Cheers to Oakland, Home of the Mai Tai

Tropical cocktail's roots are in Bay Area

By Jessica Greene
|  Monday, Aug 31, 2009  |  Updated 11:51 AM PDT
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Cheers! It's World Cocktail Day

Lets get tropical.

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Picture yourself drinking a Mai Tai and you'll probably see a tropical paradise -- your feet kicked up on the beach somewhere like Hawaii, Tahiti or some Caribbean island getaway.

Now think of Oakland, California but keep that serene beach scene in mind because that's the Bay Area city claiming to be the original home of the Mai Tai.

As the story goes, Victor Bergeron, the Vic in Trader Vic's Restaurant, was mixing rum drinks at his Tiki bar in Oakland when he combined some Jamaican rum, lime juice, orange liquor and a couple different kinds of syrup.

He gave the concoction to a friend, visiting from Tahiti, to sample. One taste of the drink and Vic's friend excalaimed "Mai Tai, Roa Ae!" which means "Out of this world, the best!"

And the name stuck.

Trader Vic took his recipe to Hawaii in the late 40s and they liked it so much, it became the most popular drink of the islands.

The tropical rum-based cocktail was celebrated Sunday at the Conga Lounge in the city's Rockridge district where City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan declared the Mai Tai Oakland's official drink.

So, give Oakland a fair shake -- or stir.

The next time you think of Oakland, don't think of the A's or Raiders or the city's crime rate. Instead, throw on your festive beach shirt, flip flops and wide-brimmed hat and start sipping on the famous tropical drink with a little paper umbrella sticking out of the glass.

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