beachcomber.
Victor Bergeron
Victor Bergeron claims to have originated the recipe and name in 1944 at his Oakland restaurant, Trader Vic's.
The Timeline
of the Rise & Fall
of the Original Mai Tai
J. Wray & Nephew's 17 Yr Rum was barreled no later than 1927 to age before being being used in the first Mai Tai.
Victor Bergoron (AKA Trader Vic) developed a secret recipe highlighting the flavor of the rum. When some visiting Tahitian friend's tried it, the exclaimed, "Maita’i roa a’e!" Which translates to "Out of this World!" Thus the "Mai Tai" was born.
The supply of 17 yr J. Wray & Nephew Rum began dwindling and Bergeron started substituting it with the 15 yr, then a blend of Jamaican rum and aged molasses-based Martinique rum.
Bergeron modified the Mai Tai for the tourist crowd at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. Introducing pineapple and orange juice for the first time to sweeten the recipe. This change was the beginning of the bastardization of the Mai Tai into the hundreds of variations that were to come.
The Mai Tai was heavily featured in the Elvis Presley film, "Blue Hawaii", featuring the Royal Hawaiian recipe. Demand for a Mai Tai exploded. With the original recipe still kept secret, the Royal Hawaiian recipe became the basis of knock-offs and bad recreations everywhere.
Trader Vic wins a lawsuit setting the record straight on who originated the Mai Tai name and recipe. The entailing press release finally releases the original recipe but at this point, the original rums were long gone and the bastardization had disseminated so widely that no two bartenders recipes for the Mai Tai were the same and the "real" recipe lost all real meaning.
12 unmarked bottles of the 17 yr. J. Wray Rum were discovered. As of 2007 only 4 are left in known existence.
The Bar at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland used 17 yr J. Wray Rum to create the original Mai Tai recipe until supply ran out in less than a year. At $1,475 each, it is the Guinness World Record for the most expensive cocktail and the last time the original recipe was ever made.
The Rum
Trader Vic's 1944 Recipe was built around the flavor profile of the rum it used, J. Wray & Nephew 17 Year Rum. Eventually, they were forced to adjust the recipe due to dwindling supply. Today, the few bottles remaining are worth over $50,000.
Barrel Material
Most rums are aged in old bourbon barrels, taking distinctive characteristics from the barrel. However, since the rum was made barreled in 1927, in the middle of prohibition, bourbon barrels were quite rare and it can't be assumed they were used.
Aging Process
The Original Rum was aged for 17 yrs! Evidence says it was at the Appleton Estate's in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica since that was J. Wray's primary location. The unique climate having a pronounced effect on the aging process.
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