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The (De)Evolution of the Hawaiian Mai Tai

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An important piece of cocktail journalism is launching this week with my article in the latest issue of Exotica Moderne, available this weekend at the Tiki Caliente event in Palm Springs and also now available via order at houseoftabu.com.

The article describes how the Hawaiian Mai Tai evolved from 1953 to present day and also explodes several myths.

  • The Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai was born with Pineapple Juice in 1953.
  • Nobody knew the ingredients for a Mai Tai, so they made due with whatever they had.
  • Trader Vic kept the recipe for a Mai Tai secret until 1970.

All of the above are not true.

Just this week I saw two fresh articles that stated that Trader Vic himself added pineapple juice when he brought the Mai Tai to Hawaii in 1953. This is clearly not correct based on my research, and the Royal Hawaiian isn't documented to have added pineapple juice until 1972!

So, we'll be doing our best to get the word out about this. As a starting point, you can catch my appearance on the Pod Tiki Podcast episode from last week.

Since the article was submitted for print publication, we've uncovered additional details on the history of this iconic cocktail. Those added items are now included on the version of the article now available on the website.


We'll have even more historical details and context in my presentation at Tiki Kon in July. Come join us if you're attending and weekend passes for Tiki Kon are still available.

I'm always on the hunt for more historical details. Leave a comment or send me a message if you have any details or breadcrumbs for us to follow. IMG_1998

[ Edited by kevincrossman on 2022-05-15 10:04:03 ]

Hamo posted on Mon, May 16, 2022 8:11 PM

I'm looking forward to reading the article when my copy of the magazine arrives and then checking out the update afterward.


Wow, what a fantastic bit of sleuthing. My general feeling is that there are enough tiki cocktails out there with pineapple juice that you don' need to doctor the mai tai. But I also don't chastise those who prefer it.

Excellent research. Looking forward to the whole article. Unrelated, but one thing that's always bugged me is the absence of evidence of the Mai Tai being on a TV menu dated 1944. I could be wrong, but I believe 1947 is the earliest dated menu where it appears. I'm sure the drink didn't become a sensation overnight and it was likely the push in Hawaii several years later that made it so famous, so perhaps all the TV locations that existed in 1944 didn't immediately update their menus when the drink was introduced, but surely there were table tents advertising this new invention, right? But I don't believe I've seen those either. Have you put any thought into this?

perhaps all the TV locations that existed in 1944 didn't immediately update their menus when the drink was introduced

There was only the Oakland location at that time (plus Honolulu, but Vic left the partnership in 1941). The Mai Tai does appear on the menu of the Outrigger which opened in Seattle in 1948.

The Mai Tai does seem to possibly be the kind of drink that started slow as a special called item when Vic wanted to impress guests. I doubt they reprinted menus as often as they do these days, and of course there were no QR Code menus back then.

[ Edited by kevincrossman on 2022-05-20 16:07:26 ]

Thanks for the reply. I guess I should research the expansion a little better but I feel like I've seen several menus dated 1947 with the Mai Tai on it, so assumed he had a few other locations by then.

The audio+slides version of this from Tiki Kon is now available for your viewing and listening pleasure. https://ultimatemaitai.com/2022/09/11/tiki-kon-seminar-the-deevolution-of-the-hawaiian-mai-tai/

Pages: 1 6 replies