Last Friday, I tested the waters on a “news” you can use series about making our favorite Caribbean cocktails at home. Well, you all loved it so much that we are gonna keep that rolling for the next little bit! Each Friday, I’ll share with you a bit of the story behind our favorite beach worthy libations and how you can re-create your favorites at home. Last week we covered the “official” drink of the Virgin Islands, The Painkiller, which originated in the British Virgin Islands. Today, let’s dive into a USVI original cocktail…The Bushwhacker. So, get your blenders ready and ALL of the sweet liquors primed for pouring in order to make this dreamy dessert drink.
Ahhhh, The Bushwhacker. I remember my first one. The “What is this dreamy, creamy goodness in a glass?” feeling of astonishment and delight as I quickly slurped it down…And the feeling of remorse as I soon learned that the milkshake like concoction is ALL booze 🙂 It’s the perfect “What do I want to drink?” drink. The ultimate mid-morning or afternoon cocktail. An all-around crowd pleaser.
But, it’s not an easy one to perfectly recreate. You need a hefty liquor cabinet with the just right proportions of each of the ultra sweet boozes involved. You need a better than average blender and you need to understand the perfect ice to liquid ratio before you hit the button. And, if you’re on the hunt for a specific bar’s Bushwhacker recipe, you won’t find that here. Unlike it’s more straightforward counterpart, the Painkiller, literally each and every establishment has a different spin on this recipe.
The original Bushwhacker was first blended on St. Thomas in 1975 by bartender Angie Conigliaro and her manager Tom Brokamp at The Ship’s Store and Sapphire Pub at Sapphire Resort.
Legend has it, that the cocktail was named for the dog of a regular patron. The pup’s name was Bushwhack 🙂
The drink quickly made its way to the beaches of Florida when, later that year, Pensacola bar owner, Linda Murphy, tried the concoction and returned home to experiment with the recipe in hopes of adding the delightful concoction to her drink menu. Sooner than later, the Sandshaker Lounge in Pensacola became the stateside home of the “original” Bushwhacker.
I’m going to share with you the publicly posted recipes from each of the establishments first, then dig into my personal favorite recreation of this classic Virgin Islands frozen treat!
Ship’s Store and Sapphire Pub
½ oz. Vodka
½ oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ oz. Cruzan Coconut Rum
½ oz. Kahlua
½ oz. Amaretto
½ oz. Cruzan Dark Rum
¾ cup Crushed Ice
1 oz. Dark Rum
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. Dark Creme de Cacao
2 oz. Cream of Coconut
2 oz. Milk
1 cup Ice
Both of these recipes call for a drizzle of chocolate inside of the glass and on top of the drink after blending all of the ingredients. I personally prefer to make mine without the chocolate…There’s plenty of sweet in there already and I feel like the chocolate over powers the drink!
My version comes from my years working at Motu and later Drink St. John. I SWORE when I moved to St. John that I would never work in a place with a blender after witnessing the mayhem they create behind the bar as I sat as an onlooker at happy hours at Beach Bar, Rum Hut, etc. I enjoyed frozen drinks, I just didn’t want to make them. I worked at the Terrace and Asolare at the time and we didn’t even have a blender in house. And I was just fine with that!
In an effort to move into party planning and events, I took a job at Motu beginning on New Years’ Eve 2013. I began to quickly learn the methods behind the blender madness because, at the time, we were known for…Yup, you guessed it. Our Bushwhackers. But not just any Bushwhackers. We had peanut butter, nutella, oreo and, at certain times of the year, thin mint Bushwhackers. (We will get to the add ons in a bit.) When we were busy, it was a mad dash to build, blend, clean and repeat.
I do not know what the current recipe is at Drink as ownership has changed since my days there. But when I was working behind that crazy busy bar with parties and DJ’s almost every weekend, the following is the recipe that I was taught by Dawn and MJ. And to this day, it is my favorite rendition of this cocktail.
Let’s round up your ingredients first-
Irish Cream- Bailey’s is fine, but you aren’t going to need anything top shelf. With the coconut cream and everything else blended up, you won’t be savoring the specific flavor of any of the liquors involved. And if you’re stocking your liquor cabinet just for this, you’ll save more than a few bucks on Molly’s or some other generic version of it!
Coffee Liquor- Same as above…Kahlua is fine. But a generic coffee liquor works just as well for mass production!
Vanilla Rum- Cruzan is obviously the go to here. But if you can’t find it at home, any Vanilla flavored white rum will work.
Amaretto- Any generic amaretto will do. Don’t want to waste that Disarrono on a frozen drink!
Vodka- Any old vodka will do. Coffee or Vanilla vodka will take your drink a level up tho!
Cream of Coconut- This can be found in the mixer aisle of most large grocery and liquor stores. The one most commonly used on island is “Coco Lopez” although any sweetened cream of coconut will work. It’s a pain out of the can, but that’s how it is most widely sold. Shake it up and pour it into a squeeze bottle for ease of use. You will need to refrigerate it after opening but it will separate once refrigerated. Take it out of the fridge, let it defrost a bit and give it a good shake before the “next round.” In recent years, I have seen it at stateside grocers already IN a squeeze bottle. If you’re lucky enough to find it go that route!
Ice- Weirdly…Ice is so important! You will want to get a bag of ice from the store and make sure it is completely broken up before using it. The old St. John bar tender trick is to slam the whole bag on the ground over and over until it is a scoop-able consistency 🙂 Larger cubes from your freezer trays won’t give you the consistency you’re looking for.
Blender- You may have to upgrade your everyday household blender if frozen drinks will be a stronghold in your at home tiki bar. You don’t necessarily need to run out and spend $400 on a Vita Mix but the standardized household blender likely won’t blend the ice down to that perfectly milkshake-like consistency. I have a Ninja at home and it works great. Basically, any blender that crushes the smoothie game will do the trick!
Ok, now you have everything you need. Here’s how it works:
1/2 ounce Irish Cream
1/2 ounce Coffee Liquor
1/2 ounce Amaretto
1/2 ounce Vanilla Rum
Splash of vodka
1/2 ounce Cream of Coconut
Place all of the above ingredients in the blender and add ice. THIS IS IMPORTANT::: Once the liquid is in the blender, you just want to top it with ice. Like about one half inch of ice above the water line. Blend the beverage until you no longer hear ice in the blender and it has that thick, nearly Frosty-like consistency. If it seems a little watery, add a bit more ice. If it seems extra chunky, add a splash more of the Vanilla Rum and blend it again.
This should give you that perfectly dreamy and smooth like butter Bushwhacker consistency….No one likes chunks of ice crunching around in there!
For a traditional Bushwhacker, I enjoy topping it with some freshly grated nutmeg. Some of you may prefer the chocolate sauce…And that’s fine! Remember the add-ons I talked about? Well, they need no garnishing at all! My favorite is the peanut butter…,It’s not of this world if you love peanut butter like I do! The Thin Mint is a close second, but they’re all pretty much delicious.
For the add-ons, use the following portions in the blender with your ice and liquors before blending:
Peanut Butter or Nutella- Use a HEAPING tablespoon
Thin Mints or Oreos- Add two whole cookies into the mix.
You can play around with combos of these or come up with your own addition…Cookie dough? Salted caramel? Banana? Anything goes!
Well, I hope you all have many successes with your Bushwhacker experiments this weekend. Please, keep the comments coming and let me know how this goes for you. Next up, the Lime in the Coconut. Happy weekend everyone!