Bahama Mama Drink Lab

Did you know that Bahama Mama was a real person? Dottie Lee Anderson was a calypso singer and dancer in the 1930s who went by the stage name Bahama Mama. It’s rumored that the cocktail is named for her, but it also could have been a product of Prohibition, where rum smuggling was common given the Bahamas close proximity to Florida. Award-winning Bahamian bartender and mixologist Oswald Greenslade, author of One More Cocktail, claims to have invented the Bahama Mama in the 1960s and although some version of the drink may have been around before his bartending career began, he may well have created the recipe that we still enjoy 60 years later.

With such murky origins, it’s no wonder I found so many variations on the Bahama Mama recipe. There are two overall versions: one using coffee liqueur and the other with grenadine. The most consistent ingredients across the board tended to be a light and/or dark rum, coconut rum, and pineapple juice. Sometimes a spiced rum or over-proofed rum was used. There were lots of variations in fruit juice including different amounts of pineapple and orange along with the addition of lemon or lime. A few recipes even included banana liqueur.

In deciding which ingredients to include or exclude, we opted out of using lemon and lime. There are so many other fruity flavors here: orange, pineapple, coconut from the rum, pomegranate/cherry from the grenadine that I felt more citrus would be overkill. We made the grenadine version and the coffee liqueur version, each with a second iteration to modify some ingredients. Bahama Mama is usually served in a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice or as a slushy blender drink. For drink lab purposes I’ll make small versions shaken over ice and strained into a cordial glass.

Bahama Mama Drink lab

Version #1

  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ½ oz Malibu coconut rum
  • ½ oz Bacardi Gold rum
  • Splash of grenadine

Shake the first 4 ingredients and pour into a glass. Slowly add the grenadine.

The first attempt has too much pineapple and too much fruit in general so for the second iteration, we reduce the pineapple to ½ ounce and add more rum. A splash of Myers’s on top usually works to mellow out an overly citrusy or fruity drink.

Version #1 Tweaked:

  • ½ oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz Malibu coconut rum
  • 1 oz Bacardi Gold
  • Splash of grenadine
  • Splash of Myers’s rum

This tweaked sample with less pineapple juice and more rum has a better balance of fruit juice and alcohol.

Bahama Mama with Grenadine

For our drink lab version #2 of Bahama Mama, we’ll use a coffee liqueur recipe.

Version #2

  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ½ oz pineapple
  • ½ oz Malibu coconut rum
  • ½ oz Bacardi Gold
  • ¼ oz Kahlua coffee liqueur

Shake and pour into a glass.

Without the grenadine, there’s no red coloring and less sweetness. Coffee flavor is blended, taking a back seat to the orange and pineapple. For our second iteration of version #2 we’ll use Goslings Black Seal in place of Bacardi, which I’ve seen in a few Bahama Mama recipes.

Version #2 Tweaked:

  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ½ oz pineapple
  • ½ oz Malibu coconut rum
  • ½ oz Goslings Black Seal rum
  • ¼ oz Kahlua coffee liqueur
Bahama Mama with Kahlua

Tasting the Bacardi and Goslings samples side by side, there is not a huge difference on the palate. However, the Bacardi sample has a moonshine aftertaste on the finish that is a bit off-putting. I wouldn’t have noticed it if the Goslings sample hadn’t had a smoother, oaky finish by comparison.

We celebrate the end of drink lab with a final version to serve over ice in a Hurricane glass as follows:

Bahama Mama

Ingredients

  • ½ oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz Malibu coconut rum
  • 1 oz Goslings Black Seal rum
  • Splash of grenadine
  • Splash of Myers’s rum

Shake the first four ingredients. Pour over ice in a hurricane glass. Slowly add grenadine and Myers’s rum over the top.

Bahama Mama Cocktail

Oswald Greenslade’s book One More Cocktail, published in 2012 wasn’t available on Amazon at the time of this posting. His website indicates that the book is sold in local shops in the Bahamas. With over 1000 recipes, it would be a worthwhile addition to any bar book collection.

Published by J Reilly

Boozy Lifestyle: Elevate The Everyday With Booze As Your Muse by Julia Stacey Reilly is available on Amazon.com. Follow J Reilly @boozy_lifestyle on Twitter and Instagram.

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