It’s close to impossible to talk about the Mai Tai cocktail without first discussing the tiki culture that swept the U.S. in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Considered “The Godfather” of the tiki movement, Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt (who later changed his name to Donn Beach) was an American businessman and adventurer who was fascinated with all things Polynesia. After traveling the world and exploring the Caribbean and the South Pacific, he settled in Los Angeles and opened the first tiki bar in 1934, calling it Don The Beachcomber. Rumor has it that although it was the first tiki bar in the world, it was not the originator of the Mai Tai — it was Vic Bergeron, of Trader Vic’s fame, who first devised the cocktail in 1944 at his Oakland, California, restaurant. For the record, the classic Mai Tai (according to Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide) is made with Jamaican rum, fresh lime juice, orange curaçao, a dash of rock candy syrup, orgeat syrup, simple syrup and a sprig of fresh mint garnish — cocktail umbrella pick optional!
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