LES Hong, 14-year part owner/manager of Chuck's Original Steak House, asked for the history of the mai tai. Chuck's has been a Waikiki mainstay for 38 years -- following the storied 1944 origin of the mai tai by 15 years.
Mai Tai mighty fine
The mai tai is "a potent, complex mixed drink made with light and dark rums, orgeat syrup, curacao, orange and lime juices and any other touches the bartender might add. It's served over ice and garnished with a skewer of fresh fruit," according to the "Food Lover's Companion" by Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron's, 1990, $11).
Despite contrary claims by the late Donn Beach of Don the Beachcomber, Herbst wrote, "The mai tai is said to have been created by (the late) Victor Bergeron, the original owner of Trader Vic's Restaurant, who said he created it for a couple of Tahitian friends. On tasting it, they reportedly exclaimed, 'Mai tai!' meaning, 'Out of this world.' "
Hawaii master mixologist Benny Supnet was quoted in 1990 as saying that the art of mai tai making demanded a consummate professional who takes pride in each drink served, the finest and freshest ingredients, and no frills such as pineapple, orange or guava juice.
Hong maintained, "It's not only the recipe. It's how you make it -- the whole package, the ceramic mug, the fresh garnish.
"It's like if you go to New Orleans, you gotta have a 'Hurricane.' if you come to Hawaii, you gotta taste a mai tai."
Hong's recipe follows, plus two more for comparison.
Mai Tai(Courtesy of Les Hong, Chuck's Original Steak House)1-1/2 ounces sweet and sour mixPour first 4 ingredients over crushed ice; stir. Top with the dark rum, garnish and serve. Makes 1 serving.
1 to 1-1/2 ounces light rum
3/4 ounce orange curacao
1/2 ounce falernum or orjeat syrup
1 ounce dark rum or Demerara dark rum
Garnishes: half of a fresh lime, fresh mint
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving, using 1 ounce light rum: 440 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, 190 milligrams sodium. Per serving, using 1-1/2 ounces light rum: 500 calories.*
Mai Tai(From "House & Garden's Drink Guide")2 ounces dark rumCombine all ingredients, except pineapple, in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with pineapple. Makes 1 serving.
1/2 ounce curacao
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
1-1/2 tablespoons lime juice
3 or 4 ice cubes
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 380 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium.*
Mai Tai(From the Mai Tai Bar, Royal Hawaiian Hotel)5 ounces Mai Tai Mix (see recipe below)Fill mai tai glass with ice. Add Mai Tai Mix, white rum and float dark rum on top.
1 ounce white rum
1 ounce Meyers dark rum
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 510 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, 55 milligrams sodium.*
Mai Tai Mix(From the Mai Tai Bar, Royal Hawaiian Hotel)10 ounces orange juiceCombine all ingredients and add water to make 1 quart.
4 ounces orange curacao
2 ounces orgeat syrup
2 ounces rock candy syrup
2 ounces sour lemon
Approximate nutritional analysis per ounce: 50 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, 10 milligrams sodium.*