The Tiki drink named after Robert Louis Stevenson’s physician
Everyone knows Robert Louis Stevenson, right? He wrote classics like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Swell swashbuckling stuff, some of those books.
What you might not know is that Stevenson spent his final years in Samoa. There he was attended by Bernhard Funk, a German physician who was also an accomplished mixologist. One of Funk’s concoctions (and one which he reportedly served to Stevenson) is the inspiration for the drink we know today as the Dr. Funk Cocktail.
The drink originally was intended to be a tonic. Modern medicine might quibble with that claim, but all would agree that this drink is a great way to beat summer’s heat. So if the dog days of August are getting you down, Dr. Funk has just the prescription for you.
Recipe: The Doctor Funk Cocktail
Tiki cocktails are Polynesian-inspired. They usually (though not always) are fueled by rum, and often contain numerous additional ingredients. The great majority of Tiki cocktails were created by Donn Beach (who started the “Don the Beachcomber” restaurant chain) and his competitor, Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. (better known as Trader Vic). Both men created versions of the Dr. Funk Cocktail, though Beach was the first to mix a drink by that name.
BTW, no one knows what recipe Dr. Funk himself followed when he mixed his drink, but there are numerous reports that he used absinthe, grenadine, lime juice, and sparkling water—all ingredients that Beach and Bergeron employ in their versions.
Bartenders traditionally serve the Dr. Funk Cocktail in a tall glass, usually a hurricane (chimney) or pilsner glass. But it can also be served in Tiki mugs—specifically, Fu Manchu-inspired mugs (see the picture right before the Notes). If you don’t have any of this exotic glassware, a tall (Collins) glass works just fine.
The recipe we discuss here was developed by Donn Beach. We learned about it from Beachbum Berry, who is the most knowledgeable curator of all things Tiki. He includes it in his book, Beachbum Berry Remixed. (Donn Beach typically developed multiple versions of his cocktail recipes; in our opinion, this is the best iteration of the Dr Funk.) We list some alternate versions of the cocktail in the Notes.
Berry is the source for much of our knowledge about the historical Dr. Funk. But Jim “Hurricane” Hayward also has some great historical information about the Dr. Funk Cocktail over at The Atomic Grog. Worth checking out.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.
- 1½ ounces light (white) Virgin Islands or Puerto Rican rum (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon absinthe (or a substitute, like Pernod; see Notes)
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ ounce grenadine, preferably homemade (see Notes)
- ~1 ounce fizzy water (or to taste; you can use club soda, seltzer water, or any kind of sparkling water)
- lime slice or wheel for garnish (optional)
- Add the rum, absinthe, lime juice, and grenadine to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake enthusiastically until well chilled (20 or 30 seconds).
- Strain into a tall glass (hurricane glass preferred; see recipe headnote) that is filled with ice cubes (or crushed ice, if you like). Add fizzy water. Stir once to incorporate the water (stirring isn’t strictly necessary; I often skip this). Garnish with a lime slice or wheel, if using. Add straws and serve.
- We like to use Virgin Islands rum in this drink (we generally use the Cruzan brand). But Bacardi Puerto Rican rum is easier to find, and it works quite well.
- Or use any other light (white) rum of good quality. You can substitute amber rum if you prefer, but we find that light rum gives a cleaner flavor.
- Reminder: We’re a noncommercial blog and are not compensated for mentioning brands. We recommend only what we like and use.
- Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit. For years, it was illegal in the US and much of Europe (one of its ingredients was thought to be psychoactive and addictive). It’s now legal again—and usually quite high proof (100+).
- Grande Absente makes a nice absinthe—and it comes in conveniently small bottles. Our liquor store carries the 100 ml size for about $10. That’s perfect for making a drink like this, where you use just a bit of absinthe. (A full-size bottle of this brand is pricey.)
- We often substitute Pernod for absinthe—mainly because it’s our favorite brand of pastis. But there are other good brands out there. If in doubt, ask the friendly sales people at your liquor store what they recommend.
- We strongly recommend using real—i.e., pomegranate—grenadine, not the ersatz stuff that liquor stores usually stock. Commercial brands (such as Rose’s) offer attractive fluorescent color (and the hue is oddly compelling, we admit), but they’re made primarily from artificial flavors. You’re better off making your own Homemade Grenadine. It’s easy and takes just minutes.
