The Best Mai Tai Cocktail for Rum Lovers

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Cocktail Type


Great for

Garden Party



Refreshing boozy Mai Tai cocktail on the rocks with cherry and pineapple garnish

Of all the brilliant Tiki drinks out there, the classic Mai Tai cocktail is probably one of the most famous. The traditional Mai Tai recipe uses five ingredients: two types of rum, orange liqueur, lime juice, and simple syrup. This rum-based Tiki drink is on the IBA’s official list of cocktails—for a good reason. The best Mai Tai cocktail is ‘out of this world.’ Like literally. And who wouldn’t want a cocktail like that? 

What is a Mai Tai cocktail?

Many people confuse Mai Tai cocktails with tropical, overly-sweet pineapple and rum drinks. Unfortunately, over the years, the original version of the Mai Tai recipe got corrupted by bars and restaurants who made their own versions and tweaked the recipe with cheap bottled mixers and poor-quality rum.   

Victor J Bergeron (the inventor of the original Mai Tai recipe) would be the first to tell you that’s not what a classic Mai Tai cocktail is meant to be. He invented this drink back in 1944. After mixing together Jamaican rum, orgeat and orange liqueur, he served it to a couple of Tahitian friends. After tasting it, they exclaimed, “maita’i roa ae!” which is Tahitian for ‘out of this world.’   

The best Mai Tai recipe

The Mai Tai recipe is rum-forward with a subtle sweetness from the orange and tartness from the lime. The addition of orgeat syrup adds an interesting almond flavour. It’s lovely and complex—just the way we like it. Serve these at your next summer pool party. 



Fresh lime juice is essential for the best Mai Tai cocktail.


Keep your hands off the pineapple juice for this recipe. It’s got no place here!


If you can’t find Orgeat, use a drop of almond extract mixed with simple syrup instead.



1 Person

1.5 Oz

45 Ml

1.5 Parts

Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
2 Oz

60 Ml

2 Parts

Appleton Estate Signature Blend
0.5 Oz

15 Ml

0.5 Parts

Orgeat syrup
0.5 Oz

15 Ml

0.5 Parts

Fresh lime juice
0.5 Oz

15 Ml

0.5 Parts

Dark rum (optional)
Sliced lime and a sprig of mint for garnish



Add the orange liqueur, Jamaican rum, orgeat syrup and fresh lime to an ice-filled cocktail shaker 


Shake until frosty (around 30 seconds) 


Strain on the rocks in a Collins glass 


If you want the extra rum kick, pour the dark rum over the back of a bar spoon so it floats on top of the cocktail 


Garnish with a skewer of sliced lime and pineapple and add a sprig of mint



The best rum for Mai Tai cocktail

There are two golden rules for making the best Mai Tai cocktail. One, don’t use pineapple juice. Two, do not use cheap rum! This Tiki drink is about showing off the rum, so you’ve got to do it justice.   

For a Mai Tai recipe that is out of this world, we suggest Appleton Estate —one of the oldest and most famous handcrafted Jamaican rums. This was also the rum of choice for old Victor (although his version used a 17-year-old variety that’s no longer available), but the 8-year reserve will be just fine.  

In the 1970s, the addition of a dark rum float became a popular choice for many Mai Tai lovers. So, if you want to add a bold flavour to the mix, choose a quality dark rum that is smokey and sweet.   

We also have to mention the use of orange liqueur. While the original version uses an orange curacao, we prefer Grand Marnier. We love this liqueur for its rich cognac and bitter orange flavours. You can also check out their other cocktails for more inspiration. 

What is a Orgeat syrup?

Orgeat syrup gets its name from the French word ‘orge’ which translates to ‘barley’. In its classic form, this syrup is made from a combination of almonds and orange flower water. If you can’t find orgeat syrup, a good substitution will be almond syrup, almond extract or amaretto. That being said, for the best Mai Tai, stick to Orgeat syrup for its unique floral-citrus flavour. 

How to make a pitcher of Mai Tai for a party

If you want to make a Mai Tai pitcher for your party, that’s an excellent idea. Combine 350 ml Grand Marnier, 480 ml Appleton Estate, 120 ml orgeat syrup and 120 ml fresh lime juice in a pitcher. Pop it on a tray along with ice filled garnished glasses and let your friends help themselves. 

When to serve the Mai Tai cocktail?

Mai Tai’s are best served during summertime and is the perfect serve for: 

  • A garden party with all your mates 
  • A 70s-themed party with retro vibes 
  • A beach party  
  • After work cocktail hour while the sun sets 
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A Mai Tai cocktail is a very rum-forward drink, with hints of sweet orange liqueur and a subtle tartness from the lime juice.

The perfect Mai Tai recipe calls for 45 ml Grand Marnier, 60 ml Appleton Estate Rum and a 15 ml of each lime juice and orgeat syrup. Shaken up and strained over ice, it’s a great cocktail for a pool party.

You can easily scale this recipe into a crowd-pleaser by making a pitcher in advance. Combine all ingredients (except the ice) and chill in fridge before serving.

Over the years, the original version of the Mai Tai recipe got corrupted by bars and restaurants who made their own versions and tweaked the recipe with cheap bottled mixers and poor-quality rum.

Mai Tai cocktails are quite potent at 20% ABV.