Archive - February 2009

The Last Drink of Tiki Month: Puka Punch
Tiki Miscellanea: Vessels
Tiki Miscellanea: Apparel
Tiki Ingredient: Orgeat
Tiki Ingredient: Falernum
Mai Tai Throwdown

The Last Drink of Tiki Month: Puka Punch

Well folks, Tiki Month draws to a close, and I am drinking my last Tiki drink of the festivities. Not my last Tiki drink, of course. This stuff is too damn much fun to let go off permanently. But I have little kids and a wife. I don’t have time to be a Tiki blogger. Besides I love my classic cocktails too much to have more than an occasional fling with the tropics.
I wanted to go out with a bang, so I went searching with some criteria. I had to have read about it from one of the Board of Tiki Idols members’ blogs. It had to use either falernum or orgeat. It had to have pineapple. And it had to be a rum drink. And it had to have a long list of ingredients. In short, it had to be a Tiki drink!
Rick had the answer—a drink he wrote about back in the summer of 2006, when he was first falling permanently under the spell of the volcano gods. I decided to assemble a….
Puka Punch!
Rick got it from Intoxica!,by Beach Bum Berry. You can tell how old this post is by the fact that Rick calls him Jeff Berry. Also, he writes the following words:

In general, I find garnishes to be pretty boring.

Times change, people. That’s all I’m saying. Oh, and I made a few small changes, to suit my lack of passionfruit juice.


  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. warm, runny honey
  • 1/4 oz. my homemade falernum
  • 3/8 oz. blueberry syrup
  • 3/8 oz. cold-process grenadine
  • 3/4 oz. orange juice
  • 3/4 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Silver rum
  • 1 oz. Appleton V/X
  • 3/4 oz. Matusalem Gran Reserve rum
  • 1 good dash Angustora Bitters

Blend ingredients with eight ounces of ice for five seconds. Pour into a fun glass and top up with crushed ice. Float 3/4 ounce 151 rum on the surface.

Rick calls for a fun glass. Okey dokey Tiki Idol, gotcha. This last drink had to be Over The Top Boys, hard core Tiki. I went with a hollowed out fresh pineapple for the vessel. Then I put a sugar cube in a lime shell, soaked the cube with 151, and floated the shell like a boat in the drink. Then I plunked a huge chunk of dry ice down into the drink.
Whadda ya think folks? Did I learn well this month?

Oh, and I learned one other thing. If you put dry ice in a drink, then try to light a garnish on the surface…..

Tiki Miscellanea: Vessels

OK, among the things that I really wanted to get into this month, but couldn’t much for budgetary reasons, was Tiki mugs. If there is one thing that always signified Tiki for me in the past were all the fabulous ceramic vessels that are inspired by or inspired Tiki drinks. They are damn near impossible to find in any quality these days in any but the largest cities, however. And they are not cheap. The web is filled with some great looking finds however, for the avid collector and the casual Tiki-phile both. I managed to order a single totem mug, a fake ceramic coconut, and a nice volcano bowl, but my time and money ran out after that. But I darned sure had fun looking.
Tiki vessels are a significant danger to anyone who is susceptible to the collector’s bug. They’re fun, they’re a little crazy, and they fit easily on narrow display shelves. A site called is a repository of images from collectors all over. It has more than just mugs, but home Tiki bars, and Tiki memorabilia as well.
An even more advanced, and seriously fun, site is Ooga-Mooga! This site allows collectors and makers to catalog their collections online for all to enjoy, as well as facilitating a vigorous sales and trade market. I missed Ooga-Mooga! until this week, for which I’m sure my financial advisers are heaving great sighs of relief.
Did I say Tiki vessels were fun? Oh yeah. In the event you have some time to spare (you’ll need it), try out this Photoshop thread on Tiki Central: World Leaders and their Tiki mugs. Here’s a taste.
and here’s one for Gabe.
board-of-tiki-idolsBOTI member, Craig Hermann has a fascinating post (with far too many pictures to steal) on making these things. Go read it here. Go now, or Colonel Tiki will cause the volcano to rumble in anger. I’ll wait.
Cool, huh? I confess I had never grasped how easy these things must be to make, but only if you have the right infrastructure. It’s a good way to understand why these vessels are so expensive.
Let me finish with some pictures of the mugs that most caught my fancy. Click the pictures to go to where they are available for sale.
I love this Zombie mug. It just kind of screams Tiki, Zombies, and general retro fun with a modern sensibility. Plus, I found it originally on a blog entitled, Skulls & Bacon. Some people are such geniuses at scrounging internet traffic….
This mug is just a bit different from most tall totem-style Tiki mugs. I like it because you can instantly tell it’s different, even from a distance or with Scorpion Bowl-blurred vision.
I’m going to get one of these when I get the chance. I love the sleek, black look. It’s a Tiki vessel that will go with the modern, black and silver look of my own Basement Bar.
If you are going to make Tiki drinks, and want a truly over the top Tiki vessel to occasionally serve them in (and let’s face it, when it comes to Tiki, you should start with over the top!), you need a volcano bowl. As I said, I have already bought one, but I wish I’d gotten this one. The bowls let you put several straws in at once for communal sipping, and the little volcano in the center is a great place to light a fire. Huka Pele!

