December 10: Trader Vic

TraderVicIt’s time we raise a glass to another legendary bartender. Victor Bergeron, Jr., better known as Trader Vic was born on this day in 1902.

In 1934, Bergeron opened a bar in his hometown of Oakland called Hinky Dinks. However, Bergeron wasn’t satisfied with his simple bar, so he went on a tour of world liquor. First, he set out for Cuba where he learned more about the intricacies of rum. Then, he went to Hawaii and Polynesia, where he became fascinated by the tastes and culture of the Pacific Islanders.

So, in 1937, Bergeron, now calling himself Trader Vic, transformed Hinky Dinks into an eponymous Tiki restaurant and bar that featured island cuisine and rum based drinks inspired by the Pacific and the Caribbean. From there, the Trader Vic name spread around the globe, with dozens of Trader Vic’s restaurants serving tiki drinks and Polynesian food all over the world. Trader Vic wrote several cocktail books, which in turn inspired many other bartenders to open up Tiki bars.

Trader Vic’s biggest contribution to mixology may be the Mai Tai. I use the word “may” because his friendly rival Don The Beachcomber also claimed to have invented the drink. Anyway, the way Trader Vic tells it, he was fooling around in the bar one afternoon in 1944 when some friends from Tahiti came to visit. The Trader decided to try something new and mixed some aged rum, lime juice, curaçao and a couple of syrups together. He passed it to one of his friends, who then exclaimed that it was “Maita’i roa ae!”or “Out of this world! The best!” Thus, the Mai Tai was possibly born.

Here’s Trader Vic’s original recipe. Feel free to swap in the generic versions of the aged rum, curaçao and orgeat syrup. Trader Vic’s Rock Candy Syrup can be purchased on the Trader Vic’s website, however, if you don’t want to wait, you can use simple syrup and add a few drops of vanilla extract.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai (1944 Recipe)

  • 2 oz of 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew Rum over shaved ice
  • Add juice from one fresh lime (about 1/3 ounce)
  • 1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curaçao
  • 1/4 oz Trader Vic’s Rock Candy Syrup
  • 1/2 oz French Garnier Orgeat Syrup

Shake vigorously with ice and strain over ice in a rocks glass or Tiki mug. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with a straw.

Tomorrow: “You’ve heard of Oxford Circus; you’ve heard of Piccadilly Circus; and this is The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus  and we’ve got sights and sounds and marvels to delight your eyes and ears.”

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One response

  1. […] Today we honor another of the legends of bartending: Don “The Beachcomber” Beach (born on this day in 1907), one of the founding fathers of the tiki bar, alongside his longtime friendly rival Trader Vic. […]

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