Cocktail Club

Here’s how to make a ‘dangerously delicious’ mai tai cocktail

A former Baldwin Bar bartender shares an exotic mai tai recipe.

Join Cocktail Club for spring cocktails with former local bartender Vannaluck Hongthong on May 19 at 7 p.m.

Is there a drink origin more debated than a mai tai? Probably. But the mai tai story is highly documented with facts, legal documentation, and a court case.

So unlike some drinks out there that are based on lore, passed down from one bartender to another, this drink has a verifiable story — and it’s juicy to boot. 

Not to delve too deep into the story, here’s a quick version. Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron laid claim to the mai tai when he made this drink one evening in 1944 for Eastham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti. After Carrie’s first sip she exclaimed, “Mai tai-roa aé.” In Tahitian this means, “Out of this world, the best!” The rest as they say is history. Or is it?


Donn Beach, born Ernest Raymond Grant, opened Don the Beachcomber years before Vic opened his first restaurant and tiki bar Trader Vic’s, and has said that the mai tai is based on a drink from his menu called the Q.B. Cooler.

While Vic did emulate the design of his restaurant on Donn’s restaurants and bars, he has always stood by that the mai tai is his creation. The two eventually went to court to settle the dispute and they ended up ruling in favor of Vic Bergeron. Case closed. 

To say I’ve made quite a few of these would be an understatement. When I was at the Baldwin Bar we made these in copious amounts. It was balanced with that bright citrus note with a burst of orange from the dry curaçao, the texture and richness from the orgeat paired with rum really made that rum shine. They were dangerously delicious. This was actually my first drink I ever had during my first time there so it holds a special place in my heart. I almost always have the ingredients on hand when I want to scratch that itch. (Depending on the day, that itch takes a few to be completely satiated).


One of the last drinks I put on the menu at Row 34 was a version of the Trader Vic mai tai. To me, this is a great drink to have up your sleeve at all times. Feels exotic, but in actuality it is quite easy to make at home. If you really want to spruce it up, serve it over crushed ice (my pro tip) — just like Vic and Donn would have wanted. 

Mai tai


  • 1.5 oz. Jamaican rum
  • .75 oz. dry curacao
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .5 orgeat (almond syrup)


  • Add ingredients and shake over ice
  • Strain into a lowball or tropical mug on fresh ice
  • Garnish with mint and lime slice

Vannaluck Hongthong is New England’s off-premise specialist for Maison Ferrand.

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