03 21 2017 1454

Mai Tai. The Making of a Legend

From the London Hilton on Park Lane Research Notes


“To accomplish big things, you must first dream big dreams.” 

Conrad Hilton

The Mai Tai may be Polynesian in name, but it’s American in origin, reportedly created by a legendary California restaurateur, the late Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic’s fame.

    “There’s been a lot of conversation over the beginning of the Mai Tai. And I want to get the record straight,” Bergeron said before he died. “I originated the Mai Tai. Many others have claimed credit. All this aggravates my ulcer completely. Anyone who says I didn’t create this drink is a dirty stinker.”

“In 1944 after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I thought about all the really successful drinks- martinis, manhattans, daiquiris, all basically simple drinks. I took down a bottle of 17-year old rum. It was J. Wray; Nephew from Jamaica-surprisingly golden in colour, medium bodied, but with the rich pungent flavour particular to the Jamaican blends. The flavour of this great rum wasn’t meant to be overpowered with heavy addition of fruit juices and flavourings. I took a fresh lime, added some orange curacao from Holland, a dash of rock candy syrup, and a dollop of French orgeat for its subtle almond flavour. I added a generous amount of shaved ice and shook it vigorously by hand to produce the marriage I was after. Half the lime shell went into each drink for colour and I stuck in a branch of fresh mint. I gave the first two to Eastham and Carrie Guild, friends from Tahiti who were there that night. Carrie took one 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.’”




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