Karl's Recipes: Mai Tai

One hot summer day, after working on Libby's tree house and thinking of a recent trip to Hawai`i, I decided I need a mai tai to help cool off. Fortunately, living in California, obtaining fresh citrus juice and mint requires nothing more than a saunter out to the garden.

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Squeeze the juice from
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2 large limes
You may use other citrus fruits depending on what you have available. I have a Eureka lemon tree which is far more prolific than my lime tree so often I'll use one of each type of lemon. Reduce the sugar if most of the juice is from Meyer lemons as they are sweeter.


  • 1/2 tablespoon raw (or dark brown) sugar
into a tall glass and add the citrus juice. Mix until the sugar is dissolved. Raw sugar has stronger molasses flavors which nicely complement the rum but it doesn't dissolve as well as brown sugar.


  • crushed ice
until the glass is half full.


I originally used the Trader Vic's mix, but realized that it was loaded with high-fructose corn syrup so now I prefer more fresh fruit juice and, if necessary, more sugar. Simple syrup also works.

Bitters makes it a little more like a Navy Grog, which I like. If you like a sweeter version, opt for grenadine or orgeat.

Mix thoroughly, then drop in

  • 1 medjool date
  • 1 dried plum or pluot
(See comments below on garnishes.)

Float on top, or lightly stir in,

  • 1 ounce Cruzan Black Strap rum (optional)
  • 1 ounce Gosling's Black Seal Rum

Regarding rums, I like using at least four different rums, usually from different locations (Baccardi is from Puerto Rico, Gosling's is from Bermuda, Myers's is from Jamaica, and Cruzan is from St. Croix) though I make an exception to include both Gosling's rums. The traditional mai tai recipe uses light rum with just a float of dark rum but I prefer the richer taste of the gold and dark rums. The black strap rum is a bit strong in flavor and may not appeal to some; omit it or replace it with more Baccardi or Myers's if you prefer.

Garnish with

  • a sprig or two of fresh peppermint
  • 1 lime wedge

Traditional garnish includes a pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry, but I rarely have pineapples sitting around the house and am aghast at what those awful neon cherries might do to me. (A proper brandied cherry would be another matter but I haven't gotten around to making them.)

One day I noticed some dates in the kitchen and decided to use one in my Mai Tai, and later tried adding other dried fruit as well. These offer a nice finalé at the end of the drink, having absorbed and integrated the rum flavors.

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