I’d never been to Orange County, California before. I’m sure that’s a statement most people can make, but when you learn that I lived in Los Angeles for two years, it carries a little more weight. (Truth be told, I’m more concerned with the fact that I never made it to San Diego, but that’s a different story) But I got my first chance a week ago to head on out to the Tommy Bahama Island Grille in Newport Beach to meet the people I’ll be working with and to start creating new drinks. But if you’re going to make drinks, you got to taste drinks, and that was the first thing I did. And if you’re going to go into the funhouse that is the world of rum, I recommend starting with the most classic of rum cocktails. The Mai Tai.
The Mai Tai is possibly one of the most maligned and misunderstood cocktails out there and for good reason. The two men separately credited with creating it, Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron, each in their lives deferred to the other. The original recipe, whoever’s it may be, is lost to history. There are variations out there that have as many as 10 ingredients and as few as 4. In many cases, most drinks that go out as a “Mai Tai” are nothing more than a variation of a rum punch, but what serves as the base is aged rum, orange curacao, lime juice and orgeat syrup, an almond flavoring agent. Add a splash of pineapple juice, take one sip and you’ll find yourself saying the Tahitian phrase that named the drink: “Mai tai roc ae”—out of this world.
So go out and enjoy life like the one long weekend it is.