History of the Classic Mai Tai Cocktail! | With Video Recipe


On this bonus episode of The Mash Up, Vito sits down with Danville Brewing head brewer Matt Sager in his backyard to discuss the history of the classic 1944 Mai Tai! Matt and Vito discuss the history of the recipe, the process of creating the different types of rum and ingredients in the cocktail, and more!

Watch the Video!

Vito. Welcome to the Limeridge Lagoon.
Thanks for having me, Matt. It's always a pleasure. I love coming here.
I know. You know, I'm a I'm a brewer and I love all things beer. But another passion of mine is rum and all things tiki.
Yeah, that's I mean, as brewers, we like to drink a lot of beer, obviously, but especially like at beer fests and things like that. I always we tend to like...
You get a little beer-ed out!
Yeah, you get beer-ed out, let's go find a nice drink somewhere in town.
Right? So right. And I and I have the perfect place for cocktails right in my backyard.
And you make some amazing cocktails, and you know a lot about it. I know you make a great classic Mai Tai. I'd love to have one. I'd also love for you to tell me and everyone else about a Mai Tai.
Absolutely. All right. Well, the traditional Mai Tai is actually it was invented by Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic's in Oakland, and his inspiration came from the QB cooler, which is a drink that Don Beach made at Don the Beachcomber in L.A. And it's kind of a riff on a on a rum sour, really. And the ingredients that we're using for this is...
Yeah let's go through the ingredients.
We use fresh lime juice, always fresh.
Squeezed yourself?
Squeezed myself. Yup. Simple sirup, which is basically just sugar and water.
Make a little reduction on the stove top.
And this is the fun part. This is orgeat.
Yeah you told me about this.
It's it's a sweetened almond syrup that I actually made at home.
So you made it easy?
Okay. Take us through. How do we make it?
Basically, what we're doing is we're we're getting almonds, blanched almonds, grinding them up, mixing it with water, making more, making like an almond milk. And putting it through as a sieve. Strain it out, mix it with sugar syrup, add a little bit of orange blossom water, and that's the result.
Okay, so that's what that is. Stuff tastes delicious, right?
And then there's a little bit of of orange liqueur I like to use dry curacao pure for on it's as the name says, it's drier than, say, triple sec, which is a lot sweeter. And then for the rums. So the the original Trader Vic's 1944 Mai Tai, he used one rum and that was Jay Wray nephew. 17 year, they don't make that anymore. So a very close approximation of that is a mixture of a high ester rum. I like to use Smith and Cross. It's one of those rums that that either you love it or you hate it. Right. So a good middle of the road that I like to use also is Appleton Estate Signature. They're both Jamaican. They're both Jamaican rums. This one is definitely higher ester has a lot more funkiness to it or Hogo, as they say.
What makes the Jamaican rum different than a, you know, just any other?
So so for the most part, typically I don't want I don't want to generalize here, but Jamaican rums are pot still. So you're going to have a lot more of the ester profile that you get from a pot still rum.
And then some of the Jamaican breweries will utilize wild yeasts and bacteria for the ferment. Right. Right through the use of what's called dunder pits. Right. So so the utilizing the back set from the previous batch to put into the the wash or the, the distillation of the, of the next batch. So that's creating a lot of really high ester funkiness that you can only get from bacterial fermentation.
I know when we smelled them side by side, it was definitely significant.
So you're going to get a lot of like really overripe banana, overripe pineapple in this, whereas this is a lot mellower. But you still getting some Jamaican funk out of out of apples.
So we're going to blend those two together.
Actually, no, we're we're blending this Jamaican Smith and Cross with Clement. So we're also going to blend it with Martinique Rum, which is a Rhum Agricole.
What's a Rhum Agricole?
So the biggest difference between these two rums is this rum is distilled with molasses, while this is distilled using fresh press cane juice.
It's going to be a little grassier, but this is aged on oak. So with this, you're going to get a little more openness if you don't have I don't have it in front of me now, but I had an unaged Clement.
And you're going to get a lot more of those grassy notes that you wouldn't get with an aged version.
Okay. Yeah.
So I use Vsop Clement. It's aged a little bit longer in it. Same with brewing when you age something. It's cutting off those harsh edges that they get in some oxidation. You're getting some of that wood character that just makes mellows, right. And mellows it all out. And I think that's what you get with with this as well. So we're going to do a blend of Clement Vsop and I'm using Smith and Cross for our Jamaican. Can I make you one.
Yeah, let's do it. All right.
I'm Matt Sager. Welcome to The Limeridge Lagoon. And I'm going to make a classic 1944 Mai Tai.
So we're going to start fresh squeezed lime juice. So I'm going to go with a full ounce of lime juice. Simple syrup, quarter ounce of that and a quarter ounce of orgeat, which is sweetened almond syrup. And we have Orange Curacao, which is an orange liqueur. It's on the drier side, this Pierre Ferand, ounce and a half of that.
And for a rum we're going to do that split of Martinique Clement, We're going to do a full ounce of that and a full ounce of Smith and Cross Jamaican rum.
And of course, fill our shaker tin up, give it a pretty hard and shake with this silver shaker. Till it feels cold on your hands. Do a dirty pour in there. I'm also going to top it off with a little bit more ice. Wake up some mint, pop it in.
And then we're always going to want to put a spent lime shell on top.
There you have it. 1944, Mai Tai. Mahalo.


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