The weather is warming up and that means I’ll be featuring the old school Trader Vic Mai Tai on my menu on occasion. This cocktail dates back to the 40’s and it’s not the neon pink umbrella drink you might associate with the name Mai Tai. Hopefully you like the taste of rum, because you won’t find any pineapple juice hiding the taste of alcohol in this recipe.
You can’t make Trader Vic’s Mai Tai without orgeat syrup (pronounced “awr-zhat”). Orgeat is a sweet almond syrup with a lovely touch of orange and rose flower water.If you’re lucky you might be able to find a bottle at your local liquor store, but quite frankly nothing beats the homemade stuff. It’s a lot easier to make than you might think too. So why not give it a shot?
How to Make Orgeat Syrup
- 7 oz blanched sliced almonds (no skins)
- 18 oz of water
- 2 oz of vodka
- 3 cups of sugar
- teaspoon of rose water
- 8 dashes of Post Prohibition Orange Bitters
- 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
- 1/8 teaspoon or less of xanthan gum (very light dusting)
- In a bowl cover almonds with water and allow to soak for 20 minutes. Strain and discard water.
- Then add the 18 oz of water and the 2 oz of vodka, allowing to soak at least 3 hours or over night. I add vodka at this point to help extract the oil from the almonds. Plus the vodka will help preserve the syrup. If you are using the orgeat for something other then cocktails feel free to omit the vodka.
- With a food processor or hand blender, blend the almonds to release their oils.
- Strain almonds through cheesecloth and a sieve and collect the water in a separate bowl.
- Squeeze the almonds in the cheesecloth to get all the liquid out.
- Now take your almond water and sugar and bring to a low boil on the stove until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- You will notice the almond oil and the water tend to separate, this is where the xanthan gum comes into play. With a whisk or hand blender incorporate the xanthan gum.
- Add the almond extract to taste. This will kick up the almond flavor and is not totally necessary, but I think it’s a nice touch. Also, add the rose water and orange bitters. You could use orange flower water here instead of a combination of the orange bitters and rose water. Be careful with orange flower water because it is very strong and if you put too much your syrup will taste like perfume.
- Bottle in sterile bottles.
Trader Vic’s Mai Tai
- 1 oz light rum
- 1 oz dark rum
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz orgeat syrup
- 1/2 oz of Cointreau
- garnish with mint
Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, except the mint garnish. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fresh mint. You can also float some dark rum on top of the cocktail if you like. I tend to exclude fancy garnishes such as pineapple or neon cherries.