Western essential No. 1: The mai tai

Photographed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Honolulu

Beverly Hills 90210 is back. So is the mai tai, on the fall lineup at hot spots like Portland’s Teardrop Lounge. Both TV show and cocktail prove the enduring power of pop culture craftsmanship and savvy casting.

Invented in the ’40s by Oakland’s Vic Bergeron for his Trader Vic’s restaurants, the original mai tai featured only aged rum, lime juice, and orange liqueur, with a guest appearance by orgeat syrup.

“Bergeron just wanted to show off the rum,” says “King of Cocktails” Dale DeGroff, whose book The Essential Cocktail will be published next month. From that austere beginning, some mai tais have blossomed into fruity extravaganzas.

The one we like, featured at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Mai Tai Bar, is easier: It adds only orange juice and simple syrup to Vic’s original mix and is so redolent of the tropics, you’ll feel the trade winds even if drinking in Nome.

Mai tai DIY:

Fill an 8-oz. glass with ice. Pour in 2 tbsp. each light rum and orange curaçao, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice, and 1 dash each orgeat and simple syrup. Drizzle 1 tbsp. dark rum on top. Garnish with mint, a pineapple slice, and a paper umbrella.

Do you have a new western essential―a food, drink, place, or experience you can’t live without? Email us: newessentials@sunset.com