Pour Yourself a Drink: The Mai Tai

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor

The Gin Joint’s twist on a mai tai. Photo credit: Andrew Cebulka.

Festooned with a straw, an umbrella, and a giant chunk of pineapple, the mai tai fairly screams “beach drink!” And although (as we’ve noted before), the cocktail's history is a little up for grabs, that makes it no less delicious when done right. 

At The Gin Joint, an acclaimed watering hole in Charleston, South Carolina, bar manager Jared Lane admits to being a fan. “They’re fun, super-cold, super-refreshing, and usually pretty heavy on the alcohol, which is always good.” He’s coined his twist on the tiki classic the “South Pacific,” swapping out orange-flavored curacao for yellow chartreuse—”it’s a little lighter than green chartreuse, and goes really well with pineapple juice”—and spiking the classic rum-lime juice-orgeat cocktail with a touch of Cognac.

Lane describes the finished product as a “sweet, sour, fruity, refreshing” concoction with “an interesting mouthfeel” thanks to his homemade orgeat (a syrup of almonds and rosewater you can make at home or buy online). 

The best part? It still looks like the heatwave-defying classic, thanks to a garnish of pineapple and maraschino cherries.

Sometimes the old-school way is the best way. 

South Pacific
From Jared Lane, The Gin Joint
Makes one

2 oz Island Rum Blend (see below)
3/4 oz lime juice
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz orgeat
1/2 oz yellow chartreuse
2 dashes Bitter Truth aromatic bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Pineapple (Optional)
Maraschino cherries (Optional)

Island Rum Blend
1 oz Flor de Cana 7-year rum
1/2 oz Barbancourt 4-year rum
1/2 oz Ansac cognac

For Island Rum Blend: Mix all ingredients together.

For South Pacific: Fill a pint glass or other large glass with crushed ice. Add all ingredients except garnishes. Using a swizzle stick, stir briefly. Garnish with pineapple and cherries. Serve.