This iconic rum-based cocktail was invented by Victor Bergeron in the 1940s at his first Trader Vic’s restaurant, in Oakland, California. (Bergeron’s nickname was Trader Vic.) There are countless interpretations, many of them sugar bombs. We stayed true to the original to create a balanced Mai Tai that includes the key flavors of almond (in the form of orgeat syrup, an essential ingredient in many tiki cocktails), citrus and caramelized sugar.
Combine the demerara sugar with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, about 5 minutes. Transfer the demerara syrup to a small bowl and set aside to cool completely, about 15 minutes (see Cook’s Note).
Combine the lime juice, gold and light rums, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, 1/4 ounce demerara syrup and 1 cup ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until chilled, about 10 seconds. Pour the cocktail into an old fashioned or rocks glass. Stick the stem of the mint sprig into the center of the cut side of the spent lime half (it should look like a palm tree on a floating island). Place the garnish in the drink lime-side down.
The extra demerara syrup will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 1 month.
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