I’ve been meaning to share this epic mai tai recipe with you for months! I found the recipe in my friend Alana Kysar’s beautiful new cookbook, Aloha Kitchen (affiliate link). Alana is effusive and thoughtful, hard working and talented, and you would know this all by glancing at her book. She sent me a copy and I’ve learned so much about Hawaiian culture and cuisine from it.
Her mai tai recipe is in the drink section at the back of the book. I’ve been wanting to learn how to make a proper tiki drink ever since we got a tiki bar in town, so here we are.
Alana says, “The mai tai is commonly associated with Hawaii, despite is California origin. Whether you believe Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic invented the drink, its strong tie to the islands remains. If you’ve ordered them in the past, chances are you’ve had varied experiences, ranging from great to terrible and everything in between.”
This mai tai recipe is well balanced, deliciously tropical, and quite boozy, like a mai tai should be. Your average cocktail contains one-and-a-half ounces of liquor, and this one contains three ounces of rum. You have been warned.
Aloha Kitchen Cookbook
Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai’i is a gorgeous, coffee table-worthy cookbook overflowing with vibrant photos of Hawaii, Hawaiian recipes, and even history lessons. I’ve never had the chance to visit Hawaii, but I fell in love with Alana’s description of Hawaiian culture before I even got to her collection of 85 recipes.
I had a few epiphanies as I read Alana’s book. One, I’m even more eager to experience Hawaii now. Two, I realized I knew very little about Hawaii’s history and cultural influences. Alana provides a thorough rundown in the introduction, along with icons for the originating ethnic group on each recipe.
Lastly, I knew nothing about Hawaiian food—it’s so beautiful and interesting, and unfortunately for me as a vegetarian, more meaty than meatless. Pescetarians and everyone else, you will find many recipes that work for you in this cookbook. If you love Hawaii or are dying to visit like I am, you need this book!
Mai Tai Ingredients
Alana consulted with two-time “World’s Best Mai Tai” champion bartender, Justin Park, on this recipe. She says, “This is his take on a classic mai tai, where he forgoes the traditional floating of the rums to create a well-balanced cocktail that’s great from start to finish.”
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Dark molasses rum
- Light pure cane rum
- Honey simple syrup (instructions provided in recipe notes, made simply from honey and water)
- Orgeat syrup
- Fresh lime juice
- Angostura bitters
What is orgeat syrup?
I wasn’t sure myself until I bought some for this recipe. Orgeat syrup is made from an interesting blend of almonds, sugar, and rose water or orange flower water. It’s sweet and delicious, and you might recognize the flavor from other tiki drinks. It tastes like sunshine and summertime and smells like suntan lotion. Or more seriously, like marzipan.
Alana recommended Small Hand Foods brand of orgeat, which I bought on Amazon. You can make a lot of mai tais with one bottle of orgeat, plus it’s nice mixed with unflavored club soda.
Looking for more refreshing summertime cocktails? Check these out:
Be sure to check out Aloha Kitchen and let us know how your mai tais turn out in the comments!
Mai Tai Cocktail
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 cocktail 1x
- Category: Cocktail
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: Hawaiian
Learn how to make classic mai tai cocktails with this simple recipe from the Aloha Kitchen cookbook. They’re strong and delicious, like mai tais should be! Recipe as written yields 1 cocktail; you can make 2 at once in a large shaker.
- 2 ounces dark molasses rum (such as El Dorado 8-Year Demerara Rum)
- 1 ounce light pure cane rum (such as Batiste Rhum Ecoiste)
- ½ ounce honey simple syrup*
- ½ ounce orgeat syrup (I used Small Hand Foods per Alana’s recommendation)
- ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
- Spritz** or dash of Angostura bitters
- Lime wheel, for garnish
- Fill a double old-fashioned glass with ice and set it aside to chill. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine both rums, the honey syrup, orgeat syrup and lime juice.
- Shake. Strain the cocktail into the ice-filled glass. Evenly spritz the top of the drink with bitters and garnish with a lime wheel before serving.
