I turn 30 tomorrow. It feels funny to say this. For the past month or so, I’ve been trying to shrug it off whenever someone mentions what a milestone birthday it’s going to be. “Oh, um, it’s just a number…” I say. “I’m sure it’s not going to feel much different than 29.” And it’s partly true. I’m pretty certain I’m not going to wake up tomorrow with a head of gray hair, 25 extra pounds, and a sudden urge to shake my fist at all the young’uns playing music loudly in my neighborhood.
But I’m actually kind of excited to be exiting my 20s. Sure, there’s always that feeling of “well, there goes another year…”, compounded with “well, there goes another decade” for this particular birthday. But the later part of my 20s were pretty challenging, particularly the last year, and I’m happy to have moved beyond that.
I have quite a bit to be excited for. My book comes out this December. I have a new blog I’m eager to work more on. I’m collaborating with good friends on an exciting food-related venture. I have a brand new passport with blank pages just waiting to be stamped, as well as two old passports with reminders of all the places I’ve been.
More reasons your 30s might be better than your 20s:
- You have a better idea of what you want out of life and how to get it.
- You have an apartment you’re actually proud of.
- You don’t have to apologize for being tired at 10pm and wanting hit the hay.
- You’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff.
- You’re older, wiser, and thus naturally more interesting to talk to.
- You can pull off a dinner party with grace (more or less).
- Your clothes from high school and college are now vintage.
- You can remember the awkward years and laugh about them.
- You’ve been there and lived to tell the tale.
I starting making mai tais at home while researching tiki culture for my cookbook. You see, tiki culture and Chinese food have quite a history together. In the 1940s and 1950s, restaurants like Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber brought Chinese food to a bigger, mainstream dining audience by serving it with tiki drinks in a fun, festive environment. You could have eggrolls, spareribs, chow mein, and more with your mai tais, Singapore Slings, Scorpions, and other tropical-themed cocktails. And so I had an excuse to recipe-test mai tais again and again for tiki parties.
The original Mai Tai was actually a simple and well-balanced cocktail, in contrast to all the overly sugary and unnaturally colored drinks you see today. Victor Bergeron, the founder of Trader Vic’s, is widely acknowledged as the drink’s creator. As the story goes, he whipped up the drink one evening at his bar for friends visiting from Tahiti, one of whom praised it as “Maita’i roa a’e!”, Tahitian for “Very Good!”, which is how the drink got its name.
The Mai Tai I make for parties was inspired by the Trader’s recipe. As far as tiki drinks go, it has few ingredients, perfect for making a well-balanced tropical cocktail without spending a lot to stock your home bar. Orgeat, an almond syrup with a little rose water or orange flower water, may be a little tricky to find, but is available in many gourmet grocery stores and shops specializing in Italian-American groceries. You can also substitute regular almond syrup.
It’s a fairly sophisticated drink, or as sophisticated as a cocktail sometimes served in coconuts and tiki mugs can be. I like to think if you can still enjoy a mai tai in your 30s, you’re doing perfectly fine. And that your next decade is going to be a good one.
Makes 1 drink
- 1 ounce dark rum (or 1 ounce dark rum and 1 ounce gold rum)
- 1 ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce Orange Curaçao
- ½ ounce orgeat, or substitute regular almond syrup
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- Pineapple wedge or paper umbrella for garnish (I like to snack while I sip this, so I throw a few extra wedges in the glass)
- Fill a shaker with ice. Add the rum, lime juice, Orange Curaçao, orgeat, and simple syrup. Shake well and strain into a glass over ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge(s) or umbrella.