This Mango Mai Tai is a delicious spin on the classic Mai Tai cocktail. If you've never had a true Mai Tai before, you're in for a treat with this twist on the original Trader Vic recipe! Tropical mango pairs perfectly with aged rum, fresh lime, orange Curaçao liqueur and orgeat syrup. The combination makes for a delicious and refreshing summertime drink.
The Mai Tai was developed in 1944 by Trader Vic, as he himself asserts in the iconic cocktail book, Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide. "I want to get the record straight. I originated the Mai Tai," he writes (page 162, Revised Bartender's Guide by Trader Vic). His friend exclaimed "Mai Tai-Roa Aé" after taking her first sip of the drink, which means "out of this world, the best" in Tahitian, and the Mai Tai was born.
This mango version is pretty close to the original, but with the addition of mango nectar instead of the rock candy syrup in the original recipe. I love the silky texture and subtle mango flavor that it adds!
The Mai Tai has kind of transformed into something extra fruity and over-the-top at bars in the late 20th century. But, if you go by the original recipe, it is a pretty magnificent drink. Lots of flavor, bright acidity, and if you use a good rum, it's really able to shine.
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make this cocktail:
- Rum - the original Mai Tai used a specific rum which is not available anymore (namely, 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew rum). The Trader Vic company now sells their own dark rum that is great for Mai Tais. I used Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Jamaican Rum (link to buy on Drizly), which is fruity, funky and delicious.
- Mango Nectar - this is a mixture of mango puree with a simple syrup. The mango puree is a little bit on the thick side, so adding the simple syrup lets it pour a little more easily as well as adding sweetness. You can use store bought (link to Mango Nectar on Amazon), or make your own using my easy Mango Nectar recipe.
- Orange Curaçao liqueur - this is a sweet liqueur flavored with oranges. It is similar to a triple sec, but a little more sweet and nuanced. Blue Curaçao is probably more well-known, but this is the same style of liqueur without the blue food dye (and usually a little higher quality).
- Orgeat syrup - this is an almond-flavored syrup. I love BG Reynolds Orgeat syrup, since it is really rich and has a great almond flavor.
- Lime juice - preferably fresh, for flavor and also so you can use the lime shell for a garnish.
If you don't have certain ingredients, here are some substitutions you can make:
- Rum - if you don't have an aged rum, try using Cognac or whiskey. This drink was meant to have the deep flavor of an aged spirit.
- Mango Nectar - if you want to keep in a more tropical fruit flavor and rich texture, you can substitute in pineapple syrup or peach nectar here. Alternatively, you can use a peach jam or cherry jam instead, but you might want to dilute the jam first since this drink isn't shaken for long enough to break up the jam.
- Orange Curaçao - if you don't have this, go for a Triple Sec, such as Cointreau liqueur. Triple Sec is also orange flavored, but not quite as sweet and a little sharper flavor overall.
- Orgeat syrup - if you don't have orgeat, I recommend using simple syrup along with a dash of almond extract.
Here are some things that'll make this drink easier to make:
- Cocktail Shaker
- Jigger or small measuring cup
- Ice crusher - this drink uses crushed ice, rather than large chunks of ice like you would get from your freezer. I love this ice crusher crank gadget, or you could use a blender. You could also use an ice mallet and Lewis bag to crush the ice by hand.
- Cocktail serving glass - a Mai Tai is traditionally served in a double old fashioned glass (like these Viski double old fashioned glasses). They usually hold between 10 and 12 ounces. You can use any glass you'd like, just make sure the rim of the glass is wide enough for the lime shell and mango slice garnishes.
- Citrus juicer - if you're using fresh lime.
- Knife and cutting board - for the lime and mango.
- Cocktail pick - for the mango garnish.
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Prepare your garnish by cutting strips of a fresh mango. Fan out the strips and attach them on one end using a cocktail pick. Set this aside.
Then, juice your lime and add the lime juice to your cocktail shaker. Set aside one of the used lime shells (also called "spent" lime shells) for a garnish.
Add the orange Curaçao, orgeat, mango nectar and rum to the cocktail shaker.
Fill the shaker with crushed ice and give it a couple of shakes. You don't need to shake this very much. As soon as the metal of the cocktail shaker is frosty, you're done. This only took me about 3 shakes.
Then pour the drink, ice and all, into your serving glass.
Place the spent lime shell upside-down on top of the drink. Add the mango slice garnish and serve.
Hint: if your serving glass is a little too big, you can always add more ice after you shake. The additional ice will also help to support the lime shell garnish. (The mangoes should be supported by the cocktail pick resting on the edges of the glass.)
Frequently Asked Questions
The strongest flavor in any Mai Tai should be the rum, and that is definitely the case in this drink. The mango, lime, orange liqueur and almond-flavored orgeat all combine to create a kind of tangy fruit punch flavor, but they all take a backseat to the the rum. Compared to a traditional Mai Tai without the mango, this drink is a little bit softer in flavor. The mango puree gives it a richness and warmth in place of the sugar syrup of the original.
The original rum used in a Mai Tai was, very specifically, 17-year-old J. Wray & Nephew rum. This rum isn't on the market anymore, though. In his original recipe, Trader Vic recommends using a mix of half Jamaican rum and half Martinique rum. You can use whatever rum you really enjoy, because the flavor of the rum definitely comes through in this drink.
If you're planning to make a lot of these drinks at once, having pre-crushed ice in a cooler is a huge help. Crush the ice before you need it, and then just have an ice scoop ready to go in the cooler along with the ice. You can even buy pre-crushed ice at some grocery stores or fast food restaurants.
Mango Mai Tai
- Slice one side off of a ripe mango and place it cut side down on your cutting board.
- Cut three strips of mango from the center of the piece, about ⅛" thick.
- Arrange the three mango strips like a fan and thread a cocktail pick through all three pieces (at the bottom of the fan shape). Set aside.
- Juice a fresh lime and set one of the lime shell halves aside with the mango slices while you make the rest of the drink.
- Measure and add the lime juice, orange Curaçao, orgeat, mango nectar and rum to the cocktail shaker.
- If you don't have pre-crushed ice, use a blender, ice crusher or mallet and Lewis bag to crush the ice.
- Fill the shaker with crushed ice. Seal the shaker and shake it only a couple of times, just until the shaker is frosty on the outside.
- Pour the shaken drink, ice and all, into the serving glass.
- Top the drink with the spent lime shell, rest the cocktail pick with the mango slices on top, and serve.