This cocktail took a lot of research and a lot of planning to make. It was definitely worth it though! We went out of our way to use good quality alcohol, though I wouldn’t necessarily say that lower quality alcohol wouldn’t fare well, since a lot of sugar does get added.
First things first, the Mai Tai recipe, for which I have Beachbum Berry to thank. I will post his recipe first before I discuss the modifications we made.
Beachbum Berry’s Mai Tai:
– 1 oz. Rhum Clément VSOP Martinique rum
– 1 oz. Appleton Estate Extra dark Jamaican rum
– 0.5 oz. orange Curacao
– 1 oz. fresh lime juice
– 0.25 oz orgeat syrup
– 0.25 oz simple syrup
Add at least 2 cups of crushed ice, then shake well for around 10 seconds. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Sink your spent lime shell in the drink, and garnish with a mint sprig.
How I made the drink:
– I did not use the Rhum Clément VSOP Martinique rum, but instead used Saint James Royal Ambre Martinique rum. You can choose to dial up/down the quality/price of this rum however you prefer; the most important thing about this rum is that it is a “rhum agricole”. How does rhum agricole differ from traditional rum? Traditional rum is distilled from molasses, which is sugarcane juice by-product. This tends to produce a sweet bold taste. Rhum agricole is distilled from the sugarcane juice directly. This tends to be more expensive and while still sweet, has a slightly different flavour. The variation in the English versus French nomenclature is dependent on the country of origin. Traditional rums are commonly produced in Jamaica (an English-speaking country), and les rhums agricoles are commonly produced in Martinique (a French-speaking country).
- I did use the Appleton Estate Extra dark Jamaican rum because I was able to find it in my local liquor store. I was also stoked to try it out because I had been a long-time fan of the regular Appleton’s rum and figured I would love it. I did enjoy it but if rhum agricole is a sipping-on-the-beach flavour, then the extra dark Appleton’s was like a falling-off-a-surfboard flavour. It was good and I would buy it again, but if I were to make another Mai Tai, I would swap this out with a cheaper dark rum like Havana Club (about $10 cheaper for a 750mL bottle)
I did not use orange curacao because I could not afford it and didn’t want to spend a pretty penny on something I was using only 0.5 oz of. I used triple sec. If you happen to have orange curacao lying around, by all means, go for it! Hell, if you have Cointreau or Grand Marnier lying around, try those too! Just whatever you do, do NOT use BLUE curacao. That is the stuff that makes the drink look dirt brown when combined with the orgeat syrup. I stopped drinking Blue Hawaiians when I was 20. :P
It’s winter where I am and limes are 2 for $1. I was making the Mai Tais for a house party, and anticipated making 25 Mai Tais. I did not want to spend $13 on limes, so I bought some Reallime. It is really from limes but if you are sensitive to sulfates, don’t use it because they put it in there as a preservative. Since it is a concentrate, we also halved it and used 0.5 oz in each drink.
Orgeat syrup is one of the yummiest things ever if you like almonds!! I made it at home using this recipe right here! The person who wrote the recipe also wrote an outstanding article on why the muscle in boiling, mashing, straining fresh almonds is not only a giant pain in the arse but actually will yield the exact same product as what you get from store-bought almond milk. I used Natura unsweetened almond milk because it had the least amount of sodium in it per serving (the article discusses that as well).
You will also need to procure some orange blossom water which is actually easier to find than you would think. Hit up a Mediterranean market or section in a regular grocery store or any other grocer that sells speciality/gourmet ingredients. It’s not “gourmet”-priced either. It was $2 for a 300 mL bottle.
Simple syrup is dead easy to make. It’s equal parts water and granulated sugar. Boil the water add the sugar til dissolved, BOOM!
One more note on the choice of rum: personally, I would not choose a very cheap rum because even with the sugar, I still don’t think it would taste good. I would however experiment with a spiced rum like Sailor Jerry in place of the extra dark rum. I would not recommend using Kraken because though it’s dark and yummy, it’s dark because of food colouring, not because of any sophisticated distillation process.
You might also be thinking “Well now that I have all this orgeat, what the f— else am I supposed to make with it?” Personally, I would stick with sweet liquors like rum, bourbon, cognac. I wouldn’t expect it to work well with a gin because that’s too herbal tasting and you could mix it with vodka if you are adding many other strongly-flavoured components which may not go well with a more distinctly flavoured spirit.