(Note: this post was originally published on July 19, 2020. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
Let me introduce you to my new best friend. I'm calling it the "Chai Tai"; the interesting, spicy, sophisticated cousin of the Mai Tai. This is a cocktail that transcends seasons, and will be just as delightful at the height of summer as it will be for Thanksgiving.
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 Dave and I have been to many times, not least of all because the minister who married us plays guitar and sings there. (Side note: you know you've made good choices if your wedding minister plays gigs at a bar).
Anyways, back to the Mai Tai. Traditionally, a Mai Tai involves rum, orange curacao, fresh lime juice, and orgeat (which is a sweet, bitter, and nutty almond syrup of sorts). However, it's rarely made in the classic sense now. Today, the Mai Tai is generally interpreted as a layered cocktail that involves white rum, pineapple juice, orange liqueur, and lime juice, with a dark rum float on top. But variations abound! Kalypso on Kaua'i includes a red guava layer in the middle, while Kilauea Bistro drizzles guava puree on the top. Tortilla Republic makes it a Hula Tai with the addition of macadamia nut liqueur.
Clearly, people love Mai Tai variations, and with good reason. This cocktail is just plain fun, plus it packs a punch! It's also a show-stopper with its colorful layers.
I'm taking the Mai Tai concept and giving it a spicy, cozy spin with chai-infused rum. This is my second cocktail collaboration with Wild Hart Distillery, and I'm so excited to share a unique drink involving this unique spirit. Their Chai Spiced Rum is infused with chai spices for a flavor that somehow straddles tropical islands and cozy winter tea. It's an impressive combination! Don't forget to check out my Watermelon Mint Gimlet, which uses Wild Hart's gin.
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, Wild Hart Chai Spiced Rum, and a dash of orange liqueur. The top layer, the least dense, is the classic Mai Tai dark rum float. (If you hang out at Kalypso, you know the importance of ordering a "heavy float").
The thing I find most fun about this drink? It's truly a year-round flavor profile. People typically associate Tiki cocktails with summer, and by all means this is a great summer drink, especially with that pineapple! But the spices from the chai and the cranberry juice make it cozy enough for winter. This would even be an impressive Thanksgiving cocktail.
Here's what you'll need for this 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.
If you've never made layered drinks before, I hope this one will convince you to give them a try. They're just so darn fun! It's not hard once you get the hang of it, but you might want to practice a couple times. Yes indeed, I'm giving you homework: practice layering your booze, it's an important skill.
This cocktail really has it all: sweet flavors, warming spice flavors, tropical vibes, cozy vibes, beautiful colors, and a big 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 Mai Tai brings you year-round Tiki cocktail joy!
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.
This delightfully complex Mai Tai riff is tropical yet also cozy, balancing pineapple with warming chai-spices. Thanks to these diverse flavors, it's perfect for sipping year-round!