- One alternative recipe for the Dr. Funk Cocktail uses 2½ ounces dark Jamaican rum (like Meyer’s), 2½ ounces fresh lime juice, ½ ounce fresh lemon juice, ½ ounce grenadine, and ¼ ounce absinthe or Pernod. To make it, shake these ingredients with ice, pour into an ice-filled tall glass, and top with fizzy water.
- The recipe listed in the prior bullet has lots of citrus in it—which makes it pretty sour. When we mix this version, we use just ½ ounce lime juice (plus ½ ounce lemon juice). We find this makes for a much better balanced drink.
- There’s also a Son of Dr. Funk Cocktail (a Trader Vic invention; in this one he omits the absinthe, reportedly because he didn’t much care for its taste). To make it, you’ll need 2 ounces dark Jamaican rum, ½ ounce lime juice, ½ ounce lemon juice, ¼ ounce grenadine, and ¼ ounce simple syrup. Shake these ingredients with ice, strain into an ice-filled tall glass, and top with an ounce or two of fizzy water. Then carefully pour (float) ½ ounce of 151-proof rum on the top (for over-proof rum, we like Lemonhart 151).
Feel the Funk
“Yum, I’ve been waiting all summer for a Tiki drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, sipping her Dr. Funk Cocktail.
“Well, August is finally here,” I said. “So it’s officially Tiki time on the blog.”
“And this drink showcases the true Tiki spirit,” said Mrs K R. “In fact, with that little cocktail umbrella, it’s sort of, well, funky looking.”
“I believe ‘funkadelic’ is the correct term,” I said, taking a long sip.
“So, shall we put on some groovy tunes and feel the funk?” asked Mrs K R.
“And maybe have another one of these?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Mix that funky cocktail, white boy.”
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Bermuda Rum Swizzle
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Or check out the index for more
“Mix that funky cocktail, white boy.” bahaha!! I wish I could hang out with you & the Mrs for an evening. Especially if you were serving these cocktails!
Hi Kristy, couldn't resist including that line. ;-) Always what I think of when I hear the word "funky." And our actual conversations are pretty close to those dialogues! We'd hang out with you anytime! Thanks for the comment.
I've been feeling in a funk for awhile. I think I'll call in Dr. Funk an see what he prescribes. This is looking mighty funky, so I just might have to give it a try! Love that song, White Boy!
Hi John, You are a true connoisseur of all things with drinks. Robert Louis Stevenson was always a favorite of mine. My mom would read my brothers and myself from his book "A Child's Garden of Verses" This cocktail sounds very refreshing for a hot summer's day. Love all of your notes and information. I have heard of Trader Vic's but never have been to one. Thanks for sharing, I always learn something from your posts...say hi to Mrs. KR. Have a great day! Dottie :)
I laughed when I first saw the title of this post. Looks like a fun beverage, although I would need a different kind of doctor if I had too many.
Hi John, great history behind this one, Love Mrs K R's closing line!
Hi John , Saw you on the sidebar and thought what the devil , let me get my rump over there , Funk cocktail , oh my is John using garlic and onion juice ( giggling) . What a delicious and beautiful drink and yes it's Tiki time and like Kristy , I would love to hang out , I would love to taste all your cocktails . Thanks so much for sharing John ... see you next week :) ~Nee~
Love the name, feel like I wanna dance
I have never even heard of this cocktail before! What a great summer drink. And yes dog days of summer are on me.. I need a prescription drink :))
Hi Abbe, I'll bet the good doctor would fix you right up! And that song is such a classic, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dottie, I really loved Robert Louis Stevenson when I was a tad, too. Still do. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mary Frances, I'd definitely consult the doctor for a drink, but I'm not sure if I would for anything else. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cheri, that Mrs K R is a card, isn't she? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, wouldn't it be fun to have a big bloggers hang out sometime? ;-) And it's always Tiki time somewhere -- but it's a tradition here to do some Tiki drinks every August. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Raymund, you'll definitely want to dance after having one of these! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ansh, this really is the perfect prescription for these hot summer days. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I learned SO MUCH about cocktails from you than anyone else, actually. And to be honest, I am very surprised with all these interesting names that I've never heard of before. So fun! I love that you save the conversation with Mrs. Kitchen Riffs till the end. I always look forward to that one. :) One day, you two do a live chat on a video? ;)
Another beautiful cocktail...it is only 2PM and I am ready for it!
Thanks for the recipe John...hope you are having a great week :D
They are tropical and quite pretty. Its name is quite funny. As always, great pics!
This one is fascinating! Where or when did you ever hear of this unique drink? Anything with Absinthe scares me ;)
Hi Nami, alas neither Mrs KR or are are the video chat sort. So you'll just have to come hear to read our nonsense. ;-) Thanks for the very kind comment.
