For decades, Vic Bergeron swore up and down that the Mai Tai was invented in 1944 at his Northern California restaurant, Trader Vic’s. And that was that. Unless it wasn’t. You see, there’s also a case to be made that Bergeron’s good friend and business rival Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, better known as Don the Beachcomber, invented it in 1933. Bergeron and Gantt have both long since moved on to the Great Tiki Bar in the Sky, leaving the matter unsettled for all eternity. But we actually find that fitting. The Mai Tai is the granddaddy of Polynesian-style cocktails, and an enduring symbol of the carefree island spirit. And nothing says “relax” like a story you can’t fact-check.
Mix it Up
You can play around with different rums from around the world for variations of the Mai Tai. There should always be an interplay between dark rums and the grassy funk of agricole-style rums.
This cocktail from tiki godfather Don the Beachcomber lives up to its name—it will tempt anyone, even the most abstinent, to take a sip. The bright, fruity drink marries fresh mint with pineapple, rum, peach brandy and honey syrup in an icy, blended slushy. If you do succumb to its wiles, take comfort in the fact that the Missionary’s Downfall...