Painkiller Cocktail

Painkiller cocktail with a straw and a wedge of fresh pineapple

​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving
  • Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
301 Calories
10g Fat
22g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 301
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 8g 42%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 8mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Protein 2g
Calcium 22mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The Painkiller is a popular tropical cocktail. It was created in the 1970s at the Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands. It's a fun and fruity mix of pineapple, orange, coconut, and a bold rum. Perfect for a sunny day on the beach or a casual afternoon in the backyard, the recipe is simple and the drink is delicious.

This cocktail typically calls for "navy style" rum, which is high-proof, and often a blend of rums from multiple Caribbean islands known for producing it. The style was developed when the British Royal Navy patrolled the seas, and sailors were allowed a daily rum ration. Most often, Pusser's Original Admiralty Blend (Blue Label) is the rum of choice for the Painkiller, though any navy style or dark rum will do just fine.

The Painkiller falls into the category of potential "hair of the dog" drinks. Like the corpse reviver, it gives the illusion that it might help out on those days when you are plagued with a hangover (though it likely just prolongs recovery).

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Ingredients

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Ingredients for the painkiller cocktail
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  2. Pour the rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and cream of coconut into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

    Cocktail shaker
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  3. Shake well.

    Using a cocktail shaker to mix a painkiller
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Strain into a chilled highball glass filled with fresh ice.

    Straining the painkiller cocktail into a chilled glass
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  5. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and sprinkle the Painkiller with grated nutmeg on top.

    Painkiller cocktail garnished with a wedge of pineapple and grated nutmeg
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  6. Serve and enjoy.

    Painkiller cocktail with a straw and a wedge of fresh pineapple
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Tips

  • Beyond Pusser's, British Royal Navy Imperial Rum is touted as the most authentic navy rum, but it's extremely expensive. You will find many other brands available that are reasonably priced and make an excellent Painkiller.
  • If you do not have navy rum, choose a full-bodied dark rum; Appleton Estate Dark Rum is a favorite for this drink.
  • You can also mix two styles of rum (some believe this may be truer to the original Painkiller). Light and dark rums are a popular combination.
  • Whatever you choose to pour, it's hard to make a bad Painkiller. You'll enjoy some rums more than others, and finding that perfect combination is half the fun.

Recipe Variations

  • Though this recipe is the most common, there are a number of variations. Some use just 2 ounces of pineapple juice and others prefer to add more rum. It's a matter of personal preference, so mix it how you like it.
  • Cream of coconut is a nonalcoholic drink mixer that is sweeter than coconut cream. Canned coconut cream or coconut milk can be substituted (you may want to add a sweetener such as simple syrup). Coconut milk sold in cartons will work, but it's not as thick or rich as the others.

The History of the Painkiller

The original Painkiller was created at the Soggy Dollar Bar in the 1970s. The hotspot on the British Virgin Islands was owned by Daphne Henderson. With no dock on the beach, patrons had to swim to shore, getting their money wet along the way. This inspired the bar's name.

The Painkiller was the Soggy Dollar's signature cocktail, and on became famous in the islands. The recipe was a well-kept secret. 

When Charles Tobias, who would found Pusser's Rum in 1979, befriended Henderson, he tried to figure out the secret recipe. As the story goes, Tobias recreated the drink almost exactly, though people at the Soggy Dollar enjoyed his slightly less sweet version of the bar's signature mix.

The drink took off, and Tobias trademarked the drink as Pusser's Painkiller. The recipe spread, and it quickly became a modern classic in the tropical cocktail scene.

Bartenders mixed up Painkillers, drinkers enjoyed the fruity concoction, and all went well. That was until a pair of well-known New York City bartenders decided to open a bar called Painkiller. They also offered the namesake cocktail, but their version did not use Pusser's. This spurred a trademark lawsuit that ended in the venue changing its name to PKNY (it closed in 2013). As the story unfolded in 2010 and 2011, the bartending community came out in support of the NYC establishment. Several boycotted the rum and quite a few purposely promoted Painkillers with any rum other than Pusser's.

Though the story of the Painkiller does not change the appeal of the drink, it is an interesting case of who can "own" or trademark a cocktail recipe or name. It's not the first case in the courts; similar arguments have surrounded the Bacardi cocktail and the dark 'n' stormy.

How Strong Is the Painkiller?

When made with Pusser's Blue Label (84 proof in the U.S.), the Painkiller ​weighs in at 10 percent ABV (20 proof). This is nothing compared to cocktails like the martini (60 proof), but sweet drinks, hot days, and summer sun can quickly get you drunker than you expect.