2.13.12 Tai One On

Mai tais 790 xxx
We've been in Florida since Friday. Palm Beach Gardens. First it rained, and now it's 45 degrees. Need I say more? On the bright side: Some quality time with my lovely in-laws, and the perfect Mai Tai, mixed by G's dad. His secret recipe is pretty close to the 1944 original from Trader Vic's, though I suspect his contains a maverick touch of pineapple juice. (As a point of interest, "Maita'i" is the Tahitian word for "good.") Along with the pupu platter, this tangy and potent cocktail is a fabulous relic of the Tiki culture that was all the rage in the 50s and 60s. Though I'm not sure crab rangoon deserves a comeback, I'm positive the Mai Tai belongs in the pantheon of classics.
A true Mai Tai contains Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup (essentially a branded simple syrup with a hint of vanilla) and orgeat, a delicious sweet concoction made from almonds, sugar and rose water and/or orange flower water. Here's an interesting recipe for making your own orgeat. I couldn't find the brand referenced for sale online, but this should be a worthy substitute.

Mai Tai

Trader Vic's original 1944 recipe
makes 1 cocktail
  • — 1/4 ounce Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup
  • — 1/2 ounce Orange Curaçao
  • — 2 ounces aged rum, such as 17-yr-old J. Wray & Nephew
  • juice of one fresh lime
  • — 1/2 ounce French Garier Orgeat Syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker with lots of shaved ice. Shake vigorously. Serve in a rocks glass garnished with a sprig of fresh mint. (Cherry is optional.)

Download recipe  Download Recipe


New Poster/Old Reader here...Orgeat! Took me a minute to remember why I knew that word. In the 80's, Elephant & Castle used to (maybe still does) serve it in warm frothed milk. It was my favorite thing to drink in the world. I'd forgotten about it until now. So I just went a-Googling to get my hands on some of that syrup. The Fee Brothers version gets a big thumbs down on this Amazon review: "The Fee Brothers 'Orgeat' is corn syrup, artificial flavors and preservatives. Not surprisingly, it had a bland flavor." Monin and Torani: Blechhh! But these sound promising: Rieme Almond Syrup or Giffard (those 2 have the prettiest bottles!) also Teisseire, Hediard, and Routin 1883. There's an organic orgeat (a most alliterative liquid) from Maison Meneau -"ni colorant, ni agent conservateur." But I may have just tracked down the mother lode: organic and small batch orgeat from Small Hand Foods in San Fran ("Foods" is a misnomer...they sell "classic ingredients for pre-prohibition cocktails"). With your love of mixology, maybe you know about Small Hand. Looks like you have to order from one of their purveyors - a Boston store is the closest. More orgeat ephemera: it is also used in something called the Mauresque cocktail - just add absinthe. Me? I'm gonna hustle up some raw milk at one of my local moo farms and add some Slow Hand Foods orgeat. Served hot, wouldn't that be the perfect apres-snowshoe beverage? Like when it finally snows...in June, maybe?
Amie Valentine on February 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm —
Amie, where have you been all my life?! In fact, orgeat is a relative of horchata, a beverage found in Spain and Latin America that is deceptively milky and made with rice, barley or almonds. Never had the Elephant & Castle version but it sounds delicious. Thanks so much for your sleuthing! Fee Bros makes pretty good bitters so I assumed...but you know where that gets you... I didn't know about Small Hand but I will dive in right away, procure a bottle and perhaps even try a Mauresque, which sounds like something best sipped at a large farm table under an arbor in a sunny Provençal field. Or gazing out at a snow-deprived Sullivan County one...
laura on February 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm —
My selective dyslexia strikes again - I read your last sentence like this: "best sipped UNDER a large farm table." Depends on how much absinthe, I guess! XO
Amie Valentine on February 14, 2012 at 4:13 am —
Under, over--any way I can get it, actually...
laura on February 14, 2012 at 4:17 am —