• Monthly Cocktail #2: The Case For A True Mai-Tai

    MaiTaiThe Putney Farm crew recently returned from a delightful trip to Kauai. All good, nothing to complain about…but, maybe…um…there was one little thing. And it has to do with the classic Tiki drink, the Mai Tai.

    maitai2You see, the problem was that while we were served a number of “Mai-Tais” on the trip, the only real Mai Tai we had was at home (of course we stocked a decent bar in Kauai!). Not to say there was anything wrong with the many fruity-dark rum floater-bamboo cup-multiple garnish catastrophes “creations” we drank. Hey, its rum, lime, pineapple and a bunch of other stuff- how bad can it be? And usually it isn’t all that bad. However…maitai8

    maitai3A real Mai Tai, made with the right ingredients and in the right way, is just so much better. There is a reason everyone thinks “tiki” when they hear the word Mai Tai, it is a damn fine drink. Sweet, tart, funky with a nutty “I-know-not-what” at the finish, the Mai Tai is a perfect example of what makes cocktails so special. It is way more than the sum of its parts.

    maitai4So what about those “parts”? The other good thing about the Mai Tai is that the only truly esoteric ingredient is Orgeat (pronounced or-zhay) syrup, basically almond (and sometime apricot kernels) flavored syrup with some orange flower water. You can find Orgeat in many liquor stores or make your own. We have done both. Here is a well-known recipe to make it yourself. Small Hands makes a natural version that is very tasty, but the artificially (gasp!) flavored versions from Trader Vic and Fees taste just fine.

    maitai5Otherwise you need just a few other ingredients; fresh lime juice, triple sec, sugar syrup, a light grassy rum (rhum agricole is good), a dark funky rum, a sprig of mint and some crushed ice…..and a few extra minutes to make the drink.

    As for the rum, experts like Beachbum Berry and Rumdood all suggest an equal combination of Appleton 12 year (for the dark, funky notes) and Rhum Clement VSOP (aged, but still bright and a bit grassy) as the “standard”. And we agree. But we also like to play around and find other dark rums like El Dorado 8, 12 and 15 are all good (inexpensive) subs for the Appleton 12. We also think you can sub rhum Barbancourt (3 or 5 star) for the Clement, if the Clement is hard to find.

    maitai6Triple sec? We like Cointreau, but many suggest Clement Creole Shrub. Use what you like. Crushed ice? Trust us, it looks better and dilutes the drink properly. Mint Spring? Adds a bright note to the aroma of the drink, and it looks good. So does the lime shell. Got it? Good!

    Finally, one note on the history of the Mai Tai. While cocktail geeks historians quibble about the details, Trader Vic Bergeron made this version of the drink famous (even if Don the beachcomber made something else with the same name earlier). And Vic was a Bay Area guy, so we will stick with our man and tip our caps to Vic for this delightful sip. Now go make one before the summer is over!

    maitai1The Mai Tai:


    • 1 oz. dark(er), funky rum (Appleton 12 or El Dorado 8, 12, 15)
    • 1 oz. light(er) rum (Clement VSOP, rhum Barbancourt)
    • 3/4 oz. lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
    • 1/2 oz. triple sec
    • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
    • Mint sprig, for garnish


    1. Using a blender, ice crusher or lewis bag, crush a bunch of ice.
    2. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Reserve the lime shell. Shake until well chilled.
    3. In a lowball glass, add the crushed ice and the lime shell. Stain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with the mint spring. Enjoy. Repeat.




  • Mai Tai Sorbet

    Mai Tai Sorbet, with a little extra rum...

    Mai Tai Sorbet, with a little extra rum…

    This is one of the best dishes we’ve made so far at the farm. What do we mean by “best”? Well, it certainly tastes great (like a Mai Tai) and was fun to make, but it is also “ours”. This one was our inspiration and our recipe. We searched the web for Mai Tai sorbet recipes and other than a passion fruit and pineapple thing that may taste good, but has nothing to do with a real Mai Tai, there are no other recipes. We will “claim” this one so please excuse us if we crow a little. But if anyone has examples otherwise, that is fine. We are just happy to keep making this.

    mts6mts5The inspiration came from a somewhat odd source. A few weeks ago Carolyn made Elegant White Cake with Chocolate Ganache, and it was very, very tasty. One of the key flavors of the cake was a little almond extract that gave the cake a marzipan-ish flavor. We wondered what other dishes might benefit from a touch of almond and we immediately though of the almond and orange flower water flavor of orgeat syrup. If you are unfamiliar with orgeat, it is the key flavoring that makes a Mai Tai a Mai Tai. We also had some Cara Cara oranges we need to use, and suddenly the idea of “Mai Tai Sorbet” came up. Carolyn thought it sounded like a decent idea, so we gave it a try.

    mts7mts8The recipe came together quickly. A Mai Tai cocktail combines two aged rums, lime juice, Cointreau (or orange Curaçao), orgeat, simple syrup and is garnished by a lime shell and some mint. Our Mai Tai Sorbet combines lime juice, orange juice, simple syrup, a few drops of almond extract, dashes of aged rum and Cointreau (you could also use rum and/or orange extracts) and some Bittermen’s Tiki Bitters (optional, but very good). We garnish with a sprig of mint and some grated lime zest to mimic the lime shell in the cocktail.

    mts10mts9The only trick to this recipe is to taste your sorbet base as you make it. Oranges vary in sweetness and extracts vary in strength. We make a little extra simple syrup to tune our base, and remember that the base will taste sweeter than the final sorbet- frozen foods taste less sweet. So if the base tastes a bit sweeter than you like, it is probably right. We also add the almond extract a few drops at a time and taste. Almond extract is strong stuff, so we used about 8 drops, tasting as we went. Same for the Tiki bitters, we ended up at about 6 drops, but tune to your taste. Continue reading