Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Tiki Classic: the Bitter Mai-Tai

This is, as Tiare puts it, potentially a gross abomination: a mai-tai whose main constituent is Italian amaro rather than rum.

This drink comes from the wild mind of Jeremy Oertel of Dram in Brooklyn. It was featured in Imbibe's article about tiki drinks from a few years back, which is how I found out about it while flipping through back issues yesterday looking for Tiki Month fodder.

Bitter Mai-Tai
1.5 oz Campari
0.75 oz Jamaican rum
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz orange liqueur
0.75 oz orgeat

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice, then either pour unstrained into a chilled rocks glass or strain into a rocks glass full of crushed ice.

The nose is light, with hints of the Jamaican rum's dunder funk and the bright bitter notes of Campari, with just a bit of nuttiness from the orgeat and sourness from the lime. The sip begins smoothly and sweetly, with a mixture of orange liqueur and orgeat. As it moves back, Jamaican rum and Campari hit with a one-two punch, fading out with bitter/sweet/sour notes of lime and Campari.

Kind of like the Stormy Mai-Tai, it, just doesn't look like it's going to work. While wacky on its face, this drink comes together beautifully. It's possible that it would have been too sweet if I hadn't gone for a big Jamaican rum like Smith & Cross. But the rum needs to be bold to punch through all of the other strong flavors in the drink. If you want to take it in a darker direction, Coruba and a dash of Angostura bitters might not be a bad tack to take. However, I think it's going to be delicious no matter how you choose to make it.

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