Tiki Miscellanea: Apparel

UPDATE: If you happen to run across this now, for Tiki Month 2010 I’ve done a lot more research about Aloha shirts and summarized my findings in this post. The post you are reading is still a good one, too.
There is a case to be made that all of Tiki is miscellanea. But in the case of me, as I round up Tiki month, I thought I’d gather together some links to areas of Tiki that I haven’t been able to get to. In all seriousness, I thought I’d run out of stuff to write about before twenty-eight days were up, but not a chance!
Let’s start off with your Tiki chef’s wear.

Like this?


Don’t be ridiculous! Tiki chef’s wear. Like this!

The Magnum P.I. shirt?

Damn right, I have every shirt in this collection. Had them for years. When one wears out, I replace it. They are well-made, comfortable, good looking, and affordable. These days, most people won’t recognize them as the Magnum, P.I. shirts, but they will (if they are the right age) get a cheesy cool vibe from them. They are made by a company called Paradise Found, and can be also bought many other places.
Of course, as I said at the outset of this month, I own a lot of hawaiian shirts. I have plenty that aren’t the daily wear of the Pacific’s greatest crime fighter and general free-loader.

Tommy Bahama makes a wonderful line of hawaiian shirts, as you know. Of course, the problem is that everyone knows. Their shirts are very well-made, come in a variety of patterns to meet most tastes… and are instantly recognizable to everyone as a T.B. shirt. To be blunt, they lack exoticism. I have a couple, but only wear them when I’m in a fun mood, yet want to be reputable.
If you are looking for Tiki wear online, I just found a great site called Aloha Shirt Shop. They have the last two brands I mentioned, as well as many others. I haven’t ordered from them, yet, so I can’t vouch for customer service. But they have a great selection.
6a00d83453dee469e200e553f48ca08833But don’t limit yourself to these kinds of places to find your gear. A really good hawaiian shirt is often a vaguely worn-out, disreputable garment. (i.e. not Tommy Bahama). Shop for them in vaguely disreputable places. Consignment or resale shops, especially in areas where customers are tracking sand in the door, are a great place to hunt.
So hawaiian shirts are cool and fun. Wear them as part of your complete Tiki experience, and enjoy. But remember that all things, even all good things, can go wrong. Just be careful out there. I’m just saying….

Tiki Ingredient: Orgeat

I’m running out of time in Tiki Month here at the Pegu Blog. But I cannot let the month expire without going over one of the most interesting and useful Tiki ingredients: Orgeat.
I first encountered a need for Orgeat way back during Mixology Monday: Limit One, when I made the very much non-Tiki Chatham Artillery Punch. Actually, I’m not sure The Punch isn’t a Tiki beverage in it’s soul. Let’s list its qualifications:

  • Large amounts of multiple alcohols, including rum. Double-plus check.
  • Lots of fruit juices. Check.
  • Lots of different fruit in a garnish-like capacity. Check.
  • Pain in the ass and time-consuming to make. Check, and check.
  • Leads to silly dress and behavior, even before the drinking commences. Check. If you have not experienced drunken, upper-crust southerners in full throat, under the influence of The Punch, you need to uncheck Experienced Silly from your life list.

