Here in the Midwest where mercurial weather routinely torments us, we find ourselves debating and discussing heat waves, cold snaps, monsoons and droughts on a daily basis. If I were to look back on Apéritif Friday posts, I probably call out Mother Nature on every other post, if not more. So when the temperature rises to hellish degrees for multiple days on end past September 15th, what do we do?
Drink The Never Ending Summer Mai Tai.
Even though the calendar says we should be sipping spiked cider with cinnamon and brandy, we drink refreshing adult slushies thanks to an ungodly heatwave.
Last weekend my Mother-in-Law came to visit, and as a self proclaimed sun goddess even she admitted it seemed warm. When I feel the slow trickle of a sweat bead make its way from the back of my neck down my spine into my…
…yep. I drink another Mai Tai.
I’ve never been a fan of this cocktail, until I concocted my own version. Normally I find them cloyingly sweet and syrupy, and I envision an angry little man pounding a chisel into my temple at 4:00 a.m. after drinking one. Damn that little troll! But with my version I feel refreshed on a hot day and my legs melt into a happy buzzed numbness that I love midway through a good apéritif. To make a superior Mai Tai, you need a few key ingredients:
Good, dark rum. Most recipes call for multiple types of rum, but if you’re like me and the rum sits and sits in your liquor cabinet because all your friends graduated past rum and cokes, then just buy one good bottle of dark rum and call it a day. I recently snapped up a bottle of Dictator 12 year, and decided right out the gates I can sip it straight. That’s the test for me. If I can sip it without wincing, it’ll be great in a cocktail.
Quality Orgeat. This French almond syrup contains the unmistakeable flavor that makes a Mai Tai a Mai Tai, and it’s a must. I’ve only tried Small Hand Foods Orgeat, and it’s out of this world. Made with California almonds and apricot kernels, it emits a true marzipan flavor without the synthetic flavor of extract. The uses for Orgeat go beyond cocktails – it can be used to sweeten any food or beverage. I highly recommend adding a bottle of this to your cooking and cocktailing arsenal. Even professional bartenders agree that it’s so labor intensive to make that it’s best to buy a quality bottle to have on hand.
Freshly squeezed juices. Minneolas seem to be all the current rage in my local markets, so I used that instead of orange juice. WOW! What an amazing fruit juice. I’m so glad I tried Minneolas – I’ll be using them in future cocktails. If you can’t find fresh fruit or don’t feel like going through the effort of squeezing the juice out of a pineapple, then use an organic version.
Crushed ice. In my opinion, this simple addition transforms the Mai Tai from a tiki drink to a sophisticated adult slushy. The ice adds to the refreshing quality and dilutes the drink just a bit to help mellow things out.
This version is not overly sweet, with just 1/2 oz of Orgeat and 3/4 oz of orange liqueur. The juices bring a decent amount of acid and punch to the party, and a little floater of maraschino cherry juice adds a fun final splash of color to the top. It’s refreshing on the palate, but that underlying orgeat is the real treat that inspires me to keep sipping. Normally I’d only drink one of these, then I’d switch to wine. But with the recent heatwave, I sipped two. Drink these with caution – you might erase a bit from your mind if you down several before digging into dinner.
Tonight some girlfriends will join me for dinner, and I’ve got a small batch of these ready to go. Luckily I have several beds with clean sheets on them – we might just have ourselves a Mai Tai induced slumber party!
Happy Never Ending Summer. It’s heading back up to the 80’s next week, so you have plenty more summertime to try this one out.
- 2 oz dark rum
- ¾ oz orange liqueur
- ½ oz Orgeat (I recommend Small Hand Foods brand)
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 oz fresh orange or minneola juice
- 1 oz pineapple juice
- crushed ice
- orange piece and maraschino cherry, and cherry juice to top
- Combine the first six ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with regular ice. Shake for 30 seconds, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.
- Top with a spoonful of maraschino cherry juice, and garnish with a cherry and orange piece.