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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

Pearl Diver

A Lost Classic makes a roaring comeback!

Pearl Diver

The Pearl Diver is another one of those drinks that would have been lost to time were it not for the dogged pursuit of Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. The story is that Beachbum Berry kept finding Pearl Diver glasses in thrift stores while searching for Tiki mugs back in the early 1990's. This inevitably lead to questions about the drink. Think about glassware that are named after a drink; the Martini glass, Hurricane glass, Brandy snifter, etc. If the drink was popular enough to launch it's own container the drink typically stays in rotation long after its initial fame. They tend to be classics cocktails. So what happened to the Pearl Diver?

Most likely it was a victim of its creators notorious levels of secrecy when it came to drink ingredients. Don the Beachcomber invented the Pearl Diver, and like many of his creations, the recipe includes a single ingredient that was actually a concoction of Don's in and of itself. Don's recipes often include calls for Don's Mix #2, or in this case Gardenia Mix. This was done so that other bars couldn't hire Don's bartenders away in order to steal his drink recipes. Those special mixes and blended rums were premade by Don so that only he and a few of his top bartenders actually knew what was in any of them. Beachbum Berry recovered most by interviewing the surviving bartenders or going through the personal notebooks that they left their descendants. Don called for Gardenia Mix in both the Pearl Diver and his Coffee Grog. I've never seen two identical recipes but they all agree that it contains butter, honey, cinnamon, and allspice. As you can imagine, it's a gooey mess as soon as it hits ice. In fact, there's a bar in Nashville called the Pearl Diver so as you can imagine, they have it as their signature cocktail. However, they make it in huge batches and keep it in a slushy machine for convenience. That's not a lesson in laziness as they make excellent drinks, just on the difficulty of making a frozen drink with butter and honey...

I'll add the simplest Garadenia Mix recipe I've found below but do yourself a favor and just but a bottle from BG Reynolds. You only need 1/2 ounce per Pearl Diver and most of the recipes make enough to keep a battleship in Pearl Divers and Coffee Grog!

There are a couple of reasons that make the Pearl Diver special in my book. First of all it's served frozen which is not common when it comes to Don the Beachcomber drinks. He based most of his drinks on the Planter's Punch as opposed to the Daquiri like Trader Vic. As a result he is much more likely to use a spindle mixer than a blender. However, the butter/honey combo works best in a frozen drink as it stays suspended in the ice. Secondly, it's the mouthfeel. Think Piña Colada but less greasy. Lastly, it's the flavor. The Pearl Diver may have spawned a lot of imitators but I always find myself describing them as falling somewhere between a Pearl Diver and whatever drink comes to mind that features the additional ingredient added to the version of the Pearl Diver that I have at hand. Don't get me wrong, some of those variations are quite good (Skin Diver, Deep Sea Diver, etc.) they're just not as unique when it comes to their flavor profile.

Pearl Diver

Pearl Diver

Source - Sippin Safari, Jeff "Beachbum" Berry

  • 1/2 ounce lime juice

  • 1/2 ounce orange juice

  • 1/2 ounce Gardenia Mix*

  • 1/2 ounce Demerara rum*

  • 1 1/2 ounce Gold Puerto Rican rum*

  • dash Angostura Bitters

Put everything in a blender with 1 cup of crushed ice. Blend at high speed for about 20 seconds. Serve in a Pearl Diver glass and garnish with a pineapple frond and edible orchid.

Gardenia Mix

Source - Easy Tiki, Chloe Frechette

  • 1/2 pound butter

  • 1/2 quart honey

  • 1/8 cup boiling water

  • 1/2 ounce vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp smoked salt

  • 1/4 cup Macadamia Nut Liqueur

Place butter in saucepan and heat until it starts to foam. Stir so that it browns without scorching. Once browned remove from heat and let cool (but don't let it solidify!). Add honey and boiling water in blender and blend until dissolved/mixed. Add lukewarm butter, and remaining ingredients to blender. Blend on high until well mixed. Refrigerate until needed. I'd recommend putting it in a bottle so that you can put the bottle in hot water to melt the mix when you are ready to use it.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations: You can use the Gardenia Mix recipe above or buy from BG Reynolds like I do. For the Demerara rum, I prefer El Dorado 5 year, for the Puerto Rican I use Bacardi 8 year or Cruzan Gold.

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