OK, it’s not really a Tiki drink, but it belongs, baby. It belongs.
The Punch would be a cinch for Tiki-dom if the orgeat were an ingredient in the punch, but it was needed for the maraschino cherry recipe instead. (Note to self: Add orgeat to next batch of Chatham Artillery Punch)
I remember looking at the recipe and asking myself, Self, what the hell is Oar-geet? I looked all over town, and at last found it in a gigantic bottle from Finest Call. I needed about two ounces, so I hesitated to buy this big honking bottle, until I saw it was about five bucks and had the unrefrigerated shelf-life of plutonium. I made the cherries, and stuck the bottle in Reserve Liquor Storage Cabinet #2, with the Campari, Amaretto, Godiva, etc. and forgot about it.
As Tiki Month was taking form, I fell in love with real Mai Tais (careful following the link, there be controversy there!) and suddenly orgeat became an important part of my first line mixing loadout. But there was much still to learn.
slivered-almondsFirst off, what the heck is orgeat anyway? Essentially, it is a syrup made from almonds, primarily the almond oil. Originally it was made with barley and almonds, or even just barley. It’s first use was in cooking, as a pre-refrigeration era ingredient that served much the same function as milk or cream in modern cooking. The long shelf-life of the orgeat made it a practical way to deliver fats to a recipe. One of these days, I’ll experiment with it in baking, just to see how it goes; though I’m guessing I’ll make it with less sugar for that use.
Second, how do you pronounce it? My first guess was, as I alluded to above, Oar-Geet. Then some wag made the comment, in relation to orgeat, hey, where’s the orgy at? Credulous me thought that this was an actual mnemonic for pronouncing it, and went around saying Orgy-At for months. Thanks, whoever did that to me!
The actual pronunciation is more like Oar-zha. Got trouble with that? How about these two pictures? (They come from Gumbo Pages, who saw the image at Tales of the Cocktail seminar on making things like orgeat, the lucky bastard.)
Now, we know how to pronounce the name, and what it is. But is the stuff readily available, and is commercial orgeat any good?
The answers are probably not, and surprisingly enough, probably so. Most liquor stores and supermarkets won’t have orgeat. If yours does, good on ya. My bottle of Finest Call is quite serviceable. There are no off flavors, and while the flavor is a little bit thin, it does the job it’s supposed to do quite adequately.
But I did have to find out how fresh, scratch made orgeat would taste. Here’s how you can make it with relative ease (This recipe is derived from Darcy O’Neil’s post on the same subject at Art of Drink):
Almonds are obviously the base of this syrup, so make sure you get the best quality, freshest ones you can get. I buy my nuts from an outfit called Sunnyland Farms in Georgia. They are first and foremost a pecan grower, but all their nuts are top quality. You need almonds that are slivered and blanched. You could even do this part yourself, but you could also build a bridge each time you want to cross the river to get to work. Buy your almonds ready to use. For illustration purposes, we’ll use one pound.
First, clean the almonds by soaking them in cold water for about half an hour, then discarding this first batch of water. Transfer the damp nuts to your food processor and chop coarsely, not to a meal. Now it’s time to extract the oils from the almond.
Put three cups of warm, filtered or distilled water in a non-reactive bowl and add the nuts. Allow to soak for about half an hour to forty five minutes. Now strain the liquid into another similar bowl through several layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze the cloth to get all the liquid out of the crushed almonds. Now take all that crushed almond that you just carefully strained out of the water, and put it right back in the same water! If the water isn’t warm any more, put it over a pot of simmering water (as if making a double boiler) until it warms back up. Strain the nuts through your cloth again, back into the first bowl, and then dump the nuts back in again, and soak some more. You should let the nuts soak in the warm water three times, though the second and third rounds only need to be for about fifteen minutes.
snowy-starlingsNow strain the liquid one last time into a pan, and you can discard or compost the leftover almond solids. Birds will also eat them.
Add 22.5 ounces of white sugar, by weight, to the liquid and stir over low heat until completely dissolved. Turn off the heat, and allow to cool for about fifteen minutes.
Now stir in 3 ounces of cognac or decent brandy. You could use vodka too, but I’d go with the brandy for a little extra character. Also, if you can get it, add 2 tablespoons of orange flower water. Let fully cool, and store in a clean bottle. This recipe will render you about two 16 ounce home brew bottles of orgeat.
The orgeat is not technically a syrup, but an emulsion. This means it will separate over time. No biggie, just shake well before using. That said, it does not look great when separated, so shake it up good before guests arrive.
This orgeat is delicious stuff, much more rich and flavorful than the commercial stuff I’ve tried.
Finally, what do we do with all this syrup?
Orgeat performs two very useful functions in a cocktail that make it especially valuable in Tiki drinks. First, it adds a richness to the drink, a sumptuous, exotic mouthfeel. Yes, I just used the word mouthfeel without irony or sarcasm. And second, orgeat, this almond emulsion, acts as a sort of flavor emulsifier. Tiki drinks tend to have a lot of ingredients and thus lots of flavors. Orgeat sort of smoothes out the gaps and overlaps where all these flavors come together, leaving a more robust, smoother taste. In fairness, I think this is the sort of thing that leaves what one blogger (who shan’t be linked here because he’s such a pooty-head about Tiki) calls, occluded flavor profiles. Also, many great Tiki drinks have wonderfully harmonious flavors without employing orgeat. But orgeat can do some magical things, and your own homemade stuff will bring its own interest as well.
Of course, I can’t do a post like this without a cocktail and a picture to carry it through. Since I got my orgeat recipe originally from Darcy, I’ll go with a cocktail he posted as well. Apparently, last February, he was feeling the winter blahs, and like me felt the prescription was some Tiki. He proffered this silly, little, (probably) late-model Tiki concoction from Beachbum Berry’s Intoxica!:

