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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Drinks and Food » » First Authentic Mai Tai
First Authentic Mai Tai
The Gnomon
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 01, 2007
Posts: 1293
From: MD-DC-VA
Posted: 2007-07-02 10:50 am   Permalink

I'm a little surprised to not have found a thread on this by doing a search for first mai tai, first true mai tai, first real mai tai, etc.

This is about recalling and recounting your first experience of a true Mai Tai. Let's define the Mai Tai as one that Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. would most likely accept as being authentic enough if he were to have sampled it himself.

Maybe you were served one by The Trader when he was in his prime. Maybe you had one at Trader Vic's while VJB,Jr was still in charge of quality control. Maybe you had one at another establishment famous for making Mai Tais true to form. Maybe you never had such an opportunity, but after considerable research and the acquisition of all the necessary ingredients, to the best of your knowledge, you made one yourself.

If it is a true Mai Tai, then there is a kind of magic about it, so your first experience should be rather interesting and memorable.


 
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The Gnomon
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 01, 2007
Posts: 1293
From: MD-DC-VA
Posted: 2007-07-02 10:57 am   Permalink

The Gnomon's First Mai Tai

In 1964, I was invited to spend the summer in Hawaii with a family friend I always knew as Aunt Sheila as a guest of her relatives in Honolulu. Three or four weeks after we arrived, the family decided to take a vacation and go to Lahaina, Maui for a couple of weeks (that turned into a month). Part of the excuse was that they had become part owners of the Lahaina Inn. So that's where we all stayed, of course.

The Lahaina Inn was a long block and a half away from a town square that was completely covered by the canopy of the second largest banyan tree in the world. It was another long block away from the small marina that served Lahaina. Berthed in the first slip was a two-master called "the Allure" upon which the eldest son of the family had a summer job as First Mate. I was 14, the same age as their middle son. He, his younger brother, and I would hang out togther pretty much the whole time, whether it was surfing, exploring the town, playing golf, whatever.

That summer (as I suppose they all are) Lahaina was HOT and I don't mean the cool way. The pavement was soft and pliable under the noonday sun and even those whose barefeet had "leather soles" from being imbedded with coral and being baked on pavement and hot sand had to dash from shade to shade (white patch to white patch was not enough). It was hot.

The day I had my first Mai Tai I had cultivated an exceptional sunburn—one that would turn into a beautiful tan a few days later and then peel off in huge sheets a few days after that leaving more tan underneath. Nothin' like the direct summer sun rays in Hawaii. So by the late afternoon I was in considerable discomfort and very dehydrated.

Upon returning to the Lahaina Inn, we found Aunt Sheila and Aunt Mary (our hostess) in the bar raving about Mai Tais. It seems that they had just recently hired a new bar manager who had worked at Trader Vic's and most recently they had coaxed him away from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu to take the job. He was a Mai Tai master and by the time we kids had shown up, it was apparent that Aunt Sheila and Aunt Mary had inspected several.

I asked Aunt Mary to explain to me what the big deal was about Mai Tais. She ranted and raved about how not just anybody can make a Mai Tai. It was really hard to find anyone who could make a real one without going to the Royal Hawaiian and she went on and on...kinda like this story. I guess it's only fitting.

Shortly after she started her Mai Tai appreciation lecture, the bartender served one up. It was served in a glass beer mug there. She said that real Mai Tais were over 12 oz, so you couldn't fit one in the smaller glasses most people use, so for now they were using beer mugs. She held it up to the light to show me the color and said that Mai Tais were supposed to be browner than most people make them. She also showed me a glistening effect inside the drink that she said was an undocumented feature of a Mai Tai that most people didn't know about. She said that the garnish was traditionally a sprig of mint, but that they liked to use a long spear of fresh pineapple.

"What do they taste like, Aunt Mary?"

"Oh, honey, it's a coctail and you're only 14. What would your parents say if they found out I was giving you Mai Tais?" I was, actually, ready to buy that response and go on about my business. I was thirsty, aching of sunburn, and more interested in a pitcher of iced tea with lime than anything else.

But Aunt Sheila, who let's say was a very sporting and fun lady, chimed in," Oh, dammit Mary! You just told the boy more than most people know about Mai Tais and you won't even let him try it?"

So Aunt Mary said, "Alright. Alright." She got a long straw from the bartender, shoved it down into the mug, handed it to me and said, "Try this and tell me what you think."

I took one small sip, as I always had when adults had let me try their drink. But this one was a little sweet and not at all harsh like most drinks I had tried. So I sucked that baby down before Aunt Mary knew what happened. Both Aunt Mary and Aunt Sheila both turned in shock when they heard me sucking the drink dry. They both the had to laugh. Aunt Sheila then said, "Do you realize how much rum was in that drink? Plenty." Aunt Mary added that my sunburn probably wouldn't be bothering me for a while. They were both right.

It wasn't until years later that I could appreciate the afternoon lunacy that I shared with Aunt Mary and Aunt Sheila that day. I still search back in my mind trying to recall certain details of Aunt Mary's Mai Tai lecture (which was far more elaborate than I even suggested here). Every so often I will recall a little nugget that I had previously forgotten and each time I come a little closer to replicating that tropical treasure.


 
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aloha.taboo
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 08, 2006
Posts: 177
From: Grand Rapids, MI
Posted: 2007-07-02 11:48 am   Permalink

By the time I was able to get to a Trader Vic's, it was closing night.

Chicago. New Year's Eve 2005.

The Xmas Tikis were gathered at Vic's for a closing night bash.


If I remember correctly, it was less than $40 for an open bar and open hor'devours buffet.

I couldn't wait till I go get inside!


Fortunately, the staff didn't want anyone to go thirsty while they were waiting on line to get in, so while we waiting to pay our fee, servers brought out trays and trays of beautiful Mai-Tais.

It felt like I was arriving someplace special. And I was. Those first few Mai-Tais were absolutely perfect.

As the evening wore on, the band played and dancers did their hula

the drinks kept flowing.


By the end of the evening - or beginning of the morning, depends on how you look at it - the bar staff was starting to get surly every time they had to make one of the classic drinks that Trader Vic's is known for. But we kept ordering them! And they kept coming!

Now if they'd just find a new location in Chicago.....


 
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The Gnomon
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 01, 2007
Posts: 1293
From: MD-DC-VA
Posted: 2007-07-03 07:06 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-07-02 11:48, aloha.taboo wrote:
Now if they'd just find a new location in Chicago.....



Nice tale, complete with illustrations.

I feel your pain. TV Washington DC closed ages ago, as did NYC. What is it with these supposedly cosmopolitan cities that they can't sustain TVs?

Anyway, I guess there's good news on your end. According to the TV website, there's a TV coming soon to Chicago.


 
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