The mai tai is the quintessential tiki drink. The classic Trader Vic’s version, upon which this recipe is based, is complex, sophisticated, and a far cry from the overly sweet, cherry-red pre-mix variants that lesser establishments fob off on their customers.
It is relatively simple: It starts with rum blended with those two building blocks of most outstanding rum drinks, lime and sugar. To this is added curaçao (an orange-flavored liqueur) and orgeat (pronounced or-ZHA), an almond-flavored syrup now often found in upscale coffee shops. As in any good cocktail, the quality of the spirit should not be underestimated: Better rums make a better mai tai. Don’t stint.
Mix in a cocktail shaker with ice:
1 ounce heavy rum
1 ounce medium-bodied rum
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce curaçao
1/4 ounce orgeat
Strain into tumbler half-filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fruit and mint.