THE BLOO MARLIN (or just the Marlin)

  • .5 oz. lemon juice
  • .5 oz. lime juice
  • .5 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • .5 oz. delicious, homemade orgeat
  • .5 oz. blue curacao
  • 1 oz. Matusalem Gran Reserve rum
  • 1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Silver light rum

Shake with ice, then strain into a glass with crushed or small cube ice. Garnish with homemade maraschino cherries on a silly pick.

Tiki Ingredient: Falernum

As part of rounding up Tiki Month, I’d like to discuss some ingredients I’ve discovered that are integral to Tiki.
The first is Falernum.
I had honestly never heard of this stuff until the last year, and had absolutely no idea what the heck it was. I will say the name evoked some unpleasant imagery in my mind. I somehow transmuted it to a mish-mash of Faust and Infernal, or some such mental breakdown. The result was that I instinctively rejected any recipe with falernum in it for quite a while. There seems to be no definitive position on the etymology of this word, but Darcy has a good story, while NationMaster has a drier idea.
But as I started ramping up for Tiki month, it became clear that if I wanted to do a complete job on the subject, I was going to have to deal with falernum. In fact, Wikipedia has the following thing to say about it:

Famous drinks including Falernum include:

  • almost any Tiki drink

While this is yet another good example of why you should never trust Wikipedia, it does hold some grain of truth. Falernum is a very important ingredient in Tiki. It’s common, but by no means omnipresent.
I looked around and found a small bottle of falernum made by Fee’s. I bought it, but was confused. What little I had read about the stuff before shying away from the weird name led me to believe it was a liqueur, not a syrup. What is this stuff anyway?
The long and short of it is, falernum is a… a… an ingredient. It combines a number of flavors, including clove, lime, ginger, and almond into a pungent, exotic, viscous fluid. It was originally a liqueur, and many falernums are still manufactured that way. But in most modern applications, it is an accent ingredient, so the alcoholic content is less important.
It does not take much falernum in a drink to make its presence known. In most recipes with it, (that I have tried at any rate) falernum fills the same kind of function as bitters, when bitters wouldn’t be appropriate. It adds a sharp, bracing undertone to other flavors, adding interest and complexity to a drink. In several Tiki recipes, including a lot of Zombies, the falernum is what turns the drink from a nasty sweet punch, into a cocktail. I speculate that falernum’s increasing rarity may have been a contributing factor to Tiki drinks’ latter day reputation as goopy, lifeless messes.
Assuming you want your tiki drinks to not be sweet, bland messes, you’ll occasionally need falernum. It is not easy, but you can buy it. As I said already, Fee’s has a non-alcoholic version, which works quite nicely, at least to my uneducated tastes. The drinks I tried sure benefitted from its presence. Or you can get liqueur versions such as this one, at places like BevMo. It is not available in Ohio in alcoholic form, FYI.
But, as a Certified Cocktailian of the New School™, I of course wanted to know if I could make it myself. The answer, equally of course, is yes. And it is simple to do—not easy, but simple. In fact, though there seems to be no mention of falernum as a cocktail ingredient in bar books before the 1930s (birth of Tiki, anyone?), it seems to have existed long before that as one of those things, like ketchup, where everyone made their own, from their own recipe.
I kicked around the web a bit, looking for advice, before going back to where I knew I’d end up all along: Paul Clarke’s Falernum #8. This recipe seems to have become the de facto standard within the Cocktailosphere, so I went with it. I made one alteration, upon the advice of BOTI member, Rick at Kaiser Penguin, whose falernum post I am ninja-ing here. Here’s the link, where you can see a photo of his entirely unrealistically attractive falernum in progress, as well as a drink garnish that is a bit over the top, even for him. Oh, and he has a contest, too.


