TRADER VIC’S – MAI TAI – A COCKTAIL STORY
Trader Vic, Victor J. Bergeron liked to call himself a “saloon-keeper”, although it would be more accurate to call him one of the greatest restaurateur of its time. He owned and operated the famous Trader Vic’s Polynesian restaurants, and established one in almost every American city. Victor was the creator of the quintessential Tiki drink, Mai Tai.
There has been a lot of conversation over the beginning of the Mai Tai, and many have claimed credit. Even today, some maintain it originated in Tahiti. In 1944, after the success with several exotic rum drinks, Victor felt a new drink was needed for Trader Vic’s. He was at the service bar in its Oakland restaurant, took a bottle of old rum, J. Wray Nephew from Jamaica. He felt that this rum should not be overpowered with heavy additions of fruit juices. Then he took a fresh lime, added some orange curaçao, a dash of rock candy syrup, and added a dollop of French Orgeat syrup for its subtle almond flavour. Then added shaved ice, and shook it vigorously to produce the marriage he was looking for. A quarter of lime shell went into each drink, and he stuck in a branch of fresh mint. He gave the first two drinks to his friends, Ham and Carrie Guild, from Tahiti, who were at the bar that night. Carrie took one sip and said “Mai Tai Ro Aé”. In Tahitian this means “Out of this world”. Well, that was that. He named the drink Mai Tai. The drink enjoyed great acceptance over the next few years, and in Seattle where the company opened a Trader Vic’s restaurant in 1948. In the mid 1950s, he took the Mai Tai to the Hawaiian Islands when he went down for the Matson Steamship Lines to formalize drinks for the bars at their Royal Hawaiian, Moana, and hotels. In the 70s, there were over twenty Trader Vic’s restaurants throughout the world.