Many Mai Tai recipes exist, but the basic ingredients are rum, lime juice and an orange-flavored liqueur such as Curacao, Cointreau or triple sec. Most Mai Tai recipes include grenadine and pineapple or orange juice. Some also call for rock candy syrup or orgeat, an orange- and almond-flavored syrup.
Mai Tais are served over ice and use dark, light or flavored rums. Possible Mai Tai garnishes include maraschino cherries, pineapple spears, orange slices and paper umbrellas.
Most often associated with Hawaii, the Mai Tai originated in California during the tiki-bar craze of the mid-1940s, although the inventor of the drink is disputed. A small Hollywood restaurant called Don the Beachcomber opened in 1933 featuring a South Pacific theme. Don's served a variety of potent rum drinks, including one made with Cointreau, Pernod, Agnostura bitters and lime and grapefruit juices, which later became known as a Mai Tai. Another story claims that Vic Bergeron, founder of Trader Vic's restaurant, created a special drink using rum, orange Curacao, orgeat syrup, rock candy syrup and lime juice for friends visiting from Tahiti. The story goes that after tasting the drink, the friends cried, "Mai Tai roa ae," meaning "out of this world" in Tahitian. As a result, the drink became known as the Mai Tai.