There are people who do not order tiki cocktails out of fear that they are cheesy and slightly uncool. Normally, I wouldn’t order a Mai Tai either; it contains college-level doses of rum—but that’s also the point. The Mai Tai is designed to mellow and obliterate. In this and all senses, the Mai Tai at King Noodle in Bushwick is perfect: large, beautiful, and very strong.
The Mai Tai’s origin is disputed, but King Noodle uses the most commonly accepted: Trader Vic’s. Trader Vic was Victor Jules Bergeron, born 1902. On his deathbed, he said copycat Mai Tais “aggravated his ulcer” and that anyone who claimed to be the inventor was a “dirty stinker.”
His original recipe honors a good rum, and lots of it. Lime juice, Curaçao, orgeat, and a dash of simple syrup are added to it, shaken together, and served over shaved iced. Legend has it Vic’s friend from Tahiti, Carrie Guild, was the first to try it. She said: “Maita’i roa ae!” which means “holy shit, that’s good” in Tahitian.
At King Noodle, Falernum—a rum-based liqueur with lime, almond, clove, and ginger—replaces orgeat. Simple syrup and an extra dose of dark Jamaican rum are poured on top and served in a hurricane glass. One Mai Tai is usually enough, but regardless of how many are consumed, it’s best enjoyed with company: as they say in Tahiti, Mai Tai. Where’s yours?
Collage by Sarah Lutkenhaus