  • 6 oz. 151 proof Rum (Use white overproof if you have it. I went with Bacardi)
  • zest of 9 medium limes, removed with a microplane grater or sharp vegetable peeler, with no traces of white pith
  • 40 whole cloves (buy fresh ones — not the cloves that have been in your spice rack since last Christmas)
  • 1.5 oz. (by weight) peeled, julienned fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract (Paul calls for a quarter)
  • 14 ounces cold process 2:1 simple syrup
  • 4.5 oz. fresh, strained lime juice (This is the ingredient I omitted. See below)

Combine lime zest, cloves, ginger and rum in a sealed container and allow to marinate for at least 24 hours. Strain and squeeze through cheesecloth, discarding solids. Add almond extract and simple sugar. Shake thoroughly to combine. Add fresh lime juice when used, at a ratio of 1:4 juice to falernum, to replace the omitted juice.

Rick and others have found that Paul’s original #8 does not keep well. The juice rots, regardless of the preservative powers of 151 and 2-1 simple syrup combined. Add it back in, if needed, at mixing time.
I said this was simple, not easy. Zesting the limes so as to keep the pith to a minimum is a huge pain, in more ways than one. I recommend the microplane, with plenty of Neosporin standing by for when you are done.
The resulting alcoholic syrup is a muddy color, much greener than the Fee’s. It is very fragrant too, in a pleasant-but-not-delicious-on-its-own kind of way.
I tried it in a Jet Pilot, my favorite falernum-based tiki drink, and I felt it made for a subtle but noticeable improvement. Generally, the home-made was cleaner. The flavors were the same, perhaps a little floral, but there just were fewer uninvited hangers-on.
I’ll leave you with an early Trader Vic cocktail that really puts this stuff front and center (tip o’ the hat to Slashfood):


  • 2 oz. dark or gold rum
  • .75 oz. fresh lime juice
  • .25 oz. Cointreau
  • .25 oz. your freshly made falernum

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lime zest.

If you want an example of how robust falernum is, and how easily it takes over a cocktail, try this one. It isn’t really to my taste, as it is far too pungent for me. If you like strongly flavored drinks, and are making falernum, it is definitely worth a try.

Mai Tai Throwdown

OK, to paraphrase Bill Cosby, I told you the last two stories to tell you this one.
If there is one subject guaranteed to excite the juices and light the flaming garnishes of Tiki-philes round the world, it is this:
Who invented the Mai Tai, Trader Vic or Don the Beachcomber?
In my previous posts, outlining the lives of Don and Vic, I deliberately avoided much in the way of comparisons, saving that for here. Let’s first look at a few things about the two, aside from the Mai Tai. Don was first, period, in the tropical-polynesian feel restaurant with caribbean inspired cocktails. Vic undoubtedly knew of Don’s LA operation before he took off for New Orleans and points south to absorb the rum knowledge he wanted to built his own Tiki empire. I think that it’s telling that Vic did not try to imitate Don, and especially his drinks, directly. The Trader set out to assemble the same tool kit that Don had, then built his own design from the same starting point.
Without both of their work and inspiration, Tiki would never have been the force it was, or perhaps a force at all. And I suspect that both men knew it damn well. Both were rivals, perhaps intense rivals, but they knew they needed each other. They were fierce, even nasty and litigious on occasion, toward lesser Tiki creatures, but left each other strictly alone, as far as I can see. But I doubt they much liked each other either. Here are the definitive quotes from each man about the other (Both, not remotely coincidentally, relate to the paternity of the Mai Tai:

donThere continues to be controversy over who originally came up with the Mai Tai. It has never bothered me that Vic Bergeron took credit, and I have never held a grudge. The plain fact is, there can be no truer form of flattery than when other people claim credit for your concepts and ideas and use them for their own benefit.
-Don the Beachcomber

20060916dThat is one stunning load of horse manure, Don!

Anybody who says I didn’t create the Mai Tai is a dirty rotten stinker.
-Trader Vic

Gee Vic, who ya talking about?