Hi Juliana, this is a good one -- very refreshing. But all the cocktails I post are good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, the name is so great, isn't it? And a very tasty drink too, which is of course the main thing. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Alyssa, when it comes to Tiki drinks, Beachbum Berry is the source. His books are quite good. And absinthe, taken in quantify, is scary stuff! But a teaspoon or so is not big deal. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I saw the title and thought of George Clinton and Parliament...
You're tempting me with each post. I already have a long list of all the drinks I need to try in few months, hahaha.
Hi Lydia, :-) I was thinking about trying to work him in! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marta, next post will be a healthy food one. Well, food at any rate. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I wouldn't want to see a doctor after he/she just drank this drink! LOL!
Is there a queue to see Dr Funk? I think I need this cocktail now :p
Why do I think I'll feel the need to get up and dance after downing one of these? LOL
This would definitely cure what ails you. Beautiful color and I bet it tastes as good as it looks. Anything that says tiki is alright by me.
Sometimes I want to make these drinks just for the names alone! Love it!
A tonic, eh? I'm certain this cocktail would make me feel better!
Wow, even RL Stevenson's doctor was talented. What a fun'k' drink!!
I'm not suffering dog days, those come in January, but still, I think I could spend some time with Dr. Funk right now. :)
Hi GiGi, that's a good policy! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Zoe, there's a queue, but the good doctor has only one prescription, so the queue move really fast. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, it's probably illegal not to dance after having one of these. Or at least sing. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, this is definitely the cure! Or maybe you'll need the cure if you have too many of these. One of the two. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, it's the name that first attracted me to this drink! But its flavor is what made me post it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, definitely a tonic. You'll feel much, much better. No guarantees if you have more than one or two, though. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Minnie, from what I've read Dr. Funk really was a talented and beloved figure. Of course with this as a prescription, what's not to love? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Maureen, Dr. Funk will help get you through the depth of winter too. Just imagine yourself on a nice tropical island as you sip on this, and everything will be all right. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a great name for the cocktail! If you didn't know if was named after a guy called funk one might think it's the cocktail to drink to get you out of a funk. That's what I thought when I saw the title. But them I'm close. With the absinthe, it probably could bring someone out of a funk. :) Enjoyed reading about this drink. Thanks!
Hi MJ, this drink definitely will bring you out of a funk! And before I learned the story about it, I thought the same thing you did. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Pernod and rum - what a strange combination. One worth trying. I love the name and the origin of the drink.
It really does look like a fabulous summer drink. I love the history behind it. I've never had absinthe as I'm worried about the alcohol content - I've heard it's quite potent! xx
Cool name and cocktail! What a fab color and flavor combo.
Hi Suzanne, it is a strange combo, but it works. And it's definitely worth trying. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, usually when you drink absinthe you dilute it with something like 5 parts water to each part absinthe -- so you can get away with using not-too-much absinthe, thus lowering the alcohol content. It is strong stuff, though. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, not only fab, but groovy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
A cocktail with absinthe can only be good. =D
Basically I could just call my husband now, show him the recipe and he could prepare this for me tonight. Sounds like a plan. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Helene, this is definitely worth making tonight! Enjoy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Love the name of this cocktail! I have always wanted to try absinthe, but I'm hesitant. I'm a major lightweight when it comes to alcohol.
OMG I haven't used the word funky in eons. I am going to have root around and see if I can find a disco ball to light up my patio. What is funny I am always always making reference to drinks with umbrellas. I feel the vibe, White Boy, when I see a drink coming my way with an umbrella in it. Shake it to the right. Shake to the left.
This is definitely one funky cocktail, the absinthe adds a great kick!
Hi Laura, this drink only has a teaspoon, which isn't much, so it'd be a good place to start. Or use Pernod, which has a very similar flavor but is much less potent. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carol, umbrella drinks are fun, aren't they? Not the really sweet ones, of course, but all of the Tiki ones. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Natalie, it truly is funky! I like that. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Ooh, love that pic of the cocktail with the Tiki figurine! Cheers to another great drink from John!
Gorgeous xx. Yes I love to have 2 glasses please
Hi Julie, Tiki mugs are lots of fun, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Candy, 2 glasses only -- you don't want to get funky, do you? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I would love to have a physician who mixes drinks so delicious!
