How To Make A Painkiller in the Caribbean

By Abi King | British Virgin Islands

Mar 12

A Painkiller in Tortola

It doesn’t take long to pick up on an island’s signature drink. A postcard here, an invitation there, a suggestion at the behest of a total stranger…

“Would you like a sex on the beach?” is one way to get the conversation started. I’m never sure whether to feel uncomfortable about the unwarranted sexual overtures or whether the grammatical injuries inflicted upon the sentence offend me more.

“Would you like a painkiller?” on the other hand lives on much more neutral territory. Sentence makes sense; harassment absent. But it does leave me with the strange sensation I must be wandering around with a severed limb ready to detach at any moment. Or perhaps I should be a little gentler on myself. The odd paracetamol wouldn’t be the end of the world.

In any case, this kind of painkiller is the patron drink of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, although like all good food and drink legends, this one has a much disputed past.

My First Painkiller

As I sipped my first one, a surprisingly strong mix of sweet Baileys-like fluid topped up with zesty citrus and an unexpected flourish of nutmeg, a deep-tanned woman moored her boat and strode past me, pausing only to tell me this:

“The real ones aren’t from here,” she said with a lusciously stereotypical flick of her long blonde hair. “They come from Soggy Dollar on Jost van Dyke Island.”

“We usually like it there,” she went on “but they don’t have enough jetties for our boats.”

A Strong Naval History

British Navy Pussers RumSuch naval concerns are strong in the BVI, with Tortola known for its sailing coves and the island’s main rum base having staunch links to the old British Navy. Did you know, for example, that from 1655 onwards crew had rum as a daily part of rations ( with two tots before battle) right up until the year 1970? No? Neither did I. But apparently such rum was issued by the Purser and over time this became known as “Pusser’s Rum.” That’s what Pusser’s the brand say, anyway, whenever you arch an eyebrow at them at the sound of their name.

Perhaps by coincidence, the painkiller came in to existence just as the real Purser’s Rum came to an end and naval officers lost their daily tipple on what became known as Black Tot Day.

Better news for the rest of us, I’d say.

But, in case you’re itching to try this out at home, have a slice of sunshine, naval history and nutmeg all in one glass. Here followeth the recipe!

How to Make a Painkiller

2 lots Pusser’s Rum

4 lots Pineapple Juice

1 lot Orange Juice

1 lot cream of coconut

Garnish with sliced orange, cherries and a generous sprinkling of nutmeg.

Then drink up, sit back and think of England…or A sex on the beach if you must.

Having a painkiller in Tortola, BVI


Disclosure: I visited Tortola as a guest of  the British Virgin Islands and Elite Island Resorts but as ever, as always, what I write here is up to me. And what I drink ;-)


About the Author

Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on

Cailin March 12, 2014

Cool! But how much is a “lot”? Is that like an ounce?

    Abi King March 12, 2014

    Ha! Sorry, that’s my shorthand (not a British-ism as far as I know.) Yes, you can use ounce. Or cup. Or jug if you’re having a party… As long as you keep the ratio the same!

mstraveltipsy March 13, 2014

Wiiii, I love painkiller! Been to BVI three times, go there for Interline Regatta, and we always stop at Jost Van Dyke and soggy dollar bar. Of course we have to to it the old fashioned way and swim from our boat and ashore. this is how Soggy Dollar bar got its name, all the wet money from people swimming from their boats. Written loads on BVI on my blog.

Diane March 13, 2014

This sounds delicious (and strong). Love the entries on food and drink.

Rosie March 19, 2014

Love that you provided the recipe! Nothing like a local drink to get the travel party started.

Adam April 6, 2014

Sounds delicious and totally pain easing!

Scott April 11, 2014

Did you make it to the Soggy Dollar? Their painkillers really are the best….I’ve tried them all!

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