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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

Rum Runner

A classic tropical cocktail from the 1970's

...or the 1950's depending upon who you ask.

Rum Runner in the wild

The Rum Runner is one of those drinks that was born at the end of the Tiki craze but only became more popular as Tiki waned. In fact, it (much like the Piña Colada) never went away. Unfortunately, it did (much like the Piña Colada) become a pale imitation of its original form.

According to Beachbum Berry, the Rum Runner was created in 1972 at the Holiday Isle Resort on Islamorada Key by "Tiki John" Ebert. Everywhere else you look claims that it was invented at the Holiday Isle Resort in the 1950's. Most of those also use a recipe that contains a lot more fruit juice than the "original" recipe that the Bum calls the "original". Given the origin story that everyone seems to kinda agree on, I'm inclined to go with the Bum.

As the story goes, the bar at the Holiday Isle Resort was self serve back in the day. Tiki John is said to have made the first Rum Runner by mixing with what was leftover at the bar. The alternate spin is that they had new stock coming in and had to drink up the old stuff and that that is how the rum runner was invented. I don't know about you, but I've never worked in a bar where we drank up OJ and pineapple juice to make room for more. So as I said, I'm sticking with the Bum on this one.

As you can see this "original" recipe is fairly simple. If there is any one truth in Tiki cocktail mixing it's that the quality of your ingredients is key. In fact, the fewer the ingredients, the more true it is! This brings me to one of the main ingredients in the Rum Runner; grenadine. As I've said before, grenadine is a pomegranate based syrup. If you didn't know that it stands as a testament to the poor quality of most bottled grenadines! Do yourself a favor and make your own - besides, I already outlined how to do it in my post about the Halekulani.

You might have also noticed that this recipe calls for a blender making this a frozen drink. If you're like me, most every Rum Runner you've ever seen was not frozen. That, my friends, is a different version of the Rum Runner that uses pineapple & orange juices in the mix. These cut down on the sweetness (a bit) and make the cocktail work on the rocks. The "original" was frozen. Trust me, you need the slushy ice to cut the sweetness of the banana, brandy, and grenadine. Drinking this one on the rocks is like mainlining a squishy machine.

For those that came looking for the more familiar (shaken) Rum Runner, I've included it below as well.

One last detail is the odd amounts used in the Rum Runner. Most drinks use multiples of 1/4 ounce. But not the Rum Runner. Maybe this has something to do with making leftovers balance out. Perhaps that's why the amounts are a bit odd. I'm sure it's why it uses 3/4 ounce of 151 rum instead of an ounce of 80 proof rum. Now that I think about it, the 151 rum may be the reason that everything else was bumped up an 1/8 of an ounce...

Original Rum Runner

Rum Runner (original)

Source -Beachbum Berry Remixed, Jeff "Beachbum" Berry

  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

  • 7/8 ounce blackberry brandy*

  • 7/8 ounce crème de banana

  • 5/8 ounce grenadine*

  • 3/4 ounce 151 Caribbean rum*

Per the Bum, "Add everything to a blender with cubed ice. Blend until smooth pour into a pint glass or Tiki mug" Garnish is typically a lime slice and cherry.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations: Again, do yourself a favor and make your own grenadine. Lastly, it may be a result of the rather formative years I spent in the Mountain Empire of the Appalachian mountains but I have one last suggestion. Replace the blackberry brandy with blackberry moonshine. You'll thank me later.

You'll probably cuss me a bit later than that but in the end it really is all about earning the best stories, right?!

Shaken Rum Runner

Rum Runner (shaken)

Source -Bamboo Sam's sketchy memory

  • 1 ounce orange juice

  • 1 ounce pineapple juice

  • 1 ounce blackberry brandy*

  • 1 ounce crème de banana

  • 1 ounce light rum

  • 1 ounce dark rum

  • splash of grenadine*

Place everything in a shaker with crushed ice and shake vigorously. Gated pour into a footed pilsner, brandy snifter or Tiki mug. Garnish is a pineapple wedge with a cherry attached with a cocktail pick.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations: Make your own grenadine. The "Replace the blackberry brandy with blackberry moonshine" works here as well. I tend to go with Cruzan for the light rum and something darker than Cruzan gold but not as funky as a Jamaican black for the dark rum. I'm currently using Mt. Gay Black Barrel or Bacardi Black depending upon the drinker in question.

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Jon Jenkins
Jon Jenkins

I'm trying both of these tonight I made my own blackberry brandy, banana liqueur, and grenadine. I'll have to try it with the moonshine sometime. If you have any unflavored shine its good in an Eastern sour Climax's "aged" shine is good in it too

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