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Bitter Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

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The bitter Mai Tai may not sound immediately delicious, but give it a try and you’ll see why it’s on the menu. 

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Bitter Mai Tai

What is Bitter Mai Tai ?

Bitter Mai Tai is a twist on the classic Mai Tai, and it uses a mix of Campari and rum. It’s an interesting pairing and definitely not something you’d expect, but the result is quite impressive.  

bitter mai tai 2

Bitter Mai Tai Cocktail Recipe

Ioana Ciuraru
A bitter but well balanced version of Mai Tai.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1


  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz dark rum
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz orgeat


  • Combine all ingredients in a shaker, add ice. Shake very well.
  • Strain into ice-filled glass.


The bitterness comes from the Campari, and you can tone it down a little by using Aperol instead.

When is this drink best ?

Bitter Mai Tai I think works great as a summer cocktail, especially as an evening cocktail. I think the Campari gives it a deeper, more nuanced flavor and makes it less of a fun party drink, and more of a grown-up drink (with a fun side).

Some may associate the Campari and its strong orange notes with winter, so for them the bitter Mai Tai could easily be a cocktail fit for the cold season. 

My thoughts on Bitter Mai Tai

I liked bitter Mai Tai, not more than the original, but definitely a lot. Which is saying something, since I usually don’t like Campari but here it works great. I found the orgeat harder to detect in this, perhaps the Campari is overshadowing it – which is great if you’re not an orgeat fan. 

There is still that characteristic Mai Tai acidity and rum note, but it’s different enough to consider this a whole new cocktail. 

bitter mai tai making

If you like Bitter Mai Tai, you might also like…

Garibaldi – Campari and orange juice

Negroni Sbagliato – equal parts  Campari, sweet vermouth, and sparkling wine

Americano – a Negroni Sbagliato with soda water

Mai Tai – the classic tiki drink

Anejo Highball – a dark rum bitter highball

Amaretto Sour – an Italian sweet and sour

Notes, substitutes, and tips

If you fid the Campari too bitter, try Aperol instead. It’s also an orange aperitif, but it’s bittersweet instead of bitter. This will also influence the flavor of your cocktail (sweeter side). 

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