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Ask A Pittsburgh Bartender: Your Best Tropical Drink Recipe

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Nothing says summer quite like a delicious tropical Mai Tai. While there are countless ways to add a unique twist to a Mai Tai, you've likely never sampled one as described in this awesome recipe before. Spice up your summer and bring up the heat even more with a Roasted Pecan Mai Tai with a cinnamon and cayenne pepper rim, a tropical-infused concoction from "The Cocktail Chef" Steven Kowalczuk, creator of "The Art of Mixology Educational Series."

Steven Kowalczuk
Various Locations
Art of Mixology
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Steven Kowalczuk is Pittsburgh's "The Cocktail Chef" and creator of the city's most unique mixology classes called The Art of Mixology, which features three-hour hands-on cocktail courses. His "The Art of Mixology Educational Series" is among Pittsburgh's most popular, and has taught thousands of local drink lovers about the history, techniques and art behind his countless award-winning cocktail recipes. Kowalczuk, who ranks among the country's top 100 mixologists, has been recognized locally and nationally for his cocktails, with many of his recipes appearing in publications like National Restaurant News and InStyle Magazine. For added convenience, Kowalczuk offers private in-home mixology parties for a variety of occasions, in addition to his Art of Mixology classes. For home parties & mixology classes, visit his website.

Roasted Pecan Mai Tai With Cinnamon & Cayenne Pepper Rim

"There's nothing like a Mai Tai," says Kowalczuk, who describes this tropical favorite as "a fun and easy cocktail that will most certainly impress your friends."

This recipe is a great option for a convenient and quick concoction as it works well with any spirit. Kowalczuk suggests modifying it to your liking.

"If you love whiskey, give it a try. You're a scotch lover, what are you waiting for? The limits to great mixology is your own imagination," explains Kowalczuk.

Above all, he encourages fun and experimentation.

"Substitute lemon for lime or bourbon for rum. Be daring and don't stop mixing great drinks. Along with a fantastic meal, a memorable cocktail is legendary."

  • 1.5 oz. of your favorite rum
  • .75 oz. Cointreau
  • .75 oz. lime juice
  • .75 oz. Pecan Orgeat
  • 1 lb. chopped pecans
  • 3 cups water
  • White granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • Fresh lime

Related: Best Mixologist Bars In Pittsburgh

Preparation Directions
  • In a hot dry pan, prepare 1 lb. chopped pecans, toasted.
  • Boil 3 cups of water and steep pecans in water for 24 hours.
  • Prepare the pecan orgeat by straining the mixture and heating the liquid on the stove. Be careful not to boil.
  • Dissolve white granulated sugar into mixture until you reach the desired thickness. Keep the consistency not too thick and easy to pour.
  • Make your cinnamon and cayenne pepper rim by combining 1 cup of brown sugar to 3 tablespoons of cayenne pepper; mix well.
  • Prepare your glass by running a fresh lime on the rim before dipping your rim in the sugar mixture.
Mixing Instructions
  • Mix 1.5 oz. of rum of your choice with .75 oz. Cointreau, .75 oz. Pecan Orgeat and .75 oz. lime juice.
  • Shake then strain into a martini glass that has been garnished with sugar and pepper mixture.

Related: Best Margaritas In Pittsburgh 

Jessica Wasik is a graduate of Robert Morris University with a degree in English Studies. She is also a contributing writer for and Her work can be found at


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