In the 1970s, due to unfortunate fashion trends such as leisure suits and mustaches, American men had a terrible time getting laid. To address this issue, a few intrepid entrepreneurs invented Fern Bars. The purpose of Fern Bars was to get women so intoxicated they would overlook the aforementioned questionable fashion of the era and be convinced to put out. The seduction was accomplished by serving syrupy sweet fruity drinks that packed a fucking shit-ton of alcohol. These abominations were detrimental to the reputations of classic savory cocktails, but in no way resembled them.
Trader Vic, inventor of the Mai Tai, is often accused of being associated with the fern bar movement. While his signature drinks were co-opted and bastardized by the fern bar proprietors, Trader Vic actually created a wholly different animal: the tiki bar.
Given its affiliation with fern bars, and their modern equivalent, TGIFriday’s, the Mai Tai is one drink I avoided. However, Paul Harrington did see fit to include it as one of the 50 classics in Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century. So I got over my prejudice and mixed a couple of Mai Tais for the Photographer and myself.
While the rum is buried in the Mai Tai and it is a sweeter drink than I normally prefer, when made properly the sweetness is not overwhelming. The Mai Tai pours a nice red and the flavor is fairly fruity, with a hint of almond. I recommend the Mai Tai, but probably will not mix it terribly often.
The recipe I used is the simplest one of three available in my collection of bar books. The other two call for the addition of apricot brandy, which would cause excessive sweetness and extraneous fruitiness. In Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century, the recipe provides the option of simple syrup or grenadine - I chose to use Fee Brother’s American Beauty. Using a cheaper brand would make the Mai Tai saccharine sweet.