Why Everyone Needs to Try a Real Bahama Mama

Bahama Mama Cocktail
Don't scoff, this kitschy concoction can be well-balanced perfection / Photo by Sara Littlejohn, styling by Dylan Garret

Yes, today’s classic cocktail lesson is the Bahama Mama. A goofy-sounding drink generally used among bartenders as a punchline. A beverage that conjures images of paper umbrellas and overwrought garnishes, more akin to a spiked Hawaiian Punch than something worth talking about in the realm of modern cocktail culture. However, make one the right way and we promise, the resulting drink will be as delicious as any of the arguably classier, Prohibition-era cocktails mixologists pat themselves on the backs for knowing.

The origins of this drink are murky. However, it’s accepted that the cocktail, which was popularized in the 1950s, was probably the result of several homegrown recipes codified into a single drink. Bahamian bartender Oswald “Slade” Greenslade asserts he invented the cocktail while working at the Nassau Beach Hotel, according to his self-published book One More Cocktail, and named it after a local Calypso singer.

While Greenslade may have the best claim to having created some version of a standardized recipe, variations had been sipped by rum lovers years prior.

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What sets the Bahama Mama apart?

The key is coffee. Coffee liqueur is the not-so-secret ingredient that sets this cocktail apart and seems to have gotten lost in many modern recipes due to years of bartenders serving any sort of ad hoc fruit punch to customers who ask for one. But the classic Bahama Mama is an astonishingly well-balanced and delicious concoction based on the seemingly ill-matched combination of pineapple, coconut and coffee.

Here’s why it works: Pineapple brings a rich sweetness and prickly acidity to play, while the bitter astringency of coffee adds depth, earthiness and and roasted notes to what would otherwise be a one-dimensional punch. Coconut is the great unifier that puts a flavorful bow on the entire package. As we love to recite in the wine pairing world, what grows together goes together, and the same can be said for pineapple, coconuts and coffee.

Though you can use a commercial brand of coffee liqueur like Kahlúa or Tia Maria, feel free to swap in ¼ ounce of espresso with a bit of sugar, to taste. Now let’s get to mixing.

Ingredients
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • ½ ounce light, overproof rum
  • ½ ounce coffee liqueur, like Tia Maria or Kahlúa
  • ¼ ounce crème de coconut
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice
  • 4 ounces pineapple juice
Directions

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 20–30 seconds to incorporate crème de coconut and allow pineapple juice to froth. Strain into hurricane glass filled with ice. Garnish with strawberry, cherry, orange wheel or any desired fruit.

Published on August 24, 2019
About the Author
Dylan Garret
Senior Digital Editor

A veteran of New York City’s bar and restaurant scene, Garret has lived, breathed and sweated spirits for more than a decade, working as a bartender and beverage director at establishments ranging from Michelin-starred eateries to local Brooklyn pubs. Joining Wine Enthusiast in 2015, he has very strong opinions on proper cocktail garnish.
Email: dgarret@wineenthusiast.net
Instagram: @dillinisillin



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