This 1940s Tiki charmer is a great summer cooler
The Test Pilot Cocktail (which launched a host of imitators like the Jet Pilot, Ace Pilot, Space Pilot, and Astronaut) was invented by Tiki innovator Donn Beach. We say more about the history in the Notes.
For now, you just need to know that this slow sipper has two kinds of rum, plus other invigorating ingredients. The result in a spicy tongue tingler. You’ll love lingering over it on a lazy summer afternoon.
Because you probably don’t do enough lingering, do you?
Recipe: The Test Pilot Cocktail
As is the case with many Tiki drinks, this one requires a longish list of ingredients. So it’s a bit more work to prepare than some other cocktails. But the effort is worth it.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 1½ ounces dark rum (preferably Jamaican rum; see Notes)
- ¾ ounce light rum (see Notes)
- 3 teaspoons Cointreau
- 1/8 teaspoon (about 6 drops) Pernod or other absinthe-like anise liqueur
- ½ ounce falernum (see Notes)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- dash of Angostura bitters
- optional garnish of cocktail cherries (see Notes)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the contents are well chilled (20 seconds or so).
- Strain into a rocks (old-fashioned) glass filled with crushed or chipped ice (but see Notes). Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- Traditionally, this drink was made in a blender. If you want to make it that way: Place all the ingredients (except garnish) in a blender with 8 ounces of crushed ice. Blend at high speed for 5 seconds, then pour the contents unstrained into an old-fashioned glass. Add additional crushed ice, if necessary, to fill the glass.
- We find it easier just to shake the ingredients with normal ice cubes, then strain into a glass filled with chipped or crushed ice (whichever is easier for you to make).
- Or you could just pour the drink over traditional ice cubes. Though we do like the look of chipped ice.
- BTW, if you go the blender route: You could use an immersion blender to mix the booze and crushed ice (just put all the ingredients in a big cup or bowl and use the immersion blender for 5 seconds). This method produces a drink that’s a bit less slushy. Not that there’s anything wrong with slushy.
- Many Tiki drinks require rum, often more than one variety. As noted, the Test Pilot calls for both dark and light (white) rum. The original was made with Jamaican rum for the dark, Puerto Rican rum for the light.
- You can make this drink with any dark and light rums you have on hand. But we do recommend using a Jamaican dark – the flavor just works in this drink. We particularly like Myers’s dark rum for cocktails, but we’re open to other brands.
- Falernum is a ginger- and lime-flavored syrup. You can make your own (recipe available on the interwebs), but we generally just buy it. There are several brands available, and although they differ somewhat in flavor, they’re all pretty good. Just buy whatever your liquor store has in stock. Or you can find it online.
- What other drinks can you make with falernum? Loads! We provide a list of some we’ve made at the end of this post. Plus an internet search will yield many others.
- The traditional garnish for this drink is a cocktail (maraschino) cherry or two speared on a wooden oyster fork. Fun presentation! But who has oyster forks? We just use a cocktail pick.
- Donn Beach (born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) started his Don the Beachcomber restaurant chain in 1934, with a 25-seat bar in Los Angeles. Its Polynesian theme helped spark a Tiki craze throughout the United States.
- Beach was a superb cocktail creator, often mixing several different kinds of rum and fruit juices along with liqueurs to create some of the most memorable Tiki cocktails. He was very secretive about his drink recipes, though. And he continually tinkered with them, so many of them changed over time. Jeff Berry (aka Beachbum Berry) has done much research into Tiki drinks, and is responsible for unearthing many of Beach’s original recipes.
- Such as the Test Pilot. How this 1940s drink got its name is a bit unclear, but it was an instant hit. So much so that other restaurants tried to guess at the recipe and created their own similar drinks (hence the Jet Pilot, Space Pilot, and others). That’s why you may come across other similarly named drinks. But the Test Pilot was the original – and the best.
Breaking the Taste Barrier
“Chuck Yeager would be proud,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This drink has the right stuff.”
“Yup, fly me to the moon,” I said. “Think we’re having more fun than Jeff Bezos.”
“And we don’t need to wear funny space suits,” said Mrs K R.
“Shorts and flip-flops are all we need on Planet Riffs,” I said. “We’re taste pilots!”
“That joke was almost good,” said Mrs K R. “I’d call it one small step for man.”
But one giant leap for me.
You may also enjoy reading about additional drinks that contain falernum: