The amber-hued Mai Tai is one of the most iconic tiki cocktails of all time. It brings together rich dark rum, funky rhum agricole, fresh lime juice, orange liqueur and orgeat—a creamy almond syrup—for one easy-drinking summer tipple. Though it’s a great go-to summertime order, sometimes you just need to switch things up a bit. So whether you're bored of your usual or you just don't trust a bar to make a Mai Tai without a sugary pre-made mix, here are five equally delicious tropical cocktails to try instead.
If You Like Mai Tais, You'll Love These Cocktails
The classic Rum Swizzle is as easy as tiki gets—best of all, it doesn’t sacrifice any of the tropical flavors for which the genre is famous. Made with dark rum, lime juice and falernum—an almond-flavored tiki syrup—this elixir gets added depth from hefty dashes of Angostura bitters, and has the same ultra-cooling powers as a Mai Tai, thanks to a mass of crushed ice. The two drinks even get the same garnish: a sprig of fresh, aromatic mint.
If you’re craving the approachable, refreshing taste of a Mai Tai but want something that packs a stronger, boozier punch, look no further than this amped-up variation on the classic. Created by James Shields of NYC’s Villanelle, this cocktail uses overproof rum, potent Batavia Arrack and a float of black spiced rum. Both orgeat and falernum temper the boozy punch just enough so that you can still enjoy a few in one sitting.
Herbaceous gin may seem like the furthest thing away from the Mai Tai’s base of sweet, tropical rum, but the spirit makes its way into a number of tiki cocktails that rival even the traditional Mai Tai. One of the most famous gin-based tiki-tails is the Royal Hawaiian, which also features orgeat, pineapple and lemon juices. Though slightly fruitier than the Mai Tai, the hefty base of gin maintains balance and keeps the final product from being too sweet.
If you really want to turn the Mai Tai on its head—but maintain its original essence—try a Poison Dart. Made with bourbon (Yes, whiskey can be used in a tiki cocktail too!), this cocktail also uses orgeat, zesty fresh citrus and orange flavoring in the form of bitters. But the real fun is in the allspice dram, cinnamon syrup and earthy Cynar, which gives the cocktail a spicy, bitter edge. It's perfect for drinking when the weather starts to get cooler but you aren't ready to give up on summery tiki just yet.
Inspired by tiki godfather Don the Beachcomber’s original recipe, this cocktail from the eponymous tiki den in Chicago will take longer to prepare than a Mai Tai—but we promise it’s worth it. This cocktail also uses rhum agricole and dark rum, along with fresh lime juice and velvet falernum. It gets its orange notes from freshly squeezed juice, and a touch of honey syrup sweetens the deal. Add some Angostura bitters and a splash of allspice dram for depth, and you'll have the ultimate beach party cocktail—no beach required.