I am lucky these days to be able to attend lots of food festivals and meet a lot of chefs and stall holders – many of whom have now become friends. I have also been lucky enough to meet some very knowledgeable people and learn a lot from them.
Those who know me are aware of my penchant for rum and gin, and on a slightly tipsy wander around a food festival I had a hankering for a cocktail. Cue Adam Westbrook. Adam gave us a masterclass in how to make the perfect Mai Tai, along with sharing its history. As the conversation continued, Adam (or Westie as he’s known), told us that he teaches classes about the history of gin! What could be more fascinating to a gin and rum enthusiast such as myself!
According to Adam (and a little Wikipedia reminder – I was tipsy after all. Alright, alright, I was drunk. Happy now?!) there is some argument over when and where Mai Tai was invented. The stories are that it was created in 1944 by Victor J. Bergeron at Trader Vic’s in California or in 1933 by Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood. One thing that isn’t in contention is the name of the drink. Mai Tai comes from the Tahitian “Maita’i roa ae” which translates to ‘very good’ or ‘the best’. There are a lot of variations on the recipe, but the classic Mai Tai contains rum, Orgeat syrup (made from almonds, sugar, and either rose water or orange flower water), triple sec and lime juice served over ice. A version created in 1953 Matson Inc. commissioned Victor Bergeron to create a drink for their Royal Hawaiian Hotel which ended up being a variation on the Mai Tai with the addition of pineapple juice. It’s still served at the hotel today.
It became a very popular cocktail in the 1950s and 1960s (which for me is yet another reason to love it!) and was prominently featured in the film Blue Hawaii staring Elvis Presley, it has also become synonymous with Tiki culture.
How’s that for a history lesson!?
If you’re interested in either booking Adam for an event or want to go to one of his talks, please contact me and I will put you in touch with him. I would highly recommend it!