Recipe shared with permission from Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai’i by Alana Kysar.
*Honey simple syrup: Simple combine equal parts honey and water in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until you can thoroughly stir the honey into the water (or warm them together briefly in the microwave). It’s necessary to make simple syrup because straight honey doesn’t mix well into cold drinks.
**Bitters note: The recipe suggests using a small spray bottle or atomizer to spritz the bitters on top of the drink. It is lovely that way, but if you don’t have the equipment, just add a quick dash to the cocktail before shaking.
Garnish options: I made these drinks as written in the book and loved them. I often see mai tais garnished with mint sprigs and/or pineapple slices, so feel free to gussy yours up if you’d like.
Your photography is superb.
Ian aka le Chef
Thank you, Ian!
Not quite a true Mai Tai recipe, but much better than those filled with juices and grenadine for sure! Should definitely be garnished with a nice big sprig of mint. The aroma adds so much to this cocktail. If you don’t want to splurge for two different rums Appleton Estate Signature rum is a great option. Also, no need to strain over new ice, just toss everything in from your shaker and add more ice if needed to fill the glass, crushed ice is best as it actually keeps your drink colder longer! IG: @thattikigirl
Thanks for sharing your feedback, Wendy!
I was looking for a place to buy orgeat near me (Ontario Canada) and found this recipe to make your own: Serious Eats.
Thank you for sharing, Susan!
Hi! This sounds yummy and refreshing. I’d like to make a batch to take to a neighborhood event. Do you have the measurements for making s large batch instead of individual glasses? Thanks in advance!
Hi Shannan, I don’t have this for a large batch, but you should be able to scale accordingly.
I love that you have wonderful cocktail recipes mixed in with your great veg recipes. A perfect and practical balance
Thank you, Kelley! It’s about balance. :)
Sarah | Well and Full
This drink looks so refreshing and summery! All I need is a beach ;)
Can you use amaretto in place of the orgeat?
You could try it, but would change the taste more than likely. Let me know if you try it!
This is delicious! I’ve been looking for a good mai tai recipe, since the pre-bottled mixes just leave me cold, and this is both refreshing and nothing like I expected. Double win.
Also, your photography is beautiful. I’m still not sure how you got that color, though. My drinks came out a creamy almond color instead of the vibrant orange pictured.
Hi Tiffany! I’m happy you enjoyed it. Creamy almond color, hmm. Possibly brand of liquor you used? I’m glad it still tasted delicious!
Hi Kate! Thank you for the recipe! If you ever have the chance to visit Hawaii, you have to try the Mai Tai at MonkeyPod (restaurant) on the island of Maui. It is AMAZING! They finish it off with some type of yummy froth on top. Best I’ve ever had (the food is top-notch too).
That sounds amazing! Thank you for the recommendation, Angie!
Looks interesting! I’ve only had two mai tais in my life, and the second one was yesterday! It was on the Big Island of Hawaii and was made Kuleana rum, which is manufactured on the island. Their company is quite new so I don’t think the rum is available on the mainland yet. Keep
an eye out for it, though, because it was really good! I’ll try your recipe when we get back!
Thank you for sharing!
A hammock, a book in one hand and this yummy looking Mai Tai in the other, Heaven!!
That sounds perfect, Nina!
A couple of months back I had my first Mai Tai at a music festival. It felt like the more sophisticated older sister to a pina colada. I was won over! I’m glad to see this recipe on your blog because I had almost forgotten about the yummy drink. I’m now incentived to pick up the liqueurs and make it for myself!
Be sure to let me know what you think, Melanie!
I love this!
My dad worked for The Trader at his restaurant (I remember meeting him when I was a kid). Great memories!
We use his recipe (or as close as we can considering the rums he used). However, we loved the fruity mai tais at Tahiti Nui on Kauai and adopted their idea of a dark rum float.
I second the recommendation for Small Hands orgeat—so good.