If you Google the word “Mai Tai”, you’ll end up with almost 75,000,000 results. Some where, somehow on the internet June 30th has been declared National Mai Tai Day. We want to set the record straight! The real “Mai Tai Day” is August 30th! We even have a proclamation from the City of Oakland confirming the official day!
The Trader himself could not have predicted the Mai Tai’s worldwide popularity on that fine day in 1944 when he made history by simply creating a concoction for some friends at his Oakland bar. The Mai Tai is everywhere! Even a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes have been called, “Mai Tai”. That will set you back about $895, of course, but we prefer the real thing – sipping an Original Mai Tai® in its original setting, Trader Vic’s.
When you think of a Mai Tai, the iconic Tiki drink, the taste of aloha, Paradise In A Glass®, you assume it must have been invented by some thirsty beachgoer after a warm day on the sands of Hawaii. Beach imagery aside – and yes, you can still envision yourself propped up on a chaise lounge, Mai Tai in hand, relaxing under the tropical sun (we do) – the Mai Tai was actually invented in Oakland, California at The Trader’s small restaurant on San Pablo Avenue. The story goes as follows…
“I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year old Jamaican J. Wray Nephew rum, added fresh lime, some Orange Curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle flavor. A generous amount of shaved ice and a vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went in for color, I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti, who were there that night. Carrie took on sip and said, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae”. In Tahitian this means “Out of this World – The Best”. Well, that was that. I named the drink “Mai Tai”.
As Trader Vic’s expanded, so did the popularity of the Mai Tai, reaching Hawaiian shores in 1953 by way of The Matson Steamship Lines when they asked Vic to develop menus for their bars at the Royal Hawaiian, Moana and Surfrider Hotels. When Trader Vic’s became an international brand in the early 1960s, the Mai Tai’s fame spread like wildfire and quickly developed into one of the most ordered drinks throughout the world.
But with the sweet comes the sour. Many imitators popped up attempting to lay claim to Vic’s perfected island creation. Vic was quoted as saying, in his usual gruff manner, “There has been a lot of conversation over the beginning of the Mai Tai, and I want to get the record straight. I originated the Mai Tai, but many others have claimed credit. This aggravates my ulcer completely! Anyone who says I didn’t create the drink is a dirty stinker.”