Victor J. Bergeron claimed to have invented the Mai Tai in 1944 at his eponymous restaurant, Trader Vic's, in Oakland, California. Trader Vic's rival, Don the Beachcomber, claimed to have created it in 1933 at his then-new bar named for himself (later a famous restaurant) in Hollywood. Don the Beachcomber's recipe is more complex than that of Vic's and tastes quite different.
"Maita'i" is the Tahitian word for "good"; but the drink is spelled as two words, sometimes hyphenated or capitalized. The Trader Vic's story of its invention is that the Trader (Victor J. Bergeron) created it one afternoon for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. One of those friends, Carrie Guild, tasted it and cried out: "Maita'i roa ae!" (literally "very good!", figuratively "Out of this world! The best!"),hence the name
In 1953 the Matson Navigation Company (now Matson, Inc.) commissioned Victor Bergeron to create a drink for their new Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Victor then made a variation on the Mai Tai recipe adding pineapple juice; this variant is still served today at the hotel.