(Note: this post was originally published on July 19, 2020. It has since been updated with a few tweaks.)
Meet the Mai Tai
I'm excited to introduce you to a very unexpected but seductive sip. This cozy chai cocktail is a riff on the classic Mai Tai (hence I'm calling it a "Chai Tai") that unites sweet pineapple, seasonal cranberry, warming spices, and rum.
The Mai Tai has a very special place in my heart. Although the exact origin of the Mai Tai is heavily debated, there is rumor that the original Mai Tai was served at Tahiti Nui on the North Shore of Kaua'i. This is a bar that Dave and I frequent, not least of all because the minister who married us plays guitar and sings there.
Traditionally, a Mai Tai involves rum, orange curacao, fresh lime juice, and orgeat (which is a sweet, bitter, and nutty almond syrup). Today, the Mai Tai is often interpreted as a layered cocktail that involves rum, pineapple juice, and orange liqueur, plus sometimes a dark rum float. Although it's far from classic, this whimsical Chai Tai is just plain fun and is a show-stopper with its colorful layers.
A Chai Cocktail for Fall
I'm taking the Mai Tai concept and giving it a spicy, cozy spin with chai tea. The layers in this drink have flavors that complement the chai spices in a way that very subtly makes me think of cranberry sauce. The bottom layer (i.e. the most dense) is cranberry juice. The middle layer is a mixture of pineapple juice, rum, chai tea, and a dash of orange liqueur. The top layer, the least dense, is a dark rum float.
Although it looks impressive and feels special, this chai rum cocktail is easy to make. It would be a great addition to fall occasions like harvest dinners, Thanksgiving, or Friendsgiving. I'm a big believer that a signature cocktail makes any event feel more festive, so I hope you'll try this one for your next seasonal get-together.
Conversely, if you love the idea of a chai cocktail but are finding this one too complex, definitely check out my Chaider Rum Punch. It unites apple cider, chai, and rum and it works great in a big-batch pitcher version.
Chai Rum Variation
As written, this Chai Tai recipe calls for using very strongly brewed chai tea to get all those cozy spices into your drink. However, if you can get your hands on it, you can use chai-infused rum instead. If you're able to find chai rum, use 1.5 oz in place of the gold rum and omit the brewed chai tea.
The origin of this cocktail was actually a collaboration I did with my neighbors at Wild Hart Distillery. Their Chai Spiced Rum is infused with warming spices for a flavor that straddles tropical islands and cozy winter tea. There are numerous other chai rums on the market though, or you could even make your own by infusing rum with decaf loose-leaf chai for one to several weeks. However you do it, you need to try some chai rum cocktails this season!
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this chai rum cocktail, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Gold rum. Or, see the section above for a variation that uses chai-spiced rum if you're able to find it.
Chai tea. You'll want to brew your chai very strongly, then let it cool fully before using.
Orange liqueur. If you're a ginger fan, this would also work beautifully with a ginger liqueur such as Domain de Canton.
Dark rum. This is not traditional in a Mai Tai, but many modern Mai Tai riffs use it. A dark rum float makes this Chai Tai feel so special. You can omit it though if you want a gentler drink.
Garnishes. I like to use a thinly-cut pineapple slice. Orange slices could be pretty too, particularly for winter. Maybe a couple fresh cranberries for Thanksgiving? Especially for a holiday, feel free to garnish this chai rum cocktail abundantly!
Have I convinced you that this is the perfect drink for Thanksgiving? This chai cocktail really has it all: cozy spices, holiday-appropriate cranberry, wintry orange, sweet pineapple, festive vibes, beautiful colors, and some wow factor. I think it will be a big hit whenever and however you end up serving it.
Cheers! I hope this special, spicy, non-traditional Chai Tai brings some holiday flair to all your fall occasions.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
Disclosure: I received free product from Wild Hart Distillery. However, all opinions and thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep The Rogue Brussel Sprout running.
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