On a cold day in March 2008, Hank Cagle and Perry Darby were sitting around with pals brainstorming cocktail ideas for their newly opened Folly Beach hangout, Surf Bar. “If you want all my money,” said one buddy, “make me a Painkiller.” So Darby hopped in his truck, picked up all the ingredients, and fixed his friends a round.
Born—and sipped into notoriety—in the Caribbean, the combination of rum, coconut, and nutmeg is one these sailing buddies were plenty familiar with. “Down in the Virgin Islands, every shack bar’s got a version,” says Cagle. “We’d find a mooring, row the dinghy in for happy hour, and have a different one at each stop.”
Now the concoction’s bringing loads of locals to moor at Surf Bar—on weekends the popular spot often serves upwards of 100 a day. “People like that it’s unique in this part of the world and that it has a beachy vibe,” says Darby. “And if they’ve been to the Caribbean, they say, ‘Holy smokes, this is just like I had down there.’”
While it’s hard to beat Surf Bar’s spacious deck on an autumn day, you can easily whip up your own Painkillers at home. “We like dark rum because of the full flavor, but you can also use white or spiced versions,” says Cagle. “No matter how much of the liquor you add, you can’t taste it, so feel free to use more or less than the recipe calls for.” Pineapple and orange juices make ideal mixers, but you can also try putting your own twist on the drink with mango, papaya, peach, or lemon juices.
One ingredient not to mess around with? The fresh nutmeg, which offers a savory flavor to balance out the sweet coconut and rum. “The difference between a spice you’ve just grated and one from a jar is like the difference between a fresh tomato and a canned tomato,” says Darby. “The great aromatics tell you it’s right.”