Test Pilot – Revisited

Test Pilot

I am totally amazed how the Test Pilot has evolved since my post about it over a year ago. The first time I made it, I used the following recipe:

Test Pilot

  • 1/2oz lime juice
  • 1/2oz falernum
  • 1/2oz Cointreau
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1/8t Pernod
  • 3/4oz light Puerto Rican rum
  • 1 1/2oz dark Jamaican rum

Blend with 1c crushed ice for 5 seconds, then pour into a double old-fashioned glass. Add more crushed ice to fill.

Source: Grog Log, Jeff Berry

Yesterday, I followed the same recipe but was introduced to a completely new drink.

What Changed?

  1. Falernum: In my original batches I was using a commercially produced falernum. Though this wasn’t bad, the homemade variety is much brighter and richly flavored. There is an updated falernum recipe (which adds toasted almonds to the mix) in the purple issue of Imbibe, which if you haven’t purchased or received in the mail, you should. My personal preference is to use my current favorite white rum, Brugal, instead of the insidious Wray and Nephew. I keep having to remind myself that it’s not for drinking, but creating other concoctions with.
  2. Pernod: Every since I picked up a bottle of Herbsaint in New Orleans this year, it has been added, drop after drop, to nearly every tiki recipe calling for Pernod. Herbsaint has more spice and deep anise notes while the pernod is much sweeter and almost bitter tasting. The Pernod isn’t bad; Herbsaint just adds that extra magical touch.
  3. Light Puerto Rican Rum: My first Test Pilot was likely made with Bacardi. Not bad, but not nearly as good as the richer-flavored Brugal from the Dominican Republic.
  4. Dark Jamaican rum: The only two dark rums I had been using for a long time were Gosling’s and Myer’s. But over the past few months, I have been able to get my hands on Appleton Extra and Coruba. Gosling’s has some light sugary notes but is fairly strong in the alcohol department. Appleton Extra is like a dark smoky caramel, and it’s smooth. It reminded me of a tasty scotch. Coruba has a very similar aroma to Appleton V/X, but even more so. It’s very musky and sweet, and perfect for the Test Pilot.
  5. The Method: In Sippin’ Safari, Berry recommends flash blending the drinks. Basically whizzing them up in the blender for no more than 3 seconds. It helps to aerate the drinks and give them a unique texture without diluting the mixture too much. Even shaving off two seconds of blending improved the final Test Pilot.

So how’s it taste?

The bright array of ginger, cloves, and lime burst through on a falernum rocket ridden by the Herbsaint, waving its spicy, anise flag. The dark and light rums entwine all their best attributes and build the base of what is one of my favorite tiki drinks. Enjoy!

If you don’t have enough already, here’s something else to comment on

Brugal white has become my favorite white rum over the past year or so. I know there are ones out there that I haven’t tried, though. What is everyone’s favorite white rum?

8 Responses to “Test Pilot – Revisited”

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8 Comments to “ Test Pilot – Revisited”
  1. PhilNo Gravatar says:

    I’m glad you’ve updated this. I’ve been using this as my test cocktail for my homemade falernum.

  2. PaulNo Gravatar says:

    I absolutely agree that Herbsaint works better in faux-tropical drinks (and many others) than does Pernod or other pastis. It’s not as sweet, it has a more rugged character that makes it a bit brutish when consumed on its own (as compared to Pernod’s delicate, yet very sweet, flavor), but when mixed it’s this roughness you’re looking for.

    Brugal is, alas, unavailable in Washington state, and the places I’ve used for mail order only carry the anejo, so I have yet to try the Brugal white rum. I typically use Cruzan light rum, as it has a somewhat richer flavor than does Bacardi, but I mix it up — for Cuban-style cocktails I’ll use Havana Club, Flor de Cana has a bright spark and a little mellowness that perks up drinks calling for white Puerto Rican rum, and the Mount Gay light rum brings the richness of an aged rum to drinks like the El Presidente. Usually though, for price reason as well as because it’s the first rum I see on my rum shelf, Cruzan is my go-to white rum.

    On blending, the Bum pointed out one time that a lot of these bars (including Beach’s) were using the old Hamilton Beach blenders, like what you see being used to make milkshakes & blended coffee drinks (and that Stephen Remsburg demonstrated during the tiki session at Tales of the Cocktail), so I use a stick blender instead of the upright canister blender — it seems a bit more similar to what they were using (my rationale goes), plus it’s a hell of a lot easier to clean up afterward — and after putting together one of these major production drinks, I’m definitely in favor of shaving off any additional labor.

  3. Dave CurrieNo Gravatar says:

    Damn, I’m going to have to make me some falernum soon! (and pimento dram, and everything else in the final pages of Sippin’ Safari…)

    As to my favourite white rum, it is without question Havana Club Añejo 3 años, whose praises I have been singing on Dave’s Drinks ever since I started it. The real one from Cuba, of course, not the rebranded Bacardi available in the US.

    Paul, when you say you use Havana Club, which version are you talking about?

    Also, your post has made me curious about Brugal Blanco. I’ve never seen it before, and I usually have no problem finding rums from spanish-speaking countries here in Spain. I’ll keep my eyes peeled…

  4. Cruzan white is usually what’s found in my home bar, seeing as it is easily available, and is a fairly crisp white rum.

    I’ve also been using a bottle of Jolly Roger every once in awhile, but mostly to get rid of the bottle. This stuff can be rather harsh straight up, but calms down when mixed.

    When I’m in a generous mood (to myself and others), I’ll use what’s left of Pyrat Blanco, a very refreshing and flavorful white rum that is no longer being produced. I’m still sad I didn’t grab a whole case, but I’ve still got a few in my back bar.

    What I wish I could get my hands on is the Havana Club. I’ve only had the white a few times, but that was some extremely smooth stuff.

    I usually just can’t bring myself to use Bacardi, I don’t even have any stocked… well, except for a bottle of Coco, an old bottle of Añejo, and the embarrassing “Big Apple”. There’s a signature flavor to Bacardi that I can distinguish pretty quickly that tends to ruin the drink for me. Must be their flavorings.

    I’m going to have to run through one of these again. Last I made a test pilot, I wasn’t pleased with the results, but I have learned quite a bit since then. Damned, I do still have to whip up a batch of Falernum. I bought a case of Velvet Falernum about two years ago that I’m still working my way through. What can I say, I saw Falernum in a store and went ballistic! Earlier home based attempts were lacking… it was pretty much a bottle of cloves, rum, and lime juice, didn’t come out too great.

  5. PaulNo Gravatar says:

    Dave — I’m using a bottle of the Havana Club from Cuba, that I purchased in Canada and somehow neglected to mention to customs.

    Blair — I agree on the Bacardi, though I think the Bacardi 8 is their saving grace; actually a pretty decent aged rum.

  6. RickNo Gravatar says:

    I definitely agree on Bacardi 8. It is my gold Puerto Rican rum of choice for mixing tiki drinks. What do others use?

  7. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    For PR rum, I have Barcardi Superior, Añejo and 151. They’re really handy on those quick trips to the neighborhood store, but I’m really ready to move on once this lot’s gone.

  8. SergeNo Gravatar says:

    Hi, thanks for updated recipe! I’ve tried it and it was amazing :) Thanks for sharing.

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