Cocktail stories: Mai Tai
Thanos Prunarus, of Athens’ Baba au Rum, discusses adding his own flair to the beloved tiki cocktail.
Athens’ acclaimed cocktail bar Baba Au Rum boasts an extensive list of drinks for tourists and locals alike, admired first and foremost for its commitment to crafting standout rum-based cocktails. Tiki tipple the Mai Tai is served with the choice of one of three rums, each aged differently.
“It’s a tropical drink, balanced between sweet and sour – and very rich because of the Jamaican rum that we use,” says Thanos Prunarus, founder of Baba au Rum.
The cocktail follows the original Trader Vic’s recipe from the 1930s, which was kept a secret for 30 years. As a result, a number of variants of the Mai Tai have been produced, with past bartenders guessing the original recipe to satisfy customers.
Yet Prunarus stuck with the original – “it’s the oldest and the first”, he says.
“Over time, many bartenders have killed the Mai Tai. Adding a lot of sugars and fruits, which are not in the original recipe – such as pineapple. There’s a historical confusion between the recipes of Mai Tai and Zombie, and many Mai Tai recipes are now closer to a Zombie. We have customers come in and say they’ve tried the Mai Tai and don’t like it – that it’s too sweet.
“And we say, ‘No, no. We’re going to give you the original recipe from Trader Vic’s, it’s not sweet’.”
The drink delivers nutty, citrus notes, and Prunarus is insistent the serve is crafted with aged Jamaican rum – so much so that a non-alcoholic version “wouldn’t be the same”, with the taste of rum being too “difficult to replicate”.
“The older the rum the more complicated the drink – this is what the ageing does. It gives more complication to the spirit,” he notes.
So long as the serve isn’t “too sweet”, it can be enjoyed all year round, Prunarus explains. But, he adds, not forgetting the most important thing: “Use a great rum”.
50ml Aged Jamaican rum
25ml Fresh lime juice
20ml Orange curaçao
15ml Orgeat syrup
3ml Simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters (optional)
Put all ingredients in a shaker. Shake hard and fine strain into a double Old Fashioned glass on the rocks. Garnish with a mint or spearmint sprig and a lime wedge.
Looking for more cocktail inspiration? Check out the Dorchester 2.0, a mellow twist on a classic 1930s serve.