Sake + Shochu Talk
The Painkiller

*This post was updated on June 16, 2011, as it relates to Pusser's vs. Painkiller.

I've never been a big believer in alternative medicine. While there are centuries-old practices like acupuncture--and even relatively new ones like chiropracty--that seem to deliver on what they promise, I can't really get down with all the new-age therapies that pop up from the neo-hippy set and their "exotic" fruit/herb/remedy of the moment. Last year's big thing was pomegranates (never mind that Persians have been eating them since before Christ); this year it seems to be Acai; next year it'll probably be dung beetle extract for all we know. Whatever. And aromatherapy? Gimme a frickin' break. What ails those folks can only be cured by psychotherapy.

Nevertheless health care in this country ain't cheap, and for many (myself included) it's simply not affordable. And holding my breath for the Democrats to pass a real health care bill with a public option, well, let's say I'm not a huge fan of death by self-suffocation. Frankly, these current Democrats make Neville Chamberlain look like Braveheart.

So like a mini-skirted hooker in a men's prison in Kabul, the dire reality of the situation is sinking in fast. Thus I realized I may have to readjust my position on this whole alternative medicine idea and start looking toward home remedies, so self-medication it is!

Lucky for me I deal with the alcoholic arts. Throughout history alcohol has been there to cure man's ailments (or at least hide the pain) when doctors haven't--and no booze-based beverage better demonstrates the phrase "drink away the pain" then that summertime serum known aptly as the Painkiller. If drinks were drugs (sometimes they actually are, like roofies, but I'm operating along more metaphorical lines here), the Painkiller would be the prescription version of a Pina Colada--double the amount of active ingredient (rum), plus some fresh OJ and a sprinkle of nutmeg to complement the pineapple and coconut flavors that make it all go down so easily. And of course plenty of ice, because as doctors will surely tell you, you must ice the pain.

The Painkiller was invented by a wily witch doctor at the Soggy Dollar Bar on the remote island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Apparently there are no docks on this small island so to reach it patrons must swim to it, hence the name Soggy Dollar. It didn't take long for this catholiconic cocktail to make its way to the neighboring islands whose residents were also in dire need of a cure-all.


My first encounter with this remedy was in the island of St. Thomas. I not only needed relief from the severe sunburn I received as a result of using organic sunscreen, but was also inflicted with the double-whammy of thirstitis and soberepsy! I described my ailment to the local shaman on the island and he immediately instructed me to find the nearest tabernacle of tippling and order a Painkiller. Given my skepticism of alternative medicine I was of course reticent. But I followed through on the good doctor's orders nonetheless, and upon the first sip I noticed the symptoms of thirstitis were waning; the second and third sips induced such an ethereal, blissful feeling that I knew it wouldn't be long before I was completely rid of my soberepsy; by the final sip I had so forgotten about the pain of the sunburn that I felt I could have played tackle football with a school of sharks.

I knew instantly that I had to procure this secret recipe for myself. Given the bleak outlook of the health care situation in this country, it's appropriate that I now share this recipe with you. It is the least I can do for my countrymen (and women).

The Painkiller
4 oz Pusser's rum Dark funky rum or blend thereof (Jamaican rums are great)
4 oz pineapple juice (fresh is best)
1 oz cream of coconut (Coco Lopez is preferred)
1 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
plenty of crushed ice (at least 8 oz maybe more depending on glass size)
sprinkle of nutmeg (mandatory)
sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Tools: blender

Glass: any fear-inducingly large glass, goblet, vessel, bowl, or tiki mug

Fill your glass with the crushed ice. Blend liquid ingredients on high for 2-3 seconds and pour over the ice. Sprinkle a healthy dose of nutmeg on top, along with cinnamon if you desire (you should, it works well). Drop in a straw and let the healing begin.

An important yet oft-overlooked element in this drink is the nutmeg. It's called for in the original recipe and it makes a notable difference even though it's not mixed into the drink itself. The cinnamon on the other hand is not originally called for but it makes a nice addition as well.

The Painkiller is also one of those rare drinks that specifically calls out its brand of spirit--Pusser's rum in this case.  It's what the original recipe calls for. Correction: Robert Simonson has noted on his blog that according to noted Tiki drink expert Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, the drink was invented in 1971, a decade prior to the existence of the Pusser's brand, and was originally made using Mt. Gay and Cruzan rums. So despite what the company claims, you can substitute other rums in this recipe. Just make sure you keep away from the lighter-bodied rums, as this drink needs darker aged rums with more flavor and mouthfeel. I personally like to mix things up a bit, sometimes combining 2 ounces of Ron Pampero Aniversario with 2 ounces of El Dorado 15 yr--it produces a different tasting drink to be sure, but delicious nonetheless.

Or perhaps you have a blend or variation of your own that you'd like to recommend, which I'd love to hear. Here's to self-medication. Cheers!

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani who provides the stunning photography of Pay's cocktail concoctions. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.
Column: Happy Hour


  • lburns – Thanks for your comment! The reason I actually blended the liquid ingredients is because of the coconut cream. I blended it to achieve maximum emulsion because once it hits the cold environment of the ice, the fats in the cream slowly begin to separate.

    I've tried it both ways and this I've found gives a slight advantage—but it is slight, and you're right that you don't need to blend it. But I figure why not, since I'm already busting out the blender to crush the ice.

    What I also do is place the can of coconut cream in a bath of hot water for about an hour before, for the same purpose, then shake it like crazy.

    That last bit I learned from Martin Cate, mixologist and former creator of Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda, CA.

    Paystyle on

  • bog fan of the virgin islands, big fan of the painkiller and a huge fan of this particular rant of yours! thank you.
    p.s.- you don't have to blend the liquid ingredients (i prefer blender-free zones like skinny legs bar on st john). just pour the liquid ingredients into a jug with a top, close top and shake, shake, shake and pour over ice!

    lburns on

  • jost van dyke does have a dock, just not in the harbour where soggy dollar bar is.

    mixing the oj, pineapple juice & coco lopez together helps keep it blended without a .. uhh… blender. also, drink it fast, before it starts separating (i've never seen that happen tho)

    fun tip – use different flavored rums to make a different killer – mango, raspberry, vanilla… you get the idea…

    Anonymous on

  • Hot Hot Hot! Jack and I are talking about where we might place the "bar" in our new place. You'll have to come christen it at our housewarming party (date TBD)! Perhaps with the Pain Killer? Yum!

    erin on

  • I will really have to try this. Sounds fantastic, and I am starting to rekindle my love for rum.

    MinervaO on

  • Erin – Christening a Jewish home, now that's one I've never thought of, but I'm up for it. We can do painkillers if you like. They're actually good drinks to make in large batches.

    Regarding the comment by "Anonymous": Yes, you can make a Painkiller w/o a blender, but again, with certain drinks for me it's all about the details. Even the minute details sometimes add that little bit more to a drink. The info I pass on has been culled from picking the brains of some of the best to ever do it.

    If you want a fruit flavored cocktail, there's no better substitute than the fresh juice of the fruit itself. Even the store-bought juice is better than using those rums.

    I hope that provides some insight into my approach to the Painkiller specifically, and some of my principles of drink-making in general.

    Paystyle on

  • Love this drink. Made it on vacation this summer and woahh! It will knock your socks off. I used Appleton Rum in it, which worked well. I've never had Pusser's. At any rate, it is absolutely awesome!

    Jeff Johnson on

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