Here on St John island ( US Virgin Islands ) tropical rum drinks are the adult beverage of choice. So we decided to sit down with an expert, Tom Westerhof of Beach Bar Bums , to find out what makes these drinks so popular. He also shares some rum drink recipes so you can make them once the vacation has ended.
“For me, a great tropical island drink has to be refreshingly cold, not overly sweet and it should look the part.”
SJVR: You’ve probably “sampled” just about every island cocktail on the planet. What makes a great tropical island drink? And which ones are your favorites?
TOM: For me, a great tropical island drink has to be refreshingly cold, not overly sweet and it should look the part. It has to be able to cool you down without giving you an “ice headache,” not be too sweet to hide the flavor of the spirit(s) and look like it belongs on a beach. My favorite tropical drink (and my favorite cocktail) is a daiquiri – the real one, not the frozen version. I’ll also suck down a BBC, a bushwhacker and a painkiller if someone puts them in front of me.
SJVR: Can you run us through how to mix a Painkiller drink?
TOM: Mixing a painkiller is pretty easy and if you can, use Pusser’s rum. They did trademark the “Painkiller” name so it seems like it would be downright rude to use another rum, don’t you think? Add 2, 3 or 4 oz. of Pusser’s rum (depending on how much pain you need to kill), 4 oz. of pineapple juice, 1 oz. of orange juice and 1 oz. of cream of coconut to a shaker and sufficiently shake. Pour the ingredients into a goblet full of ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. If you’re feeling fancy, you can add a pineapple wedge to it. For a frozen version, pour the liquids and ice from the goblet into a mixer, blend until desired consistency is reached and pour back into goblet. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and embellish away with your favorite fruits.
“Always use top shelf if you can – you’ll be a better person for it.”
SJVR: A definite favorite – can you lead us through how to mix a Bushwacker?
TOM: I love bushwackers but hardly every make them myself. There are so many variations of it but the best ones I’ve had were at the Beach Bar on St. John. I scoured the internet for their recipe and found this one from 2007: Take 1 oz, Bailey’s, 1 oz. Frangelico, 1 oz. Kahlua, 1 oz. Dark Creme de Cacao, 1 oz. Vodka, 1 oz. Light Rum and 1 oz. Coco Lopez and put in blender. Add a glass of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into glass and garnish with fresh ground nutmeg and maraschino cherry. Add chocolate syrup to sweeten or decorate glass.
TOM: Blue Chair Bay Rum just came out with their newest flavor, Key Lime Rum Cream, and seeing as how Key Lime pie is my favorite dessert, I’m really excited to try it. They posted a recipe on their website for a cocktail they call the “My My My Key Lime Pie” and it’s pretty easy to make. Take 3 oz. of Key Lime Rum Cream, .5 oz. of Blue Chair Bay Vanilla Rum and 2 oz. of coconut water. Combine all of the ingredients into a shaker, strain into a martini glass, hit play and get ready for a virtual escape to the islands: “Tortola, a full moon, shining down on a blue lagoon.” Does it get much better than that? Now I just need Kenny’s peeps to send me a bottle of Key Lime Rum Cream!
SJVR: Did you realize there’s a rum distilled right here? Yup, it’s called Mutiny Rhum St John. They make a Virgin Light Rum, Mutiny Rhum Lemongrass, Coconut Liqueur and Mutiny Rhum Spiced Rum.
TOM: Local is awesome! I never miss a chance to savor the flavors of a place!
SJVR: How about the Island favorite, Larry’s Tourist Trap Drink Right Keep Left?
TOM: Who doesn’t enjoy a drink with six rums in it?! The Tourist Trap may be closed; but this refreshing rum drink lives on!
Larry’s Drink Right, Keep Left Drink Recipe:
• A short pour of each – Cruzan raspberry, mango, pineapple, banana, coconut and vanilla rums – 1.5 oz total
• 2 oz. of mango juice, lime juice, strawberry puree and cream of coconut
• 1 cup of ice
• Pour ingredients into a blender and serve with a slice of fruit. Makes 1 BIG drink ; )
SJVR: I get asked a lot – “Why put top-shelf booze in sweet island rum drinks? You can’t taste the difference! I’ve got my standard answer. What’s your response …?”
TOM: Always use top shelf if you can – you’ll be a better person for it. I don’t care how much they sweeten up your favorite island drink – you might be able to hide bad liquor to a point but you’ll never be able to hide a hangover. Plus, I’ll bet if you put people to a blind taste test and had them taste a sweet island cocktail made from cheap liquor vs. top shelf, they’d choose the top shelf version 9 times out of 10. And I’d be a willing participant, you know, for research.
SJVR: What are some of your favorite rums?
TOM: Favorite rum? Easiest answer yet – Plantation 3 Stars. If I see it listed as an ingredient on a menu, I’m ordering that cocktail. It has yet to disappoint and besides, it makes the best daiquiri. It’s a virtual vacation in a glass. If there’s no Plantation Rum available, I’ll go straight for one of Cruzan’s flavored rums. They make some great rums, served all over the USVI, and it’s hard to mess up a cocktail using great booze.
SJVR: Tom, thanks for taking the time to run through some island-favorite rum drink recipes!
TOM: Thanks for having me; and letting me geek out about rum and cocktails!
“Dream of owning your own beach bar?”
SJVR: For those of you with the money and the dream of owning your own beach bar – check out Beach Bar Bums “businesses for sale” pages [ link in Tom’s bio below ]. Who knows … you might end up finding the perfect spot to live a life in Paradise!
Tom is the owner and CEO of Good Times at Beach Bar Bums LLC and publishes the website, beachbarbums.com. Started out as a blog to promote beach bars, it has morphed into a travel and lifestyle website offering stories about everything from rum to resorts. It also features a “Beach Bars for Sale” page where people can chase their dream of owning their own business in the tropics. He will never share a Plantation 3 Stars daiquiri; and yes, his plan is to eventually own a beach bar.