The Original Tiki Cocktail: Mai Tai

Summer is just about here and while not all of us will be going on a tropical vacation this summer, we can bring part of the paradise experience home by making our own tiki cocktails. The most popular tiki drink undoubtedly is the Mai Tai. There are many variations for this cocktail but I’m going to tell you how to make the original recipe.

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The invention of the Mai Tai is debated because both Ernest Beaumont-Gantt (a.k.a. “Donn Beach,” the father of tiki culture) and Trader Vic founder Victor Bergeron claim to be responsible for its creation. The Mai Tai recipes that both men created are similar but slightly different, with the recipe created by Donn Beach including Pernod and Angostura bitters. This is the traditional recipe made by Victor Bergeron:

  • 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 ounce white rum
  • 1/2 ounce orange Curacao
  • 1/4 ounce Orgeat syrup
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • Juice from one fresh lime (about 3/4 ounce)

Fill a shaker with ice cubes and all of the ingredients except the dark rum and shake well. Strain into a glass filled with ice and float the dark rum on top. Garnish with a pineapple wedge, cherry, and mint sprig.

So even if you aren’t going on a trip to Hawaii or Polynesia, you can make a Mai Tai and have your own little tropical get away at home. Although there are many variations of the Mai Tai, this is the customary recipe. Try one and let me know what you think. Cheers!

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Classic Cocktails: Martini and Manhattan

Classic cocktails are simple, stiff, and elegant, and two classic cocktails that epitomize that description are the martini and the Manhattan. These two cocktails are very similar but also very different. Martinis and Manhattans are both served in cocktail glasses, also known as martini glasses, and both are made with a similar ingredient, vermouth. Vermouth is an aromatic fortified wine that is flavored with a variety of botanicals such as herbs, roots, barks, flowers, seeds, and spices. These two drinks differ in their main ingredient, the type of spirit that goes into either one.

The martini is one of the most iconic classic cocktails and it is quite possibly the most famous cocktail, thanks in part to James Bond, who preferred his, “shaken, not stirred.” There are many variations of the martini but the original recipe is nice and simple with just has two ingredients and a garnish. Variations call for using a few drops of Angostura bitters or vodka instead of gin but the traditional martini recipe is:

2 ½ oz gin

½ oz vermouth

1 green olive or lemon twist as a garnish

Pour the ingredients into either a mixing glass or shaker with ice cubes and stir or shake until well chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with either an olive or a lemon twist.

The Manhattan is another classic that is similar to a martini, but it is made with whiskey instead of gin. There is a debate about what kind of whiskey to use, bourbon, rye, or Canadian whiskey. The choice of which whiskey to use is ultimately up to you, the drinker. Other variations on the Manhattan include replacing whiskey with brandy or using Scotch. The original recipe is:

2 oz rye whiskey

½ oz sweet vermouth

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

1 Maraschino cherry for garnish

The preparation is pretty much the same as the martini; pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes and stir until well chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry.

These are two of the oldest and most classic of cocktails. Next time you’re out at a bar, try either one or try them both and compare, if you do try both just plan on not driving. Cheers!

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Old Fashioned

The first recorded definition of the word “cocktail” was back in 1806, where it was described as a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar. The popular spirit of the times was whiskey, particularly rye whiskey or bourbon coming in a close second. The combination of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar has stayed the same over the years and is essentially the recipe for the old fashioned cocktail.

Whiskey cocktails have become increasingly popular over the past few years, probably from people’s growing appreciation of flavorful drinks like whiskey, as opposed to vodka, and quite possibly from the huge popularity of the TV series Mad Men, where whiskey is the drink of choice. Among the variety of whiskey cocktails out there, the most popular ones are also the original ones, such as the whiskey sour, Manhattan, and of course the old fashioned.

The old fashioned is one of my favorite cocktails because it’s simple to make and it tastes just like a cocktail should taste with the sweetness of the sugar balanced by the bitters all combined with the rich flavor of a rye or bourbon whiskey. The traditional recipe for an old fashioned is:

2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
2 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura bitters)
1 splash water
1 tsp sugar/1 sugar cube
1 maraschino cherry (optional)
1 orange wedge (optional)

Place the sugar in an old fashioned glass and saturate with bitters and add a dash of plain water. Then muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add whiskey. Garnish with orange slice and a cocktail cherry. Instead of an orange slice, it is common to use an orange or lemon peel with a twist in the drink. Whether you use bourbon or rye whiskey, or an orange slice or a lemon peel, this is a great drink. This is the original cocktail and a delicious one at that so make sure to order one the next time you’re out at a bar. Cheers!

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