The Painkiller drink is a well-known tropical cocktail. It was invented in the 1970s at the British Virgin Islands’ Soggy Dollar Bar. It’s a fruity and fun combination of pineapple, orange, coconut, and a strong rum. The recipe is simple, and the drink is delicious. It’s ideal for a sunny day at the beach or a casual afternoon in the backyard.
This cocktail typically calls for “navy-style” rum, which is high proof and often a blend of rums from different Caribbean islands. When the British Royal Navy patrolled the seas and sailors were allowed a daily rum ration, the style evolved. The Painkiller drink is typically made with Pusser’s Original Admiralty Blend (Blue Label) rum, but any navy-style or dark rum will suffice.
Recipe for Quick and Easy Vegan Banana Muffins
The Painkiller drink is one of the potential “hair of the dog” drinks. It, like the corpse reviver, gives the impression that it might be useful on those days when you’re suffering from a hangover (though it likely just prolongs recovery).
“A delicious cocktail cousin to the pia colada. The Painkiller drink is essentially a beach vacation in a glass. This is the kind of recipe you’d find at a classic Caribbean hotel or beach bar. It’s refreshing with tropical flavors, not too strong, and just the right amount of rum kick.” —Timothy Macy
Image of a Painkiller Cocktail Tester
A Reminder from Our Recipe Tester Ingredients
- 2 ounces rum (dark or navy)
- 4 oz. pineapple juice
- 12 cup orange juice
- 1 ounce coconut cream
- For garnish, use a pineapple wedge.
- Nutmeg, grated, for garnish
Collect all of the ingredients.
Components of The Painkiller drink cocktail
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and add the rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and cream of coconut.
- Shaker for cocktails
- Shake vigorously.
- Creating a Painkiller cocktail in a cocktail shaker
- Fill a chilled highball glass halfway with fresh ice.
Pour The Painkiller drink cocktail into a chilled glass and serve.
Garnish with a pineapple wedge and a sprinkling of grated nutmeg on top of the Painkiller.
Painkiller cocktail with grated nutmeg and a wedge of pineapple
Serve immediately and enjoy.
Tips for making a painkiller cocktail with a straw and a wedge of fresh pineapple
In addition to Pusser’s, British Royal Navy Imperial Rum is marketed as the most authentic navy rum, but it is prohibitively expensive. There are many other brands that are reasonably priced and work well as pain relievers.
If you don’t have navy rum, use a full-bodied dark rum instead; Appleton Estate Dark Rum is a popular choice for this drink.
You can also combine two types of rum (some believe this may be truer to the original Painkiller). Light and dark rums go well together.
Whatever you pour, it’s difficult to make a bad Painkiller. Some rums will appeal to you more than others, and finding the perfect combination is half the fun.
Though this is the most common recipe, there are several variations. Some people use only 2 ounces of pineapple juice, while others add more rum. It’s entirely up to you how you want to combine the ingredients.
Cream of coconut is a sweeter nonalcoholic drink mixer than coconut cream. Coconut cream or coconut milk from a can can be substituted (you may want to add a sweetener such as simple syrup). Coconut milk sold in cartons will work, but it will be thinner and less rich than the others.
The Painkiller’s History
The original Painkiller was invented in the 1970s at the Soggy Dollar Bar. Daphne Henderson owned the British Virgin Islands hotspot. Due to the lack of a dock on the beach, patrons were forced to swim to shore, getting their money wet along the way. The name of the bar was inspired by this.
The Soggy Dollar’s signature cocktail was the Painkiller, which became well-known throughout the islands. The recipe was kept a closely guarded secret.
When Charles Tobias, who would go on to found Pusser’s Rum in 1979, befriended Henderson, he attempted to decipher the secret recipe. According to the story, Tobias recreated the drink almost exactly, though patrons at the Soggy Dollar preferred his slightly less sweet version of the bar’s signature mix.
Tobias trademarked the drink as Pusser’s Painkiller after it became popular. The recipe quickly spread and became a modern classic in the tropical cocktail scene.
Painkillers were mixed by bartenders, and drinkers enjoyed the fruity concoction. That is, until a couple of well-known New York City bartenders decided to open Painkiller. They also served the eponymous cocktail, but without the Pusser’s. This prompted a trademark suit, which resulted in the venue changing its name to PKNY (it closed in 2013). The bartending community rallied in support of the NYC establishment as the story unfolded in 2010 and 2011. Several people boycotted the rum, and many others purposefully promoted Painkillers with rum other than Pusser’s.
Though the Painkiller’s backstory does not change the drink’s appeal, it is an interesting case of who can “own” or trademark a cocktail recipe or name. It’s not the first time a legal battle has erupted over the Bacardi cocktail or the dark ‘n’ stormy.
How Effective Is the Painkiller?
The Painkiller drink has a 10% ABV when made with Pusser’s Blue Label (84 proof in the US) (20 proof). When compared to cocktails like the martini (60 proof), this is nothing, but sweet drinks, hot days, and summer sun can quickly get you drunker than you expect.