Don claims to have first served his Mai Tai in 1933, an assertion that is repeated as fact by his partisans, and spoken with skepticism by Vic’s gang. No one seems to have any historical evidence of this. Not a menu, a celebrity diary entry, nothing. I suspect that if there was, it would always be front and center in the debate. Vic states he invented it in 1944. That’s a pretty big discrepancy.
We should remember that a well made Mai Tai is the best Tiki drink that ever was poured. Period. Of that, partisans on both sides emphatically agree. Or at least I think so, so that makes it fact.
In the late thirties, these men were the hippest things going in California’s two great cities, and shared a huge percentage of their clienteles. If Don had this killer libation in his bag of tricks and Vic didn’t, why is this not common knowledge, rather than uncommon controversy? Of course, we who live today in the age of the Internet and mass media are a little out of touch with how slowly and imperfectly information used to travel.
Also, while Don was brilliant and creative, perhaps beyond Vic’s powers, he lacked the Trader’s ability to institutionalize his work, and spread it sustainably beyond his own personal reach. I’ll repeat my assertion from last post that Don was Francis Drake, but Vic was Henry Ford. Don may well have served the magnificent Mai Tai for years before Vic, but failed to set it in people’s minds beyond his reach. Give Vic a superweapon like the Mai Tai, and he would cement it in the minds of folks around the world.
Also, there is the famous conversation. Syndicated columnist Jim Bishop wrote a letter to Honolulu columnist Don Chapman in 1989, in which he claims that he was part of a conversation at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco in which the Trader appears to have admitted that Don invented the Mai Tai. I am skeptical. In the 1970s, this would have been a huge story, and Bishop didn’t write about it then? Or, if we go with the idea that he waited until both men had died, it would still have been a story of some magnitude in 1989 at the very nadir of Tiki. Why would one journalist give it to another? Also, these were old frenemies, in their cups. If the conversation did take place as remembered, it is hardly conclusive. Still, it’s a powerful piece of evidence, if you trust it.
So, based on talent, personality, and historical evidence (or lack thereof), we don’t have a convincing argument either way. Let’s examine another feature of the competition between Vic and Don, and their lesser rivals: Secrecy.
If Don Beach and Vic Bergeron had been entrusted with national security, the Russians would have had to come up with The Bomb on their own. These guys (especially Don) guarded their recipes like virgin daughters. We do not have absolute certainty over what was in the original Mai Tai, whomever made it, or when the Mai Tai recipe we think of as definitive actually started being offered under the name Mai Tai. This should muddy the waters, but in fact this is the key to answering who is the father of the Mai Tai.
Here is what Don’s wife calls his original Mai Tai recipe, in Hawaii Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber:


  • 2 ounces of water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce of fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 ounce of sugar syrup
  • 1 ounce of dark rum
  • 1-1/2 ounce of golden rum
  • 1/2 ounce of Cointreau or Triple Sec
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Falernum syrup
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash of Pernod

Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain into a tall highball glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fresh fruit and serve with straw.

And here is Trader Vic’s recipe for the very first Mai Tai ever made, as found in Trader Vic’s Tiki Party! and first read by me on Rumdood’s site:


  • 2 oz Wray & Nephew 17 Year Old Rum
  • .5 oz orgeat
  • .5 oz orange curacao
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • Juice of one lime (approx. .75 oz lime juice)

Mix all ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a glass over crushed ice. Garnish with lime shell and a sprig of mint.

Note several differences: First, the recipes are very different; not the same cocktail at all, really. Don’s is general, Vic’s is specific, about brands and the story of its creation. Don probably didn’t even write it down when he first made it, which is why it’s so general. In short, it has the feel of just another cocktail Don invented.
Vic’s recipe comes with story of it’s creation, it’s naming, and the bottles he used. It looks like the result of a great discovery.
Combine these impressions with a central observation that most of today’s cocktailscienti will make: The Trader Vic recipe is The Recipe. Don’s Mai Tai is an OK drink. Vic’s is… Oh Wow.
Don may well have invented a Tiki drink he called a Mai Tai before Vic. I would suggest the evidence leans that way; though that evidence, like most things Don, is deliciously shady.
But I submit that it doesn’t matter. Trader Vic threw together five simple ingredients in perfect proportion, and created a drink that is the apex of the movement. In whatever order these men came up with their Mai Tais, the drinks are dramatically different beasts; homonyms, not synonyms. And the one that matters is Vic’s.

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