Hi Daniela, that's an interesting historical tidbit, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
I LOVE that Fu Manchu Mug! Being served any kind of drink in that would be enough to cheer me out of a funk! Thanks for another great post. --Rocquie
Hi Rocquie, isn't that a fun Tiki mug? And I agree it's really cheerful. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Growing up in cali as a kid I was brought to many a "tiki themed" parties. I loved them, there was always something to do for the kids in the tiki lounge. And the music was always so cool.
Hard to find a good tiki bar in the NE; as I would go just for the decor and music.
Hi Dawn, my impression is that Tiki has run its course -- too bad, because it's such fun stuff! Hope you'll be able to find something in the NE. Thanks for your comment.
At last, a worthwhile recipe that uses Pernod -- which I like, but which is also pretty intense. Can't wait to try it (all the more since I won't need to trek to the high Himalayas to find any additional the herbs to make my own bitters :) :) )!!
Hi Deepa, Pernod is a nice ingredient to add to cocktails. And that's how I usually use it, as an ingredient. I'll actually drink it (well diluted with water, of course) by itself maybe once every two or three years. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Of course I can't read this w/o thinking of Dr. Tobias Fünke from arrested development. But I guess that says more about me than this drink. GREG
It sounds delicious and refreshing!
Hi Greg, I never thought of that! But I've never seen the program, which probably says something about me. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, it is, it is! Thanks for the comment.
This sounds quite tasty and such a beautiful and summery color
Hi Vicki, it really is tasty! Thanks for the comment.
What a fun, tropical drink with a literary history too!
Hi Monet, isn't this nice? And its history is fascinating! Thanks for the comment.
That colour would be enough to get me to try it, this is absolutely so perfect for summer :D
Choc Chip Uru
Mrs KR is a hoot! And I think you can sell me on the idea of this being a tonic - it looks very healthy to me :)
Hi Uru, isn't that color wonderful? Such a fun drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Donalyn, this does look healthy! Well, maybe not, but we can pretend. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
TIki drinks make me happy! How can they not? I wish I had proper tiki mugs for serving, but I'll settle for this cocktail in any glass.
I get such a kick out of the names of some of the cocktails you serve. If I were in a funk, this Dr. Funk cocktail would certainly help! Have a terrific week!
I love how you research your posts. It would be hard to say no to a drink that's named after an esteemed author - or at least, his doctor. Funkadelic, indeed.
Oh my word, this looks and sounds so fun, refreshing and delicious. It would sure get a soul out of any kind of funk!
Hi Lisa, Tiki mugs are worth having. ;-) We have several -- don't use them that often, but they're always a hoot when we do. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, yeah, some of the names are really fun, aren't they? As in this one. ;-) And as a bonus, it's flavor is really good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, truly funkadelic. ;-) Someday, as a famous author, a cocktail may be named after you! Or at least your doctor. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Chris, isn't this such a nice drink? Good flavor, great name, fun story. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh my ... this is filled with every kind of wet stuff that I love ... and it is gorgeous to boot!
I must make a batch the next time I'm hanging out by my parents pool!
Hi Kimberly, isn't this a pretty drink? Perfect for poolside! Thanks for the comment.
This is a lovely drink with a terrific name! Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of my favorite books, so I think I must give this cocktail a try!
I could use a good Funk, or 2, right about now!
Hi Amy, if you're a Stevenson fan, you owe it to yourself to try this drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pamela, yeah, a good Funk is a good thing to have, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks like the perfect drink for hot August days! I've never used absinthe and you've got me curious about it with this cocktail. Great post, John!
Hi Bill, absinthe has a really interesting flavor. I like it more as an ingredient in a drink than by itself (although I'll drink it that way every now and again), and it adds a lot of depth to a drink. Thanks for the comment.
Love that it's called Dr Funk! Great colour too.
Hi Caroline, isn't this a great name! I really like its color too! Thanks for the comment.
Your drinks always bring back great memories.. I think I've had a few of these in the past, at least I recognize the ingredients:) Love the umbrellas and your photography.. as always!!
Hi Smidge, isn't this a fun drink? Really nice flavor! Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.
I totally dig the name of this cocktail! Love learning something new. What a fun history behind the cocktail too. It sounds delicious for sure! Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, isn't this such an interesting drink I agree its name is wonderful! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Another FUntastic drink....
Hi Norma, it really is FUntastic! ;-) And awfully good, which is the important thing. Thanks for the comment.
John, this is just the prettiest drink ever. I need to send you an invite to Booze Week part two next month. You make the most gorgeous drinks in the world.
Hi Kim, I need to check out your current booze week! Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.
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