Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Rum Cocktails

Test Pilot

Test Pilot cocktail
Image: / Tim Nusog

Cocktail riffs often overshadow their precursors: After all, you’re likely more familiar with the Martini than the Martinez, or the Margarita than the Tequila Daisy. Such is the case with the absinthe-spiked Tiki cocktail the Test Pilot, which served as a test run for the more popular Jet Pilot. The latter seems to get all the spotlight these days: The cinnamon-syrup-spiced twist is on the menus of famed Tiki bars such as Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, Hale Pele in Portland, False Idol in San Diego, and Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, which cheekily lists “nerves of steel” as an ingredient.

The Jet Pilot’s predecessor was invented by Tiki legend Donn Beach, who was inspired by his travels in the South Pacific to open his namesake bar Don the Beachcomber in 1930s Hollywood. The end of Prohibition and the reality of the Great Depression meant people were looking for an escape, which they found in Beach’s thatch-roofed bar and blended-rum cocktails. Well-known for liquid legacies including the Zombie and the Navy Grog, Beach created the Test Pilot around 1941. He blended two rums, Cointreau, falernum, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and six drops of Pernod with crushed ice, producing a refreshing and complex drink with citrus, spice, and anise notes. 

The Test Pilot’s name owes to its era: Beach was an Air Force veteran, and the Jet Age was dawning in the United States with the invention of the jet engine. But the drink indeed served as a test pilot for variations like the Astronaut, the Space Pilot, and, of course, the Jet Pilot. 

The Test Pilot shares some similarities with its successor: Blending rums lends complexity, falernum adds richness and depth, and lime juice brightens the mix. The Jet Pilot, however, adds grapefruit juice to the lime component and omits the Cointreau. Both cocktails call for a short spin in the blender, rendering a crushed-ice texture. One sip of the Test Pilot and you might be surprised this Jet Age classic didn’t take off more.


  • 1 1/2 ounces dark Jamaican rum

  • 3/4 ounce light rum

  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau

  • 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • 1/2 ounce falernum

  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

  • 6 drops Pernod

  • Garnish: maraschino cherry, speared


  1. Add all ingredients into a blender with a cup of ice and blend at high speed for 5 seconds, until ice is crushed but not smooth.

  2. Pour into a double rocks glass, adding more crushed ice to fill, if needed.

  3. Garnish with a speared maraschino cherry.