It's nice to have a finely crafted drink. These days, a well-made frozen piña colada or margarita is especially delicious. But sometimes, I want to let down my hair. I want something that I can throw together with a minimum of fuss that's still delicious and full of booze. That's where this week's cocktail comes in handy.
Florida loves their blended drinks. Down in the Keys, there are Rum Runners as far as the eye can see. Up on the Panhandle in Pensacola, they have embraced the Bushwacker as the drink of choice. It's a sweet, creamy blend of liqueurs, including plenty of Kahlúa. If a cocktail artisan read the recipe, they'd likely roll their eyes and grunt disapprovingly.
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The view from their ivory tower must be nice. The Bushwacker is completely outside the realm of cocktail snobbery. There's no artisanal bitters in here, nor organic free-range rye whiskey. It's dessert in a glass, pure and simple, closer to a chocolate milkshake than a serious cocktail. And ya know what? It's pretty damn tasty.
The Bushwacker got its start in the mid-1970s when a Pensacola bar owner traveled to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and sampled a Bushwacker there. When he got home, he re-created the drink to serve at his bar. It's since been adopted by Pensacola as their unofficial drink; it's so popular there that they have an annual Bushwacker Festival.
You might have noticed that the drink's history is a little twisted. The Pensacola people who claim they invented the Bushwacker freely admit that someone else made Bushwackers before they got popular on the Panhandle. Thanks to there being two different "original" versions, there's no consensus as to what actually goes into a Bushwhacker, except that it's a creamy drink with Kahlúa. The only regional difference I can discern between the two is that they're made with dairy products and cream of coconut in Pensacola, while in the Virgin Islands they tend to skip the filler in favor of other alcohol-based ingredients. You can guess which one I like more.
As with a number of other 1970s drinks (especially one like this with no official formula), the recipe is incredibly forgiving. You can change quantities around, and substitute other liqueurs for the ones I've listed. I've been quite fond of using macadamia nut liqueur in place of the amaretto in the USVI version. Let me know if you come up with an especially delicious variation.
The recipe: (Pensacola) Bushwacker ½ ounce dark crème de cacao 1 ounce Kahlúa 1 ounce cream of coconut (Coco López, or homemade) 1 ounce milk ¾ cup crushed ice (or 1 cup ice cubes) ½ ounce dark rum (80-proof or 151-proof, as desired)
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Blend everything but rum at high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Pour into a glass or coconut mug. Top with rum, and stir a couple of times to combine.
(Virgin Islands) Bushwacker ½ ounce vodka ½ ounce Bailey's Irish cream ½ ounce coconut rum ½ ounce Kahlúa ½ ounce amaretto ¾ cup crushed ice (or 1 cup ice cubes) ½ ounce dark rum, optional (80-proof or 151-proof, as desired)
Blend everything except dark rum at high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Pour into a glass or hollowed coconut. Top with optional rum.