top of page
  • Madison

Exploring the Intriguing Story Behind the $800 Vintage Mai Tai in Chicago's Tiki Scene

The Mai Tai, hailed as the titan of tiki libations, has encountered a modern-day transformation, often morphing into a sugary blend of fruity extracts and spiced rum. However, this concoction is a far cry from its origins, envisioned by the legendary "Trader Vic" Bergeron nearly eight decades ago. Initially, this revered potion boasted a drier, less flamboyant profile, reminiscent of a daiquiri evolution, fused with the essence of Jamaican rum, orange curaçao, and almond syrup.

Amidst the swarm of contemporary reinterpretations, Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago stands tall, crusading to uphold the heritage and integrity of this timeless elixir for a new era of enthusiasts.

Nestled inconspicuously within the labyrinthine expanse of Chicago's River North district, this tropical sanctuary serves as a mecca for all things tiki, with Kevin Beary at the helm for nearly a decade, charting a course through the tempestuous seas of mixology. Now, this award-winning alchemist has meticulously gathered the elusive components required to resurrect the long-lost recipe of Trader Vic's 1944 Mai Tai – a liquid time capsule, meticulously recreated in all its vintage glory.

The gateway to this liquid time-travel extravaganza comes with a substantial price tag of $800.

Curious as to what exactly goes into the world's most expensive Mai Tai?

Initially, the search began for exceedingly scarce vintage spirits. To replicate the authentic essence as closely as humanly feasible, Beary managed to secure an auctioned bottle of Wray & Nephew 15-Year-Old Rum dating back to the early 1950s. Following this, he procured a decanter of Extra Sec Cusenier, a vintage orange liqueur from the same era, resembling the curaçao that would have been utilized in the original Mai Tai.

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, a celebrated authority on tiki culture, and Kevin Beary dove into the historical roots of the Mai Tai, striving to unlock the secrets of this iconic drink. Their exploration uncovered fascinating revelations. By analyzing a 1944 vintage curaçao, they unearthed a crucial difference in sweetness from its modern counterpart, shedding light on the original Mai Tai's dry and unbalanced nature. Similarly, the long-awaited tasting of the vintage Wray & Nephew rum, once employed by the drink's creator, revealed unexpected nuances and balance, prompting a reevaluation of the recipe's specifications.

With the recent release of the Appleton 17 Year Old Legend, a spiritual reincarnation of the 1944-era rum, their efforts gained momentum. After meticulous adjustments, they unveiled their perfected recipe, featuring the elusive 1950s curaçao and a precisely proportioned blend of vintage rum, lime juice, and housemade orgeat. The result? An $800 Mai Tai, not only the most authentic and expensive but also the most delectable rendition you'll encounter today.

For the team at Three Dots, this painstaking process wasn't just about creating a pricey novelty; it was about paying homage to the history and essence of tiki culture. Through their unwavering commitment to detail, they've revived a piece of cocktail history, ensuring that every sip of their Mai Tai is a flavorful journey back in time.

bottom of page