10 July 2009

Recipes of the Lost City: Trader Vic's Mai Tai

New York had a fine place to get all faux tropical and order tall, ornate tiki cocktails in Trader Vic's, before Donald Trump began his ignominious reign as owner of the Plaza Hotel and decided the restaurant was too "tacky" for his tastes. (Imagine Trump, the King of Bad Taste, finding something tacky.) It closed in 1989.

The Trader Vic chain, once mighty and nationwide, was founded and owned by Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. He opened the first of his Polynesian themes restaurants in Oakland. At the height of the tiki craze, there were 25. (There has been a resurgence of late, with many international locations opening.) One of the classiest addresses in the chain was in the basement of the Plaza.

Bergeron's most lasting contribution to world culture was the Mai Tai. While there has been some dispute over the years as to who invented this drink (Donn Beach of Donn the Beachcomber claimed authorship as well), lately it's been pretty well resolved that Bergeron came up with the formula to the most popular version of the cocktail. Here it is, as printed in a 1972 reprinting of his bartender's guide.


1 lime
1/2 ounce orange curacao
1/4 ounce rock candy syrup
1/4 ounce orgeat syrup
1 ounce dark Jamaica rum
1 ounce Martinique rum

Cut lime in half; squeeze juice over shaved ice in a double old fashioned glass; save one spent shell. Add remaining ingredients and enough shaved ice to fill glass. Hand shake. Decorate with spent lime shell, fresh mint, and a fruit stick.

Notes of preparation: Don't skip the orgeat (you can find it at Astor Wine & Spirits) or use anything other than fresh lime juice. They are critical, as are the two kinds of rum; 2 oz. of one kind of rum is not the same. For the rock candy syrup, simple syrup will do. As to the fruit stick, it's safe to skip that. Don't even know what it might be.

Previous Recipes of the Lost City


Anonymous said...

Muscat, Oman merits a Trader Vic's location, but not New York. Something doesn't sound right about that ...


Vidiot said...

This is a good recipe for the Mai Tai -- so many bartenders think it's just a lot of rums and passion-fruit, guava, and other juices, all glommed together.

hollarback said...

Very hard to get a decent Mai Tai in NY. Which is a sad thing really. The NY Trader closed before I was legal (or able to pass). If you want a REAL tropical drink, go to Los Angeles and get a Rays Mistake at Tiki Ti, (since 1961) opened by master mixologist Ray Buhen who many credit as the real creator of the Mai Tai.